A New and Improved Kalashnikov

The AK-47, or Kalashnikov. (Valio-Subaru)
The AK-47, or Kalashnikov. (Valio-Subaru)

An Israeli company has developed an updated version of the workhorse of assault rifles, the Kalashnikov, Globes reported on Thursday.

In the seventy years since Mikhail Kalashnikov, a Red Army soldier wounded in World War II, invented the rifle subsequently named after him, an estimated 100 million have been sold, plus various imitations, all over the world.

Unsurpassed for durability and effectiveness, the rifle has also been noted for being heavy, cumbersome and ugly.

The Israeli weapons manufacturer CAA has sought to keep the advantages of the old Kalashnikov while making its Alpha Kalashnikov more “user friendly.

CAA founder and owner Moshe Oz had praise for the original: “It’s the most reliable one in the world. You can shoot it as much as you want; it never jams. You can throw it into the water, or bury it in the sand – it won’t jam. It does what it’s supposed to do: shoot.”

But, he says, his company’s version is even better. “For the Alpha we took the Kalashnikov ‘engine,’ and renovated and improved everything else – the entire envelope. We left what was good in the rifle – the firing mechanism, which is the best and most reliable, and added things around it. We improved and corrected. In our opinion, we have created the world’s best assault rifle.”

The 75 workers at the CAA factory in Kiryat Gat are busy turning out the Alpha and various some 300 weapons accessories in its catalog, including the Roni, which converts a pistol into a submachine gun in seconds.

The sanction on Russian exports to the U.S., following Russian actions in Ukraine, created an opening for CAA. To meet demand, the company is opening a plant in Florida to produce the Kalashnikov.

“It’s a huge market with something like 450 million weapons; others estimate that there are 600 million weapons owned by people. The U.S. civilian market is the bread and butter of every weapons industry in the world. You can’t make a living from orders by armies,” Oz says.

Oz is not oblivious to the potential misuse of his weapons. One of his biggest nightmares is that one morning he will open the newspaper and find a picture of a terrorist holding a weapon made by CAA.

“When I see pictures like this, I look straight at the weapon itself – make sure that that it didn’t come from here. All weapons exports are approved by the Defense Export Controls Agency (Ministry of Defense), but things can still happen. It has happened to others, and it can also happen to me. I export to whomever the state allows.”

A bill was introduced this year in the Knesset that would change the rules, imposing a ban on exports of Israeli weapons to countries that violate human rights. The bill is still under consideration, especially the issue of defining a violator of human rights.

“Some people here claim that Israel also violates human rights. It’s in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes we get weapons orders, and reject them without even sending the request to the Ministry of Defense for a decision. In any case, we don’t export to whomever we feel like: we have a regulator above us. He decides to whom we are allowed to export, and to whom we are not allowed.”cx