A statue of Mikhail Kalishnikov was unveiled recently depicting the AK-47’s inventor in a casual stance holding a rifle. The statue’s sculptor got it right; Mikhail is holding a Kalishnikov. But a large bronze sculpture that is part of the monument featured a blown-up version of a blue-print. There’s only one problem; the gun on the blueprint wasn’t an AK-47. Instead, it was a German StG 44.
As covered in a piece by Popular Mechanics, the monument to Kalishnikov originally showed versions of the AK-47, only the design element referenced a StG 44, a German assault rifle from World War II. The error rekindled rumors that claimed Kalishnikov had actually copied the StG 44 when designing the AK-47.
It is believed that the sculptor who produced the statue, which was commissioned by the Russian Military Historical Society, used a reference piece found during a Google search that presented a mislabeled StG 44 diagram instead of the AK-47 diagram.
The error wasn’t noticed until the statue had been placed in a public area and was said to be discovered by Yuri Pasholok, a Russian historian. After Pasholok informed relevant parties of the mistake, the blueprint portion was removed from the monument with an angle grinder.
Kalishnikov is said to have developed the AK-47 after he and fellow Soviet soldiers found the Soviet Army’s reliance on bolt-action rifles, which were much slower to fire than the MP-40 submachine guns used by the Germans, to be troublesome. Reportedly, his intention was to create a new, fully-automatic rifle that featured a shorter cartridge–something between the high powered rifle rounds and under-powered pistol rounds.
Ultimately, the rifle design was approved as a standard issue rifle for Soviet soldiers in 1946 and has since become popular worldwide.
However, some have questioned whether Kalishnikov truly came up with the design on his own. Most of this focuses on the fact that the Soviet Union interned many German engineers towards the end of the war and required them to assist with a variety of weapons-oriented projects. One of the interned engineers was Hugo Schmeisser, a German small arms engineer who developed the StG 44.
The StG 44 and AK-47 notably resemble one another and feature certain outward similarities. However, not all of the internal mechanisms operate in the same fashion, such as the use of a rotating bolt design in the AK-47 and a tilting bolt design in the StG 44. The AK-47 does have internal similarities to the M-1 Garand, an American rifle, though it is believed that the Russians likely had access to sample copies of the firearm.