The Most Prolific Arms of the Arms Race

M16The most polarizing firearms of the 20th century are indefinitely the American Colt M16 and the Russian Kalashnikov AK47. Bringing to modern warfare rapid firing and efficiency never before seen, these firearms are by far the most prolific of our time. Two of the most common assault rifles in the world, each were used to essentially arm the world… depending on which super power you supported.

In perspective, the two models are not all that different, valued for many of the same advantages. They are both easy to train on and use, both boast low production costs and both own incredible, air-cooled firepower. Both models even share a similar rotating bolt action and are similarly inaccurate, employing standard iron sights.

Aside from the technical specifications, the general assault rifle conception of both models can be traced to the same origin; the German Sturmgewehr (StG44). Considered the first modern assault rifle, the StG44 was introduced in 1943 by the Nazis and decommissioned as soon as the Germans surrendered World War II two years later. If the Germans began StG44 production any sooner, however, many historians predict the tides of WWII would have churned much more in their favor.

Aside from sharing like-specifications and the same origin, the uses and implementations of each rifle are quite opposite. Since the dawn of the Cold War, these firearms have been on opposing sides of conflict of all sizes. In every corner of the world for the Middle East to Southeast Asia to South America, opposing forces wielded one or the other ever since the M16 was introduced in 1962 and AK in 1947. And even in the wake of the Cold War, 25 years later, the tools of war remain.

Even though officially decommissioned the AK47 in 2014, replacing it with the improved AK12, the thousands of forces in over 80 countries are still armed with the tens of millions of AK47s provided over the preceding generations. Nearly 20 countries still manufacture the AK47, the largest producer being China. And just as the Russians armed potential communist countries and enemies of their enemies (such as Iraq), so too did the United States.

While the Soviet Union was arming forces in countries throughout Eastern Europe, North Vietnam, North Korea, and various countries throughout South America- such as Venezuela as recently as 2006- the United States was pretty much arming the rest of the world with American-made M16s. In conjunction with Saudi Arabia, the United States forces were even responsible for arming Afghanistan in the 1970’s with weaponry the Taliban and al Qaedia later used against US military throughout the current, ‘never-ending’ war.
The millions of either assault rifle models currently on the face of the earth present a danger to just as many people on a daily basis. Though the distribution of AK47s was much more haphazard than was the distribution of M16s, as the approximate number globally is roughly 75 million vs 10 million, respectively, they are collectively considered the most abundant assault rifles in the world.

So abundant are these rifles, they are credited with turning the tide of the longest and costliest wars of aggressions in world Assault Rifle Muzzlehistory, including the Vietnam War, the War in Afghanistan and both Chechen Wars. In fact, the AK47 has come to so represent aggression, it is even found on the flags of such war-torn nations as Mozambique and Hezbollah. Conversely, capitalist-friendly nations such as the Philippines and South Korea, brandish the M16 with as much bias and inclination as their counterparts.