As we told you last week, National Firearms Museum Director Jim Supica traveled to the Russian Republic of Udmurtia for Mikhail Kalashnikov's 90th birthday. And there is so much to share from this journey that we'll be presenting his story in multiple posts. Here's part one:
How long did it take to get to Udmurtia?
Ten hours on the plane, about five hours by car through Moscow traffic, and then an eighteen hour train trip to the capital city of Izhevsk.
Your first impression?
Russia is cold. But the Russians like interiors warm – about eighty degrees or above. Buildings, trains, everywhere we went.
And your traveling compatriots were … ?
The initial four people in my group were me, Bill York and Ed Costello of the Virginia Gun Collectors Association, and Richard Jones who is the Editor of Jane’s Infantry publications and former curator of the British Pattern Room. The Pattern Room is a spectacular British firearms museum that started of as a storage space to keep the blueprints or patterns of the military arms. That was before mass production, so when they contracted various production outfits to build firearms, there were established patterns that had to be met. The new designs were compared to the established patterns. Closest to the original patterns usually won the contract. But they were all fascinating men with a wealth of knowledge.
We were joined, once we got to Izhevsk, by Peter Kokalis who is the editor of Shotgun News. He has had an uncoventional career that includes training various forces around the world and was full of colorful insights and opinions. Completely adored by the Russian press. The arms designers were also fascinated with Peter as someone who was in the field and had real experience. Like most designers, they primarily interact with other engineers, designers, politicians, and military brass. They love to hear stories of actual needs and functionality in the field. Peter was certainly replete with many stories.
Whenever asked his opinion about the functionality of the AK he would start off with, “Well, I’ve been shot by them three times …” and go on from there.
Then the next day we were joined by Reed Knight, Jr. and Reed Knight III from Knight Armaments. Reid was Gene Stoner’s assistant when Stoner was designing the M-16 and is currently producing the sniper rifles for the Army and the Navy. We spent many hours sitting with designers throwing questions back and forth about design and functionality.
Next week, we'll hear about Jim's first day in Izhevsk.
Read about the rest of Jim's trip.