60th anniversary of Kalashnikov rifle

Favoured by everyone from Rambo to Osama Bin Laden, the Kalashnikov assault rifle, reputedly the worlds most reliable weapon, has marked its 60th anniversary in service.

At a conference in Moscow the life of the weapon is being recounted from its origin to its present day position as a global brand. «60 years on the front line» is the slogan of the international conference in Moscow, marking the anniversary of the world's most ubiquitous weapon. A tag line summing up a lifespan during which the assault rifle has changed the way wars are fought and won, to its present day position as an iconic symbol.

Due to its Soviet-era origins, and use throughout the Third World, the Kalashnikov has acquired an unmistakable air of radical chic. Most recently during a visit to Russian, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez described a  visit to the factory of the weapons original production as the highlight of his trip and now has plans to build the first Kalashnikov factory in South America.

Short for automatic Kasashnikov model «1947» after the year it was designed, the origin of the weapon lays in more humble beginnings.

The inventor, Mikhail Kalashnikov, a farm boy with a talent for dismantling and repairing machines, scribbled out a design for the rifle on his hospital bed after being injured during the Second World War. It came into its own during the Vietnam war when American soldiers took them from the bodies of their Vietnamese combatants preferring them to their own sophisticated but unreliable M-16 rifles.

A mere eight moving parts and four-kilogram weight, the success of the weapon has proven to be much more than the sum of its parts.

Kalasnikov designed variations of the firearm but what unites them all:.is their ease of use reliability and simplicity.

Today as many as 100 MLN Kalashnikov rifles are in service all over the world. They appear on Al Quaida videos and the American army trained domestic troops in Iraq with them.

But the success of the weapon has been seen as something of a double edged sword. The gun's image suffered as it became the weapon of choice for so many of the world's terrorists and child-soldiers in Africa.

Mikhail Kalashnikov appalled by the suffering his gun has inflicted on civilians said on one occasion he now wishes he had invented a lawnmower instead.