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It was not open sourced. It was produced and stockpiled in enormous quantities by state militaries, the Soviet Union tended to license the blueprints instead of shipping examples to its satellites, and then when all the assorted states using it collapsed they lost control of their stockpiles.

A good book for the history of it is The Gun (https://www.amazon.com/Gun-C-J-Chivers/dp/0743271734). Its essential point is that weapons of war are usually very durable goods, and outlive the geopolitical purposes for which they are produced and originally distributed. Kalashnikov-family rifles happen to have arrived in particularly unstable places.

EDIT: Weapons built by local forces tend to be more... idiosyncratic. Though compatibility with AK ammunition is a desirable feature. https://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/08/taliban-gun-locke...

Also, another example of this durability is the Humvees that have ended up in Syrian government hands after going through three different owners - US, Iraq, ISIS, Syria.




It is kind of crazy how weapons can long outlive the war they were made for, and sometimes even outlive the country that created them. My favorite example of this is that Syria was fighting Israel in the 1950s and 1960s with Panzer IV tanks and StuG III assault guns. And Israel at the time was using some (heavily modified) M4 Sherman tanks. It's a rather odd image, Shermans and Panzers still dueling on the battlefield 20 years after WWII.


Even crazier? The prevalence of British Lee-Enfields from the 30s and 40s in Taliban hands: https://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/19/a-firsthand-look-...

And Syrian rebels found and used a cache of mint-condition StG 44 rifles in 2012.


I highly recommend the C J Chivers book. The section near the middle that discusses the issues with early m-16 usage is particularly good, and relevant here.


Interestingly, he just wrote an article-length piece going into the same topics, but keying off of recent mass shootings instead: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/world/ak-47-mass-sh...




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