Mikhail Kalashnikov is the Father of the Soviet Assault Rifle - the AK-47. And in the 60 years since Comrade Kalashnikov designed the first AK rifle, the art of warfare has witnessed radical change.

But the AK design is still around - going strong.

The AK series of Russian guns, chambered variously in hard-hitting 7.62x39mm; the subsonic 9x39mm; and the speedy 5.45x39mm, has revolutionized modern warfare - most always to the consternation of military planners in the West. It 's a tough, durable, nearly always reliable autoloader.

The AK is cheap to make, exactly why it was so warmly received by Mother Russia and the Kremlin. It can take the harshest conditions, often in the hands of uneducated kids, and keep ticking. It's easy to take down, and it's easy to clean. Even fouled, AK rifles perform as advertised. So why haven't we adopted the Kalashnikov? What, and cede superior weapons design to the Russians? Never.

First, there was Mikhail's AK-47 (for the year, 1947) in 7.62x39mm, the Automatic Kalashnikova Model 1947. This anything-but-fancy gun (by today's rifle standards) with its wooden stock, stamped/milled receiver and canvas sling caught on like the brush fire wars that raged globally.

Armed with a single AK, a crude bayonet and a bandoleer full of 30-round mags, a 40-round or 75-round drum magazine, a teenager in sandals that had never seen the inside of a classroom could wage war on his imperialistic aggressors - till the cows came home - and more often than not, win.

That's Mikhail's version of the story, and he's sticking to it.

Then there was the Automat Kalashnikov Modernizirovanniy, the Automatic Kalashnikov Modernized - the AKM, also chambered in 7.62x39mm. The AKM often came with a GP-25, 40mm grenade launcher and a M1959 bayonet. Give a Latin American kid, enamored with Che Guevara, or an Afghan or Chechen warrior, with a score to settle, the AKM and he was a force to be reckoned with.

In the 1970s, the Soviets gave the world their 5.45x39mm AK-74 and the War in Afghanistan. And at the Dawn of the 21st Century, Russia unveiled its latest AK-9 Assault Rifle, chambered in 9x39mm, and agreed to sell Chavez of Venezuela the AK-103 Assault Rifle chambered in 7.62x39.

With the dawning of the exported AK-103, insurgents of the world were handed a lighter AK, complete with cutting-edge plastics (replacing heavier metal and wood furniture), and the full range of railed accessories - sights & lights, a GP-30 grenade launcher and new generation Russian night vision. The 103 weighs 7 1/2 pounds and measures 37 inches (extended), 27 1/2 inches folded. This gas-operated, rotating bolt gun takes 30-round mags and lays down 600 to 650 rounds per minute at 2,500 feet per second. It has an effective range of 1600 feet (500 meters). And in the jungles, that's all it takes.