MOSCOW, Apr 18 (Reuters) Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of the world's most popular assault rifle, says that US soldiers in Iraq are using his invention in preference to their own weapons, proving that his gun is still the best.
''Even after lying in a swamp you can pick up this rifle, aim it and shoot. That's the best job description there is for a gun. Real soldiers know that and understand it,'' the 86-year-old gunmaker told a weekend news conference in Moscow.
''In Vietnam, American soldiers threw away their M-16 rifles and used (Kalashnikov) AK-47s from dead Vietnamese soldiers, with bullets they captured. That was because the climate is different to America, where M-16s may work properly,'' he said.
''Look what's happening now: every day on television we seethat the Americans in Iraq have my machine guns and assault rifles in their armored vehicles. Even there American rifles don't work properly.'' Some US troops in Iraq have reportedly taken to using AK-47s in preference to the standard-issue M-16. The Cold War-era gun, renowned for its durability and easy handling, is plentiful in Iraq.
Kalashnikov designed his first weapon in 1947 and is still chief constructor at Izhmash arms factory in Izhevsk in the Urals mountains.
The factory's director Vladimir Grodetsky told the news conference that around a billion rifles had been produced around the world using parts of Kalashnikovs or based on the same design, only 10-12 per cent of which were made in Russia.
Reuters SHB GC0914