Designer of the AK-47, Mikhail Kalashnikov, is handed an AK-74, a refined version of the rifle, on November 23, 2002 in Izhevsk.

Story highlights

Russian army has surplus of Kalashnikovs and is waiting on a newer model

The rifle is the weapon of choice for national armies and paramilitary guerrillas alike

The Kalashnikov is highly regarded for its simplicity of operation and reliability

The weapon was designed in 1947 by Mikhail Kalashnikov

CNN  — 

The Russian army has ceased ordering the famed Kalashnikov rifle for its arsenal and is waiting on a newer model its manufacturer is developing.

The army already has more of the weapons than it requires, Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Nikolai Makarov told Russian media.

The inventor of the weapon, Mikhail Kalashnikov, 91, has reportedly been deliberately kept uninformed about the decision.

“We do not want to have it on our conscience and tell him such bad news. He might not live through it,” Russia’s Izvestia newspaper quoted an unnamed friend of Kalashnikov as saying.

The legendary weapon, known for its simplicity of operation and maintenance and reliability in extreme conditions – be they hot, cold, wet or sandy – has been the weapon of choice for national armies and paramilitary guerrillas alike.

Instantly recognizable by its banana-shaped ammunition magazine, the weapon, also known as the AK-47, was invented in 1947 – AK being a Russian acronym for “Kalashnikov’s machine gun,” and 47 standing for the year it was invented.

The AK-47, along with its various modifications, has been recognized in the Guinness World Records book as being the world’s most common machine gun. Licensed and unlicensed versions of the rifle are manufactured in several countries.

According to the weapon’s manufacturer Izhmash, the rifle is still adopted by armed and special forces in over 100 countries.

The weapon was so instrumental in Mozambique’s successful rebel movement that its image was incorporated into the national flag. It is also depicted as part of Zimbabwe’s coat of arms.

In 2009, Kalashnikov told a CNN crew on an excursion to the Izhmash arms assembly plant in the Russian city of Izhevsk that two main qualities describe his machine gun: simplicity and reliability.

“It is a thousand times harder to make simple things than complicated ones,” he said.

“It is very important because a soldier doesn’t have university degrees. He needs a simple and reliable weapon. Just as an academic, for that matter, in a combat situation. There’s simply no time to figure how to operate a complicated weapon and press many buttons when the enemy is advancing on you.”

When Kalashnikov turned 90 in 2009, the day was celebrated in Russia on a scale akin to a national holiday. He was decorated by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with the country’s highest order, the Hero of Russia.

CNN’s Maxim Tkachenko and Mike Sefanov contributed to this story.