Soldiers give AK-47 restoration a shot Troops get crash course in leading the Afghan police in rebuilding weapons By CHUCK CRUMBO Posted on Sun, Jan. 06, 2008 http://www.thestate.com/local/story/276169.html CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan — Sgt. Dennis Busby never held an AK-47 — let alone fired one — until he came to Afghanistan. Now, the S.C. National Guard soldier is helping to restore weapons, including the ubiquitous Soviet-era assault rifle Afghan forces use. Busby, of Lexington, is a member of the Guard’s 218th Brigade Combat Team, deployed here to mentor the Afghan army and police. He works at a nearby supply depot with a team of technicians that supervises the reconditioning and rebuilding of weapons Afghan authorities use. “It’s a good weapon, depending on where it’s made,” Busby said of the AK-47. “The Russian-made and Chinese-made are good; the Egyptian ones aren’t so good.” The rifle — popular because it seldom jams, is easy to operate and cheap to buy — is used by Afghan forces, as well as Taliban and insurgent fighters. Afghan forces eventually will receive the M-16 and M-4 rifles that U.S. service members use. But until those weapons arrive, the Afghans will tote their AK-47s. The AK-47 was invented in 1947 by Mikhail Kalashnikov, and the former Soviet Union gave its Eastern Bloc allies and communist China licenses to manufacture it. Today, AK-47s are made in 30 countries and carried by 50 armies. About 100 million of the weapons, recognizable by their banana-shaped magazine, exist around the world. In Afghanistan, AK-47s — which cost from $10 to $300 each — have been a mainstay since the late 1970s. The rifles were first brought here by invading Soviet forces. In the 1980s, the CIA funneled AK-47s procured from China into the country to aid Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet guerrilla forces — the mujaheddin. At the repair depot, workers break down the weapons, replace worn and damaged parts and then put them back together, said Chief Warrant Officer Joe Johnson of Gaston. The most common problem the S.C. soldiers see is “barrel erosion,” meaning that rifling inside the weapon’s barrel has been worn out by being fired so often, Busby said. Other weapons the S.C. troops recondition include rocket-propelled grenade launchers; the DShK — pronounced “dishka” — 12.7mm heavy machine gun; the SPG-9, a tripod-mounted 73mm recoilless gun; and the PKM machine gun. All were invented by Russians. Once the weapons are rebuilt, the troops take them to a range at the Kabul Military Training Center — Afghanistan’s equivalent to Fort Jackson — and fire away. Both Johnson and Busby said the AK-47 doesn’t deserve its reputation for lousy accuracy. “The AK is very good,” Johnson said. “It’s very accurate.” Instead, Johnson blames any inaccuracy on fighters who weren’t trained on how to fire the weapons. “They believe Allah is going to help them hit the target.” Chuck Crumbo, The State’s military writer, reported this story while in Afghanistan covering the 218th Brigade Combat Team.