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Book Review: The Kalashnikov Encyclopaedia by Drs. Cor Roodhorst

All three volumes available worldwide from:

While there are several books available which showcase a decent number of different Kalashnikov variants (like Tokoi’s work), and there are good reference works on the history and development of the system (Iannamico’s “Grim Reaper” and Ezell’s “Kalashnikov: Arms and the Man”), until recently there has not been a good encyclopedia of the myriad of different variations on the Kalashnikov like Steven’s work on the FAL.

Until recently, that is. We now have Drs. Cor Roodhorst’s monumental work, “The Kalashnikov Encyclopedia” at our disposal. At nearly 4,000 pages spread into three separate volumes, this is a truly encyclopedia work which covers literally all the Kalashnikov variations and derivates made through 2015 (when it was published). As the cover says, a “Recognition and Weapon Forensic Guide for Kalashnikov Arms and Derivatives”. For the researcher, collector, journalist, or enthusiast who needs or wants to know about the distinctions between, say the Hungarian AMD-63 and AK63/D, this is the answer. In addition, Roodhorst has made an interesting study of the variations in the different variances on the Kalashnikov theme and created a categorization system differentiating between three different types of copies and six different types of derivates. These range from a Type A Copy (all parts, but mechanical and otherwise, interchange with original Russian parts) to Type Z Derivatives, which may look somewhat like Kalashnikovs but share no mechanical features or parts (like the Czech VZ58).

Where the work’s strength is it exhaustive comprehensiveness, there are weaknesses that naturally come with such a work. These are:

– A lack of depth on any particular weapon. Most receive about a half page of text and statistics.
– Inconsistent illustration. Images were clearly sourced from a wide variety of places, and the quality varies substantially.
– Editorial thoroughness. Many typographical errors are to be found through the pages.

While I feel obligated to point out these “opportunities for improvement”, I would to be clear that they do not substantially degrade the value of the book. While brighter photos would be nice in some places and typos are distracting, the reason to have this book is for the information it contains. As someone currently working on a book myself, the idea of attempting to create such a massive reference as The Kalashnikov Encyclopaedia is still somewhat mind-boggling, and Dr. Roodhorst deserves significant accolades for making it a reality. For the serious collector or institution, it is simply a must-have reference that cannot be even remotely matched by and other resource.

Naturally, a nearly 4,000 page set of books does not come cheap. The price for the full set is €190 plus shipping, with shipping rates varying by geographical region (the set weighs more than 17 pounds / 7.7kg). Between international shipping and exchange rates, my set cost me about $300. A lot for “a book”…but well worth the expense in my opinion for the information it contains. If this seems too pricey, well, just imagine what Jane’s would charge for it if they had published it!

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