BOOK REVIEW: "The Kalashnikov Encyclopaedia" by Cor Roodhorst

by Leroy Thompson

photography by Leroy Thompson

April 14th, 2016


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"The Kalashnikov Encyclopaedia" by Cor Roodhorst ranks as the most impressive firearms reference book I've ever used, and I've used a lot of them. For anyone interested in Kalashnikov firearms, this work offers three volumes with 3,860 fact-filled pages and around 5,700 color photos. The Encyclopaedia is printed on high quality slick paper so the photographs reproduce well. Best of all for those of us who have purchased reference books on foreign firearms in foreign languages, then struggled to use them, it is well written in English.  

The work is arranged alphabetically by country-51 of them-that have used Kalashnikov weapons or have developed weapons based on the basic Kalashnikov design. For example, if you're interested in the Galil, go to the section on Israel or in the SIG 550 series go to the section on Switzerland. Of course, many of you will be interested in the AK-47 so you can go the section on China, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungray-the usual suspects.   

If you like Saiga shotguns and rifles, there is really extensive coverage of them. If you're a techno-geek, there are plenty of exploded drawings and if you're a collector there is extensive coverage of markings. And, if you like tables, there are lots of those. The section on Russia is a dream for any AK fan. It not only includes all of the info on the development of the original AKs but goes through the current generation of Russian assault rifles and special ops weapons. To give you an idea of how the three volumes of this work can pull you in, I stopped writing a couple of sentences ago to check something in one of the volumes. I got back to work on this review over 30 minutes later and that required effort to put the book down.  

Various rifles that have some relationship to the Kalashnikov but may not be quite considered one are included as well. For example, the SVD Dragunov gets great coverage. Looking at the latest Dragunov optics was the culprit that I mentioned above that pulled away from this review. What I found interesting, too, was that there is a section on all of the parts kit rifles we've had available here in the USA.  

I could go on, but it is difficult to imagine the scale of The Kalashnikov Encyclopaedia without actually looking at it. 

The work is three volumes and beautifully printed so as you might expect it's not cheap, but I actually think it is quite reasonably priced. Cost is 248.30 Euros, which includes economy airmail shipping from Belgium. The exchange with the dollar is good right now so that translates to around $275 plus or minus. For comparison, the 2014-2015 edition of Jane's Infantry Weapons costs $1,449-no that is not a typo. Jane's is a very useful reference on military weapons. I normally buy one that is two years old from a contact who works for an agency that buys a dozen new ones every year and sells the older ones at a good price. Still, I pay more for a used Jane's than I did for this definitive Kalashnikov book. 

Ordering is easy, too. Just go to this link and you can pay with PayPal. A few weeks later the book shows up and no matter how much you know about AKs you will learn a lot.

Leroy Thompson

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