In this ongoing series into the most infamous assassination guns in history, we explore the weapons and personalities of those who strived to change their world violently by means of firearms. The guns, their victims, and the assassins who wielded them tell stories that resonate throughout the ages. Today’s tale is shockingly violent.
Anwar Sadat was born in 1918 and served as the third President of Egypt. His term ran for eleven years from 1970 until his death on October 6, 1981. Sadat’s story is a cautionary tale about the risks associated with attempting to bring peace to the Middle East.
Sadat was born to a poor Nubian peasant family on Christmas Day of the last year of World War I. He had twelve siblings. One of his brothers, Atef Sadat, was a combat pilot in the Egyptian Air Force who was killed fighting the Israelis during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Sadat’s father was Egyptian, but his mother was of Sudanese stock.
Anwar Sadat graduated from the Royal Military Academy in Cairo in 1938 and served in the Signal Corps. While in the military he met Gamal Abdel Nasser and formed, along with several other junior officers, an organization called the Free Officers. The mission of the group was to free Egypt and Sudan from British domination and resist the corruption of the Egyptian monarchy. Egypt and Sudan were a single country at the time.
Sadat was imprisoned by the British during World War II for seeking support from the Axis to resist English efforts in the Middle East. He was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, fascist Young Egypt, and the Iron Guard. Along with his co-conspirators, he helped launch the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 that overthrew King Farouk. Sadat himself made the radio announcement to his countrymen that the revolution had deposed the king.
Under the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat found himself in various positions of leadership. He served as Nasser’s Vice President twice. After Nasser’s death in 1970 Sadat assume the role of President of Egypt.
When Sadat took the presidency he was assumed to be weak and malleable. The power brokers in Egypt viewed him as Nasser’s puppet and expected him to follow their lead. In reality, Sadat took bold action to consolidate his position and sever ties with the Soviet Union, Egypt’s long-term benefactor. Sadat oversaw the Corrective Revolution that sought to purge the Egyptian government of Nasserists. He also oversaw the 1973 Yom Kippur War with Israel and loosened restrictions on Islamic movements. It was this last initiative that ultimately cost him his life.
Egypt initially made bold gains against the Israelis during the 1973 War, and Sadat was viewed as a hero among Arab peoples as a result. The Israeli counterstrike surrounded the invading Egyptian forces, cutting off their logistics tail and threatening them with annihilation. However, the subsequent negotiated peace returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egyptian control.
In the aftermath of the 1973 War, Sadat reached out to American evangelicals like Billy Graham as well as Pope Paul VI. By 1977 Sadat was making formal overtures to the Israelis for a permanent peace. In November of 1977, Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel officially when he met with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. This effort ultimately yielded the 1978 Camp David Accords signed between Egypt and Israel that laid the framework for the lasting peace that remains between the two countries to this day.
This treaty was profoundly unpopular in most of the Arab world and was viewed as a betrayal of his predecessor’s pan-Arabism. This same pan-Arabism had led to the debacle of the 1967 Six-Day War. During this period Egypt’s political allegiance shifted from the USSR to the US. While Sadat’s efforts gained back the Sinai Peninsula and earned him a Nobel Peace Prize, it engendered unfathomable enmity among some of the most violent and ruthless personalities on the planet. Sadat was the first Muslim recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in history.
The final years of Sadat’s presidency were marked with the internal uprising and simmering tensions throughout the region. After a failed military coup in June of 1981, Sadat ordered a widespread crackdown on political dissent that did little to improve his image with Egyptian hard-liners. Sadat’s reforms had released countless Islamic fundamentalists previously jailed by Nasser. However, his overtures to Israel fomented an insensate enmity among this same group. For years the radical Egyptian Islamic Jihad had been gathering weapons and recruiting military officers with an eye toward the day when they could eliminate Sadat and with him his peaceful intentions toward Israel.
Sadat’s crackdown ultimately netted some 1,500 activists, many of whom were actively planning violence. However, it missed a jihadist military cell that included Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli. This was the man who would ultimately murder Sadat.
On October 6, 1981, Anwar Sadat sat in a reviewing stand observing a military parade celebrating Egypt’s crossing of the Suez Canal. This was an annual celebration that attracted dignitaries from a variety of countries. In the midst of the parade, Islambouli leaped out of the back of a passing military truck along with several other revolutionaries and ran to the reviewing stand. Islambouli threw three grenades and emptied his Egyptian-issue AKM into Sadat and those sitting nearby. One grenade detonated short. The other two failed to go off at all.
Sadat was flown to a nearby military hospital where eleven physicians struggled to keep him alive. Despite heroic efforts, President Anwar Sadat died on the operating table two hours later. Sadat’s death was attributed to “violent nervous shock and internal bleeding in the chest cavity, where the left lung and major blood vessels below it were torn.”
The death toll ultimately included the Cuban ambassador, an Omani general, a Coptic Orthodox Bishop, and Samir Helmy, the head of Egypt’s Central Auditing Agency. In total, a dozen men died. Another twenty-eight were wounded including the future president Hosni Mubarak, Irish Defense Minister James Tully, and four US military liaison officers. Islambouli was captured, tried, and sentenced to death. He was executed by firing squad in April of the following year.
Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov was a Russian peasant and the 17th of 19 children. As the tale goes he dreamt up the design for the AK47 assault rifle while recovering from wounds incurred fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front during World War II. Kalashnikov had no formal mechanical training, but he served on a T34 tank and had a knack for solving problems.
The AK47 was originally intended to be a tool to defend Russia from invasion. It was to be a guarantee that the horrors of Operation Barbarossa would never again be visited upon the Soviet people. The basic Kalashnikov was originally a stamped receiver gun that was found to be inadequately rugged for military service. The milled receiver version served until 1956 when the perfected stamped receiver AKM was introduced. By the 1970’s the Egyptians were producing their own stamped receiver AKM rifles on machinery provided by the Soviet Union.
These Maadi AKM rifles were essentially identical to the Russian guns of the day. Chambered for the Combloc M43 7.62x39mm round, semiauto Maadi AKMs imported by Steyr were among the few Kalashnikov rifles available on the American market in the early 1980s. These guns cost around $1,000 even back then not adjusted for inflation. It was Steyr-imported Maadi AKMs that were used in the filming of the movie Red Dawn.
The Maadi AKM features laminated furniture and a thick painted-on black finish. The particulars are classic AKM to include the slanted muzzle brake, steel 30-round box magazine, and awkward ranch gate safety lever. The AKM sets the world’s standard for reliability among military weapons.
Trigger Time on the AKM
The MIL-SPEC AKM is a relatively lightweight rifle for its .30-caliber chambering, and it bounces around fairly vigorously as a result, particularly on full auto. The front sight is adjustable for windage and elevation with a tool, and the rear sight is ramp-adjustable for range. These sights were state of the art back in 1945 but remain fairly dated today. For work out to two to three hundred meters, however, they yet remain quite serviceable.
The trigger is long and mushy, but you really want a long mushy trigger on a tire-iron tough close combat rifle. The AKM’s heavy 123-grain bullet hits like a freight train at close ranges, and the gun will keep running despite the most egregious abuse. Magazine changes involve rocking the magazine in and out of the Magwell, but this allows a full magazine to be easily seated with the bolt closed. The manual of arms is so easy a child can do it, and many have.
Khalid Islambouli was acting under a fatwa issued by Omar Abdel-Rahman, a ne’er-do-well radical Islamic cleric known as the Blind Sheikh who died serving a life sentence in an American federal prison. This nutjob had his greasy mitts on terrorist acts around the globe before finally going to prison for the part he played in the first World Trade Center bombing. Despite the tireless efforts of Islamic Jihad the tenuous peace with Israel held and remains in force today.
There have been more than 100 million AK rifles produced around the world in the past seven decades. Comrade Kalashnikov’s eponymous meat grinder has done more to foment chaos around the globe than any other human contrivance. The gun even features prominently on the national flag of Mozambique.
Peace has been a fleeting target in the Middle East from the earliest recorded history. In the latter part of the 20th century, however, visionaries like Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, and Yitzhak Rabin had the courage to forge a peace that prevails despite the best efforts of diabolical forces to snuff it out. Many of these selfless visionaries ultimately paid for their efforts with their lives.
Group Size (inches)
Velocity (feet per second)
Red Army Standard 123gr FMJ
Wolf Performance Ammo 123gr FMJ
Russian Steel case 123gr JHP
Group size is best four of five shots measured center to center fired at 100 meters over open sights from a simple rest using my 52-year-old eyeballs. Velocity is the average of three shots fired across a Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph oriented ten feet from the muzzle.
M43 7.62x39mm Combloc
Gas-Operated Selective Fire
Front Post/Rear Sliding Tangent