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Aimo Lahti during the Interim Peace in 1940
April 28, 1896
April 19, 1970|
|Occupation||gunsmith, weapons designer|
|Known for||Lahti-Saloranta M/26 machine gun, Suomi KP/-31 submachine gun, Lahti L-35 pistol, Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle|
Aimo Johannes Lahti (April 28, 1896 – April 19, 1970) was a self-taught Finnish weapons designer. Out of the 50 weapons that he designed, the best known is the Suomi M-31 SMG. Other well-known weapon designs include the Lahti-Saloranta M/26 LMG, Lahti L-35 pistol and Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle. Lahti also designed the 7,62 ITKK 31 VKT anti-aircraft machine gun and the 20 ITK 40 VKT anti-aircraft cannon.
His work is considered decisive in defending Finnish independence and increasing trust in the reliability of domestic weapons produced there.
Aimo Lahti was born in Viiala in 1896, to a family of five. He had a safe and somewhat wild childhood. Lahti did not enjoy school and left after the 6th year of elementary school. He started working in the Viiala glass factory when he was 14 years old. In the same year, he bought his first weapon, a Berdan rifle, with five marks he had earned in the factory. Lahti was fascinated by the rifle’s mechanism and visited local gunsmith Säteri with whom he examined the weapon closely. Aimo Lahti visited him several times, becoming familiar with weapon mechanisms. He served his conscription in central Finland’s regiment during 1918 and 1919. On October 20, 1919 he married his wife, Ida, with whom he had his only child. His son, Olavi Johannes Lahti, was later a pilot in the Finnish Air Force and died in 1944.
Master Armorer in the Finnish ArmyEdit
After working for the railway; he joined the Finnish Army as a Master Armorer in 1921. He was influenced in this decision by Captain Rosenholm. In 1922—he started to design the Suomi M-31 SMG after examining the Bergmann MP18, which had many design problems as well as being expensive. The new design was revolutionary because the reliability, accuracy and the rate of fire were excellent. The first 200 Suomi SMGs were produced in 1922. After the prototypes were made, he was ordered to work under the control of the Ministry of Defence and to design a light machine gun, which eventually would be the Lahti-Saloranta M/26. He then improved the Mosin Nagant rifle by designing the M/27 "Pystykorva" ("Spitz"), which later was issued to the Finnish Army as their service rifle.
In 1932 Lahti and the Ministry of Defence signed two important agreements about Lahti's earnings and other economic benefits. It also gave the government rights to use and sell his designs. In the same year, he got an offer to move to an American weapon company. He was offered a check for 3 million marks and a 5% commission on the weapons that would have been produced in the USA. On the same day the Ministry reformed his older contract. Lahti received more benefits and rights to his inventions and therefore did not feel that moving to the USA was a better offer.
Aimo Lahti continued to design weapons until the end of the Continuation War when the Allied Control Commission questioned him about the lost 30 "assault rifles" that he was designing and other topics. The commission made a decision that he would not be allowed to work as a weapon designer anymore. He enjoyed a Finnish Army’s Major General’s pension for 50 years, until his death in 1970 in Jyväskylä at the age of 74.
- "Aimo Lahti: Asesuunnittelijana Suomessa". K.J. Gummerus. 1970. 12430/1970.
- Hyytinen, Timo (2003), Suomi-konepistoolin tarina : näin syntyi maailman paras ase ja näin sitä käyttivät maailman parhaat taistelijat ISBN 951-97543-9-3
- (Finnish) Yleisradio - Keksijäesittely: Aimo Lahti
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