The Gun

The Gun

Book - 2010
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At a secret arms-design contest in Stalin's Soviet Union, army technicians submitted a stubby rifle with a curved magazine. Dubbed the AK-47, it was selected as the Eastern Bloc's standard arm. Scoffed at in the Pentagon as crude and unimpressive, it was in fact a breakthrough ;a compact automatic that could be mastered by almost anyone, last decades in the field, and would rarely jam. Manufactured by tens of millions in planned economies, it became first an instrument of repression and then the most lethal weapon of the Cold War. Soon it was in the hands of terrorists.In a searing examination of modern conflict and official folly, C. J. Chivers mixes meticulous historical research, investigative reporting, and battlefield reportage to illuminate the origins of the world's most abundant firearm and the consequences of its spread. The result, a tour de force of history and storytelling, sweeps through the miniaturization and distribution of automatic firepower, and puts an iconic object in fuller context than ever before.The Gundismantles myths as it moves from the naieve optimism of the Industrial Revolution through the treacherous milieu of the Soviet Union to the inside records of the Taliban. Chivers tells of the 19th-century inventor in Indianapolis who designs a Civil War killing machine, insisting that more-efficient slaughter will save lives. A German attach; who observes British machine guns killing Islamic warriors along the Nile advises his government to amass the weapons that would later flatten British ranks in World War I. In communist Hungary, a locksmith acquires an AK-47 to help wrest his country from the Kremlin's yoke, beginning a journey to the gallows. The Pentagon suppresses the results of firing tests on severed human heads that might have prevented faulty rifles from being rushed to G.I.s in Vietnam. In Africa, a millennial madman arms abducted children and turns them on their neighbors, setting his country ablaze. Neither pro-gun nor anti-gun,The Gunbuilds to a terrifying sequence, in which a young man who confronts a trio of assassins is shattered by 23 bullets at close range. The man survives to ask questions that Chivers examines with rigor and flair.Throughout,The Gunanimates unforgettable characters; inventors, salesmen, heroes, megalomaniacs, racists, dictators, gunrunners, terrorists, child soldiers, government careerists, and fools. Drawing from years of research, interviews, and from declassified records revealed for the first time, he presents a richly human account of an evolution in the very experience of war.
Publisher: New York, NY : Simon & Schuster, 2010.
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9780743270762
Characteristics: 481 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm


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Apr 09, 2019

"What of his legacy? One element was beyond dispute. Whatever notoriety the AK-47 and its knock-offs realized, Kalashnikov the man would be sure to defend to the end his nostalgic idea of Soviet days."
In this thoroughly researched book, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist C.J. Chivers explores the history of both small arms and, more specifically, the iconic AK-47, created by a loyal, small town Soviet man. The first hundred pages cover the development, manufacture, and deployment of weapons, dealing with famous figures like Gatling and Hiram Maxim, who was super racist. The rest of the book is about the Kalashnikov and its use in conflicts, wars, and terrorist acts all over the world. It can be a bit technical (I'm not at all a gun person.) and would've benefited from some judicious editing, but you'll learn a lot. There's also an earlier book about the AK-47 by Larry Kahaner.

Mar 24, 2019

This is a very well educated read. I was surprised at the amount of detail that this author was able to incorporate in this book while writing about such an uninformed topic. I think that this author uses lots of real-life memoirs as proof of his point. I think that this is an effective way to talk about a highly controversial topic. Guns today are widely regarded as unnecessary and dangerous. I like how this author does not provide his own opinion of automatic weaponry and relies only on the history of the gun to give the reader the ability to have an opinion of their own. This book is very educating on the topic so I would recommend this book to everyone.

I really liked this book because it is non-biased and provides only the facts. This author is very talented due to his ability to write about a very uninformed topic and make it interesting. I would say that you make an opinion on guns, you should read this book to give you background unbiased knowledge of the topic. I rated this 10/10 simply because of how amazed I was about how well the author was able to tell me about guns and not bore me because of how little information exists on the topic.

Feb 20, 2017

A very informative and well written book. I enjoyed the chapter on the M-16 and the cold
pursuit by the Americans of a gun that was a failure. The number of the guns that exist in the world is a testament to the solid performance and availability of the weapon of choice of
most of the world. A very good read.

Dec 29, 2016

I recommend it. An unusual combination of military technology history, geopolitics, the international arms trade and the life of Kalashnikov. A long chapter on the development of the M-16 rifle and its problems.

Aug 09, 2014

Thick. Couldn't put it down. Former U.S Marine core captain Pulitzer for journalism NY times Chivers convinces reader the reason America lost Vietnam war was not political esoterics but rather superiority of enemy firepower viz a vis AK47 & Mig. Compelling evidence from someone who fought in the first wave of the conflict.

Rachelene Dec 06, 2011

An amazing book about the pervasive influence of the AK-47 on the world as we know it in the last 60 years. A must read, although it is not always fun to read.

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ddi2050 Jan 08, 2013

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