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The Gun (2010)

by C. J. Chivers

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4131845,203 (3.84)3
It is the world's most widely recognized weapon, the most profuse tool for killing ever made. More than fifty national armies carry the automatic Kalashnikov, as do an array of police, intelligence, and security agencies all over the world. In this tour de force, prizewinning New York Times reporter C. J. Chivers traces the invention of the assault rifle, following the miniaturization of rapid-fire arms from the American Civil War, through World War I and Vietnam, to present-day Afghanistan, when Kalashnikovs and their knockoffs number as many as 100 million, one for every seventy persons on earth. It is the weapon of state repression, as well as revolution, civil war, genocide, drug wars, and religious wars; and it is the arms of terrorists, guerrillas, boy soldiers, and thugs. It was the weapon used to crush the uprising in Hungary in 1956. American Marines discovered in Vietnam that the weapon in the hands of the enemy was superior to their M16s. Fidel Castro amassed them. Yasir Arafat procured them for the P.L.O. A Kalashnikov was used to assassinate Anwar Sadat. As Osama bin Laden told the world that "the winds of faith and change have blown," a Kalashnikov was by his side. Pulled from a hole, Saddam Hussein had two Kalashnikovs. It is the world's most widely recognized weapon--cheap, easy to conceal, durable, deadly. But where did it come from? And what does it mean? Chivers, using a host of exclusive sources and declassified documents in the east and west, as well as interviews with and the personal accounts of insurgents, terrorists, child soldiers, and conventional grunts, reconstructs through the Kalashnikov the evolution of modern war. Along the way, he documents the experience and folly of war and challenges both the enduring Soviet propaganda surrounding the AK-47 and many of its myths.… (more)
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English (17)  Finnish (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Disappointing considering how much I like Chivers' reporting in the Ny Times and his blog. Uneven style and recurring redundencies. Could have been much shorter. Tying the central theme to the AK47 is a stretch and works better as a general history of the automatic rifle. The sections on the development and commercialization of the Gatling, Maxim and M-16 are great, though. ( )
  tmdblya | Dec 29, 2020 |
The best researched book about AK47 I have ever read, including a very comprehensive context for its development with a quite lengthy history of guns in general and the interaction between the military and people making guns. It also covers the M16 debacle, even though it's not the main subject of the book). ( )
  TeaTimeCoder | Dec 23, 2020 |
The AK47 was first manufactured way back in the early 1950's and some of these very early models are still in use. It is a gun that has been used by armies, revolutionaries, hoodlums and criminals. It's simple construction gives it a robustness and longevity that mean that these weapons will be around for a long time to come.

In the biography of the gun, and the man Kalashnikov who invented it, Chivers takes us through the murky world of the arms industry, and Soviet cold war secrets. Form how the initial concept was conceived and developed to the modern iterations of the weapon. Along the way he writes about the times these guns have been seen by the public, normally some terrorist atrocity, and the history of arms that lead to the lightweight sub machine gun.

The history and anecdotes about this are fairly interesting, but in there is 200 pages of history about the earlier guns such as the Gatling, and a lot of the failure of the M-16 in battle. Interesting in its own way, and necessary to set the context, but it is half the book. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
An excellent over view of the people and the situation behind the making of the AK-47. Very interesting read for anyone that cares to learn more about the rifle. ( )
  rdmhellyer | Nov 21, 2018 |
detailed, balanced, great insight, great slice of history. ( )
  haylock | Feb 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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It is the world's most widely recognized weapon, the most profuse tool for killing ever made. More than fifty national armies carry the automatic Kalashnikov, as do an array of police, intelligence, and security agencies all over the world. In this tour de force, prizewinning New York Times reporter C. J. Chivers traces the invention of the assault rifle, following the miniaturization of rapid-fire arms from the American Civil War, through World War I and Vietnam, to present-day Afghanistan, when Kalashnikovs and their knockoffs number as many as 100 million, one for every seventy persons on earth. It is the weapon of state repression, as well as revolution, civil war, genocide, drug wars, and religious wars; and it is the arms of terrorists, guerrillas, boy soldiers, and thugs. It was the weapon used to crush the uprising in Hungary in 1956. American Marines discovered in Vietnam that the weapon in the hands of the enemy was superior to their M16s. Fidel Castro amassed them. Yasir Arafat procured them for the P.L.O. A Kalashnikov was used to assassinate Anwar Sadat. As Osama bin Laden told the world that "the winds of faith and change have blown," a Kalashnikov was by his side. Pulled from a hole, Saddam Hussein had two Kalashnikovs. It is the world's most widely recognized weapon--cheap, easy to conceal, durable, deadly. But where did it come from? And what does it mean? Chivers, using a host of exclusive sources and declassified documents in the east and west, as well as interviews with and the personal accounts of insurgents, terrorists, child soldiers, and conventional grunts, reconstructs through the Kalashnikov the evolution of modern war. Along the way, he documents the experience and folly of war and challenges both the enduring Soviet propaganda surrounding the AK-47 and many of its myths.

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Haiku summary
Machine gun history,
Assault rifle made Russian
A bomb meaningless

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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