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American Rifle: A Biography Hardcover – October 21, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, October 2008: Given the title, American Rifle is a book that many potential readers might dismiss without a thought. Don't do it: Alexander Rose's peculiar "biography" is not written for gun enthusiasts--though they'll certainly enjoy it--but for anyone interested American history from George Washington to the Wild West to Iraq. Drawing on original sources ranging from Samuel Colt to the soldiers who depend on the weapon the most, this book is an exhaustive history of the rifle's place in American culture, not only as an instrument of war, but also as a driver of technological innovation and advances in mass production that helped propel the United States into its role as both a military and economic superpower. Once you start, American Rifle will have to be pried from your cold, dead hands before you put it down. --Jon Foro

From Publishers Weekly

In this solid history, Rose (Washington's Spies) explores the development of the rifle, such as how it evolved in American history to become an iconic symbol of freedom and how it developed as an effective military instrument as well as a private citizen's firearm. Drawing on numerous primary sources, from letters and journals of ordinary soldiers to the writings of inventors such as Samuel Colt, Rose traces the rise of the rifle from its original use as a hunting tool and a means of defense and protection to its eventual use as an offensive weapon in wars of conquest. Loaded with facts, the book reveals that firearms didn't come into their own in the colonies until 1609, when Samuel de Champlain led his men on a raid of the Mohawks. In their increasing contact with European adventurers and traders, Native Americans recognized the power of firearms and cannily traded for such weapons. By the early 18th century, gunsmiths of German extraction invented a rifle that had greater accuracy and distance than muskets. The Kentucky rifle, so named because it's rumored that Daniel Boone carried one of these early rifles in his travels around the frontier, was easier to load and could drop a bear, or a British soldier, in fewer shots and at a more distant range than a musket. In his entertaining history, Rose engagingly chronicles Americans' peculiar quest to build a more refined and effective firearm. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; 1st edition (October 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553805177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553805178
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,173,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A little about myself. I was born in the United States, grew up in Australia, and educated (sort of) in Britain, worked in Canada, but now live in New York (well, sort of). For several years, I was a journalist but went into the History Business around the time my book, "Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring," first appeared. It's since been used as the basis for the AMC drama series, "Turn: Washington's Spies," for which I also serve as writer and producer.

These days, I keep the wolves from the door by reviewing the odd book for the newspapers and cranking out the occasional article for various magazines. My next book, "Men of War: The American Experience of Battle at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima," is coming out on June 9, 2015.

I always like to hear from readers, so if you have any questions or comments or requests, please feel free to contact me, either by email (www.alexrose.com), on Twitter, or through The FaceBook.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Joe Domenici on October 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
With American Rifle: A Biography Mr. Rose has written a detailed, engaging, concise history of not only the rifle in America but also of the United States of America.

To understand the history of the United States of America one gains many insights by reading American Rifle. To quote General Pershing from the book, "You must not forget that the rifle is distinctively an American weapon." This is bolstered by none other then John Adams who first used the word "rifle" in a 1775 letter to his beloved Abigail stating that he had recently heard of a "particular kind of musket, called a rifle...". The book more then explains why these statements are true.

The book starts with the early German immigrant Jager makers, who settled mainly in Pennsylvania creating the first Kentucky rifles; the uniquely American weapon which changed history. (You have to read the book for the theories as to why those rifles became known as Kentucky rifles.)

With thorough research and a clean, linear, easy to follow writing style the author takes us from those early days of flintlocks at Bunker Hill and the other key American Revolution battle sites onto the fields of fire of today in Iraq where the M4 (little brother of the M-16) gets the job done as we wait to see what the next major innovation in rifles will bring.

Most of the major men, firearm makers and weapons which were pivotal in the history of the rifle are covered. Myths are dispelled and interesting nuggets of fact are dispersed throughout the volume to reward the reader.

The book appeals not only to those interested in weapons and their history but readers of military history or anyone wanting to know more about the history of the USA in general.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on November 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is not the first book to examine Americans and their relationship with guns but the well known scandal souroundingArming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture means that a new book was needed. This book is not about all of the gun culture in the U.S or the second amendment, that can be found elsewhere, this is about the American rifle, a weapon that many readers will be surprised to learn is unqiuely American.

It begins with the revolutionary period and Germans in Pennsylvania creating the first Kentucky Rifle. then we are taken through to the Civil War, Gerneral Pershing, the American Marine Corp, the decision to replace the Springfield M1903 with the M1 Garand (and M1 Carbine), the first semi-automatic rifle to be generally issues to U.S infantry units. It follows the M1 through the Second World War, Korean war and into Vietnam. It was replaced, starting in 1964, with the M16, which is still in use today as the M4 carbine.

This is a brilliant book that is much more than a book about guns, it is the biography of a nation and the arsenal of democracy, the rifles, that protect it. It is about the military and civilian attachment to the rifle. It is about culture and war. Perhaps it is a testament to America and her heritage that one can tell the story of the nation in such a unique way, and this book and its author are certainly the ones to do it. A wonderful read.

Seth J. Frantzman
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joe Domenici on October 21, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
With American Rifle: A Biography Mr. Rose has written a detailed, engaging, concise history of not only the rifle in America but also of the United States of America.

To understand the history of the United States of America one gains many insights by reading American Rifle. To quote General Pershing from the book, "You must not forget that the rifle is distinctively an American weapon." This is bolstered by none other then John Adams who first used the word "rifle" in a 1775 letter to his beloved Abigail stating that he had recently heard of a "particular kind of musket, called a rifle...". The book more then explains why these statements are true.

The book starts with the early German immigrant Jager makers, who settled mainly in Pennsylvania creating the first Kentucky rifles; the uniquely American weapon which changed history. (You have to read the book for the theories as to why those rifles became known as Kentucky rifles.)

With thorough research and a clean, linear, easy to follow writing style the author takes us from those early days of flintlocks at Bunker Hill and the other key American Revolution battle sites onto the fields of fire of today in Iraq where the M4 (little brother of the M-16) gets the job done as we wait to see what the next major innovation in rifles will bring.

Most of the major men, firearm makers and weapons which were pivotal in the history of the rifle are covered. Myths are dispelled and interesting nuggets of fact are dispersed throughout the volume to reward the reader.

The book appeals not only to those interested in weapons and their history but readers of military history or anyone wanting to know more about the history of the USA in general.
Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James H. Reynolds on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
American Rifle: A Biography
I started shooting in 1934 and was active for many years with reloading and amateur gunsmithing, I was also deeply involved with the procurement of the M14 rifle and all the problems involved. This is the best book on the subject, comparable only to Julian Hatcher's Rifle in America which has long been unavailable. Phil Sharpe's is more like a catalog. It doesn't take a shooting fan to appreciate this very readable history of Americana.
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