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The Gun Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 12, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743270762
  • ASIN: B004Q7E0YA
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,010,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The AK-47 assault rifle is the defining weapon of the post-WWII era, thanks to its reliability, simplicity, and effectiveness. Over a hundred million units have been manufactured in enough variants-including imitations-to provide one for every 70 people in the world. It is praised in equal measure by soldiers, insurgents, hunters, and police. In his first book Chivers, a Marine Corps vet and senior writer at the New York Times who has reported extensively from Afghanistan and Pakistan, combines recently declassified documents with extensive personal accounts of AK-47 users from around the world. Without denying the familiar contributions of Mikhail Kalashnikov, Chivers describes the AK-47 as a product of the Soviet system. The quest for an individual weapon with the firepower of a light machine gun and the portability of a machine pistol dated from the First World War, but Stalin gave it top priority with the beginning of the Cold War. Chivers vividly depicts the false starts and the eventual success, as when the gun aided in suppressing the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and its subsequent global distribution and evolution into "everyman's gun." An extensive comparison with the US M-16 enhances this outstanding history of an exceptional instrument of war.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This superior history of the AK family of assault rifles begins with the invention of the machine gun by Hiram Maxim and traces automatic weapons through WWII. In 1947, Russian army officer Mikhail Kalashnikov adapted a German design of automatic infantry rifle to become the AK (for Avtomat Kalashnikov). It first attracted world attention in Vietnam by proving superior to the American M-16. Since then it has developed several relatives and been produced in many other countries, the total running into the hundreds of millions. It has armed regular armies, irregular armies, police forces, terrorists, common criminals, and ordinary householders in the majority of the world’s countries, creating a proliferation problem that has to date killed far more people than the nuclear kind. The author is a former U.S. Marine officer and prizewinning journalist who has written incisively and researched exhaustively. It lends force to his arguments that some of his informants have been assassinated with assault rifles for talking. --Roland Green

More About the Author

A former Marine Corps infantry officer, C.J. Chivers is a senior writer at The New York Times. He contributes to the Foreign and Investigative desks and frequently posts on the At War blog, writing on war, tactics, human rights, politics, crime and the arms trade from Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia, Georgia, Chechnya and elsewhere on a wide range of assignments.

In addition to writing, he shoots video and, occasionally, photographs. He served as Moscow correspondent from June 2004 through 2007, and was the paper's Moscow bureau chief in 2007 and 2008. He has also covered war zones or conflicts in the Palestinian territories, Israel and Central Asia. From 1999 until 2001 he covered crime and law enforcement in New York City, working in a three-reporter bureau inside the police headquarters in Lower Manhattan. While in this bureau, he covered the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Before joining The Times, Chivers was a staff writer at The Providence Journal in Rhode Island from 1995 until 1999, covering crime and politics, and was a contributor to several magazines, writing on wildlife, natural history and conservation. He remains a contributor to Esquire and Field & Stream.

From 1988 until 1994, Chivers was an officer in the United States Marine Corps, serving in the Persian Gulf War and performing peacekeeping duties as a company commander during the Los Angeles riots. He was honorably discharged as a captain in 1994.

In 1996, Chivers received the Livingston Award for International Journalism for a series on the collapse of commercial fishing in the North Atlantic. Two of his stories in The Times from Afghanistan were cited in the award of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2002. In 2007, his reconstruction for Esquire of the terrorist siege of a public school in Beslan, Russia, won the Michael Kelly Award and National Magazine Award for Reporting. He was also part of The Times's team that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2009, for coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. His combat reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan, with that of his colleague Dexter Filkins and the photographer Tyler Hicks, with whom he often works, was selected in 2010 by New York University as one of the Top Ten Works of Journalism of the Decade.

His book of history and conflict, "The Gun," mixes years or archival research, battlefield reportage and investigative reporting in Europe, Russia, the United States and Africa to document the origins, spread and effects of the world's most abundant firearm. Told through battlefield reconstructions and character sketches that trace an evolution in technology and in war, it will be published by Simon & Schuster in October, 2010.

Chivers was born in Binghamton, N.Y. He graduated with a B.A. cum laude in English from Cornell University in January 1988 and was the 1995 valedictorian of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He also graduated from several military schools, including the United States Army's Ranger Course. He lives in Rhode Island with his wife and their five children.

Articles, essays, blog posts, photographs and video reports by C.J. Chivers can be found on the websites of The New York Times, Esquire, and the At War blog, or on www.cjchivers.com.



Customer Reviews

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.
Tom Swift
A fascinating and well researched look at the evolution of automatic weapons to the AK-47, and the effects and consequences of the the development of this gun.
Matthew D. Kofahl
The author has done considerable research and presents his findings in an engaging and entertaining writing style.
ArnzT100

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Grzegorz Borek on October 31, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"The Gun" provides some very interesting insights into the history of machine guns and modern arms trade, yet it is not a complete book, but rather a series of separate articles. It is hard to find a leading idea that would join the separate stories conveyed in "The Gun".

The book starts with an excellent historical account of developments of the machine gun and goes on to describe the invention of AK-47 and M-16 in this way. But then it stops - for no apparent reason. I would very much like to read about what were the developments in assault rifle design since 1960's, but the historical account stops there.

A very interesting chapter describes all the problems with the adoption of M-16 by the US armed forces. But the description is tiresome and definetely too detailed. For no good reason the author delves into who-said-what-to-whom-and-when and tries to figure out who deserves the blame for US Marines' deaths in Vietnam. It is an interesting story, but a different one from the historical account in other chapters. And just when I hoped that the author would describe a similar problems with a botched implementation of UK's SA80 rifle - the story shifts again.

Third topic covered in this book is terrorism and warfare in third world countries. But since the first part of the book was taken up by other subjects, this one is also covered in a partial fashion - with no real background or details. This part of the book reads more like a collection of trivia - from strange beliefs of African rebels, through partial retelling of terrorist attack during the Munich Olympics, to description of one person's gunshot injuries - with no clear train of thought to connect it.

There is also a discussion of morals and life story of M.
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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful By F. J. West on October 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Chris Chivers knows how to tell a story that has historical significance, depth and insight. The Gun explains how one rifle changed the face of war in the late 20th Century. Formerly the New York Times correspondent in Moscow, Chivers takes the reader behind the scenes inside the Soviet industrial and propaganda machine, laying out a fascinating narrative of how the regime plotted and schemed to engineer myth while designing the automatic rifle that was the most significant technical factor in the North Vietnamese victory over the south. Chivers wraps his deep understanding about military history inside a refreshing compendium of characters - heroes, inventors, knaves and entrepreneurs. He knows the secret of story-tellling; the reader finishes each page by asking, and then what happened? - Bing West, Newport, RI
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58 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Keith A. Comess VINE VOICE on October 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The AK-47 and its numerous variants and successors are ubiquitous instruments of destruction currently appearing in all troubled regions of the globe. The rifle, known for its quadruple attributes of extreme design simplicity, rugged durability, ease of use and tremendous destructive capacity has achieved legendary status. Of course, this is all well known and has been thoroughly discussed and written about. After all, the AK series are instantly recognizable to military, police, criminals, terrorists and the general public as the seminal firearms of the 20th Century.

C.J. Chivers of "The New York Times" and late of the USMC has, in "The Gun" provided, through the history of the AK series, a lucid exposition of the development of automatic weapons from their inception to the present time. Additionally and more importantly, "The Gun" explores a hitherto largely uninvestigated dimension of the modern assault weapon. He asks, "What is its role as a socio-political instrument of state and how did it achieve this goal?"

As might be expected, the originator of the eponymous weapon, Mikhail Kalashnikov, has become a mythical figure. It well-served the propaganda purposes of the Soviet Union to extol the virtues of a genuine, nearly unlettered proletarian who, enjoying the Benefits of the Worker's Paradise, arose from a humble and unassuming background to the pinnacle of firearms design. By legend, he proceeded virtually unaided and motivated primarily by Love of the Fatherland.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Curious One on October 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chivers' book, The Gun, is a masterpiece on many levels. Using the history of this weapon as a lens through which to analyze recent history is brilliant. The battle scenes are riveting and heartwrenching, and the characters are rendered with charisma.
The politics are head spinning, chiefly because most of us don't look at the world this way and I think we don't appreciate how much battle tactics reflect times, politics and ideologies. It's an important book with extraordinary analysis, but full of swashbuckling tales.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. Vanderweide on December 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
C.J. Chivers has an exceptional gift for story telling. His writing style is breezy; his mastery of the subject of the AK-47 and its derivatives is complete.

His work for The New York Times has won several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize; especially notable is his work on their At War blog, which often features discussions of captured AK-47s.

But The Gun simply does not deliver on much it promises, and it has significant structural flaws, due in large part to biting off too much to chew and in some part to poor editing.

Chivers begins by describing the development and initial world deployment of the Gatling and Maxim guns.

There's no new scholarship here. Chivers argues that the Gatling gun aided the British Empire in overcoming massive, but ill-equipped, native colonial uprisings. He also notes how Russia's Gatlings inflicted substantial casualties on regular Japanese troops during the seige of Port Arthur in 1904-05.

Chivers agrees with the conventional argument, that tactics were not in tune with technology -- namely, the Maxim gun and its derivatives -- during World War I.

Perhaps the most valuable insights we gain from these examinations are exceptionally entertaining and informative biographies of Richard Gatling and Hiram Maxim, each fascinating for completely divergent reasons.

It is not until Chivers begins discussing Mikhail Kalashnikov that the serious problems begin.

Significant effort is spent in debunking the myth that Kalashnikov alone was responsible for development of the AK-47, as well as devolving the official state history of the man.
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