Firstly a disclosure: The publishers of The Gun sent me a free advanced copy. I was thoroughly enjoying the book so I purchased a copy of it for my Kindle, which cost slightly less than the cost of the free hardcover I received. Now onto the review …
I cant’t remember when, where or form whom I heard that Simon & Schuster were planning to publish a book about the AK-47. Not realizing who the author was, I remember thinking that another book on the topic was unnecessary. Frank Iannaminco’s excellent book AK-47: The Grim Reaper already adequately covered just about every AK variant known to mankind. Fortunately, instead of delving into the technical details of the ubiquitous AK-47/74/10x design C.J. Chivers instead tells the story of the background of the modern machine gun1 , the Soviet development of AK-47, the American response2 and the AK’s effects on modern warfare. In fact, only three of the eight chapters deal directly with the AK-47 itself. Chivers explained his reasons for examining the wider context (excerpt from the book’s prologue)…
The significance of the automatic Kalashnikov lies deeper than its origins in Stalin’s Soviet Union, its technical utility as a killing tool, its famed reliability and ease of use, the awesome size of its number or the multiplicity of its meanings—though these themes are all essential. The richer context is this: The automatic Kalashnikov offers a lens for examining the miniaturization and simplification of rapid-fire firearms, a set of processes that when uncoupled from free markets and linked to mass production in the planned economies of opaque or brittle nations, enabled automatic firepower to reach uncountable hands.
The author was the New York Times’s Moscow correspondent and so superbly placed to investigate the history of the AK. I found the real story of Mikhail Kalashnikov particularly fascinating. Unknown to me, many of the stories about Kalashnikov were myths developed by the Soviet propaganda machine and, at times, Kalashnikov himself confirmed these false accounts of his life. The Gun has given me great insight into the man and his recent, puzzling, rants.
I have just two criticism of the book. It would have been nice to find out more about the recent use of diplomatic pressure / blackmail by the Russians in order to suppress the sales of AK clones. The other criticism is that while I am 100% against illegal small arms, unlike the author I don’t believe destroying military surplus small arms would benefit society when they could instead be sold to civilians in whole or as part kits.
I don’t hesitate to say that if you read and enjoy The Firearm Blog, I would be very surprised if The Gun disappointed you. It is packed full of fascinating facts and insights into the history and evolution of firearms. On just about every page I was thinking to myself “this paragraph would make a great blog post”.
Recommendation: Buy – you won’t be sorry.