Book Reviews

Book Review: The Gun.


The author was a Marine Corps officer, who served in the Gulf War, is an extraordinary researcher, and outstanding writer.

These tree rare talents make for an informative and fascinating book like no other.

The Gun explores the development of the machine gun concept in the U S A, starting with Dr. Gatling, and followed by Maxim from Maine and how the capitalist, entrepreneurial system contributed to its painfully slow evolution and hampered sales.

In the west, army specialists and generals subject inventions to intense trials and scrutiny before recommending purchase. The process is slow and fraught with many biases, philosophical principles, even occasional bribery and influence peddling.

During Soviet times when M. Kalasnikov started thinking about an assault rifle, general already knew about Dr. Gatling’s gun and had even purchased several from him. They understood the potential of the concept and decided to stage a contest for the best design for their armed forces. Kalashnikov was at the time a low ranking member of the army, but was given an opportunity to guide a team of designers for the contest.

After many trials and tribulations, Kalashnikov’s submission won the contest.

In the Soviet case the entire government was behind the project with accumulated knowledge and almost unlimited amount of funds required for the development.

The author goes into great detail how the U S A went about adopting the concept, and how the army brass of the U S S R and politicians approached adoption and used the gun to meet political objectives.

Chivers explains the reasons of the political use of the AK 47, and why so many U S S R allies started producing it for their armies.

U S S R’s involvement in Afghanistan helped proliferation and development of “secondary” markets for the gun.

Throughout this excellent, well-written, and meticulously researched book, author describes unforgettable characters, inventors, salesmen, heroes, megalomaniacs, racists, dictators, arms dealers, terrorists, child soldiers, government careerists, fools and crooks.

This is a “page turner”. The interested reader feels compelled to read on for hours on end.

Political history is also explored in great detail in Vietnam, Africa, Central America and Cuba. The Gun has it all.

Highly recommended!

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