THE GUN

THE GUN is the name of this blog, the purpose of which is explained in the column to your right. It is also the name of the book, THE GUN — the reason this blog began in late 2010. 

An incisive examination of modern conflict and official folly, THE GUN mixes historical research, investigative reporting and battlefield reportage to illuminate the origins of the world’s most abundant weapon - the Kalashnikov assault rifle - and the consequences of its spread. It is much more than a rigorous history of a gun. Told through character sketches and reconstructions of battles, and drawing from years of interviews, meticulous archival research, extensive travel and declassified documents revealed for the first time, it is a feat of storytelling that presents a richly human account of an evolution in war. Selected as an Editor’s Pick by The New York Times Book Review, a starred review by Library Journal and a Best Book of 2010 by The Atlantic and The Washington Post.

First published in English in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the book has since been sold in Chinese, Czech, Finnish and Russian. Available at AmazonBarnes & NobleBorders and Books-A-Million.

"Chivers tells the AK-47’s story as a Tolstoyan epic."  —TIME

"…bold history…  …Mr. Chivers the enthusiast and expert shares the page with Mr. Chivers the historian and journalist — the expert dealing well with the detailed mechanics of his subject, the journalist at other times brilliantly illuminating the book with highly effective vignettes of human courage, ingenuity and, mostly, suffering.”  —The New York Times.

“…an absorbing and beautifully written new study… …Chivers has no intention of mythologizing this rifle; the development of the gun and its subsequent worldwide use is tellingly set in a longer and wider historical context. The narrative is a critical and intelligent interrogation of a story shrouded in Soviet doublespeak. And the history of this particular weapon becomes, in an important sense, the story of the violence at the heart of the more than sixty years since the gun was first introduced.”  —The National Interest.

"…succeeds admirably by putting the gun into its social, historical and technological context in an evocative narrative." —The Washington Post.

"…justly lauded as one the finest war correspondents of his generation…he has a former infantryman’s eye and ear for the staccato cadences of small-unit combat…this book is testament to his erudite understanding of military history." —The Wilson Quarterly.

"…a compelling perspective on 20th-century warfare…" —Slate.

"Chivers draws links between machines and their cultures very convincingly. The breadth and depth of his strategy is as compelling as it is educational. His book treats guns not just as tactical devices, technological marvels and instruments of death and terror, but as psychological snapshots of the nations that produced them — and monuments to a bloodthirsty, ingenious race that has spent centuries fighting over land, money and God, and won’t stop any time soon."  —Salon.

"…for disciplined and devoted scholars of the history of modern war, politics, and ideology, and how the automatic weapon has forced the transformation of the essence of combat… …a colossal effort…  …appears to have created a history-laced masterpiece.”  —Marine Corps Gazette.

“…a grand investigation of the role of the AK-47 from its appearance to the present day.” — El Mundo, Madrid.

"…exemplary, muscular prose backed up by prodigious research." — VETERAN magazine.

"…superior history…" —Booklist.

"…eye-opening…" —Kirkus.

"…magisterial…" —The Atlantic.

"…as accessible and compelling to the general reader as it is for the military specialist… …Chivers’s mastery of history and engineering is matched by his mastery of language. For all the detail and technical data, THE GUN is a riveting read." —The Guardian.

"…combines a soldier’s experience with a historian’s skepticism." —Bloomberg Business Week.

"…brilliantly conceived…" —Manhattan Magazine.

“…a fascinating, exhaustive history of the rifle’s origins, development and unprecedented influence on the world we live in.  Chivers brings experience and impressive research… …to put the AK-47 into a social, historical and technological context… ..the bonus is that he also produces a compelling narrative.” –The Times of India.

"…in the investigative tradition of Seymour Hersh, combined with the precision of John McPhee… …THE GUN is nothing less than a history of modern warfare.”  —BOOKFORUM.

"C.J. Chivers makes a convincing case… [with] experience and impressive firsthand scholarly research."  —The Los Angeles Times.

"…outstanding history of an exceptional instrument of war.” —Publisher’s Weekly.

"Chivers’s bombshell eloquently displays how much first-class power he possesses… …especially strong on the depictions of characters that come to life in his writings… …a gift for superb reportage." —Al-Ahram, Cairo.

"In his fascinating book, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist C.J. Chivers shows how the world was forever altered by the pursuit of automatic weapons." —The New York Post.

"In originality, in depth of research, in vividness of writing, in insight… …Chivers’ book stands alone."    —Field & Stream.

"Mr. Chivers focuses our attention on an ordinary item that has been vastly more destructive and done more to define the character of warfare today than any other weapon…  …shows how the AK-47 became as fundamental to contemporary warfare as Microsoft operating systems are to corporate computing.” —The Wall Street Journal.

"THE GUN demolishes the Soviet propaganda." —Winnipeg Free Press.

"…a formidable feat of research and writing. The story of the Kalashnikov is a fascinating one, which encompasses both the darkest days of the Cold War and the asymmetric warfare of the early 21st century. In telling it, Chivers adds a number of illuminating asides on technological developments and wider strategic concerns. In marshalling these myriad sources, he has produced surely the final word on one of the most iconic weapons of our times." —The Independent.

"What makes THE GUN readable is its humanity… …Chivers wants to show a richer context, and he succeeds thoroughly." —Military Times.

"…this exhaustively researched account… …explodes several myths… …Chivers has done outstanding work." —Minneapolis Star Tribune.

"…an incredibly riveting story about the Kalashnikov assault rifle and its role in modern foreign policy and warfare." — Guns Magazine.


"Pulitzer-winning war reporter C.J. Chivers takes readers on a fascinating ride from the introduction of the Gatling gun during the Civil War to the birth of the AK-47 after World War II to today’s front lines. It’s not just the story of the AK-47 but also unparalleled military history." — Garden & Gun.

"…an objective, fast-moving biography and analysis of this infamous utensil of death." — The Dallas Morning News.

"…rich, engrossing, and comprehensive narrative… …This is a fascinating book. The research is extraordinary and Chivers’ background as an officer in the Marine Corps provides the credibility… …Vivid reportage by a journalist at the top of his game." —The Tucson Citizen.

"…an engrossing history of the evolution of machine guns since the mid-19th century, which makes it a history of modern warfare…The result is gripping and original interpretive history, highly recommended.” —Library Journal. (Starred Review)

"As others have written books about cod, salt and cotton, Chivers has crafted the singular general history of modern man’s most plentiful and efficient killing machine." —Boston Book Bums.

"Chivers had several hundred opportunities to get it wrong in the 496 highly technical but eminently readable pages of THE GUN, but he doesn’t. Instead, he paints a context-rich picture of how a Soviet assault rifle has become the most widespread implement of war in the world.”—Portland Oregonian.

"The best book so far about what is probably the most influential weapons system of our times." —The New York Review of Books.