It is the world's most widely recognized weapon, the most profuse tool for killing ever made. More than fifty national armies carry the automatic Kalashnikov, as do an array of police, intelligence, and security agencies all over the world.
In this tour de force, prizewinning New York Times reporter C. J. Chivers traces the invention of the assault rifle, following the miniaturization of rapid-fire arms from the American Civil War, through World War I and Vietnam, to present-day Afghanistan, when Kalashnikovs and their knockoffs number as many as 100 million, one for every seventy persons on earth. It is the weapon of state repression, as well as revolution, civil war, genocide, drug wars, and religious wars; and it is the arms of terrorists, guerrillas, boy soldiers, and thugs.
It was the weapon used to crush the uprising in Hungary in 1956. American Marines discovered in Vietnam that the weapon in the hands of the enemy was superior to their M16s.
Fidel Castro amassed them. Yasir Arafat procured them for the P.L.O. A Kalashnikov was used to assassinate Anwar Sadat. As Osama bin Laden told the world that "the winds of faith and change have blown," a Kalashnikov was by his side. Pulled from a hole, Saddam Hussein had two Kalashnikovs.
It is the world's most widely recognized weapon-cheap, easy to conceal, durable, deadly. But where did it come from? And what does it mean? Chivers, using a host of exclusive sources and declassified documents in the east and west, as well as interviews with and the personal accounts of insurgents, terrorists, child soldiers, and conventional grunts, reconstructs through the Kalashnikov the evolution of modern war. Along the way, he documents the experience and folly of war and challenges both the enduring Soviet propaganda surrounding the AK-47 and many of its myths.
Author does a great job setting the reader up for conditions surrounding the conception and needs being met for the rifle's invention, its distribution through out the world, and the rifles that tried to respond to it. We get a look at the society that produced these weapons, and how other societies embraced or rejected it, at their benifit or loss. This book will do well to be read by those looking for a more indepth understanding of the Kalasknikov rifles and their impact on human history. I would not recommend this book to those looking for a detailed writing of the weapon's capabilities or its tactical use.
Gatling to Maxim to Sturmgewehr to AK and beyond.
Chivers does an excellent job of discussing the history of automatic arms over the last 140 years before addressing the dumping of millions of AK-47s in the developing world and the chaos it has brought. By looking at the past instances and incarnations of automatic weapons we , 21st century citizens, understand how we got here. Regardless of your view of firearms this book has something to offer everyone. The section of the book covering the unbelievable haphazard introduction of the AR-15/M16 in Vietnam is amazing. Anyone from business people to history buffs will find something in Chivers. The narrator does an excellent job with various accents and inflections when called for.