American Gun American Gun

American Gun

The True Story of the AR-15

    • 4.2 • 9 Ratings
    • $15.99
    • $15.99

Publisher Description

A finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

“A magisterial work of narrative history and original reportage . . . You can feel the tension building one cold, catastrophic fact at a time . . . A virtually unprecedented achievement.” —Mike Spies, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

A Washington Post top 50 nonfiction book of 2023 | Short-listed for the Zócalo Book Prize

One of The New York Times’ 33 nonfiction books to read this fall | One of Esquires best books of fall | A Kirkus Reviews best nonfiction book of 2023

Named a most anticipated book of the fall by The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and

American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15
presents the epic history of America’s most controversial weapon.

In the 1950s, an obsessive firearms designer named Eugene Stoner invented the AR-15 rifle in a California garage. High-minded and patriotic, Stoner sought to devise a lightweight, easy-to-use weapon that could replace the M1s touted by soldiers in World War II. What he did create was a lethal handheld icon of the American century.

In American Gun, the veteran Wall Street Journal reporters Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson track the AR-15 from inception to ubiquity. How did the same gun represent the essence of freedom to millions of Americans and the essence of evil to millions more? To answer this question, McWhirter and Elinson follow Stoner—the American Kalashnikov—as he struggled mightily to win support for his invention, which under the name M16 would become standard equipment in Vietnam. Shunned by gun owners at first, the rifle’s popularity would take off thanks to a renegade band of small-time gun makers. And in the 2000s, it would become the weapon of choice for mass shooters, prompting widespread calls for proscription even as the gun industry embraced it as a financial savior. Writing with fairness and compassion, McWhirter and Elinson explore America’s gun culture, revealing the deep appeal of the AR-15, the awful havoc it wreaks, and the politics of reducing its toll. The result is a moral history of contemporary America’s love affair with technology, freedom, and weaponry.

Includes 8 pages of black-and-white images.

September 26
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Customer Reviews

OkiDude1975 ,


Obviously a biased book written by biased writers. I appreciate their perspective but can’t come to terms that adult human writers believe an inanimate object is to blame for gun violence. Especially when facts say it isn’t the AR-15 firearm being used the most to kill. It’s handguns. Superseding handguns is bladed weapons. Superseding those are hands and feet. To write an entire book on a piece of metal is astonishing to say the least. The AR-15 is a tool. Tools can be wielded by anyone. Yes, it is a weapon of war. The American people have a natural right to own and bear weapons of war. That’s not a political debate topic. It’s no different than the fact that these writers having the right to say whatever they want, and to publish it. Good on them for exercising their rights. I would argue that it doesn’t take a book to understand that Americans have a right to and even deserve technologically superior defensive tools. Not muskets. Not clubs. But proper fighting instruments. Anything in opposition is simply opposition to the very founding of this nation.

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