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The Gun, By CJ Chivers


This compelling book explains why the AK-47 became the sole Russian brand to sweep the world (estimated number: 100 million). The gun produced by MT Kalashnikov in 1946 utilised excess gas from each shot to eject the spent shell casing and begin "the next cycle of fire".

The gas tube explains the apparent double barrel of the posing prop for "resistance fighters almost everywhere". Earlier weapons utilised the same idea but the genius of the AK-47 lay in the "looser fit" of its parts. Compared to the more exacting US AR-15, it had one mighty advantage: it did not jam.

This account has all the expertise and readability that you would expect from a former US Marine and Pulitzer Prize winner, especially in the slo-mo descriptions of the AK-47 in devastating action.