Monday, July 4, 2011

Finished: "The Gun" by C.J. Chivers

Finished: The Gun by C.J. Chivers, 2010, 9780743270762.

I lost my damn notes. I was keeping track of a few specific things Chivers wrote and I lost the damn bookmark those notes were kept on. Freaking typical.

This book is listed as a history of the AK47. Not really so. There are other firearm books that go into in-depth technical descriptions with measurements, ballistics, manufacturing history, factory listings, factory outputs, etc. Chivers ends up covering four different areas. 1. the history of rapid firing weapons. 2. Development of the AK. 3. U.S. reaction to the AK and negligent development of the M-16. 4. Political use and after effects of the AK.

Chivers work here is very impressive. I did not refer to each of his hundreds of footnotes but he pulled information from archives and interviews and his own work going back several years.

By topic issued above.
1. History. Chivers covers from Gatling through Maxim and into the auto rifles of WWII that led into the AK. Chivers covers the stubbornness and stupidity of military authorities who refused to see the value of automatic weapons in warfare and develop tactics in their use. Interesting historical fact: Hiram Maxim was an asshole.
2. AK development. Soviet propaganda pushed Kalishnikov as the proletariat designer who developed the AK by himself for the Motherland. Not so. Kalishnikov worked with a design group. I think K.'s genius is impressive but Chivers goes into how K. was promoted and praised as the designer of the AK.
3. The M16 was not selected with specific specifications and testing requirements. It was pushed through '60s DOD of whiz kids without proper development. Corrosion and poor ammo caused massive weapons failures. M16/AR histories will often clash on this topic. Some take the DOD defense of the time that the complaints were over-blown and troops were not cleaning the rifles. Other histories - like Chivers - list the unchromed bores, wrong ammo selection, and lack of cleaning kits.
Chivers spends most of his time looking at the piss-poor selection and testing process. No specs were drawn up and posted for manufacturers to develop a weapon. The DOD only looked at the AR, AK and M14 and "tested" them against one another.
4. Political use. The AK was a weapon of policy. Rifles and rifle manufacturing technology were distributed to Soviet allies. Factory output during the cold war was massive. Massive stockpiles of 7.62 rifles are still around and the original 1953 stamped rifles still function.
Chivers has a brief discussion related to arms control. Post-WWII Ballistic missiles and chemical weapons have never been used by the Soviets and U.S. but are the focus of arms talks. AKs have killed millions(?) but are never talked about. The main reason is money. Those stockpiles are translatable into cash.

1. Caliber wars discussed by Chivers have been going on for the last 100+ years. The manly .30 caliber versus the poodle shooters of 5.56mm. Reality and practicality of modern warfare be damned.
2. I read before - maybe it was Ian Hogg - how many studies and developments have shown that a .270 caliber round is the ideal infantry cartridge. But, no military seems happy with that and chooses something else.
3. Kalishnikov was a tool of the Soviets. His design was, without any doubt, very impressive and paradigm changing. After that initial development K. became a symbol more than an engineer. K. was a Soviet symbol and salesman, even if his own written autobiographies were still mired in the lies and bullshit of the official Soviet story.

p. 231 "The Field of firearms ballistics, like many applied sciences, is populated by unscrupulous practitioners and passionate quacks. At time is can be difficult to tell the types apart. "

Tradition over sound analysis. Same today with reference to "poodle shooters" and many cartridges and "real men love recoil". rather than analysis of ability and logiitics. Weight of ammo and rifle, true look at a target distance. Those arguments are responded by with claims of "bean counters!"

The tradition of the rifleman versus reality of massed fire. Marksmanship is important but the emphasis on it ignored current and future realities. .30 rifles measuring 40 inches long are not needed.

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