Have Gun, Will Travel

The story of the AK-47 reads like a Stalinist myth. Whether it's true or not, the gun is a sure sign of humanity's penchant for violent solutions to conflict.

Issue: Nov-Dec 2010

[amazon 0743270762 full]C. J. Chivers, The Gun (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), 496 pp., $28.00.

IT IS not always easy to understand what makes a particular weapon iconic, or whether such an icon is really something worth having. The twentieth century has few obvious contenders. The Spitfire is perhaps the most famous because so much hung on achieving victory in the Battle of Britain. The surviving myth of the Allied David pitted against the German Goliath has an enduring, if sentimental, attraction. The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is perhaps a modern-day equivalent, its awesome power and menace balanced by the aesthetic fascination of seeing the broad, black batwing fighter in flight.

You must be a subscriber of The National Interest to access this article. If you are already a subscriber, please activate your online access. Not a subscriber? Become a subscriber today!