“The title of Alexander Rose's marvelous book says it all: Although American Rifle is ostensibly about the history of a piece of machinery, a tool, a killing instrument, it is only in America that the rifle has become an ineradicable part of the culture and can be written about as if it were a living person. . . . Like David McCullough in The Great Bridge, Rose has the rare ability to make technology come alive even for the non-technology-minded. He is not only a good historian but also a gifted storyteller.”—Michael Korda, Washington Post
The Economist: “Book of the Year”
George Washington insisted that his portrait be painted with one. Daniel Boone created a legend with one. Abraham Lincoln shot them on the White House lawn. And Teddy Roosevelt had his specially customized.
Now, in this first-of-its-kind book, historian Alexander Rose delivers a colorful, engrossing biography of an American icon: the rifle. Drawing on the words of soldiers, inventors, and presidents, based on extensive new research, and encompassing the Revolution to the present day, American Rifle is a balanced, wonderfully entertaining history of this most essential firearm and its place in American culture.
In the eighteenth century, American soldiers discovered that they did not have to fight in Europe’s time-honored way. With the evolution of the famed Kentucky Rifle—a weapon slow to load but devastatingly accurate in the hands of a master—a new era of warfare dawned, heralding the birth of the American individualist in battle.
In this spirited narrative, Alexander Rose reveals the hidden connections between the rifle’s development and our nation’s history. We witness the high-stakes international race to produce gunpowder . . . how the mysterious arts of metallurgy, gunsmithing, and mass-production played vital roles in the creation of American economic supremacy . . . and the ways in which the bitter rivalry between armsmakers shaped diplomacy and influenced the most momentous decisions in American history. And we learn why advances in rifle technology and ammunition triggered revolutions in military tactics, how ballistics tests—frequently bizarre—were conducted secretly, and which firearms determined the course of entire wars.
From physics to geopolitics, from frontiersmen to the birth of the National Rifle Association, from the battles of the Revolution to the war in Iraq, American Rifle is a must read for history buffs, gun collectors, soldiers—and anyone who wants to understand the dynamic relationship between the rifle and this nation’s history.
“An exhaustive history of the rifle’s place in American culture . . . Once you start, American Rifle will have to be pried from your cold, dead hands before you put it down.”—Amazon “Best of the Month” Selection
“Rose’s account never flags. . . . Ingenious and satisfying.”—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“Loaded with detail, full of lively characters and an abundant spirit of invention. . . . It is impossible not to get caught up in this rich, surprising, and engrossing story.”—Booklist
“This volume is far more interesting than and vastly different from your average gun book. . . . The book demonstrates the central importance of the rifle in American history and culture. More important, it does so in a manner sure to inform and entertain gun mavens and novices alike. For someone who has read his fair share of run-of-the-mill gun books, American Rifle: A Biography stands out as a marvelous work of history.”—Shooting Illustrated
“It is not too often that I am taken completely by surprise by a book, but that was the case with accomplished military historian Alexander Rose’s American Rifle. The idea of a biography on an evolutionary object . . . is an unorthodox approach, but brilliantly handled.”—Mark A. Keefe IV, American Rifleman
“American Rifle, a biography of a revolutionary idea, is ingeniously conceived, deftly written and thoroughly engrossing.”—Dallas Morning News
“The rifle is an instrument of politics, and Alexander Rose's new book, American Rifle: A Biography, is a study in the realpolitik of pushing lead. Beginning with the rifle's early days in the capitalistic ferment of colonial Pennsylvania's German enclaves and progressing through the M16's challenges in Iraq, Rose has written one the most interesting nonfiction books of the year.”—National Review
“Rose’s writing style is consistently rollicking and fun to read, turning now and then from calm historical narration to dry humor, and then to insider gossip about the various personalities involved at different times. . . . American Rifle is a window into the past that informs, entertains, and engages the reader in a journey through over 250 years of history and technology. It is a delightful read for anyone interested in history, weaponry, or politics.”—Internet Review of Books
“Entertaining history. . . . Rose traces the rise of the rifle [as it] evolved in American history to become an iconic symbol of freedom and how it developed as an effective military instrument as well as a private citizen’s firearm.”—Publishers Weekly
“Alexander Rose explores the story of the rifle in American Rifle: A Biography, perhaps one of the finest examples of a concise, pleasing, and informative recounting of this technology's past, present, and future and the web of connections it has to all aspects of American society. Utilizing primary sources and firsthand accounts, Rose illustrates how quintessentially American the rifle really is.”—Enter Stage Right
“Regardless of your stance on firearms, it's true that the rifle holds an iconic place in the forming of our nation. This definitive treatise is full of lost historical fact and intriguing anecdotes.”—Sacramento Bee
“American Rifle: a Biography is an energetic history, at the same time enjoyable and profound. It shows the sweep of American history from a perspective from which it has never before been viewed. One need not be a gun enthusiast to enjoy this work. Highly recommended.”—Conservative Monitor
“The book's chapters cover all the service rifles (from the "Kentucky" of Washington's time to the M4 Carbine and potential 21st century replacements like the XM8 or HK416) with details of the context in which they were developed, the engineering tradeoffs of their design evolution, production statistics, field experience, and other excellent details. For a one-volume work, there is a great deal of meat here. Highly recommended for military firearms enthusiasts.”—Olive-Drab.com