To hear a snippet of the audiobook, click below:
The Guardian calls American Gun “an indispensable read.” Author and journalist Charles Kaiser writes: "Written by two fine Wall Street Journal reporters, Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson, the book is packed with characters and plot turns...”
In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews declares American Gun “superb history,” “insightful,” “meticulously researched,” and “impressively informed.” “Ultimately, readers gain an unsettling and timely understanding of how ‘a device created to protect America [is] wounding it.’ A riveting exploration of the cost of the nation’s fascination with an iconic weapon.”
"One of the most unexpected questions raised by their history of the semi-automatic rifle, which has been used by the perpetrators of many of the worst mass shootings in American history, is the following: What if the edgelord identity embraced by many mass shooters is not the result of alienation or mental illness but instead speaks to a successful marketing push of an industry doing business as usual."
Journalist Mark Follman writes: “American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15,” by journalists Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson, is a deeply reported, engrossing account of the rifle, tracing its evolution from battlefield combat to today’s domestic carnage and culture war.
American Gun’s “reporting astonishes..." and adds that the book's section on mass shootings "accrues with devastating force..."
Publishers Weekly: "Wall Street Journal reporters McWhirter (Red Summer) and Elinson tell a captivating tale of unintended consequences in this deeply researched history of the AR-15...The result is a fascinating genealogy of a weapon that has become the flashpoint of the contemporary gun control debate."
Jonathan Eig, author of King: A Life: "American Gun is an unforgettable story of American ingenuity and mayhem, built with hard-core reporting and gripping prose. This is social history at its finest."
Andrew DeMillo of the Associated Press: "The well-reported book is vital for anyone who wants to understand how Stoner’s creation transformed over time into what the authors call the 'fulcrum of America’s great gun divide.' "
The Millions Most Anticipated Books of 2023: "With mass shootings now endemic to American life, two veteran Wall Street Journal journalists look at one of the most common culprits—the AR-15—to figure out how we got here. Tracing the weapon’s history and embrace by the gun industry, the duo reveals the various financial, political, and cultural interests at play in the horrific assent of a killing machine. Esteemed MLK biographer Jonathan Eig calls this 'social history at its finest.' "
Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2023: "I can’t tell you how sorry I am that we need this history of the AR-15, from Wall Street Journal reporters McWhirter and Elinson, which seeks to answer the question: 'How did the same gun represent the essence of freedom to millions of Americans and the essence of evil to millions more?' And yet need it we do."
James Pekoll: “This is an excellent, thoroughly researched synthesis…presented in an even-handed manner that has the potential to bridge the divide between all but the most committed partisans. Such a highly charged subject deserves a well-written analysis, grounded in facts and presented with journalistic detachment, and McWhirter and Elinson deliver on all counts.”
Hank Klibanoff, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and co-author of The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation: "American Gun is an engrossing read. It is both a revealing biography and a thorough autopsy of a historical figure that resides in millions of American homes: the AR-15 rifle, the destructive weapon of choice in many mass killings and a source of heartbreak that gnaws at the souls of millions of Americans every day."
Paul S. Barrett, the author of Glock: The Rise of America's Gun: This book should be of vital interest to both gun-rights advocates and those who would ban the AR-15 as the instrument of ruthless death at schools, Walmarts, and grocery stores. At this fraught moment, there is no more compelling symbol of the unique American fascination with ― and horror over ― firearms.
"American Gun is a fascinating social history."
"The authors, who work for The Wall Street Journal, have done a masterful and damning job tracing the birth and development, and rampant misuse, of the AR-15, and there are heartbreaking stories elegantly told of the destruction this weapon has wrought on families and towns across the nation."
Chosen as one of the Orange County Register's 15 must-read books of the summer of 2023 and beyond.
Chosen as one of six books to read in the fall of 2023 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"The Wall Street Journal reporters deftly detail the rifle’s technical evolution into an easy-to-use, lightweight device requested by the Army into a deadly weapon, its popularity supported by the NRA and private equity. Engrossing, authoritative and deeply reported, American Gun captures the horrific tragedies wrought by this weapon that has fiercely divided America."
Review of audiobook: "Covering politics, profit, technology, legality, and culture, the authors detail the history of this controversial weapon from its creation through the present day....Listeners won’t want to miss this informative and troubling look into the creation and ramifications of an iconic weapon."