Friday, October 13, 2023

American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 author Cameron McWhirter - Reviewing The Good, the Bad and the WTF

American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 author Cameron McWhirter - Reviewing The Good, the Bad and the WTF 

A new book titled American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 by Wall Street Journal staff reporter Cameron McWhirter has just hit the shelves and I am not really sure how to feel about the book other than disappointment. Generally I am a gun historian type and love these books, however despite being heavily lauded as fact based, it seems pretty clear to me the writer has a void of any real gun experience and especially the AR15. There was some Good, more than a needed level of Bad, and quite a bit of WTF which I think has forever colored this book as left leaning anti-gun rhetoric which undoubtedly will be quoted at some point as fact. 

The American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 does have some facts about the AR-15, and the history of the creation however really not much more depth of the history of the M16 and AR15 firearms than a very average 20-min “History of the AR-15” Youtube video. There really are no new revelations on how the Stoner M16 adapted to become America’s favorite AR15 semi-automatic rifle. There is an interview with the last survivor or the Stoner design team, and some discussions with the Stoner family, but frankly they seemed like very third hand information, a bit rambling, riddled with leading questions, drew some unquoted conclusions and frankly were disappointingly irrelevant. This is akin to asking my father about how his father feeling on guns, decades about his father's death while overlaying the tragedy of all the mass shootings. It is about as loaded of a question as it comes with a thick mayonnaise sandwich of speculation. Of course anyone would say it is a tragedy and this was not what we designed the gun for.

Credit is due to the research that was done, but the book feels like a 1500 word article that someone extended unnecessary into a book. I was kind of like how we all felt when seeing Waterworld, Dances with Wolves…or anything by Kevin Cosener that is just interesting enough to keep you watching for the next three and half hours, but you are looking at your watch every fifteen minutes.  

It is very obvious that there was a lot of research done on this but just enough to make it sound like the work was done, however I do wish it would have stuck to facts versus start to lean into what feels like a clear agenda painting the AR15 as a killer's weapon of choice vs simply just a semi-automatic firearm that good civilians put to use the 99.999% of every day for fun, target, hunting, and self-defense. It really is not a balanced book of both sides and too much energy is a painful regurgitation of one story after another on how some asshole killed innocent victims. Honestly, I don’t want to re-live or re-read “The psychopaths how to kill civilians manual”. There was a lot of page skipping for me on these mass murder recounts.  It just dumps the reader into thinking why would anyone want such a gun, versus understanding the advantages of the firearm and why people but the AR15. for a lot of purposes as a tool plus self protection. I felt that the bulk of the book was setting up a manufactured premise that Americans love AR15, but since bad guys use them, they should be regulated.

As a gun historian and also as someone who has personally interviewed over 200 executives in the firearms industry, the quotes he has from manufacturers are subjective at best. I will note that in the gun industry, I have met about three people out of thousands who would be remotely qualified to deliver an interview of this level that contained anything more than chest thumping 2A remarks or incoherent babble about the industry. I am positive the remarks made by gun industry insiders were accurately recorded, however I am also sure that is not what they meant to say. Most of the folks in the gun industry should never be given a hot microphone and allowed to talk unscripted… they say stupid things. Some of the remarks regarding profiteering of the gun industry are “no duh” level revelations. After dropping $10M on manufacturing equipment, who isn’t going to say we are a profit based company.

The American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 really it not accurately titled based on my read. It should be a mostly accurate story of the AR-15 by someone with an Absence of Gun Knowledge, but I can see that would be really hard to market to the alphabet news networks.  Buy it, read it and make your own judgment, however for me it would be a hard pass, unless you just want to find yourself muttering WTF.

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