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The Rifle

The Rifle

3.3 30
by Gary Paulsen

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A treasured rifle passed down through generations is the cause of a tragic accident in this timely tale. With subtle mastery and precision, this tough, thought-provoking novel challenges the idea that firearms don't become instruments of destruction and murder until they are placed in human hands.


A treasured rifle passed down through generations is the cause of a tragic accident in this timely tale. With subtle mastery and precision, this tough, thought-provoking novel challenges the idea that firearms don't become instruments of destruction and murder until they are placed in human hands.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A gifted storyteller, Paulsen could have plucked this plot straight from any newspaper-an accidental shooting with a loaded gun. This tragedy doesn't occur until the final pages, however; with consummate skill, Paulsen slowly sets the stage by focusing on the weapon itself, a rifle made in 1768 and subsequently used in the Revolutionary War. He documents the painstaking, labor-intensive process of crafting a rifle by hand. And not just any rifle, but one that is "sweet"-a weapon of both beauty and deadly accuracy. He tracks its history, from the attic in which it languishes for centuries to the hands of an ultra-conservative gun freak (whose small-mindedness Paulsen exposes in withering detail), to the home of a mechanic who accepts it in trade for an auto repair. Only then do readers meet the boy Richard and sense impending doom. The remaining pages unfold with nervewracking leisure as readers squirm, awaiting the inevitable explosion. Although he sometimes uses his novel as a bully pulpit to fight the argument that "guns don't kill people, people kill people," his magnificent prose is as "sweet" as the rifle about which he writes. A truly mesmerizing tale, from beginning to end. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
The ALAN Review - Chris Crowe
"It is necessary to know this rifle," begins Paulsen. He then describes the creation in 1768 and early history of a one-of-a-kind muzzle-load rifle. After brief use in the Revolutionary War, the gun is stored in a farmhouse attic where it remains, forgotten for more than 200 years. It is found in 1993 and eventually ends up hanging over the fireplace of a house in a small Missouri town. The next section of the book opens with, "It is necessary to know this boy," the boy who is killed when the rifle discharges accidentally. This book is unusual in that an object - the rifle - not a character, is the focus of the text. Paulsen describes in minute detail the construction and workings of the rifle and relates its history in a detached voice laced with foreboding and tension. The message of Paulsen's history of the rifle: guns kill people.
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Paulsen writes wonderful stories about teen boys placed in physically and emotionally challenging situations and overcoming hardships. In The Rifle there is a major change. The main character is not a boy at all, but a rifle. Not an ordinary, modern one, but a revolutionary-war-era hand-made "sweet" gun. Its making is described as carefully as the gun itself was made. And its history is documented up to 1993, when the plot twists satisfyingly.
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-This novella focuses on a specific weapon crafted during the Revolutionary War. At the book's conclusion, set in 1994, this rifle still functions and performs as it was designed to do. Paulsen, who can create vivid portraits of individuals in relation to specific places, takes the focus off the people here, although they remain distinct characters, and puts this object-a rifle-at the core of the story. Although he seems to be saying that people don't kill people, guns do, this message is not sustained. The circumstances seem so unique and the love of weaponry so strong that the anti-gun theme is fatally weakened. For anyone whose mind is made up on this issue, this book will probably not change it. However, it could lead to intense discussion and exploration of how our society has evolved into its present gun-loving culture and into the intense anguish and human cost we collectively ignore as we continue our love affair with weaponry. For readers willing to think about this issue, for those looking for ways to introduce the debate, there is no better vehicle than this short, engagingly written story of one rifle and its fatal impact on one modern boy.-Carol A. Edwards, Minneapolis Public Library
Susan Dove Lempke
In his latest novel, Paulsen explores the history of a flintlock rifle, meticulously describing the skill and artistry of gunsmith Cornish McManus as he spends months creating a gun both beautiful and "sweet" (meaning accurate). Using his usual spare style, Paulsen describes the rifle's use in the Revolutionary War and follows its story into the twentieth century, when it is exchanged by a scathingly depicted gun fanatic for an Elvis-on-velvet painting, and ultimately ends up killing a teenager, Richard, in a freak accident that occurs without human intervention. The omniscient narrator, who speaks in an ironic tone reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut, details the events small and large (943 baseball games; finding a genetic cure for heart disease) that Richard missed by dying prematurely. Paulsen's message is clear and cutting: a machine made for killing, no matter how lovingly crafted and benignly kept, remains a machine made for killing.
From the Publisher

"For readers willing to think about this issue . . . there is no better vehicle than this short, engagingly written story of one rifle and its fatal impact on one modern boy."--School Library Journal

Product Details

Demco Media
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.22(w) x 6.98(h) x 0.59(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

GARY PAULSEN has written nearly two hundred books for young people, including the Newbery Honor Books Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room. He divides his time between a home in New Mexico and a boat on the Pacific Ocean.

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Rifle 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book gives an extremely narrow minded look into the world of firearms, where apparently everyone who owns a gun is a beer guzzling, government hating, overweight, conservative christian. WHO ARE YOU KIDDING GARY PAULSEN??? This book is an insult to anyone who has more than two brain cells to rub together. The views given are so slanderous and bigoted that I would equate them with racism and sexism; all gun owners are placed into a despicable stereotype and kicked around throughout the entire book. The ending is about as probable as getting struck by lightning while reading this review. PLEASE DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK, IT IS AN INSULTING WASTE OF TIME!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for school. This book was one of the most boring things I ever read! This book was horrible. My hate towards this book burns with the fury of a thousand suns!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story pulls you in with a wonderful description of the making of the rifle, how it helped win American independence, only to let you down with a far-fetched, bleeding heart ending. Moral of the story: guns are bad. They kill innocent people who could have saved the world. They had their day, but it's passed. At least it's a short book, so I didn't waste too much time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The American Longrifle is recognised as the first completely 'American' art form. Nothing like it had ever existed before. It grew out of the unique needs of the new world. It is doubtful that America would exist today if the longrifle had not been developed. This book is nothing more than a shameful attempt to brainwash young readers. Read 'Thoughts On The Kentucky Longrifle In Its Golden Age' by Joe Kindig or 'Rifles Of Colonial America' 2 volumes by George Shumway.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was sssssssssssoooooooooo bored reading things! Wake me up when your done. I mean yeah sure Gary Paulsen's books are good but this one had no point
Nana3387 More than 1 year ago
I thought “The Rifle” was a good book. Throughout the book, there were some very good details on how the rifle looked and felt and what happened with it. It talked about the making of the rifle and gave very clear steps. The ending was pretty exciting, but it was very predictable. This was the only part of the book that needed very few details. If Gary would have given fewer details on how the gun was loaded, it might have been more exciting because you wouldn’t know what was coming next. My favorite part of the book is when Bainbridge was killed. It was very thrilling. Right after Bainbridge was killed, the book said: “He threw one look at the farmstead where Bainbridge’s wife stood now a widow.” After I read this, I felt sorry for his wife but that made the story very interesting. I didn’t want to stop reading after the British officer was shot because it was so detailed and the details made it so electrifying! One neat thing about “The Rifle” is that the whole book is a time-line of a rifle. It starts off talking about the making, then trading it, and then it gets put up in an attic, so no one finds it for years. Another cool thing about this book is it deals with real-life events and happenings. Many times Gary Paulson mentions wars like the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. He also mentions the Constitution and the amendments. Overall, I think he did a pretty good job writing this book. I liked the amazing detail given. I would recommend “The Rifle” to pre-teens and teenagers in middle school and to people that like history and guns.
SpartanReading More than 1 year ago
My rate for this book would be a two of of five stars.It is about a man that made a rifle and this rifle is the best made at the time. So, the blacksmith sells it to a men Byamm that is going into the revolutionary war. Then he goes to in the war and goes and kind of adventure. But, all of the sudden it makes a HUGE twist. Then it just gets boring. If i had to recommend this book to anyone it would defiantly be who like action. At the beginning of the story there is a kill. Then after that their is a chase so it gives you a good jump start to the book. But still don't waste your money on this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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texasdawn More than 1 year ago
This book starts as a sucker play describing the creation, beauty and accuracy of this superb rifle before the Revolution. Then it gets lost in an attic for 217 years. Then somehow these rudely caricaturized gun enthusiasts are idiots and must have never seen an episode of Anitques Roadshow and because they ignore its value while owning black velvet Elvis paintings. The gun goes off in a freak accident and kills a boy who, oh by the way, was going to grow up and cure heart disease. Because people don't kill people, guns kill people. Then we are left in suspense while this beautiful antique waits to kill someone else. Total crap!
p.s. Not that I am a drinker, but it also incorrectly links stomach cancer to beer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is supposed to be read with detail. The details are what make it. To understan the book you have to understand the very 'intricate' details about the rifle. Can most people in that era build the perfect rifle. I don't think so. It's all about imagination and how well you use it. That's considering you are not self absorbed or egotistic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is one of the best books that i have read by gary paulsen. i like how it tells the reader what goes on in the making of a gun. i think it is an award winning book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The protagonist of this story is a rifle, made with great care during the American Revolution. Gary Paulsen follows the history of this rifle through the years at a fast pace that keeps you thinking. Is the rifle a reflection of man's actions or is it a symbol for his agression? One man has put so much of himself into this rifle, for what purpose? Ultimatly, who is responsible for the tragic ending to this book, man or the rifle? I'm not sure where Mr. Paulsen stands on the issue of gun control, but this book certainly gave me a lot to think about. A must read for all ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was so boring for the first 40 pages all it talked about was how the gun was made, then how it went down between people and then a boy get shot. Worst book I've even read. The only good thing was that it was 112 pages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The rifle was a very goog book.In a book I like realistc fictionbut most improtant I like short books.In a book I like lots of action and Suspense with tons of twist and turns one more shocking then the next and this book has it all.The rifle in this book. kills many people but who it kills in the end will shock and Horrify you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Assigned this novel to read during a class project, the name of a popular author, Gary Paulsen, assured me that it would be interesting. But with that, I was mistaken. First off, Paulsen babbles on for twenty pages or so, describing how a rifle is made. Every single intricate detail. I wasn't aware that this was a 'How-to:' book, and it immediately lost my interest. The rest of the novel discusses how this 'sweet rifle' is passed down and passed down and ends abruptly and quite stupidly in a freak accident that kills a young boy. This novel has no purpose except to bore the reader to tears.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i love this book its awesome . great from beging to end. i love reading about wars but this had twist which was excelent!i wish i could say more but im tierd and i have to go to bed .. READ IT YOU'L LOVE IT
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about a girl who dies and makes a promise to her little sister. Her parents and her sister leave the house. She tries to go with them but is forced back. She can never leave the house. Then people move in and she eventualy talks to this girl. This girl tries to help her. She and a friend go to this grave yard and put a note at the ghosts parents grave. Then she gets a call and it is the ghosts sister. She comes to the house and talks to the ghost. They finish the unfinished business. I would give this book 5 stars. It is a really good book because it has good detail and you can really imagine the stuff happening.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about a guy who makes rifles for a living. He makes this one rifle that he likes alot. He thinks it is perfect so he hangs it up. He then knows that if it doesn't shoot perfect than it is not perfect. So he shots it into a target 3 times and misses completly. He then looks up to the target. He notices something. This gun is then used by a soldier, he uses it to fight in the army. He shoots another soldier and they chase him. He gets away from them though. Then it goes onto a family where a girl puts it in the attic and forgets about it. Then it is found and hung up. His wife dosen't want it in the house. It is to late, the kids get a hold of it and dont know it is loaded. I would give this book 3 stars because it jumps around alot while telling the story. I liked that you never could tell what was going to happen next.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hey, did you ever want to travel on a journey through time? Well now you can in a semi historical fiction book with a gun called 'The Rifle'. This bok is a very good quick read and not boring. it was about a gun made by a man named cornish who made a perfect gun and sold it to a man named John Byam who later becomes a famous sharpshooter. Read it to find out what happens.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a good book. It was a book about a rifle that runes the owners life. I a good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think the book was great. Because of how the rifle was made. How nice the wood is for the rifle. This rifle was purfect. H killed many officers with the rifle. And the discription he gos into is good. He fought like no other, a born sniper. The troops he fought didnt know what they were doing half the time. The rifle was babyed all the time so it stayed perfict. He got sick and died. And a nurse stole it for her kid but he died to. So it sat in a adict for a couple generations. And a gun colector ended up with it and put it away for a long time. All in all this is a very good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a quick easy book with a lot of information about the American Ravolution. There are both pluses and minuses to this book. Some of the pluses are how the gun is used and the detail Gary put into the book. The biggest minus is at the end where the gun kills Richard. I'm not for sure whose fault that is for the death of Richard. Harv should have gotten rid of it like his wife told him too but he hung it above the fireplace and look what happened. A great book and to me one of the best I have read that Gary Paulsen has written