The Rifle

ISBN: 0152058397
ISBN 13: 9780152058395
By: Gary Paulsen

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About this book

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.     Each book includes a reader's guide.

Reader's Thoughts


This book started out as an interesting look at how the gun was constructed and the people who owned it, but right at the end, it turned into a rant about the dangers of guns. I felt like I had been lured into an anti-gun MLM presentation with promises of a fascinating story and got sold a case of stuff I didn't need instead. If I want to read an anti-gun book, I'll get one -- don't try to sneak it in on me. The first part is fascinating, but skip that last chapter if you don't want the slap in the face I felt it delivered.

Max Harris

The Rifle to me is a message novel, a tragedy directed toward making a single point. In it, Gary Paulsen presents the story of an almost miraculous rifle, a "sweet" rifle that is like a reminder to me about my custom made shot gun that is from Spain. These guns are made like art. Its maker had a grat love for his masterpiece. This rifle goes to the Revolutionary War, and then it is hidden away by accident for most of its life, reappearing for a meeting with a fourteen-year-old boy. Just like in this story, this is how many old guns are found these days. I don't know if it was just me but I loved it! I think just about any kid that loves guns, hunting, fishing, and the outdoors would like this book. I also hope that not just the kids that love the outdoors will like this book. i hope many other people will like it too because it makes you feel just like you are in the story. At least that’s what I felt like.


Gun connoisseurs and Gary Paulsen fans, take notice! "The Rifle" is a book to fall in love with for a variety of reasons. While I know nothing about guns, I still found this book riveting and thought provoking. I love Paulsen's attention to detail and honesty in this novel.Plot Summary:"The Rifle" by Gary Paulsen examines the "power" of guns and tackles the old adage, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." This story follows one rifle's journey over 200 years, from its creation to its present day home. It highlights the effect the gun has on each of it's owners and the unique path it carves out in history as it passed from one person to the next. Character Descriptions:Cornish McManus: Cornish is the innovative gun maker that designed and built The Rifle. He spent years perfecting the "sweet" gun and was incredibly proud of his work. The only thing he loved more than the gun was the woman he married. So much so, that he traded the gun for money to be able to have the wedding.John Byam: John, a nomad of sorts and avid hunter, traded Cornish a whole season of buckskins for the rifle. After learning of it's perfect shot, John became a legend (because of the rifle) in the Revolutionary War but later died of Dysentery.Tim Harrow: Tim, an NRA member, gun enthusiast, Big Government opponent, and flourishing alcoholic, purchased the rifle for himself in 1993. Thinking he knew, but not REALLY knowing the true history of the rifle, Tim eventually traded the gun to have a water pump on his mobile home fixed.Harvey Kline: Harvey, the owner of the mechanic shop, acquired the gun in a trade with Tim Harrow. He proudly displayed it above his fireplace for years until "the accident". Richard Mesington: Richard is a young boy and one of Harvey Kline's neighbors. He is coming of age and experiencing many firsts, such as, girlfriends, sports, etc... He and Harvey are friends until one fateful night involving the rifle.Key Issues:rifle, gun, Revolutionary War, gun control, NRA, gunsmith, flint, rifling, "sweet" rifles, stock barrel, alcoholic, Dysentery

Dalton Lebel

The purpose was to tell the story of the rifle.The theme tells that John Waynewright has made the sweetest rifle he has ever seen. The rifle is fiction. This book is written in description style, it tells a story about one specific thing story that was around for 200 years. This book is about a man that makes a sweet rifle and gets married and needs to sell it to get money to support him and his wife. He sells the rifle to a man that needs a new gun. He buys the rifle and and his horse dies in a gun fight so he enlists in the army and killes the bad guys and then he dies from a sickness. Then a lady takes the rifle home and she puts it in the rafters of the log house and she died and another person buys the house and never looked in rafters. Then they die and two more people buy the house and the last person who had the gun hangs it above the fire place.In 200 years no-one even thought of checking to see if the gun was loaded. Then at Christmas the dad moved some wood around in the fire place and six sparks flow into the air and one of them went into the touckhole of the rifle and hit the black powder and the gun went off and deflected and hit the the kid in the forehead. then the dad went and took it to a bridge and through it into the sand in a creek.The book was ok. I liked where the guys didn't think he hit the wood all three times. I would change the end of the book. It is similar to a book i have read because i like to read outdoor books and hunting books.

Blake Bailey

I think that The Rifle is a great read that is short but full of action. It keeps you guessing until the end! The only thing that made me pick four stars was that in the middle of the book it doesn't make sense for a while but it will clear up. The Rifle is a great attention graber and will keep you turning the pages! But once you get to about the middle of the book start reading it slower so it will make sense and you can enjoy this book to the fullest.


I liked the story but the message was trying to counter the argument that guns don't kill people, people kill people by relating a series of events that happened because of the negligence of people. It would be comparable to saying that cars kill people by cited a case where somebody was killed by a car that was parked on a hill, with no e-brake on, tires pointing straight, and it got bumped and started rolling down the hill when no one was in it.


There is a lot to consider in this book. The two main themes that run parallel to each other through the entire plot are of the inherent danger that firearms pose to all living creatures regardless of how much care may be taken with such weapons, and the interconnectedness of everything around us, the billions upon billions of tiny coincidences that randomly work together every single day to shape our lives, and control our ultimate destiny. It's these kinds of little things that each on their own seem to matter not at all, but once in a long while if things go just wrong enough, the consequences can be mind-shattering. This is the main point of The Rifle, the lesson that ties in the two major themes of the story. The rifle, itself, has humble beginnings in the shop of a creative artisan living during the American Revolution. Guns of the time period are different than they will evolve to become two hundred or more years later; fashioning a straight-shooter is an enormous task that requires tremendous skill and a notable amount of luck, and journeyman weapon-maker Cornish McManus happens to have both of these factors on his side in abundance when he sets upon the task of crafting a good gun. What he couldn't have predicted ahead of time is that the gun he is making will turn out to be a "sweet" rifle, a one-in-a-thousand firearm that shoots with near-flawless accuracy, forged by that crucial combination of great skill and dumb happenstance to become a weapon like no other. The rifle is the type of artistic masterpiece that comes along but once in a lifetime for even the most ambitious gunsmith plying his trade during the era of the Revolutionary War, and despite his personal money problems, Cornish is reluctant to sell the rifle, even for the rich compensation that it surely will bring. When Cornish does finally part with the fantastic weapon, there begins a long series of hand-offs among the gun's many owners. Some of these people have a sense of the weapon's value and try to utilize it for its antique value, while others never even realize that the gun is in their possession, locked away in some unopened attic where it does nothing but sit in disuse for decades at a time. When the magnificent rifle, now more than two hundred years old, finds its way into the home of a mechanic who recognizes the beauty of the fine weapon, the almost impossibly intricate series of coincidences that have brought the rifle to this exact place in time finally reach a boiling point... and the old decorative gun, which had not been fired since the United States was still considered a colony of Great Britain, devastatingly demonstrates that a firearm is always capable of snuffing out a human life, and wreaking anew the scourge of death upon anyone who doesn't understand that. It blows my mind, the things that can happen when coincidences pile up on each other. It's something that I've always thought about and marveled at, but this book pushes it to the forefront of my consciousness with the raw power of seeing something happen so terrible that it should have never been, the result of totally random action that changes the course of a number of intertwined lives more profoundly than mere coincidence should ever be able to do. When something just happens that cannot be taken back by any number of apologies or amount of bitter tears, how can one stand up against it and dismiss it as just a weird flaw of natural design? How can one just shrug one's shoulders and attribute the loss of everything that could have been in the future to a one-in-a-trillion chance that happened to bite at exactly the wrong split-second? The unfairness is so oppressive that it becomes claustrophobic, if you really ponder it. The Rifle is a book of such potency that it took my breath away as I read it. The wrenching conclusion is a fireball of scalding heat and awe-inspiring intensity that lasts just a few moments, but that is more than enough to change one's perceptions forever. This is clearly Gary Paulsen's greatest novel, in my opinion, arguably worthy of five stars, but at the very least deserving of the four and a half that I'm giving it. You'll never find another book like The Rifle. I guarantee it.

Nate Thompson

Alternative title: How I Lost My Respect for Gary Paulsen.Gary Paulsen uses his usual gift of prose in this short novel, but the book is more a political rant than a novel. In fact, given the sheer ridiculousness of the book's central premise, it's hard to see it as anything close to a well-crafted story.After painting a beautiful introduction to an amazing rifle, a several-page rant that stereotypes gun owners, Paulsen concludes with an ending so ridiculously impossible that my wife had to pry my jaw off the floor.**Spoiler Alert**According to Paulsen, the rifle was left loaded for over 200 years, spending much of the time in a humid attic. Somehow, he postulates, the bear fat managed to keep the black powder charge in the barrel perfectly preserved. Also, in 200 years, no one checks to see if it is loaded... Best of all, after years of such perfect preservation, a single spark from a fireplace manages to get into the barrel and ignite the charge. When the gun fires, it goes through two windows and, with a perfect shot, kills the kid who would have cured cancer. Following the ending is a reader chat page: "Do you still think guns don't kill people?"Really? For those unfamiliar with black powder, leaving a charge in for a single year leads to incredible amounts of rust. Humidity will destroy a charge. Oh, and bear fat still works as a water barrier after 200 years? Wow.Icing on the cake: the cover shows a left-handed rifle from a time when there were practically no left-handed rifles... Disappointment.


This book turned out much differently than I originally thought it would. I was interested in the story frame – the following on an object throughout time and places. This is a story frame that I would like to write about as well. The beginning detailed description of Cornish’s work on the rifle is a brilliant example of striving for perfection and the difference between an art and a trade. I did not understand much of the terminology involved, but that did not take away from my appreciation of the details and feelings described. The bits of history were secondary, in my mind, to the author’s point of guns killing people. I think this book, in the hands of the right teacher, would be an excellent resource for teaching about our right to bear arms, the current debate about this right, and the violence and killing that seem to result from guns. This is such a pertinent issue nowadays, and especially relevant, I think, in Texas!


Genre: Junior, Historical FictionSummary:In tracing the creation and travels of a unique and exquisitely crafted rifle, the story incorporates elements of history that are poignant and momentous in the development of the American nation. The craftsmanship and care with which the rifle is imbued play an integral role in its eventual impact and begin the story with an intimate look at the components and concern that can go into its makeup.After the rifle leaves the possession of the original creator, it follows a path of use and disuse, each of which plays an important role. The rifle follows a course that is like that of destiny, bringing triumph and tragedy in equal parts. Although it is just a weapon and subject to the decisions of its owner, the story gives the rifle a uniqueness that makes it transcend a simple tool.Critique:Although a story about a weapon could be gratuitously violent, this book takes with great seriousness the consequences of use and misuse. As the rifle is used to defend and ensure survival it is equally destructive. Set in the backdrop of changing history, its purpose changes as well, reflecting the times and the priorities of those who live in them. Positives/Negatives:The author is careful to reflect current opinion, authentic to the time period and the function a rifle would have served. In doing so, the reader can picture it in the hands of each owner, and see how it is either cared for or neglected, as the story details the consequences of each choice. The path of the rifle is unexpected and well designed to allow the reader to follow its travels and learn from the context in which it is set.Examples:The pivotal events that become crossroads for the rifle depend heavily on the knowledge and experience of the owner. “But the rifle continued. One of the men who helped him to the dugout came back when he heard Byam was dead and asked after the rifle. A middle-aged lady named Sarah told him it was gone but she lied. She knew something of rifles. Her husband – before his death some years earlier – had run the woods like Byam, and she had heard of Byam’s rifle and what he had done.”The final owner makes a critical decision, either through ignorance or complacency that results in a life changing event. “…not once in the life of the rifle, did anybody ever think to check to see if it was loaded… The method is not widely known to people who have no experience with muzzle-loading weapons and so often it is not known if they are loaded or not.”Curriculum Connection:The historical time period in which the creation of the rifle is set offers multiple opportunities to explore the timeline of historical events, look at the artifacts of that time and how they would have been used for survival and protection, and expand the readers' understanding of the larger context.Using this book as a model for a writing topic, students can pick a particular item that is created by a human being and write about its origin and the path it takes from a time in the past to the present. They can construct a graphic organizer to collect and organize information about the time periods that transpired between the item's creation and the current one. Given the controversial nature of a weapon and the various opinions that exist on the use and regulation of guns, this book can be a starting point for a conversation. Each side of the argument can be presented and students can share their own feelings, as the teacher can provide a safe space to express opinions that may not be shared by all.

Luke Radtke

In this book the creation of the Rifle and its path through the war and how special it was. Some how it made it through the hands of many people, and still is around to tell its story. The life of a boy and the moment when the boy and the gun are joined and what happend to the rifle after the war. The suspense is killing the gun smith, from the making of this sweet rifle. Gunsmith Cornish McManus's rifle shoots farther and truer than any firearm ever made. The rifle's next owner, woodsman John Byam depends on the gun for his livelihood and his skill picking off British officers during the Revolution becomes very well known. Then his death the rifle falls into the hands of a woman who hides it in her attic, where it doesn't get found for more than two centuries. Over all this was a good book. I would recommend it to anyone into history or ages 12-65.

Cathy Cole

First Line: It is necessary to know this rifle.This short little book traces the history of one flintlock rifle from its creation during the American Revolution to the 1990s.The rifle's creation is a months-long labor of love by a journeyman gunsmith named Cornish McManus. When completed, it is most definitely a "sweet rifle" (meaning one of stunning beauty and accuracy). In desperate need of money, Cornish reluctantly sells the gun to John Byam, a sharpshooter in the Revolutionary War who dies of dysentery.The rifle, intended as a gift to a son killed in battle, is tucked away and forgotten as the centuries pass. In the 1990s it is found, and changes hands a few times until it rests above the mantel of a home in Missouri. Tragedy will ensue because-- during all this time and through all the hands it's passed-- no one has ever checked to see if the rifle is loaded.The first part of this book is wonderful. The craftsmanship that goes into the making of this rifle is phenomenal, and Paulsen brings the entire process to life. The rifle's "life" while in the hands of sharpshooter John Byam is also vivid and well done.But the book falls apart in the end. It's obvious that the author wants to teach children how deadly serious guns are, that no matter how beautiful they are or how innocently they are kept, guns are made to kill-- and they will kill. But it strains credulity to the breaking point to believe that a gun loaded in the 1770s will still fire first-time true in 1993.Paulsen does not believe that "guns don't kill people, people kill people," but the tragedy that occurs at the end of the book is due entirely to humans who don't care about simple gun safety. The ending of the book, in particular, bothered me: "And in the meantime the rifle sits in the gun cabinet. Waiting." Guns are not inhabited by evil spirits who lurk patiently until the unwary come within range. (Although all too often they are owned by people who have no business having them in their possession.)Middle school children may well take Paulsen's message to heart, and I hope they do, but for most of the adults who read along with their children, the aim of his story is going to fall short.

Daniel Franklin

Summarize the book Synopsis taken from Wikipedia page on the novel:The Rifle, inspired by maple stock was handcrafted by a gunsmith named Cornish McManus who painstakingly crafted his so-called “masterpiece”. When it is tested for shooting practice, he discovers that it is extremely accurate than any other rifle that was made at that time. Later McManus fell in love with a woman named Clara, so they decided to become married. McManus was forced to sell the rifle as a result when they needed money to live. The man who purchases the rifle, John Byam, is an American sharpshooter in the Revolutionary War. After being killed in the war, the rifle goes through many owners, and in all that time, not once did someone think to check if the rifle was loaded. It was, and this is extraordinarily important later on in the novel. About 50 years after Byam’s death, the rifle winds up in an attic, and is never discovered until 1993, when an editor moved into the house it is in with his two children. However, he is forced to sell it when the editor’s wife disliked weapons in the household. It was then sold to an antique dealer and again to a firearm collector, Tim Harrow, who lives in a mobile vehicle. When his vehicle needed to be towed, he gives the rifle to a man named Harvey Kline (commonly known as Harv) and an Elvis painting. On Christmas Eve of this year, Harvey accidentally had trouble adjusting the fire in his fireplace and as a result, a ball shot out of the rifle due to sparks igniting across the fireplace. The ball broke through the house’s window and entered another house and finally entered a boy’s head named Richard while adjusting the light bulb in another Christmas tree. Within minutes, Harv took all responsibility for the death and later threw away the rifle in a muddy river off of a bridge. The rifle was then recovered by a man named Tilson. He suspected that the rifle was an antique and was also involved in Richard’s death after reading it in an article. Later, when Tilson read an article about using black powder in a gun magazine, he decides to test it while the rifle sits in his gun cabinet as the story ends.Identify the characteristics of the text that support the specific genre This book is set in our world, with real people as the characters. In the end, tragically, one of the books main protagonists is killed when the rifle is neglectfully left loaded for years. The events described, especially the Revolutionary War, are events that happened in our country’s history. The book is something that could definitely happen, as many people each year are killed by neglectful gun safety. Identify specific concepts that could be integrated in the classroom The really major concept of this book is the fact that, “guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Paulsen uses a very matter-of-fact tone in the end of the book when he is describing the death of young Richard. He describes all the things that Richard could have been (a doctor) had he not been killed by a neglectful gun owner. Offer any other suggestions that would be useful regarding literary content, reading level, and other ways in which the book might be integrated. This book is obviously for older students. I myself didn’t read it until 5th grade. A student needs a decent understanding of history and a wide vocabulary to understand much of the language in this book. This book could almost be used as an historical fiction to show the harsh conditions that soldiers went through in the Revolutionary War. The character of John Byam the sharpshooter says he, “Does not fight for independence, but does not favor the British.” If an instructor wanted to give students an alternate view of history, they could have students read this passage and explain that many soldiers weren’t idealistic in their fighting, but rather fought simply because they were forced to. Overall, this is a really excellent blend of historical fiction and realistic fiction in our time.

David Wu

I read the Rifle by Gary Paulsen. It was a book that had a lot of action. This is because it’s a book about the revolutionary war. Obviously a war book would have action. In this book this person named Cornish McManus made a really good rifle. It had a .30 caliber tube so it was 40 inches long, he used the best steel. It was really accurate and it was deadly. It soon gets sold to this person named John Byam which goes into war with the rifle. When he was finished with it, he passed it down many generations until it reached a boy named Harv. He then made a bad mistake with the rifle since he did not know how to use it lead to death and he does not know what to do. He tried to hide what he had done and he hid the rifle away where no one can find it. He always blamed himself for what he had done.

Ashton Bergsma

i read the book named The Rifle By Gary Paulsen i really liked this boo cause of the way it described the rifle for around the 4 chapters it described the rifle on how smooth the wood was. Gary Paulsens way of writing just makes it so intriguing you just want to read more and more although I've read hatchet and i didn't like it that much but i recommend this book to people that like guns and ones that are also in to action filled books. the cool thing about this book is that the main character is... the rifle it follows it to every person in the book. the reason the rifle is that main character is because it is such a nice rifle it had the best accuracy at the time cause all rifles were handcrafted. read this book!

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