The Times hired Chivers at age thirty-four in 1999 to cover war. That was the handshake, he says. A former Marine officer, he might know how to handle himself in a war zone, the paper figured. What the Times could not have known was that Chivers would develop a brand of journalism unique in the world for, among other things, its study of the weapons we use to kill one another. After reporting on a firefight—whether he was in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Ossetia, Libya, or Syria—he’d look for shell casings and ordnance fragments. If he was embedded with American soldiers or Marines, he’d ask them if he could look through what they had found for an hour or so—”finger fucking,” he’d call it—and ask his photographer to take pictures of ammunition stamps and serial numbers. Over time and in this way he would reveal a vast world of small-arms trade and secret trafficking that no other journalist had known existed before.
—Mark Warren, writing for Esquire about how C.J. Chivers become “the best war reporter in a generation,” and why—after 14 bloody years of covering conflict—he decided to give up the beat.