A surgical stapler comprising an anvil with specially shaped surfaces; anda cartridge retention portion having a staple housing enclosing a plurality ofstaples, staple drivers, and a plurality of pushers movable in a firing direction andeach having a cam surface. The staple drivers each have a surface for engagingthe cam surface of one of the pushers to eject the staples and press the staplesagainst the specially formed surfaces forming and closing the staples in tissueclamped between the staple housing and anvil. A firing rod has proximal anddistal portions for transmitting a firing force along the firing rod from a firing handleto the pushers to move the pushers in the firing direction. The proximal portion ofthe firing rod defines a firing axis substantially parallel to the firing direction. Thefiring handle and proximal portion of the firing rod are constructed and arranged toafford transmission of the firing force directly along the proximal portion firing axisso that the proximal portion of the firing rod may remain substantially free of amoment caused by the surgeon pressing on the firing handle to move the firinghandle in the firing direction.