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Chris Kyle wrote one of the best books I’ve read this year: American Sniper. The autobiography of America’s deadliest sniper since Carlos Hathcock was a fascinating read, an insider’s look at the men and methodology of America’s military adventures abroad. Unfortunately Chris was cut down in his prime. Before that last fateful trip to the gun range Kyle was nearing completion of a follow-up to his New York Times bestseller. Aided by his loving widow, Kyle’s friends completed American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms . . .

Everyone has their own list of the “top ten” guns that changed the United States, and right off the bat Chris admits that his list might not be the “definitive” list, but it’s his opinion on the matter. And for me, I agree with him. Mostly. I think I would replace the Spencer repeating rifle with a Browning m1919 machine gun or possibly the BAR, but at this point we’re nit picking. Chris hits the highlights of American firearms design, and the book reads like a who’s who in any well stocked gun safe.

While Chris dedicated his life to his time in the SEAL teams in the Navy, he was also an incredibly intelligent historian. That love of history is evident throughout the book, as he intertwines interesting stories about pivotal moments in American history and how the firearm he is describing helped move the country in a certain direction. For the Spencer repeating rifle he spins a tale about president Lincoln and how he might have tested the gun on his private firing range, combining snippets of verified historical data and a little storytelling magic to make things fit just right.

Chris writes in a conversational tone that feels comfortable, like he’s sitting across from you at the range and sharing some of his favorite stories. Anyone who has been cornered by an older retired gentleman at the range and subjected to an endless string of stories will recognize the enthusiasm, but thankfully you can pause Chris’ book when you need to take a quick break — not that you’ll want to very often. I wish those guys at the range had a pause button . . .

I read this book in one marathon sitting, flying from San Antonio back to New York City to see the family. And by the time I finished it, I knew exactly who would appreciate it the most. So come Sunday morning, I wrapped my copy up in some paper and presented it to my dad on Father’s day. And while he’s not as into firearms as I am, he has been loving the historical and technical aspects of the book as well. Well, at least he appears to, I haven’t been able to tear him away from the thing all morning to ask him.

Overall Rating: * * * * *

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23 Responses to Book Review: American Gun by Chris Kyle

  1. I just finished this book as light reading after a 900+ page rather heavy novel. I enjoyed reading it and to be honest purchased it so his wife would get some income. There was at least one correction about the first use of the M-1 and an interesting piece of US Army history that involved the 1911. Specifically, according to Bill Sloan in “Undefeated”, the 57 regiment Philippine Scouts used the M-1 to repulse a Japanese “Banzai” charge on 10 January 1942. Also as part of the action that day the 27 US Cavalry conducted the last cavalry charge in the history of the US Army. Their weapon of choice was the 1911.

  2. This would be a great book to give someone you want to introduce to gun culture. There are any number of books about the ethical and legal aspects of concealed carry. There are plenty about technique and tactics. This is the modern version of the kind of writing us old farts grew up loving; Townsend Whalen, Askins, all the greats. This is the sort of book that introduces new shooters to a COMMUNITY!

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Informative, well-written, and it gave me a greater appreciation for some of the guns from our history. (His enthusiasm for the 1911 is infectious.)

    I, also, was scratching my head a bit about the Spencer carbine’s inclusion, but on the other hand, I’m not really sure what else might have been better. Maybe the Krag-Jorgensen? (First magazine-fed, and first smokeless caliber generally adopted… but designed by a couple of Norwegians.) But I think the other 9 choices are pretty unassailable in terms of “iconic American firearms.” It’s hard to come up with a list of 10 guns that are sufficiently distinct from each other in their purposes, method of operation, and that were designed, manufactured, and used here in this country, and were at the same time important and iconic.

    • “I thoroughly enjoyed it. Informative, well-written,”

      Which means this killer-for-hire didn’t write a word of it.

      • You seem to know so much about this fellow, it’s truly amazing you haven’t told us more about this person you obviously had such a close relationship with.

        • well, in fairness, when a book by someone famous has a “with…” note under their name, they didn’t write that book.

      • Oh boy, here’s William again. I wondered how long it would be before this nut-bag posted something disparaging about Chris Kyle.

    • I think the spencer deserves to be on the list because for all intents and purposes it was the first breachloading, self contained cartridge, repeating rifle in general service with American troops. Roughly 90,000 carbines were purchased for issue to cavalry troops and another 10,000 or so rifles were purchased for infantry..

      To the best of my knowledge the Henry repeater, which was available at the same time was purchased by individuals and in small lots by state units but was never purchased thru official channels by the regulars.

  4. Just picked it up at Costco for a trip and it looks like a good read. Obviously, some of the firearms are a predictable choice (what red-blooded American wouldn’t pick the MI Garand?) but the pics look interesting (1911 with a forward grip?!?) and American Sniper was excellent. I’m sad to have lost Chris. He’s a gent that I’d really would have loved to have a beer with…

  5. I had bought American Sniper to take on a trip and just finished reading it when I found and picked up this book. Both were good reads…in fact I finished the latest book in two working days. As I typically don’t make time during weekdays for such focused reading, that can be taken as a good measure of how much I enjoyed it.

    His writing had a easy-going, conversational style that I don’t see printed that often. It’s a shame there won’t be any more books from him. What a loss.

  6. I gave my dad a copy of the book for Father’s Day, along with a couple of 10/22 mags. Don’t think it’ll be long till he’s through it.

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