Top positive review
Things that go "bang" in the night
Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2019
In AMERICAN GUN, America’s favorite military sniper, Chris Kyle, presents his case for the ten guns that most influenced the history of the United States. He’s careful to state that this is his own personal list open to debate.
The ten firearms on the list, in chronological order of impact on U.S. history, are: the American (Kentucky) Long Rifle, the Spencer Repeater, the Colt Single Action Army Revolver, the Winchester 1873 Rifle, the M1903 Springfield, the M1911 Pistol, the Thompson Submachine Gun, the M1 Garand, the .38 Special Police Revolver, and the M16.
Chris comes across as a good ol' boy from Texas discussing each of the guns over a pitcher of beer at the local watering hole. It’s a relaxed narrative which includes, for each firearm, a brief summary of an historical firefight that displayed that particular weapon’s advantages in determining the outcome. So, for the Kentucky Long Rifle, it was the 1777 battle of the American Revolution at Saratoga. For the M1911 Pistol, it was Corporal Alvin York’s 1918 Medal of Honor performance in the Argonne Forest during World War I. For the M16, it was Lt. Colonel Hal Moore and his Seventh Cavalry battalion’s use of that weapon in the first ever combined-arms helicopter air assault, in this case the Army’s first confrontation with the North Vietnamese Army in Vietnam’s Ia Drang Valley (portrayed in the 2002 film WE WERE SOLDIERS).
On the other hand, the chapter about the M1903 Springfield begins with the charge up the San Juan Heights by Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War when the Americans suffered because they DIDN’T have the M1903 and their opponents DID have that weapon’s precursor, the Spanish Model 1893 Mauser rifle. The U.S. military’s subsequent improved capability with the M1903 was illustrated by the Marines' performance at Belleau Wood in WWI.
Kyle describes the development of each gun versus its (sometimes excellent) competitors and the evolution of each into improved variants. The book contains many black and white photos relevant to each firearm.
Chris was killed before the book went to publication and William Doyle and Jim DeFelice were enlisted to finish the manuscript. The point at which Kyle left off and Doyle-DeFelice took over isn’t overtly obvious except perhaps by the Epilogue, obviously written in a more formal tone, and by the chapter on the M16 which seemed (to me) abruptly cut-off short by not including a comparative discussion of the AK47.
AMERICAN GUN is a minor but engaging piece of literature about Americana that would likely not appeal to gun-control advocates. It competently accomplishes for the most part what Chris intended that it do, wandering only a little at times.
“Pick up a rifle, a pistol, a shotgun, and you’re handling a piece of American history. What you hold is not just a finely engineered instrument, but an object that connects you to people who fought for their freedom … and cornered criminals in the canyons of big cities across the country. Each gun has its own story to tell, its own connection not just to the past, but the American spirit.” – from AMERICAN GUN