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Book Review - "American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms" by Chris Kyle

The following is a special provided by Elise Cooper for BlackFive readers. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the "Books" category on the far right sidebar.

9780062242730_p0_v7_s260x420Just before his untimely death the great American hero, Chris Kyle, was working on his second book, American Gun: A History of the US in Ten Firearms, co-authored with William Doyle, and Jim DeFelice as posthumous collaborator. Each chapter of the book offers engaging stories that are associated with a particular gun. Chris discusses American history and how guns helped to influence wars, shootouts, and duels. There is a potent and heart-warming forward and afterword by his wife, Taya Kyle, who is now engaged in keeping Chris’ legacy alive ( as well as supporting what meant most to him, helping his fellow Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine.

There are fascinating stories that even gun novices will enjoy; yet, there is enough technology in it for the gun buffs. The ten guns he discusses are: The American Long Rifle (aka as the Kentucky Rifle) used during the American Revolution and in the opening of the western frontier; the Spencer Repeater used during the Civil War; the Colt Single Action Army handgun (aka as Colt 4.5) used to define the old west; the Winchester 1873 Rifle used during the wars with the Indians; the 1903 Springfield used during WWI; the M1911 Army Pistol used by the Army from 1911 to 1985; the American Machine Gun used by gangsters and law enforcement in the 1920s; the M1 Garand Semi-Automatic Rifle used during WWII; the American Police Handgun; and the M16 Assault Rifle the standard US military weapon currently used today.

Taya Kyle told, “Chris did not see this book as political. He wanted to write about his passions, which were American history and guns. He did this by showing how everyday people used their guns as a tool to accomplish justice. He chose the iconic guns from his perspective. This is really a book about people.”

Both Doyle and DeFelice wanted to make sure Chris’ voice is echoed throughout the book. Doyle commented, “Chris was the commanding officer of the book and he wanted to make sure that people understand that the gun is a primary tool of American history.” Everyone who reads this book will probably have their own favorites but below are just a few examples.

DeFelice who became friends with Chris as his co-author of American Sniper knew that Chris enjoyed the Wild West stories. He believes this was reflected in the chapter about Indian tactics. “Chris loved the Texas Rangers (not the baseball team.) He talked about how the Colt changed the Frontier West.” The chapter discusses the Indian tactic of provoking an initial volley of gunfire and then rushing their opponents before they had time to reload. The Colt revolver changed that because it allowed for five shots, five chances to get the Indian opponent. DeFelice said he and Chris in the course of a discussion noted, “This became a really bad tactic for the Indians because of the multiple shots.”

Chris fascinatingly describes the famous battle of the Civil War, Gettysburg, and how guns contributed to it. At the beginning of the Civil War inaccurate muskets were used. As the war progressed the Spencer Repeater, described by DeFelice as an early semi-automatic rifle, made its presence known. In 1863, the rifle was first used at the Hoover’s Gap battle. It became obvious that this multiple-shot infantry gun would eventually dominate the battlefield. In discussing Gettysburg, Chris told how these guns showed up “to help tip the scales in favor of the North,” and that “the volume of fire was one important key to winning a battle that’s been called the turning point of the Civil War.” As DeFelice noted, “This weapon allowed for the ability to aim and fire. It did not decide the war, but it did make a significant difference.”

The book closes with Taya Kyle discussing how this project enabled her to stay connected with Chris through his deep love of American history. Jim DeFelice noted that Chris would take Taya and the children to famous battle sites and talk about the history behind them. She also talks in the book about Chris’ other passion, that of helping other veterans. There is a website mentioned, and she told, “The reason for the ‘frog’ was to represent the frogmen of the Navy SEALs. The logo in the book is a representation of everything Chris believed in, G-d, family, and country. If you rearrange the bones of the frog they can be formed into a second tattoo, that of the cross. I want to continue Chris’ work, and to thank all those men and women who have served in law enforcement and in the US military.”

It is obvious in reading this book that Chris felt a deep passion for his fellow combat veterans, past and present. American Gun is an exciting, entertaining, and insightful journey into how US history has been shaped by the gun.