American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms is one of my new favorite American history books. In my estimation, this ranks up there with books like D-Day: June 6, 1944 by Stephen Ambrose. Why I like these books so much is that they tell the personal stories of individuals that shaped historical events.
In my mind, American Gun is not a typical gun book. Yes, guns are an inescapable part of the book, but author Chris Kyle tells stories of America. The Kentucky rifle, for example, is not about steel and wood – it is about a marksman in the Revolutionary War who helped turn the tide of a critical battle. It is about Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and Texans fighting for freedom from Mexico.
If you’ve ever sat around a campfire, talking to friends and telling stories of the past, then you will understand the literary feel of this book. American Gun is not some dry history lesson or manual of arms for an antique firearm. It is instead the enthralling stories of American men and women shaping the United States with guns and acts of bravery.
The ten guns featured start at the American Long Rifle and end with the M16. But the real stories start with Sgt. Timothy Murphy and run through Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester. Both sergeants played pivotal roles in protecting Americans with their rifles, though separated by more than 200 years.
The ten guns that Kyle features in the book are:
- American Long Rifle (Kentucky Rifle)
- Spencer Repeater
- Colt SAA
- Winchester 1873
- 1903 Springfield
- Colt 1911
- Thompson SMG
- M1 Garand
- .38 Special Police Revolver
- Colt M16
There are plenty of other guns mentioned, and their stories are told as they relate to the ten enumerated guns. For example, how can one talk about the M16 without talking about the development of the M14 and AR10? Or the .38 revolver without mentioning the .357 Magnum?
Kyle doesn’t ignore the infamous people who have used these guns either. Names like Al Capone, Frankie Yale and John Dillinger are featured, as are those of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. As Kyle notes in the book, guns are just tools and can be used for great good or evil.
At about 300 pages, the book is an easy read. While the book felt complete, I still found myself wanting at least 300 pages more of Kyle’s storytelling.
Prior to completing this book, Kyle and a friend were murdered. Fortunately, enough of the book was complete that Kyle’s co-author and the co-author from his prior book, American Sniper, were able to round out the chapters and bring the book to completion.
Kyle’s wife, Taya Kyle also contributed to the book, giving readers a greater understanding of the man Chris Kyle was.
Kyle donated the profits of his first book to charity, and his family are said to have lived a comfortable, but humble, existence. As with many young men, Kyle was building for his family’s future financial independence, which was not yet secure at the time of his death. There was concern that the proceeds from this book would not benefit his family.
Speaking with a representative of Harper Collins, the publishers of American Gun, I have been assured that Kyle’s family will receive the profits from this book. I’m sure this would be a great relief for Kyle to know that his family will be assisted by the sales of this book. So, for every book purchased, the Kyle family is a little more secure in their future.
One of the things that Taya Kyle encouraged people to do was to visit Taya and Chris Kyle Foundation. The foundation helps military and public safety families through strengthening marriages. It looks like an amazingly powerful foundation.
Latest Update: July 30, 2021
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