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American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms (P.S.) Paperback – May 27, 2014
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“Chris Kyle was incredible, the most celebrated war hero of our time, a true American hero in every sense of the word.” (D Magazine)
“A true hero.” (New York Times)
“Chris Kyle has done and seen things that will be talked about for generations to come.” (MARCUS LUTTRELL, recipient of the Navy Cross and author of Lone Survivor)
“A celebration of Kyle’s voice and life: It’s like sitting down with him in some funky Texas roadhouse just off the interstate after a hot but fulfilling day at the range, ordering up a tableful of Lone Stars and just talking guns for a few hours.” (USA Today)
“Tells how 10 firearms changed United States history.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Kyle’s enthusiasm for his subject is infectious, and his gift for narrative lends the stories the tension and drama they deserve. ... Regardless of one’s views on guns, readers will gain a deeper respect for weaponry and the people tasked with using them.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Kyle’s firm grasp of the ten guns selected is combined with a narrative of American soldiers, lawmen, and citizens who used them. ... When you read American Gun you hear the voice, heart, wit, and passion of this self-effacing American hero--one taken from us too soon.” (Mark Keefe, American Rifleman)
“Chris Kyle knew guns in a way no modern American ever has. ... His book new book details the rifles and pistols wielded by soldiers, police officers, hunters, mobsters and outlaws that most influenced the culture of this nation.” (Daily Mail (London))
“A book that every American should read, and it will stand as part of the legacy of one of our nation’s greatest heroes.” (American Rifleman)
From the Back Cover
Drawing on his legendary firearms knowledge and combat experience, U.S. Navy SEAL and #1 bestselling author of American Sniper Chris Kyle dramatically chronicles the story of America—from the Revolution to the present—through the lens of ten iconic guns and the remarkable heroes who used them to shape history: the American long rifle, Spencer repeater, Colt .45 revolver, Winchester 1873 rifle, Springfield M1903 rifle, M1911 pistol, Thompson submachine gun, M1 Garand, .38 Special police revolver, and the M16 rifle platform Kyle himself used. American Gun is a sweeping epic of bravery, adventure, invention, and sacrifice.
Featuring a foreword and afterword by Taya Kyle and illustrated with more than 100 photographs, this new paperback edition features a bonus chapter, “The Eleventh Gun,” on shotguns, derringers, and the Browning M2 machine gun.
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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
The foreword, by Chris Kyle's wife Taya Kyle, plunges you deep into the realization that we have all been cheated of further great works from this man - and if your heart does not stir when you go from foreword, introduction and into chapter one stop, get to the emergency room and get yourself on a transplant list. This book is simply spectacular.
Whether we can feel the tension in a tree circa 1777, raw fear landing on the beaches of Dieppe with British Commandos (the irony is thick there....) or hanging on the White House range with Abraham Lincoln personally testing weapons to be manufactured for the Union armies the story is told in a style that brings you right into all the segments. Like a good chat with your brilliant uncle Mr. Kyle can really speak through his words on the page.
Though the book claims "10 guns" there are far more in here. Just enough design details are forwarded to merit deeper examination but the story is far more important - stretching from the founders of the USA to mobsters and their tommy guns (and its rehabilitation in WWII) to the ubiquitous M16 of the modern era we can see how deeply ingrained our evolution of guns has molded the country. As the epilogue states eloquently - pick up a rifle pistol or whatever gun of you choice and you are linked to the history of the US.
We as the reader are blessed to have this work and we can remember that Chris Kyle was a true American patriot who wrote this simple Magnum Opus for us all to appreciate. We ask for more but it is for us to go write that history.
Read this book at least twice and share it with all your friends.
This is a really well-put-together history of our country in the context of the various wars our soldiers have been asked to fight in beginning with the Revolutionary War and up to the present day. Tragically, Chris was murdered by a veteran he was trying to help before this book could be completed. His widow enlisted the help of his friends to complete and publish the book. This book was recommended in the monthly journal of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network even though it doesn't deal with self-defense per se.
I learned some really interesting history that wasn't taught in any school classroom (and I'm 57, not a youngster). I understand that certain textbooks have shortened coverage of the Revolutionary War to a couple of sentences. One that I heard of asked students to compare the Boston Tea Party with the 9/11 attacks in terms of terrorist activity!!! Disgraceful!!!
Buy this book. I'll bet you'll learn things you didn't know even if you have no interest in guns.
Top international reviews
Very well written and researched, could not put this down!
Kyle, the former SEAL sniper of American Sniper fame, is obviously a gun-nut but he's smart enough to acknowledge that guns are just tools.
He adds enough history and humour to make this book a fascinating read.
Each chapter is about a different weapon and time period, and the quirky tales make it very entertaining.