Book Review: American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms, by Chris Kyle with William Doyle (HarperCollins Publishers, 2013)
Conceived of and written by Chris Kyle of American Sniper fame, this very readable book links American history to the features of ten iconic firearms:
The American long rifle (aka the Kentucky rifle)
The Spencer repeater
The Colt single-action army revolver
The Winchester 1873 rifle
The M1903 Springfield rifle
The Colt M1911 pistol
The Thompson submachine gun
The M1 Garand rifle
The .38 Special police revolver (both Colt and S&W)
The M16 rifle
(With occasional brief side-trips to historically nearby guns such as the smoothbore musket, the Mauser bolt action rifle, the AK-47, and the Glock 17.) The chapters on each of the ten guns provide information on the historical context and development of each firearm, along with data about the cartridge/caliber, reliability, accuracy, and special capabilities and limitations. Also included are many historical anecdotes—such as the WWI exploits of Alvin York and an attempted assassination of President Harry Truman. The volume is plentifully illustrated with well-chosen B&W photographs, often placing the gun in its historical or legendary context. Translation: it’s just plain fun to read.
This book is undeniably informative—even for those of us who think we are already knowledgeable about our nation’s firearms and their places in history. There may be a very few places in the text where a reader might lightly pencil a question mark in the margin, but generally one comes from the book with the impression that Chris Kyle knew his subject matter and that he wrote about it with admirable accuracy and style.
Chris Kyle was killed before he was able to put the finishing touches on this book, but the publisher decided to go ahead with the project (with the approval of Chris’s wife Taya). Nevertheless, the book’s 385 pages still bear the undoubted stamp of one who knew firearms and how they have been used in the tangled events of American history. You will want to put this book on your “to read” list.