American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms was American Sniper Chris Kyle’s latest project when he was killed. His wife Taya and co-writer William Doyle chose to finish and publish it for him. Following a current trend in history writing, Kyle selected ten firearms spanning U.S. history that proved significant in the American story for one reason or another. While Kyle provided little vignettes highlighting the historical significance of each firearm, he primarily gave a lesson in the evolution of American firearms and the factors that influenced that process. I learned a lot about how different guns work, and about the decisions to that ultimately led to the assortment of firearms we see today in the military, police, and public spheres. Kyle notes that “guns are a product of their time,” and he goes on to flesh out that idea.
As with American Sniper (book), Chris’ voice is very strong in American Gun, to the point that they didn’t bother to edit a plethora of grammatical errors. It feels like he’s sitting right there telling you everything he knows about the history of guns in America. In that vein, as acknowledged by Doyle in the Post Script, the firearm and story selections are based more on opinion and personal preference than on objective fact. That’s fine, though, because this is a fun book that sheds a certain light on American history and firearms, and is not meant to be exhaustive. I did appreciate his overall view of guns:
“Whether they’re used in war or for keeping the peace, guns are just tools. And like any tool, the way they’re used reflects the society they’re part of.”
I also appreciated Jim DeFelice’s closing word (my bold):
“The real stars of American Gun are the people who invented and used those guns, shaping the nation. That was what the book was about for Chris, and ultimately, all of us.
In the same way, the real story of America comes from the individuals who make it up, and who in their small, local gestures every day make it a more perfect union, and a better place to live. We can’t all be famous in the wide world, but if we’re famous for the right things in our own circle of friends and family, we’ll surely be as important as any well-known celebrity. Maybe more so.
In that sense, maybe, we’re all the Eleventh Gun – important if unsung contributors to the vast panoply that is American history.”
While I enjoyed reading American Gun, it’s not going to be my primary source on history or guns, nor is it meant to be. But with that in mind, this was a good, quick read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in guns or true stories involving guns!