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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: American Gun


Title: American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms
Author: Chris Kyle, William Doyle
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 
 June 4, 2013
Reviewer: Ethan

Review: Chris Kyle, author of his bestselling memoir American Sniper, was no stranger to guns. As a Navy SEAL, he had a record confirmed 160 kills. Beyond his expert marksmanship, Kyle possessed the unique ability to be a great storyteller. At the time of his tragic death in February 2013, he was working on a new project, American Gun.

In the book, Kyle chronicles American history, beginning during the revolutionary war. Each section details this history using a different firearm as the main focus. Having shot each of the weapons featured in the book, Kyle not only speaks of the physical aspects of the guns, but also provides a wealth of historical context that surrounds them. Rather than write about each gun in a textbook fashion, which Kyle himself admits would be incredibly boring, he zeroes in on the human side of the story, placing the reader in the place of the men who used the weapons.

There are a few moments of historical speculation, particularly in the section about Lincoln's push to get  the multi-shot Spencer Repeater rifle into the hands of his Union soldiers. Lincoln was met with resistance from military leaders who saw the new technology as gimmicky. Kyle argues that, had the Union used the new weapons sooner, the Civil War would have ended sooner, and more American lives could have been spared. Despite this speculation, Kyle acknowledges the facts and seems to respect the history as it occurred.

In the past year, firearms have become a hotly politicized topic. I was a bit worried that, as a man who spent a great deal of time with weapons, Kyle would turn this book into a kind of propaganda tool. Fortunately, Kyle never seems to be preachy or pushing an ideology upon the reader. Instead, he writes with a passionate respect for both guns and the history surrounding them. Perhaps his words sum it up the best. "You can get a little fancy talking about guns. . . That's not fair. Real life has been messy, bloody, complicated. . . But the past can show us the way to the future. It can give us hope. . ." (pg. 261-262)

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