This was a fascinating book for me. Growing up neither of my parents were gun people and we never had a gun in our home. Living in the backwoods of Vermont, there wasn’t a lot of worry about someone breaking in and trying to rob us or do us harm, so I never really thought about it. Most of my gun knowledge came from a friend I’ve known since I was three, for whom guns were a hobby. From him I learned about rifling, the differences in major types, and which guns packed the most punch. (I’m sure I learned more than that, but that’s what comes to mind). Then when I was in the boy scouts I learned how to, and the importance of, cleaning a gun (though I don’t quite remember the ‘how’ anymore), what rifling is and why it’s important, the rules of gun safety, and most importantly how to shoot a gun and hit a target without dislocating my shoulder. So reading this book was an eye opening experience for me in many ways. I learned a great deal more about guns and gun history, about U. S. history, and about how the development of guns has had an important role in shaping our country into what it is today.
Chris Kyle, author of the New York Times Bestselling novel, American Sniper, uses his extensive knowledge of firearms and combat experience to tell the story of America’s history through what he considers to be the ten guns that shaped our nation. Ranging from the Kentucky Long Rifle to the M16, Kyle provides a unique lesson in U. S. history that you’re unlikely to get anywhere else.
I especially liked the section on the M1 Garand because that was the one rifle he talked about that I’ve fired personally. Other than being impressed with it’s size and design, the things I remember most about the experience was that it was loud and I didn’t have the stock pressed firmly enough into my shoulder. You really only make that mistake once in your lifetime.
But in all seriousness, this book was fascinating. I could tell that Kyle enjoyed researching and writing this book. His voice was funny and entertaining through the stories he told and the facts he shared. I’ve never had much interest in guns before, but now I’m intrigued and want to learn more. I’ve already done some research to put an image to some of the guns he was mentioning, but it only feels like brushing the surface.
As much as I love history, the thing that made this book so enjoyable was how Kyle wrote it. For one, it was written in a very casual style. This isn’t meant to be the book that teaches the gun expert more about how guns interacted with history, but for the average Joe, like me, who knows some (or nothing) on the topic and is interested in learning more. Kyle also didn’t preach to me about how important guns were and that we should all accept guns as an important part of life. Instead he shared with us the facts, the stories, and his experiences to show us how guns have played a part in our history.
Before closing I just want to touch upon the ending; Kyle closes the last chapter about the M16 with a story about a woman who, using the M16, is honored for her bravery for her actions that “saved the lives of numerous convoy members” (258). This woman didn’t consider herself a hero for her actions, not when those actions haunted her every time she closed her eyes for sleep. War and violence are not glamorous things. Sometimes it felt like Kyle was glamorizing war during some of the stories, but he was simply sharing the impact and the events where these specific guns played a part.
“Guns are not perfect—no model in our history has come to market fully finished without flaw. Neither have we. Man and gun have improved together, sometimes with ease, more often with great struggle and sacrifice” (262). This quote came from the epilogue, and I wish I had the space to quote more of it because Chris Kyle defends the 2nd amendment of the constitution with a passion and eloquence. There has been a great many evils done in the world, but there have also been a lot of good men who have done their part to protect others from that evil and have risked their own lives doing it. For whatever part firearms have played in the world, there will always be good and evil that will come from them, and such is the way with anything ever created by man.
So lets lift our glasses to a man who did the best he knew how to protect others from the darker machinations of others.