American Gun

 American Gun
© 2013 Chris Kyle
336 pages

Think of English history, and longbows, tall ships, and shieldwalls may come to mind; think of France, and perhaps the image is knights charging across an open field. But American history, from the colonies onward, has been written in guns. Hunting frontiersmen became rebels, created a nation, expanded its borders far and wide, and protected itself from enemies within and without. In American Gun, a much-lauded Navy SEAL reviews the history of ten firearms which have an outsized role in American history. Beginning with the long rifles of the colonial militia and wrapping up with the M-16 that began to be used two hundred years later, Kyle’s personable history mixes technical and political history; each chapter delves into the background of the firearm, the circumstances that prompted it to be designed and the path it took to be accepted. These are not all military weapons; the Colt that graces the cover of the book and the Winchester 1873 rifle were pervasive in the late 19th century as settlers filled and civilized the west, and a pistol associated strongly with the police appears in the latter half of the book. The ten guns are mostly rifles and pistols, with the Tommygun being an outlier; there are no shotguns. I read this chiefly because I thought it was such an interesting angle to view American history from, and quite appropriate. I was especially glad to read histories of pieces I have a fondness for, the Colt 1911 and the M1 Garand. There’s a lot of fascinating trivia in here; I’d long regarded the scenes of Lincoln firing Spencer repeating rifles on the White House lawn as fanciful, but apparently he was quite the shooting enthusiast. 

(Er…not quite Read of England material, but when I learned of the book I immediately wanted to read it.  The first chapter is all about England,’s just that Englishmen are being shot at…)

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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7 Responses to American Gun

  1. mudpuddle says:

    i've got a 1902 winchester .22 that was my dad's… he used it to shoot out street lights, bad boy that he was… interesting slant on history…

  2. Stephen says:

    I can't say anything…I wasn't armed as a kid, but I did considerable damage enough with my slingshots and hatchet! (Some friends of mine and I cleared out 'trails' in the woodland underbrush, sometimes taking out small trees…)

  3. CyberKitten says:

    Does he say anything about *why* the gun is so important in American culture/history? If not, can you recommend a book(s) that does? Coming from a non-gun culture it takes some getting my head around!

  4. Stephen says:

    There are a couple of books I'm considering on that subject…\”Gun Guys\”, in which a self-announced liberal Jewish democrat takes a tour of gun country; and \”First Freedom\”, a history of American gun enthusiasm.I can't speak for urban gunowners, but in the country, rifles and shotguns are important for leisure — people shoot squirrels, rabbits, birds, and of course deer. But there's also the fact that people genuinely like being armed. There's satisfaction in being able to handle one's own defense in the event of a home invasion, an attacker, whatever. It's confidence-inducing. A lot of us in the country also have regularexperiences with snakes, coyotes, that sort of thing. There's some cultural inertia, too, which we've mentioned before — since so much of the country remain rural for so long, there's a persistent value placed on firearms. The US has only been fully 'settled' for a hundred years, realy. Gun love is not class-based, either: I know an older retired minister who is as liberal and urbanite as you could ask for, but he and his similarly well-heeled friends regularly get together to hunt quail, turkey, or deer, so it's not as if hunting is just a 'redneck' thing. Being a fish in water, though, I don't know if it's entirely possible to communicate. Firing weapons is also fun, apparently…I say apparently because while I inherited my grandfather's shotgun, I've not used it — but I am VERY interested in trying, once I get around to buying ear protection and recruiting a patient relative to teach me the basics.

  5. Brian Joseph says:

    This sounds fascinating. America really does have a special cultural and psychological relationship with guns that seems unique. As the book seems to point out, some individual examples of guns have had great impact. I grew up in a rural area where guns were very much a part of our culture.

  6. Stephen says:

    According to a book I'm reading (but shouldn't until Read of England is over), 40% of Americans have firearms…which is more of us than who vote.

  7. Pingback: American Rifle | Reading Freely

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