A raucous and duly violent tour of American history through the sights of 10 famous weapons, from the Kentucky long rifle to the M-16.
There’s a touch of sadness to the second book by Kyle (American Sniper, 2012), given that Kyle—who co-authored this work with William Doyle—both became famous for his wartime sniper service and was himself gunned down by a PTSD-afflicted veteran he was trying to aid. The tragedy is compounded by the sheer likability of Kyle’s ebullient, if hyperconservative, persona on the page. From his rural Texas upbringing and his experiences in war, Kyle came to believe that “[m]ore than any other nation in history, the United States has been shaped by the gun.” He persuasively suggests that dramatic changes in firearms technology can be viewed as inextricable from the American Revolution, the closing of the Western frontier and, later, to American dominance on the world stage. Thus, he begins each chapter with a representational combat anecdote from the industrial and military narratives leading to each firearm’s development, noting how often bureaucracy stood in the way of technologies that aided soldiers. Kyle is skilled at explaining complex combat scenarios, and he addresses the many strange ironies of American firearms’ history with dry humor—e.g., regarding the “Tommy gun,” which developed unsavory criminal connotations before its vital role in World War II: “[Inventor] Thompson personally didn’t like the association, but few gangsters took the time to ask his opinion.” Kyle’s wry, relaxed tone is complemented by a foreword and afterword by his widow, who recalls a man who “had personality and character to spare.”
Will appeal to military buffs, conservative readers and, of course, firearms enthusiasts.