The entire special operations community, and those affiliated with or following it, remembers a tragic day in February of this year. The news that Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL sniper who holds the record for most confirmed kills in American history, was gunned down was heart-wrenching, particularly to those who knew him personally. In the time leading to his death, Kyle had been working on a unique and interesting project called American Gun: A History of the US in Ten Firearms. After his death, Jim DeFelice and William Doyle picked up where Kyle left off and made sure to see the book to its completion, as Kyle would have wanted. I am personally glad they did, as American Gun is a fascinating and thoughtful read.

I have said this for a while: firearms are a part of the American identity. Unlike most other nations, the United States was a nation born through the barrel of a rifle. Chris Kyle believed that as well, and set out to find ten iconic weapons that defined American history, as well as the men who wielded them. The book opens up with a moving foreword from Kyle’s widow, Taya, who declares that Kyle was a man who tended to downplay his intellect, but who possessed much of it, particularly in terms of history and firearms.

He had been shooting firearms since he was a child, and was also enamored with the history of the nation that he spent his life defending in some fashion or another. As soon as I moved past the foreword and launched into the chapter on the first weapon on Kyle’s list, it was apparent that Taya’s assessment of her husband was right on the money. The prose reads with a straightforward tone, absent of pomp or arrogance but abundant in confidence knowledge of the subject matter. It is also lock and step with Kyle’s background as a special operator, a quiet professional who knows his stuff.

The ten weapons that Kyle covers are: