American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms

US troops in action vs Filipinos 1899

US troops on the firing line in the Philippines, 1899

In American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms, legendary sniper and shooting victim Chris Kyle does exactly what he says on the cover.

He tracks the development of American guns and their place in US military and cultural history.

Except for the American Long Rifle and the Spencer Repeater, though,  the guns in the list can also be used to tell a parallel story of Philippine history.

The histories of the Philippines and the US even intersect in the Colt M1911 pistol, a gun developed specifically because standard issue .38 Colt revolvers and .30 Krags were not up to snuff in their war to pacify Mindanao.

Kyle writes, somewhat inaccurately, “our soldiers were fighting a fierce counterinsurgency war against radical Islamist Moro* tribesmen” and American guns did not have enough stopping power.

“Shoot them, and they just kept coming. It was like something out of a zombie movie,” Kyle says.

The US responded by developing a gun that could drop a horse.

The M1911, and the American military, was so successful that the .45 is the ideal gun for many Filipino gun owners and makers and America is still the ideal country.

Many of the other guns on Kyle’s list have been used either on Filipinos or by Filipinos. The Springfield Model 1903 was a standard issue rifle in the Spanish-American War–and therefore, the Philippine-American War– and until World War II.

Photo: Library of Congress

Photo: Library of Congress

The M1 Garand that replaced the Springfield was pretty much the war-time and post-war rifle for both the American and Filipino infantryman. The Garand–rather, a lame non-working reproduction made of wood and cheap metal–was the rifle that Filipinos who were required to take Citizen’s Army Training and ROTC marched with.

The M16 that replaced the Garand is still in use and has been writing stories, not all of them particularly noble or heroic ones, until now. Unfortunately, those stories are often written in the blood of fellow Filipinos.

Even the Thompson submachine gun, known more as a Prohibition-era gangster weapon, has a unique place in Philippine military history. Modified M3 versions were released to Marine Corps special-ops teams in 2005.



Also on Kyle’s list, and probably the gun with the most stories in the Philippines, is the .38 Special Police Revolver, the standard gun for security guards, old-school cops, and stick-up men.

An interesting note from Kyle: “Whether they’re used in war or for keeping the peace, guns are just tools. And like any tool,  the way they’re used reflects the society they’re part of.”


*Victory writes history and all that, but the Moros (or Non-Christian Tribes, if you like) were fighting for their land, which is not particularly radical nor Islamist.


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