American Sniper Rifles: 5 of Chris Kyle’s Favorite Sniper Rifles

Excellent research on a hot topic among 2A patriots.

American Sniper MovieWith the release of Clint Eastwood’s movie, American Sniper, this weekend, I thought it might be fitting to look at the favorite rifles of the American hero, Chris Kyle. In his autobiography, Kyle said people ask a lot about the weapons he used as a sniper, so he talked some in the book about the specific rifles he used. Kyle described the wide range of weapons and rifle systems he used in different situations, but I wanted to focus on the few he said were his favorite sniper rifles.

So, I went back and re-read his book, and scoured the internet for the best photos I could find of his actual rifles. I even contacted manufacturers like Accuracy International, GA Precision, Leupold, and Nightforce to get more specs on Chris Kyle’s rifle setups. I expected this all to be well documented, but it took a lot of detective…

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Best Round for Personal Defense?

AMmoOpinions regarding the best defensive handgun load are as numerous as empty shell casings on your gun range floor. I know one guy who keeps a 44 Magnum Taurus Tracker near the bed loaded with 340 grain +P Buffalo Bore cartridges. First, I don’t know if he’s ever discharged one of those through that revolver. Second, he lives in an apartment and has no concept of how far that lead will travel and what it will pass through on route to its final resting place.

One thing’s for sure. Someone has convinced him that bigger is better when it comes to ammo; something that the author does not believe is so. This commentary is not for those who hunt with handguns or just want to “bruise up” at the range. I know all about the need to feed the macho in each of us (sorry girls). I get that. Been there myself; used to drive a four wheel drive truck and never took it in the woods.

But, what do you/we actually need when we own or carry a weapon for personal defense? The answer depends on a couple of things – not the least, the skill of the shooter and the expected shooting environment. I’m going to assume that the reader keeps a loaded handgun near the bed and carries one on occasion. If so, the most popular calibers are .40 S&W, 9mm, and .45 ACP. I know, I know, there are others like the .357 magnum, .38 Special, or the .380. I’m not going to address those or the many others. I’ve only got so much space. I’m going to presume that you know how to handle a weapon and use it for personal defense which means that your target, according to research, is going to be no more than 21 feet away. More than likely, it will be closer than that, perhaps between 6-10 feet.

Manufacturers have greatly improved their offerings for personal defense usage. They now make loads with close proximity in mind and that means less powerful loads with lower grain counts and “controlled penetration”. Controlled penetration is a good thing in crowded environments. And these loads produce reduced recoil. Shotgun shell makers have offered “low recoil” ammo for years and people buy it – it’s easier to shoot, especially when discharging multiple shots. Less recoil means better accuracy. Less recoil means more comfort. In the right circumstances, it makes good sense. The same is true of “defense loads” and major ammo manufacturers know this.

Hornady, for example is offering it’s popular Critical Defense line in Lite FTX 90 grain versions. Glaser Safety Slugs were designed back in 1974 for Air Marshals; with obvious environmental needs in mind. They are available to the safety minded general public as well. The 110 grain .357 JHP loads from Remington, Federal, and Winchester are reported to produce less than 10 inch gelatin penetration in testing. These are a few examples – not endorsements – and there are many others.

If your need is for personal defense with expected close range firearm discharge, load up with cartridges that make sense. Many of us just look for the most powerful round on the shelf.

More often than not, that just isn’t smart.

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Kansas Fights the Good Fight

(credit Lyle Denniston, National Constitutional Center)



“It is unlawful for any official, agent or employee of the government of the United States…to enforce or attempt to enforce any act, law, treaty, order, rule or regulation of the government of the United States regarding a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately and owned in the state of Kansas and that remains within the borders of Kansas.”

– Excerpt from a Kansas law, known as S.B 102 and formally titled the “Second Amendment Protection Act,” enacted in that state last year, and now facing a challenge in federal court. Kansas was the latest of several states to pass such laws.

“The far-reaching nullification provisions of the Act are unconstitutional on their face under long-standing, fundamental legal principles. Neither the Kansas legislature, nor any state legislature, is empowered to declare federal law ‘invalid,’ or to criminalize the enforcement of federal law. Any legislation or state action seeking to nullify federal law is prohibited by the Supremacy Clause, Article VI, Section 2, of the United States Constitution.”

– Excerpt from a lawsuit filed in federal court in Kansas on July 9, seeking a ruling that would strike down the Kansas law on gun rights.


From time to time in American constitutional history, a revival of states’ rights sentiment has led to efforts to place state governments between citizens and the federal government, to thwart excessive use of national power. The idea, never accepted by the Supreme Court as valid, is based on the theory that the Constitution was actually a creature of the states, joining together in a compact to give some – but not all – power to a central government. The states, the theory goes, are the ultimate arbiters of how governing power should be distributed and exercised.

Sometimes, these efforts are called “nullification,” because they would simply declare national actions unconstitutional and thus void. At other times, they have been called “interposition,” which describes the state as standing up against federal power.   The theory does have some respectable pedigree: It had the endorsement of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in what are known as the “Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.”

The theory led to a national crisis, in the Andrew Jackson administration, over state resistance to the tariff on trade with other countries. And, of course, belief in the need for nullification of attempts to end slavery was a cause of the Civil War.   The idea had a revival in Southern opposition to the modern civil rights movement’s campaign for national laws to protect racial minorities. Indeed, much of the resistance movement in the South during the 1950s was based at least in part on the theory of interposition.

With the recent rise of the Tea Party movement, with its fervent opposition to concentration of governing power in Washington, the movement once again is gaining adherents. Some part of the resistance to the new federal health care law, for example, can be traced to the theory of state power to nullify national legislation that is said to be over-bearing or over-reaching.

In the past few years, the intensification of the demand for strong personal rights to have and carry guns is bringing back the nullification idea.   It does not appear to have much promise of succeeding; just last February, the Supreme Court turned down – without any explanation – a plea by gun rights enthusiasts in Montana to allow that state to forbid the enforcement of federal guns laws against the owners of guns manufactured and kept inside that state.

But the resistance of the Supreme Court and lower courts has not deterred these efforts. A year ago, the legislature in Kansas became the latest to adopt a nullification law, aimed directly at federal gun laws that the legislature believed violated the Second Amendment right to have and carry guns.   As other states have done, Kansas’s lawmakers confined the law to guns that were made and kept inside the state’s borders – a clear attempt to get around the argument that the state was attempting to interfere with interstate commerce in gun manufacture and distribution.

As soon as that law was signed formally by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., wrote a letter to the governor, denouncing S.B. 102 as unconstitutional.   “Under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution,” Holder wrote, “Kansas may not prevent federal employees and officials from carrying out their official responsibilities. And a state certainly may not criminalize the exercise of federal responsibilities.”   He warned that there would be no let-up in enforcement of those laws and duties inside Kansas.

Except for some back-and-forth in public statements on the issue, the controversy has not yet been resolved one way or the other. However, last month, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence went into federal court with a new lawsuit, asking a judge to strike down the Kansas measure as a clear violation of the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.   The lawsuit provided a lengthy list of federal gun restrictions that would be nullified in Kansas, if the law were allowed to remain on the books.

The lawsuit will take some time to run its course. A central question that will arise as the case moves forward is whether Kansas has succeeded – where other states have failed – in showing that the gun trade can actually be confined within a state’s borders, and have no effect on the commerce in guns nationwide.   Given the ease with which guns move across state borders, it will be very hard for Kansas to prove that it can set its guns apart from what happens with guns across the country.  

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