With 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 work to put together clues from different places. Some of it is hard facts from the man himself, other specs are what he most likely used based on what was issued at the time of his active duty, and some specs are based on my own research and identifying products based on photos of his rifles.
His .300 Win Mag
In his autobiography, Chris Kyle starts by describing the AR-style, semi-auto, black guns that he used, like the US Navy Mk-12 5.56 Rifle, and the SR-25 7.62 Rifle (aka Mk-11). Although those rifles served a purpose, Kyle wasn’t a huge fan of either. In fact, he talked about how the SR-25 had a bad reputation of jamming up in the field. He finished the section on the SR-25 by saying “There were other issues with the weapon, however, and personally it was never one of my favorites.” That was immediately followed by his words, “The .300 is in another class entirely.”
Kyle was a huge fan of the .300 Win Mag, and for good reason. It has vastly superior stopping power over the common 5.56 NATO (aka 223 Rem), and vastly improved ballistics over the common 7.62x51mm (aka 308 Win).
In his book, Kyle said, “I used the .300 Win Mag for most of my kills. It’s an excellent all-around cartridge, whose performance allows for superb accuracy as well as stopping power. The .300 is a little heavier gun by design. It shoots like a laser. Anything from 1,000 yards and out, you’re just plain nailing it. And on closer targets, you don’t have to worry about too much correction for your come-ups. You can dial in your 500 yard dope and still hit a target from 100-700 yards without worrying too much about making minute adjustments.”
While the Mk-12 and Mk-11 were both semi-automatic rifles, Kyle’s .300 Win Mag was a manual bolt-action. Kyle said “Other services fire the round from different (or slightly different) guns; arguably, the most famous is the Army’s M-24 Sniper Weapon System, which is based on the Remington 700 rifle. (Yes, that is the same rifle civilians can purchase for hunting.) In our case, we started out with McMillan stocks, customized the barrels, and used 700 action. These were nice rifles.”
Although Kyle doesn’t specify that this was a SOCOM Mk-13 in his book, industry experts tell me that is likely what he was using. Here are the most likely components for the rifle Kyle is shown using in the photos above:
- Remington 700 Long Action
- Lilja Precision 26.5” 1:10 Barrel
- McMillan A-2 Tactical Stock with saddle-type adjustable cheek-piece
- McCann Industries Integrated Rail System (MIRS) Rifle Mount
- Remington Factory Trigger
- M16 Extractor Bolt Modification
- Nightforce 20 MOA Picatinny Rail
- Nightforce High Rings (allows proper alignment with nightvision optics)
- Nightforce NXS 8-32×56 Scope
- Knights Armament Mk-11 Suppressor (aka SR-25 Suppressor)
- Harris 6-9” Swivel Bipod
Kyle mentioned in the book that he ran his .300 Win Mag suppressed. The .300 Win Mag Mk-13 was designed to use the same suppressor as his Mk-11 (aka SR-25 7.62 NATO), which was the Knights Armament Mk-11 Suppressor.
“Scopes are an important part of the weapon system. Overseas, I used a 32-power scope. As a SEAL, I used Nightforce scopes. They have very clear glass, and they’re extremely durable under terrible conditions. They always held their zero for me,” said Kyle. If you take that info to consideration, the scope in the photos must be a Nightforce NXS 8-32×56. However, a Nightforce rep told me that at the time of Kyle’s service, the Nightforce NXS 5.5-22×56 was a popular choice on magnum rifles. He added that at the time, they were configured with 0.25 MOA click adjustments, and either the Nightforce Mil-dot or MLR reticles. Towards the end of Kyle’s career, scopes with Nightforce’s ZeroStop feature were getting phased into use.
You can see in the photos the McMillan stock he was using on his .300 Win Mag had their lightweight saddle-style adjustable cheek-piece, instead of the integral cheek-piece like the one on his .338 Lapua. That makes it easy to tell those rifles apart in photos, in addition to the suppressor (he never had a suppressor for his .338).
The factory Remington trigger was tuned to 2 pounds. Kyle said “I used a 2 pound trigger on my rifles. That’s a fairly light pull. I want the trigger to surprise me every time; I don’t want to jerk the gun as I fire. I was no resistance: Get set, get ready, put my finger and gently start squeezing, and it goes off.”
But, Kyle tells us he received an upgraded .300 Win Mag during one of his tours (likely the Mk-13 Mod 5): “In my third platoon – the one that went to Ramadi – we got all new .300s. These used Accuracy International stocks, with a brand-new barrel and action. The AI version had a shorter barrel and a folding stock. They were bad-ass.”
In 2013, sculptor Greg Marra wanted to pay tribute to Chris Kyle by making a life-size sculpture of the hero as a gift to his family. It was important to Marra that the statue was holding an exact replica of Kyle’s rifle, down to the smallest detail. Kyle’s wife allowed Marra to use his rifle for the project, and he contracted a company named NVision to scan a high-resolution 3D model of the rifle.
The rifle pictured below is Kyle’s sniper rifle they scanned for the sculpture. It’s the rifle he used the most, and is likely what he would have called “his sniper rifle,” if he had to pick just one.
Watch the news report about scanning the rifle for the sculpture:
His .338 Lapua Mag
In his book, Kyle mentioned they didn’t have .338 Lapua rifles in training, but started getting them later during the war. Unlike his other weapons, it wasn’t type classified rifle or caliber, meaning there wasn’t a detailed specification for the rifle. Kyle said “there are a number of different manufacturers, including McMillan and Accuracy International.”
Kyle recounts “I used a .338 on my last deployment. I would have used it more if I’d had it.” He goes on to say, “The bullet shoots farther and flatter than a .50 caliber, weighs less, costs less, and will do just about as much damage. They are awesome weapons.” He was obviously a big fan of the .338 Lapua, and the only drawback he mentioned was “my model’s lack of a suppressor. When you’re shooting inside a building, the concussion is strong enough that it’s a pain – literally. My ears would hurt after a few shots.”
This was the rifle that he made his longest confirmed kill with, which was a 2,100 yard shot. That is 1.2 miles (or 1.92 km for you metric guys)! Kyle includes the photo below in his book, and adds this caption: “A close-up of my Lapua .338, the gun I made my longest kill with. You can see my ‘dope’ card – the placard on the side contains my come-ups (adjustments) needed for long-range targets. My 2,100 yard shot exceeded the card’s range, and I had to eyeball it.” Wow.
His .338 was the rifle featured on the cover of his autobiography, American Sniper. The rifle image was likely extracted from the photo below of Chris Kyle with the rifle.
This photo of his .338 Lapua rifle was also included in his autobiography, on the inside cover.
The scope on that rifle resembled a Leupold design, so I contacted Leupold Tactical to see if they could identify the model. They said it looked to be a Leupold Mark 4 3.5-10x40mm LR/T Illuminated model. Based on Kyle’s time of service, they said the scope likely featured their TMR reticle, but they couldn’t be sure. So at 10x magnification, that makes the 2,100 yard shot even more impressive!
I’ve heard people say it was a McMillan TAC-338 rifle, although Kyle didn’t specify in his book. But as I was researching this, I noticed McMillan has a rifle package for the TAC-338 that looks virtually identical to the photos of Kyle’s rifle from his autobiography. From the scope, to the rings, to the stock, to the MIRS rail, to the muzzle brake, to the bipod, to the bottom metal and magazine, and even the leather sling! I’m going to go out on a limb and say he had the McMillan TAC-338 Rifle Package.
Here are the specs that are on the McMillan TAC-338 Rifle Package, and likely what was on the Kyle’s .338 Lapua rifle as well:
- McMillan G30 Long Action
- McMillan A5 Stock with integral adjustable cheek-piece, spacer system for adjustable length of pull, flush cups, and one stud
- Schneider 26.5” Medium-Heavy Contour Barrel with 1:10” twist
- McMillan tactical muzzle brake
- Leupold Mark 4 3.5-10×40 LR/T scope with M1 turret and illuminated mil-dot reticle
- 20 MOA scope base made by McMillan
- McCann Industries Integrated Rail System (MIRS) Rifle Mount
- Turner Saddlery Synthetic Leather Sling
- Harris 6-9” Swivel Bipod
In the movie, American Sniper, they tried to stay true to the rifles and techniques Kyle actually used. Bradley Cooper went to multiple training sessions with Scott Reitz of International Training Seminars to learn basic techniques on breathing and marksmanship before they started filming the movie. You can see Cooper is holding a McMillan TAC-338 Rifle Package in the photo at the range with his trainer. So obviously, the movie producers thought that was the rifle Kyle used as well.
His Favorite Post-Service Rifle
When you’re in service, you don’t get a lot of choices for which rifle you use. They’re issued to you, and you use them. Kyle was obviously proficient with any rifle you put in his hands. But, the question that is interesting to me is “What did a rifle expert like Chris Kyle choose to shoot after he retired from active service and could pick anything he wanted?” He gives us the answer in his book:
“Since I’m talking about guns, I’ll mention that my current favorites are the weapons systems made by GA Precision, a very small company started in 1999 by George Gardner. He and his staff pay close attention to every detail, and his weapons are just awesome. I didn’t get a chance to try one until I got out of the service, but now they’re what I use.”
I contacted George Gardner, and asked for more specifics of the rifle that he built for Kyle. George said Kyle was referring to his GA Precision Gladius chambered in 308, and he sent me this photo of Kyle holding his GAP rifle.
Gardner said Kyle’s rifle was a standard Gladius, although “standard” is a poor adjective for such a rifle. It is a tackdriver, and GAP guarantees the rifle to shoot 1/2 MOA groups or better with match-grade factory ammo.
You can see in the photos, Kyle continued to use Nightforce scopes as well. However, I was able to zoom into one of the the photos of Kyle with his rifle and see that the lowest power was 5x … not 5.5 or 8. That means it’s likely a Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56 scope topping his GAP Gladius.
You can see in the photo a box a Black Hills Match ammo. Kyle says in his book, that while he was in service “Our rounds were match-grade ammo bought from Black Hills, which makes probably the best sniper ammo around.” That’s quite a statement coming from Chris Kyle. He obviously believed that, because it looks like he continued to use Black Hills ammo even as a civilian.
The .50 Cal
This may come as a surprise, but Kyle was not a fan of .50 cals … at least not most of them. He said, “The fifty is huge, extremely heavy, and I just don’t like it. I never used on in Iraq. There’s a certain amount of hype and even romance for these weapons, which shoot a 12.7x99mm round. There are a few different specific rifles and variations in service with the US military and other armies around the world. You’ve probably heard of the Barrett M-82 or the M-107, developed by Barrett Firearms Manufacturing. They have enormous ranges and in the right application are certainly good weapons. I just didn’t like them all that much.”
He goes on to say, “Everyone says that the .50 is a perfect anti-vehicle gun. But the truth is that if you shoot the .50 through a vehicle’s engine block, you’re not actually going to stop the vehicle. Not right away. The fluids will leak out and eventually it will stop moving. But it’s not instant by any means. A .338 or even a .300 will do the same thing. No, the best way to stop a vehicle is to shoot the driver. And that you can do with a number of weapons.”
But, Kyle did explicitly make one exception to his comments about the .50 cal rifles, saying “The one .50 I do like is the Accuracy International model, which has a more compact, collapsible stock and a little more accuracy; it wasn’t available to us at the time.” Here is the Accuracy International .50 caliber model Kyle was referring to, the AI AX50:
About Chris Kyle
For those of you that may have been under a rock for the past decade, Chris Kyle was a US Navy Seal and the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. Kyle, a Texas native, served four combat tour in Iraq and elsewhere between the start of the war and 2008. He retired as chief petty officer, and along the way, collected an armload of hardware, including two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor. “That’s just candy,” Kyle said. “That’s not why we were there.”
Kyle authored a #1 New York Times Bestselling ed pills book American Sniper. He donated part of his cut of the book’s profit to the families of fallen servicemen and veteran charities. Kyle started Craft International after he retired from the service, a training company for elite military and law enforcement professionals. Kyle understood the difficulties a veteran goes through adapting back to civilian life, and he tried to help fellow veterans make that shift. Kyle was at a range with a 25 year old veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), when the young man turned a weapon on Kyle.
Kyle’s years of service, and admirable character attracted thousands of people who lined the highways during his funeral procession to pay honor to the fallen hero and his family. More than rifles, and even his military campaigns, Chris Kyle is a man worth celebrating. Sure, he had flaws like you and me. But Kyle was a man who was selflessly giving of himself not only to his country, but to other veterans who faced the same struggles he had himself … to the point of death. May the memory and the life of the man behind the rifle live on in each of us.
Thanks. The amount time and detail is really impressive and the knowledge passed is GTG.
Awesome! Glad you liked it. I really had to do some detective work to get it all together, but luckily I know people at the different companies involved and can pretty quickly recognize some of the components. I had read his book a couple years ago and enjoyed it more than I thought I would going into it. I just had so many friends asking if I’d read it that I felt like I had too. I’m not really into the military sniper part of long-range shooting, although I know a lot of shooters are. But Kyle truly was a hero worth celebrating. As a native West Texan myself, its an honor to have written about Chris Kyle.
I just got done reading his book and his was telling about his longest shot and he said he was looking through his 25 power scope at his target
Wow, that’s great info. There is a debate out there on what scope he used, but I didn’t remember him saying that in the book. I appreciate you letting us know.
In page 346,in the book that i read.
What kind of camo is on his precision gladius .308 win
It’s a Multicam Dip on the stock. See GAP’s product detail page for more info: http://www.gaprecision.net/gladius.html
I think it’s cool that he could chose any caliber he wanted post war and he chose the 308. That’s what I’m looking for probably in a Remington 700.
That’s certainly true, Mr. Wolf. It has a lot of desirable qualities. It is a milder recoil cartridge, and packs a respectable amount of energy down range. I will say that there are cartridges out there that offer superior external ballistics and less recoil. If you’re looking to shoot targets at long range, and don’t need the terminal performance like he did … then you might be interested in checking out these posts before you commit to the 308:
How Much Does Cartridge Matter?
Best Rifle Caliber – What The Pros Use
I’m certainly not trying to convince you the 308 isn’t a great cartridge. It is. Lots of great shooters love the 308, but there are just other more modern cartridges to consider that could increase your hit probability on long range targets. I’m just trying to help you make an informed decision.
I have to ask: is the Honorable Mr. Kyle’s thoughts on the viability of the .338, and more specifically the .50 caliber platforms ability to stop a vehicle based on limited data? Most VBIED are of the non-armored type. The .50 RauFoss and the .338, in some cases, have the ability to pierce light armor plating to reach the engine block. Yet the 300 Win Mag that Kyle used was never designed, nor recommended, for such duty. His capacity as a S.E.A.L. sniper deployed in Iraq (or Afghanistan) would not have normally put his abilities to a real test against military grade light armored vehicles.
Could this be the reason why he indicated that “…even a .300 will do the same thing. No, the best way to stop a vehicle is to shoot the driver. And that you can do with a number of weapons” ? Because, I am fairly certain that a 300 Win Mag could not penetrate a military grade light armored window to hit the driver.
I think this is important to note in the event that someone mistakenly attempts to “stop” a light armored vehicle with something less than .50 BMG, only to be shown the error at an inopportune moment that gets troops killed in action due to inaccurate data.
Man, you got me. I’m not a military sniper and don’t claim to be. He didn’t indicate armoured or unarmoured, so I can’t speculate.
But you have to admit the 50 cal is a different kind of weapon than the others he preferred to use. I’ve heard 1.5-2.0 MOA accuracy is viewed as outstanding with a 50 cal. I bet all his other rifles were sub-MOA rifles. It’s just different. I can see his point.
The 50 isn’t a good antipersonnel weapon. But it wasn’t designed to be an antipersonnel weapon. As he said there are a lot of weapons that can do a better job that are lighter, smaller, more accurate, and less expensive.
What the .50 does best and was designed for is hard target interdiction. Unless there is something I haven’t seen yet, Mk 211 is the only match grade API round in use.
It’s meant to destroy critical equipment. It also does a great job turning cover into concealment.
Jon, I have a friend who was special forces and this week he told me the story of the first time he used a 50 in combat. It clearly corroborates what you’re saying here. I don’t feel at liberty to share the details, but it did “a great job turning cover into concealment.” Honestly, I’ve only fired a 50 a few times, and I’m not a veteran … so I can’t speak to this. I appreciate the input!
I am just taking a stab at this but most all of the enemy combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan use civilian vehicles as their transportation. I would have to say range would be a big consideration with the 300 Win. penetrating ballistic glass and I do not know what range it would work to. There are a lot of variables when considering this such as angle and distance. As a comparison the 300 Win has 3500 ft/lb muzzle energy while the 338 Lapua has 4350 ft/lb of muzzle energy, either one inside of a couple hundred yards will punch through ballistic glass but you must also take into account the bullets used which for both rounds are HPBT match bullets that are not designed for hard target penetration. The best I can say is a 300 Win. with the right bullet would punch right through the ballistic glass probably out past 500yds.
Thanks for the input, Joseph. I’ve never tried shooting through glass myself … so I’ll defer to others on this topic. But, like you mentioned, I’m sure terminal performance of the bullet has a huge impact on the result (pun intended).
Most enemy vehicles in his AO were not military. They were regular civilian beaters carrying explosives.
B-Dog, You’re correct about the .300 Win Mag. It wasn’t designed to penetrate a ‘military grade light armored window’. Kyle says (later)…”…..like other S.E.A.L. snipers, we had little say in our choice of weapons we used’. This indicates to me, ‘you shoot what you’re handed’. I’m guessing the .300 Win Mag they were handed was built on the M70 frame work. Which is adequate for everyday hunting.
Winchester rifles have not been used since Vietnam by the US military.
I dont think he was alluding to using .338 on military grade vehicles. How often were these seen in combat after the invasion? A .50 caliber leaves only a fraction of its kenetic energy inside a soft or lightly armored (personal body armor) target. A .338 vs .50 against soft targets would be almost minimal in difference, IMHO. As far as soft skinned vehicles, windshields, and barriers, the .50 cal wins, but the .338 still has tramendous penetrating power through most common barriers, such as cinder blocks, brick, soft skinned vehicles and glass. Its also lighter. As a former shooter, I can appreciate a lighter more mobile weapon system. Lugging around an M107 (that is horrendously inaccurate for a sniper weapons system) is impractical and unweildly. A .338 can more than handle most encounters in our type of non-conventional war.
I was never there, and am only speculating, but I would imagine most of the vehicles he was shooting through were not armored in any way. They were probably pickup trucks loaded down with explosives trying to blow someone up.
Great article. Keep up the great work..
Nice job on the write up. Very accurate information. To say something about the stopping the vehicle comment, in his book, most of the time they were stopping civilian type vehicles loaded with multiple insurgents or explosives and a single driver. I would suspect this is what he was mainly referring to. That’s simply my thoughts and opinion….not a solid fact.
Thanks for the feedback. That’s what I was thinking, too. – Cal
Whether it is Davey Crockett envisioned using a .36 cal squirrel gun to precision in the Alamo, Billly Dixon using a .50×90 Sharps from the Adobe Walls, Audie Murphy sharpshooting the Nazis with his .30 M1 carbine or Chris Kyle in the desert armed with a .300WM…the commonality is a Texan taking action against overwhelming odds. I say this not to glorify war but to enumerate the instances when war was’t the ugliest of things but as John Stuart Mill told us ..”the ugliest is the man who thinks nothing is worth fighting and dying for and lets men better and braver than himself protect him.”..Fourin & Dumbeztik
Wow, CR … That’s a powerful quote. I hadn’t heard that before. Thanks for sharing! – Cal
I believe Davy Crockett was born on a mountaintop in Tennessee….. unless Walt Disney was lying.
Yes, sir. Wikipedia says Davy was born in Tennessee and died in Texas (and you can believe it because it is on the internet!).
So he died a pissed off, fighting Texan … We’ll claim him! Honorary Texan!
That Lone Star sure is inspiring when you consider how sacred it is for men like Chris Kyle and Marcus Luttrell. There are men like Mike Murphy and Richard Winters who will never ever be forgotten (NY and PA respectively) for they have earned their place in our history, but such respect for one’s State, Culture, Values and God is simply not found anywhere else in our great country.
shoot, and here I thought Davey Crockett was from Limestone, Tennessee
If the GAP Gladius is a 308 why is the Black Hills ammunition clearly marked 223? Looking at the magazine and ejection port in the photo, they look a bit too small to be chambered for a 308.
Maybe he had one in each caliber?
I noticed the ammo was marked 223, but figured they just threw down a box of ammo that was laying around to make the picture look cool. While I was researching, I asked George (owner of GAP) specifically about what cartridge he built, and confirmed it was a 308. You’re right, he may have had more than one. The spent cases in that photo look closer to 308 to me, but it’d be hard to tell them apart for sure.
I think you do a great job on your writing and research. I want to throw out some details on Chris Kyle’s rifles that you listed. On the Navy Seal MK13, the stock is a McMillan A2. That was the stock used on all of the Mk13 rifles until the implementation of the Accuracy international AI chassis system. The A4 as you listed was designed by McMillan for the Marine Corp M40A3. There are exceptions of course, but he pictures of his rifles posted are McMillan A2’s.
The 338 is a McMillan Tac338. McMillan stated on their facebook page recently that the rifle used by Chris was given to him personally by McMillan prior to one of his tours in Iraq. The scope on that rifle is either a 6.5-20×50 Mark 4, or a 8.5-25. The scope in the McMillan brochure you posted is also mismarked as a 3.5-10. That scope is one of the higher powered models listed above.
Thank you for all you! I think your information is great and look forward to your posts.
Thanks, George. I’ll update the article to reflect it being a McMillan A2 instead of a A4. I was going to ask McMillan that in person in a couple days at SHOT Show, but it sounds like you know what you’re talking about … so I bet that’s right.
I did ask Leupold directly about the scope, and they thought it was a Leupold 3.5-10. I will talk to McMillan about the rifle at SHOT next week, and see if they can confirm that it was a different scope. It sounds like you might be guessing, so at this point I’m going to stick with Leupold’s guess … but I promise to following up on it with manufacturers when I see them on Tuesday and Wednesday in Las Vegas. I’ll update the post ASAP if I find out anything different than what is already posted.
I do appreciate the feedback. Like I mentioned, this stuff wasn’t obvious or well documented. So I’m hoping readers like you will help firm up any of the fuzzy details. So thanks for taking the time to comment.
Cal…thanks for a terrific article.
Reblogged this on Arctic Specter and commented:
After having read the book before ever going to sniper school, Chris Kyle was a bit of an icon to me. Here we have a closer look at some of the guns he used in his craft.
The ammo in question is 308. If you notice the box of 223 is a 50rd. box and inside is a single tray that holds 50rds of 223. The 308 he is shooting is in 20rd. Styrofoam trays which is how they are packaged from Black Hills. 223 = 50rd. boxes, 308 = 20rd. boxes. He must have been playing with an Ar also.
Yep. Good eye. Thanks for pointing that out.
Great information, but the bit about Chris Kyle’s “admirable character” is way off the mark. The guy was a psychopath. It worries me how many similar characters are drawn to shooting, and it worries me even more when a guy so clearly vicious is lauded as a hero to be looked up to.
While I disagree, everyone is entitled to there opinion. I didn’t personally know the man, but believe many people cast stones at the thought of war, not the man … and that’s unfortunate.
In one scene of the movie, they touch on an old analogy about sheep, wolves, and the sheepdog. Here is a quote by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman worth considering:
Yes, Kyle had a capacity for violence, but I believe he also had a deep love for his fellow citizens. Why else would he have spent so much time trying to help fellow veterans and the families of fallen soldiers? Why was he at the range the day he was murdered? Do you think he didn’t have anything better to do that day? He had a deep sense of duty, and he cared about people. That means he isn’t a sociopath, but a warrior … a hero.
Was he perfect? That’s ludicrous … we’re all flawed, you and me included! But should we only celebrate perfect people?
Here’s a link to the full article by LTC Dave Grossman named On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdog.
If it makes the gong ring I like the caliber…the more pleasant the recoil and the less the blast rings my tinnitus through my hearing protection even better. Such a shame the 80r .224 doesn’t have a BC to compete with the 6mm bullets. I think the reason Chris had a box of .223 ammo laying around handy for the photo shoot was that he enjoyed shooting and teaching with pleasant calibers. Do we know of anyone that took training with his company so as to find the caliber(s) called for in their syllabus ?
You’re probably right. He at least preferred those smaller calibers when you weren’t concerned about the energy being delivered down range. I’m the same way. I love my 7mm Rem Mag … awesome rifle. But I fire my mid-sized 6mm rifle a lot more. One I grab for a match, the other I grab for hunting (or when I know I’ll have shots beyond 1200 yards).
Cal, great article. Thanks for your hard work to keep us curious informed.
Yeah, honestly I was curious about this stuff myself!
Great article Cal. I’ve read the book twice and always wanted to see a breakdown on the specific weapons he used with accessories. As always, well done!
Thanks, Ryan. Same here … I found it all interesting as well. – Cal
Regarding rifle distance. The standard 30.6 hunting rifle (some call it a 30-06) is a very good rifle. A laser scope could let you hit your mark out to, and past 1,000 yards with a bit of practice and training. That is 3,000 feet or 2/3 of a mile. If you want to hit something further out I would suggest that a 50 caliber. Let me quote an ARMY TRAINING DOC: “Training will result in a .50 cal Barrett at 1.5 mile distance, hitting a human profile.” (7,920 feet away) Many would suggest a tripod, or a fixed point on a building or vehicle is helpful. Again, a laser scope is highly suggested to create accuracy at a distance. For the record the book American Sniper does discuss a few very good rifles, but at the end of the day – I have to go with what I know.
Man, I appreciate the suggestion … But you certainly don’t need a 50 cal to get hits beyond 1000 yards. I have personally done it regularly, and lots of other readers of this blog have as well. I’ve shot my 7mm Rem Mag to a mile (1760 yards). A 338 Lapua is effective beyond 2,000 yards. I’ve seen two different guys get 10 hits from 10 shots on a 2,000 yard target on my range. I don’t want to make it sound easy (it takes a lot of practice with any cartridge), but you definitely don’t need a 50 cal to shoot beyond 1,000 yards.
Thank you Cal. Well written and researched.
Hi Cal –
I first got to know Kyle on Stars Earn Stripes three years ago, along with other SF personnel. His story got me and I researched him then. Today, I saw ‘American Sniper ‘ and found it to be a fairly well thought out movie. As a gun owner, I’m thankful for the prior posts. While I’m somewhat versed in sniper rifles, I never realised there were so many. The ones Kyle used, especially the McMillan, I’m aware of. I think the only type of gun I haven’t shot is a sniper rifle.
Note: Website author removed politically charged statement at the end of this comment (that was actually pretty funny ;)). I just don’t want to start a fight on here.
Bookmarked for when i hit the Powerball. Probably won’t make me a better shot, but still good to know. In the meantime, me, my $400 Savage Axis, and my $16/20 box of 30-06 Monarch are heading out to the back yard!
I always tell people looking for a rifle under $1000, Savage is the way to go! Go get ’em, buddy!
I did hear today at SHOT Show that the McMillan TAC-338 has been discontinued. Sad day, but there are other great options. Many say the Sako TRG-42 is clearly the best value ($4000), and the Accuracy International may be the best 338 Lapua overall ($8000). Of course custom rifles like those made by Surgeon Rifles or GA Precision are exceptional as well. Just wanted to pass on the news, and give you some alternatives for when you hit that jackpot!
Nicely written article, well done I enjoyed reading the exerpts from “American Sniper”, the book. A lot of information presented on precisionrifleblog.com. Thank you Cal for the article, and I thank those, who have, and continue to comment.
Thanks, Andrew. Glad to know you find the content is interesting.
Cal thank you for putting a stop to all the BS here. It is refreshing to talk about guns without having to read a bunch of arguing about something not even related to the topic at hand. I will be doing more reading of your articles in the future.
Didn’t he get a ton of kills still with the SR25 and have the ejection port problem figured out?
That said… weird that his personal rifle is only a .308 for a bolt gun when he could have stuck with a .300 Win Mag or a .338 Lapua in his personal life. I wonder what made him stick with a .308 after not really using it in a bolt action form for the military.
He likely did get a ton a kills with the SR-25, but he said most were with his 300 Win Mag. Regarding the SR-25, he did specifically say “There were other issues with the weapon, however, and personally it was never one of my favorites.” So, yeah … it didn’t make the list of his favorites.
I’m not sure why he went back with 308. I think most people prefer a mid-size cartridge over a magnum, because of the mild recoil. The 308 is also touted by many to be one of the most inherently accurate cartridges. There is a lot of nostalgia around the cartridge. Maybe he just liked the GAP Gladius, which comes chambered in 308 Win. But, unfortunately we can’t ask him … so this is all inference. Wish I could be more help.
I would bet the recoil factor Cal mentioned was a factor. When your hunting big game or desert camels your adrenalin makes you recoil proof but when you are training guys day after day you remember where those big gold inlays are .
Yeah, I was actually just looking back through his book to respond to a different comment and saw this excerpt:
Everyone shoots better with less recoil … apparently even a hard-as-nails Navy Seal. It’s refreshing to hear someone admit that. You can certainly reduce the effects of recoil if you shoot a magnum rifle a lot and do a lot of dry-fire drills, but ultimately … even the huge, tough guys like Kyle are more accurate with milder recoil rifles.
“5 of Chris Kyle’s Favorite Sniper Rifles”.
I think you missed one… was the 5th… the MK11?
Sorry. I figured that might be confusing. I almost titled it “4 Favorite Rifles” … but I was counting his 300 Win Mags as 2 rifles (the Mk-13 Mod 4 and Mk-13 Mod 5), because they were very different. The 1st had a McMillan fiberglass stock, and the 2nd had a folding AICS chassis and shorter barrel. They were very different rifles, and he liked both of them … but the 2nd one a little better.
So here’s my count of the 5:
Sorry for the confusion.
On a related note … it didn’t sound like he was a big fan of the Mk-11. In the section in his book titled Mk-11, he specifically said “There were other issues with the weapon, however, and personally it was never one of my favorites.” He used it … just didn’t make the list of favorites.
Reblogged this on The Lynler Report.
Awesome article, awesome movie and book, American Sniper, and a true american hero and patriot.
Cal, do we have any idea what reticle(s) Chris Kyle used in scopes?
He used a few. On his long-range rifles, he mostly used Nightforce scopes. The guys at Nightforce said those scopes were equipped with either their mil-dot or MLR reticle. He also had a Leupold scope, and the guys at Leupold thought it was probably their TMR or mil-dot reticle. Those are all mil-based reticles with either classic round mil-dots or an “improved mil-dot design” with hash marks.
If you want to see diagrams for all those reticles I mentioned, check out this post:
Tactical Scopes Reticles
Savage supposedly makes a great rifle in the .338 Lapua, any thoughts on that? (Saw the movie last night, AWESOME, eerie at the end, very quiet.
Yeah, I’ve now seen the movie twice (once in Texas and once last week in Las Vegas) and the crowd reaction was exactly like you described. Very quiet. I feel like Clint Eastwood was trying to shape the ending into a moment of silence for Kyle. It worked. Everyone just sat there for a minute in silence before anyone moved. It was eerie.
I have had 2 friends that have owned a Savage 110 BA 338 Lapua. Both rifles shot 1.0-1.5 MOA (both at 100 yards and long-range). One guy was a hunter and was tickled to get 8-9″ groups at 600 yards. He ended up taking an elk with it in Colorado at 900 yards. He’s happy with his Savage rifle. My other buddy was NOT happy with that kind of accuracy, and traded it in for a Sako TRG-42 also chambered for 338 Lapua. That rifle is awesome. On a windless day, he was able to hit a target at 2,000 yards 10 times with 10 shots. He also had repeated problems with extraction on the Savage rifle, with a couple different types of match-grade factory ammo. It cut our shooting session short on two occasions that I can remember. It was a pain.
Many feel like the Sako TRG-42 is the best value for a 338 Lapua precision rifle. Bryan Litz is one of the most respected precision rifle shooters, and I know he personally owns a Sako TRG-42 338 Lapua (see photo).
But the Sako TRG-42 is about $4000 from EuroOptic.com, where the Savage 110 BA is around $2000. I guess it depends on your budget and what kind of accuracy you’re looking for. Hope this helps.
The LRF was the Vectronix AN/PEQ-8 procured under an 2001 IDIQ thru NSWC Crane and is a PLRF15 that Vectronix specifically manufactured to the contract requirements.
Thanks, Mike. Kyle also mentioned this in his book: “On deployments, I used a Leica range finder to determine how far I was from a target.” (page 104) In the movie, I recognized a Leica rangefinder and a pair of Vectronix Vectors as well. I got to test out a pair of Vectronix Vector 23 ranging binos (retail for $24,000) in a field test last year … they are AWESOME!!! The binos I had looked identical to the set I saw in the movie. I was able to accurately range targets at 18 miles, they can range through glass, and they have a ton of other really advanced options. You can check out the full review here: http://precisionrifleblog.com/2013/12/16/vectronix-vector-23-review/
Some of the new military stuff is awesome. Without going into too much detail about what the capacities are, a lot of it is also used for indirect fire and CAS. It is extremely accurate at ranges that are almost hard to believe and way past the range of anything you could actually shoot. They also come with a million dollar price tag which puts them out of the range of I think all shooters.
The other problem is the bad guys know they are important. They would try to take out anyone with different equipment first.
Thanks for the input, Jon. I’ve got to play with some of the latest equipment recently, and it is quite impressive. I’ve also been fortunate to talk to a few defense contractors who work “deep behind the curtain” and the stuff they’ve created and deployed is hard to believe. It’s almost like science fiction! It certainly extends the effective range of small arms to distances that were laughable pipe dreams just a couple years ago. It’s good to know they’re equipping our elite forces with the best of the best.
I would assume Kyle meant the Accuracy Internatioal AW50F, since the AX-series wasn’t unveiled until 2010, and Chris had then already left the Navy.
Another interesting thought would be if he was referring to the AS50, which is a ‘SEAL only’ semi-automatic .50 rifle, and more comparable to the Barrett M82 he made the comparison to. However, that rifle does not have a folding stock.
What puzzles me is the fact that he said “more compact” while both the AW50 and AX50 are longer, or similar in length to the M82.
That’s interesting that you point that out. I thought of the AX50, because in the book he says:
So I was assuming he didn’t like 50’s across the board, until at some point after his service (which ended in 2009) he had a chance to try out the AI model with the collapsible stock that he described. Like you mentioned, the AX was unveiled in 2010, and the book was published in 2012 … so there is at least a likely chance that he was talking about the AX50. But, you’re right … it plausible that it could’ve been the AW50F or the AX50. There is no way to be sure, because both match the only 3 big clues we have to go on: 1) made by Accuracy International, 2) has a collapsible stock, 3) wasn’t available (or at least issued) to the Navy Seals at the time of Kyle’s service. Here’s a pic of the AW50F for those wondering:
I think he was saying more compact, because you could fold the stock. That is an advantage for sure. I have a folding stock on my competition rifle, and it makes it much easier to transport.
Great question though. I can appreciate your attention to detail!
Wow the article was a awesome read. I’ve never served in the military. but enjoy reading about snipers and their awesome rifles. I’m not even a big target shooter but I love a accurate rifle. I buy the best I can afford and really enjoy shooting tight little groups. A couple I’m using now are 700 Remington sps tactical rifles with the 5R barrels in short rifles. I am getting great results for me using these rifles. One being a 308 win. the other a 300 aac blackout caliber. My dream would be to have a rifle capable if the kind of accuracy of a true sniper rifle would be capable of achieving. I wouldn’t be capable of using it to potential but it would be great to have such a gun in my opinion.
Hey, Tommy. I’m with you. There is nothing like firing a precision rifle. And don’t sell yourself short … this stuff isn’t mystical. I remember watching a TV show about 10 years ago that showed a sniper making a 1 mile shot on a target. I thought that was unbelievable! Fast forward 10 years … I hit targets at 1 mile regularly. I’ll add the disclaimer that I had to PRACTICE A LOT to get there, plus I read a ton, and even took one long-range class. I’m not claiming to be as good of a shot as Kyle or other snipers, but just want to make sure you understand that it isn’t black magic. It comes down to very practical stuff, and requires practice … but I might venture to say most people could make that shot if they had the drive and the time to learn and refine their skills behind the rifle. It’s not rocket surgery! 😉
Hi Cal, you’re absolutely right – There’s no telling if he meant in his active duty or afterwards.
I also use a folder, AI AW .308 rebarreled in 6XC as yours for my long range shooting and competition, also with a folding stock, which is great for cleaning as well (which I adamantly try to avoid) 😉
I know from reading “Sniper One” (which is a great book about UK Snipers during the Siege of CIMIC house in Al Amarah 2004) that a SAS operator equipped with an AW50 joined in on the fight, the book (heavily censored by MoD) states it was a M82, but pictures in the book clearly shows it was an AW50.
I would imagine there was a good chance that SEALs had the opportunity to play around with other SOF-units gear back in base if they were stationed at the same area.
Good info, thanks for sharing. They’re just like us … if you meet another precision rifle shooter at the range, your probably going to talk to them and see what they’re running. Right?! There are a ton of “gun guys” in the world but the guys interested in the niche topic of precision rifles is a relatively small community, so when you run into another guy who’s interested in the same kind of stuff … you gravitate towards each other. It’s a kindred spirit thing. I’m sure that crosses national boundaries, especially among allies.
Can anyone suggest an accurate AR style 5.56 target rifle? I was looking at a SIG 516 precision marksman but they dont make it anymore. I liked the short pushrod system, and the supposed accuracy, barrel length of 18″ also. Thanks Mark
I’m not sure what your budget is, but I have a Rock River Arms LAR-15 Varmint with a 20″ barrel that I love. With match handloads firing Hornady 55gr V-MAX bullets mine is a sub-1/2 MOA rifle. I’ve printed many 1/4 MOA groups, which still surprise me coming from an entry-level gas gun. It comes with a match-grade bull barrel made by Wilson Combat, so you can understand why it shoots so well. MSRP is $1,200, but you can find a new one for $1,000 on GunBroker.com, and your local Rock River dealer will likely sell one to you at that price as well (mine did). As far as value goes, I’m not sure there is a rifle that can provide the same level of accuracy that my RRA does for $1,000. It’s a ridiculous value. Here is a link to the Rock River model I’m referring to:
Rock River Arms LAR-15 Varmint Details on RockRiverArms.com
If you’re looking for the most accurate AR money can buy, I’d suggest that might come from JP Enterprises. Here are some of the specific models you might consider:
LaRue and others also make great rifles, but maybe this will get you heading in the right direction. If I was personally in the market for an accurate AR-15 right now, it would definitely be between those 3 … whichever the budget allowed. Hope this helps!
Mark, I’m running the JP CTR-02 who Cal endorses with an 18″ barrel & rifle length system for IPSC Rifle competition here in Sweden, you’d be amazed how well it shoots with standard ball 55 grs ammo at 320 yards. Get one, you wont be disapointed.
RIP Frogman – we now have the watch.
Reblogged this on BladeAndTrigger and commented:
Excellent research on a hot topic among 2A patriots.
I heard there was a huge recall on all Remington triggers at one point, to be sure for my curiosity and such, are you sure that was a Remington factory trigger on his first .300 WM? Or could it have been a different trigger?
Hey, Dalton. I’m as sure as I can be about that. I went back to his book and didn’t notice anywhere that he actually mentioned Remington triggers specifically. But I believe the AICS rifle Kyle loved so much was a MK13 Mod5, which used a Remington 700 trigger. While some of Kyle’s weapons (like the 338 Lapua) weren’t a standardized “type classified rifle” … the 300 Win Mag rifles he used likely was standard Mk-13, so we know a little more about the components used on those rifles.
I personally wouldn’t recommend a Remington trigger, and it may not have been what Kyle chose if he had the choice. Most of these were what he was issued, so they were what he used. Most serious precision rifle shooters go with a Jewell or a Timney trigger. I personally have rifles with both, and have fired 1000’s of rounds with each. I run my triggers fairly light (26 ounces), and they can both do that with absolute perfection. Zero creep, and “break like glass” (meaning they are very crisp). On a scale of 1 to 10, both are a 10.
The only differences between the two I’m aware of is the shoe on the Timney is wider, which I prefer over the more narrow blade on the Jewell. But the Jewell can be adjusted down to 1.5 ounces, but the Timney can only go down to 24 ounces. You can also adjust the Jewell without having to remove the stock, which may be convenient. I don’t find myself needing to adjust my trigger weight on the fly much, so that doesn’t add a lot of benefit. Because of the adjustability, the Jewell has more exposed openings on the bottom of the trigger housing, and some guys claim sand and grit can get in there and cause the trigger to freeze up. I’ve never had that problem, and I’ve known guys that have ran Jewells hard for years without experiencing that … but it’s worth mentioning. Those are the only differences I’m aware of, and what I feel like it is a pretty objective comparison. I own both, and shoot both. They’re both A+++ triggers compared to others I’ve tried.
As far as the Remington recall goes, I’m aware of what you’re referring to. Just in case someone isn’t, here is a recap:
I’ve owned a Remington 700 since I was 12 years old, and I’ve never experienced that issue. Personally, I’m a gun safety zealot to my core. I can hardly watch TV shows or movies with firearms in them, because it drives me crazy how negligent most people are in handling weapons. Just ask my wife about how I scream at the TV! “DON’T EVER SWEEP ME WITH YOUR MUZZLE!!! I DON’T CARE IF YOU SAY IT’S EMPTY!!!” At my range, I’ll warn you once, and the next time you go home. Handling a firearm is VERY serious, because it just takes one quick lapse in judgement to end a life.
Negligence by firearms manufacturers is clearly unacceptable. But we can only control our part of the equation. Think about the 7.85 million people who were unknowingly carrying a Remington 700 with a poorly designed trigger from 1940 to 2014. I’m one of those people! There are other guns out there right now in similar conditions, that we aren’t yet aware of. Even if you have a firearm that has been damaged or was poorly designed, there are two simple gun safety rules that will prevent all accidents. As a gun nut, I have them memorized, I live by them, and I’m continually teaching them to my kids and friends:
Sorry to get on a soapbox. This is just a really important topic. We live in a culture that is unwilling to take personal responsibility for anything, but we can never abdicate our personal responsibility for gun safety. When you pick up a firearm, you’re taking on full responsibility for what happens while it’s in your hands. We have to take that seriously.
But the Leupold scope on the .338 from Chris Kyle is a 4.5- 14×50
You could be right. I don’t know for certain, but just presented what the experts at Leupold told me it was. After I wrote this post, I actually met the guy at McMillan Firearms that personally built Kyle’s rifle (and also built the rifle used in the American Sniper movie). He said that Kyle removed the Leupold scope when he got back in combat overseas, and moved his Nightforce NXS 8-32×56 over to his 338 Lapua rifle so he’d have more magnification. That seems to make sense to me, but this is all he-said-she-said.
The only thing we know definitively from the man himself is what he wrote in his autobiography. He just had a couple paragraphs about scopes:
He didn’t make any indication about what rifle he was talking about. It might be a stretch to think he used the same scope on all of his rifles, because they were each designed for different scenarios. Like he said in his book:
I’m definitely not saying your wrong, because you could be spot on. It just seems like there are mixed opinions on what it was exactly. It’s a tragedy that we can’t ask the man himself. I appreciate the input.
The object of art is to elicit a response in the viewer…my opinion is that this topic has been ” a work of art”. Thanx for providing a forum for and the timely focus topic to solicit so many responses.
Like a fresh stick of gum or a snicker snack…the notification of a new blog response spices our day.
You are indeed a hero, i wish you can train me to be a sniper but am thousands of miles away from you. Notwithstanding you are my hero and model. I dont know much of guns but your arcles and responds opens my eyes to understand.
i don’t understand chis kyle’s comment about 300wm 500 yard dope hitting targets from 100 to 700 yards
That’s a great question, Gary. The only thing I could think of is that if you were dialed for 500 yards, then you’d hold about 2 mils low for a 100 yards target and 2 mils high for a 700 yard target. That’s all I can think of.
Gary the 300wm 500Yzero dope shooting to 700yards seemed to be simple PBR ( Point Blank Range ) shooting but I did not want to ass u me anything so…a .533 G1 BC 190 gr match HPBT @ 3,000fps = 100/+8.8″ 200/+14.8″ 300/+15.8″ 400/+11.1″ 500/+.1″ 600/-18.4″ 700/-45.3″. The Navy / Seal 500yard silhouette target measures 20″w x 40″h. Chris probably meant that for quick target acquisition he could hold COM ( center of mass ) to 500 and quickly switch to a 2 mil hold at 700. Obviously he is not here to confirm but my read of his book was ( and I am a Texan too ) is that he liked to use the KISS principle whenever possible. You could also aim at their nuts till you get to a quarter mile then aim come up 0/1/2 mils COM at 500/600/700. Hope that helps with the 500 yard dope.
charles thanks,the additional 2mil hold over explains my question
THE AX50 .50 CAL IS AN AMAZING GUN I LOVE THE WAY IT LOOKS
you are a hero. is there recall on all Remington triggers at one point? can you please give me this information.?
Hey, Alex. There was/is a recall on Remington triggers. Here is a link to the details from Remington, including photos that will help you see if your rifle is subject to the recall:
Just a side note to those interested. The Nightforce scopes sold to the U.S. military are not the same quality as the same Nightforce scopes to civilians. The military receives a “milspec” version, with the words “milspec” on the scope. The milspec Nightforce scopes are of a much higher quality. The quality of the glass is better, and the overall ruggedness is also superior.
I’ve seen “MIL-SPEC” on some Nightforce scopes. I’d bet the overall ruggedness is superior like you said, but I’m not sure about the glass quality. I’d bet it was the same, but I don’t know that. Are you sure it’s different?
I appreciate the input.
Spoke to George Gardner from GA Precison over the weekend at the 10th Anniversary party of Bartlein Barrels.
I didn’t know Chris, but I have a certain Pride in knowing he used and liked my Family’s Equipment.
RIP Chris – Thank you for your service, Sir.
Great article. Well done. All politics about the Iraq war aside, this man was a patriot and his sniper skills were– and will continue to be– nothing short of legendary.
Hey thanks for the story, I think Chris was a great man, I lookup to people like him. I went out and bought me a Barrett m98 B in the 338 lupua ,with the verx4-18x 50 and the mos system. I love it. Great platform with hard hitting 1000 yards out.
excellent article, thanks for this. well done
Amazing write up Cal, I’ve watched the film a couple of times now and whilst it’s massively “hollywoody” the fact that it’s all based around a true event, I just think it’s spectacular.
I was always wondering what guns Chris was using, as the film didn’t really give much attention to it, I guess now I know 😀
Great Blog! I am also amazed at the amount of knowledge, and attention to detail from the readers. I too am a long range shooter and found this blog and comments a fantastic read – actually read its entirety! Thanks everyone. ( I’m from Canada )
Awesome. Glad you found it interesting, Siuco.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while: The Nightforce on his GAP Gladius is clearly not an ATACR (different dimension between tube and objective, NF logo on windage knob, long inspection sticker which pre-dated ATACRs). My conclusion is that it’s an NXS 3.5-15×50. The “3.5” is just obscured by the shadow.
… maybe. I’m not sure there is any way to know for sure. I think I’m sticking with my original guess, but it is just a guess. You could be right.