American Sniper: What Rifle Did Chris Kyle Use?

January 20, 2015 Updated: February 16, 2016

Despite the criticism lobbed at the movie by a few celebrities, American Sniper has been extremely well received by both audience members, film critics, film award organizations, and even Chris Kyle’s widow Taya Kyle, who said the film “brought her husband back to life.”

Chris Kyle was the deadliest sniper in U.S. history, both for the total number of confirmed kills, and for the longest shot resulting in a kill: 2,100 yards. The film American Sniper is adapted from Chris Kyle’s autobiography.

“I used a .338 on my last deployment. I would have used it more if I’d had it” -Chris Kyle

Being a highly trained Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle had used many weapons over the course of his military career. There were two rifles Kyle liked to use, one of which he used to make the record-setting long distance shot.

A lot of Kyle’s marksmanship was done while using the Remington 700 Long Action chambered to fire a .300 Winchester Magnum round. This is a very common hunting rifle that can be purchased for less than $500 from Cabelas. But of course Kyle’s rifle had several expensive modifications.

In his autobiography, Kyle mentions his love of Nightforce scopes for the quality of the optics and its durability in harsh conditions. He also reduced the trigger pull weight to 2 pounds, stating he liked to be surprised when the gun went off, he didn’t want to jerk the gun when pulling the trigger. “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.”

The .300 Winchester Magnum round is one of the most popular rounds used by American hunters. It is extremely effective at ranges around 1,000 yards, and a skilled operator can easily hit a target at the maximum effective range of 1,210 yards. The round is effective against elk, moose, and even brown bear. In his book, Kyle spoke of the round, saying, “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. It shoots like a laser. Anything from 1,000 yards and out, you’re just plain nailing it.”

During his later tours, Kyle was given a McMillan TAC-338 rifle. This is a far more advanced and expensive weapon system than the average hunter would shoot an elk with, costing north of $5,000. This superior rifle fires a much larger round—the .338 Lapua Magnum.

“I used a .338 on my last deployment. I would have used it more if I’d had it,” said Kyle, “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.”

Kyle made his record-setting shot with this .338 Lapua Magnum round. It has a maximum effective range of 1,910 yards, which makes Kyle’s 2,100-yard shot even more impressive. Depending on the weight and shape of the bullet used, a .338 has about 25 percent more energy than a .300 Winchester Magnum.