255 confirmed kills: Meet Navy SEAL Chris Kyle… the deadliest sniper in US history
Served four tours of duty in Iraq, where he gained the nickname ‘The Devil of Ramadi’ from insurgents
Longest shot was a 2,100-yard strike against a man armed with a rocket launcher
Prefers a bolt-action .300 Winchester Magnum custom sniper rifle
Left the Navy after 10 years to ‘save his marriage’
Chris Kyle hesitated the first time he killed a person at long range with a rifle. It was a woman who was about to attack a group of US Marines with a hand grenade.
The US Navy SEAL was overlooking an Iraqi town from a shabby building as US forces were still invading the country, before Saddam Hussein had been ousted. The Marines didn’t see the woman coming.
‘Take a shot,’ Mr Kyle’s chief told him.
Mr Kyle stammered: ‘But…’
‘Shoot!’ the chief told him again.
When Mr Kyle finally pulled the trigger, the woman dropped the grenade. He shot her again as it exploded.
But after four deployments to Iraq, he learned to stop hesitating and start shooting straight.
With 255 kills, 160 of them officially confirmed by the Pentagon, the retired Navy Seal sniper is the deadliest marksman in US military history.
During the Second Battle of Fallujah alone, when US Marines fought running battles in the streets with several thousand insurgents, he killed 40 people.
His feat blows away the previous American record of 109, set by Army Staff Sgt. Adelbert F. Waldron during the Vietnam war.
Carlos Hathcock, the famed Marine sniper who was the subject of the book ‘One Shot, One Kill,’ killed 93 people as a long-range sniper in Vietnam.
Despite the incredible number, Mr Kyle is still far from being the deadliest marksman in the world. That distinction goes to Simo Häyhä, a Finnish soldier who killed 542 Soviet soldiers during World War II.
Mr Kyle is a cowboy from Odessa, Texas, who was a professional bronco rodeo rider before he joined the Navy. He grew up hunting deer and pheasant with a rifle and a shotgun his dad bought him.
He never realized he was a good shot until he joined the Navy and got into the prestigious SEAL special operations unit.
For his deadly track record as a marksman during his deployment to Ramadi, the insurgents named him ‘Al-Shaitan Ramad’ — the Devil of Rahmadi — and put a $20,000 bounty on his head.
‘I thought to myself, “Oh, hell yeah!” It was an honor,’ he told Texas Monthly magazine when Army intelligence told him about his infamy.
But his Navy SEAL companions gave him a different name ‘the Legend.’
His most legendary shot came outside Sadr City in 2008 when he spotted an insurgent with a rocket launcher near an Army convoy — 2,100 yards away.
At that distance, 1.2 miles, he fired a shot from his .338 Lapua Magnum rifle. It struck home, knocking the man over dead.
‘God blew that bullet and hit him,’ Mr Kyle told the New York Post.
Mr Kyle’s preferred weapon, though, was a custom-built bolt action rifle with a powerful scope. It was chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum, a cartridge originally developed for hunting North American big game.
However, Mr Kyle said he has found a new use for it — making long range, highly accurate shots.
‘I could hit a target from 1,800 yards, and it would shoot like a laser,’ he told Texas Monthly.
Mr Kyle, who retired from the Navy after 10 years of service, is telling his remarkable story as a deadly marksman in his new book, ‘American Sniper,’ which hits shelves Tuesday.
For his valor, he received three Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor, according to his book publisher, Harper Collins.
Additionally, he was shot twice and was in six separate IED explosions as his unit, Charlie company of SEAL Team Three, saw significant combat across the country.
The action was enough that the members of the unit adopted the white skull of the gun-wielding comic book vigilante The Punisher.
They painted the symbol on their body armor, their vehicles and even their weapons.
Despite the astonishing number of people he has shot, Mr Kyle says he has never second-guessed himself since the first time he had to pull the trigger on the grenade-wielding woman in Iraq.
For him, the enemy is a ‘savage,’ he told the Post.
‘It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naive, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job,’ he told Texas Monthly.
He left the service in 2009, deciding not to enlist in order to ‘save his marriage’ he told his publisher.
Mr Kyle has two children and lives in Dallas.
Since leaving the Navy, he has started his own military contracting firm, Craft International. It provides military and law enforcement sniper training, as well as private security and protection.