It is hard to disentangle Taya Kyle from her husband’s legacy. Seen by many as one of the greatest marksmen of the current era and the most deadly sniper in US history, Chris Kyle casts a long shadow. Since his death in 2013, Taya has tried to uphold his legacy. She founded the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation in 2014 to provide support for military families, and she’s worked as a tireless advocate for those who have lost loved ones in war.
This December, she will find herself behind the scope of a rifle, facing one of the best competitive shooters in the world. Her opponent will be Bruce Piatt, who is still fresh off his win in the NRA’s 2015 World Shooting Championship.
You can watch CarbonTV’s exclusive profile of Taya Kyle below:
The event is billed as the American Sniper Shootout, and if its organizers are correct, it could change the face of long-range shooting as we know it. How is Taya, a novice shooter who has no experience in competitive shooting, going to go barrel-to-barrel with a seasoned competitor? Or perhaps more importantly, why?
The first question is easier to answer. Taya will be equipped with state-of-the-art rifles from TrackingPoint, a company famous for its patented Precision-Guided Firearms (PGFs). The company says that its sophisticated optics and rifles will make just about anyone as accurate as a master sniper, and that hitting a target is as simple as marking it and pulling the trigger.
Proceeds from the American Sniper Shootout will go toward the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, regardless of who wins, but Taya says that’s not the only reason she will be participating in the challenge. In an interview with OutdoorHub, Taya argued that the TrackingPoint rifles are not only a huge leap in firearms technology, they may also save lives.
“Chris was excited about it,” she recalled. “Chris found that the things that haunted him were the people he couldn’t save—a gun like this would lower that risk.”
John McHale, the founder of TrackingPoint and its current CEO, remembered meeting Chris early on in the development of TrackingPoint’s firearms.
“I went to a ranch in East Texas with my daughter and as it happened, Chris Kyle was there. My daughter was 12 at the time and he taught her to shoot, she never shot a gun at the time. He was a great guy,” McHale said. “I started telling him about my idea and the next thing you know, we engaged in a very focused conversation about the gun and eventually, how to turn everybody into a Chris Kyle. It was very enlightening to me. He had a great influence.”
John envisioned a rifle that was easy to learn, simple to operate, and made even a beginner shoot like a pro. The goal was to emulate a fighter jet’s “lock and launch” methodology in small arms.
You can get a glimpse of how the guns work below:
“I was surprised at how easy it was to operate, how comfortable they were, and how little of a kick they had,” said Taya, who has been practicing with TrackingPoint rifles in preparation for the upcoming competition. “The utility of it is great—you take this very complex technology on the inside but it’s also very user-friendly. All that just makes me feel like it’s something I can handle.”
Nonetheless, the gun doesn’t do everything for a shooter.
“It’s very easy to think that this gun is so easy to use that I don’t need to train anymore, but that’s not the case,” Taya said.
The mother of two said she still needs to work on her upper body strength for off-hand shooting, and there is still much for her to learn. Her experience with rifles has been primarily limited to range time with Chris and hunting big game.
“I shot a little bit with Chris, not much. It’s not a complete lack of experience,” she said with a laugh.
Still, it’s pretty meager considering that she will face a man who has five Bianchi Cups under his belt and can lay claim to being the “undisputed World Shooting Champion.” If Bruce wins, TrackingPoint will award him $1 million. Needless to say, he very much intends to win.
“This may be the most exciting competition ever and if TrackingPoint guns perform as advertised our soldiers have a dominant overmatch capability,” Bruce said in a press release.
Taya and her opponent will be both equipped with rifles chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62mm, and .338 Lapua Magnum. The only difference will be that Taya’s rifles are equipped with TrackingPoint’s PGF system, while her opponent’s will be fairly “standard.” The day-long event will be comprised of a series of shots on both static and moving targets, while shooting prone and off-hand at different distances.
In honor of Chris, the range where the event will be held will emulate a battleground that was pivotal in his career as a US Navy SEAL.
“This competition is all about re-creating the same type of environment that our soldiers would be in, rather than what a typical sport shooter would be used to,” John said.
The battlefield may be just where TrackingPoint is headed. When the Texas-based company reopened in September after a four-month hiatus, it did so with the military and law enforcement in mind. TrackingPoint even snagged Admiral Eric Olson, former Navy SEAL and Commander of the US Special Operations Forces, as a chairman on its board of directors.
According to Taya, TrackingPoint rifles in the hands of American armed forces could be a decided advantage.
“It’s war, and it’s life and death on the line. Your enemy is going to take any advantage against you. You’d be a fool not to do the same,” she said. “I’ve seen so many wounded soldiers and I’ve thought many times, how many of them would not have those injuries if they had better equipment. This is the next step.
“There aren’t a lot of things where I could say Chris would feel this way or that way, but on this issue, I can say with all certainty that he would be so passionate about getting this gun into people’s hands, showing them how to use it, and saving lives.”
Here on the home front, the organization named after Chris works to make life better.
“When one person serves, the whole family unit serves,” is the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation’s motto.
Taya, who founded the foundation on Veteran’s Day last year, said it works to help military and first responder families reconnect after stressful deployments, to provide meaningful experiences, and enrich their relationships.
“We believe if that we strengthen the marriage, we strengthen the family unit and the kids are better of for it,” Taya said. “But there are so many cards stacked against a marriage when you have a warrior and somebody who loves that warrior. It’s an age-old story.”
Proceeds from the American Sniper Shootout will jumpstart Taya’s plans for the foundation and expand its current line of programs. For Taya, the event is win-win.
For TrackingPoint, they’re just hoping that Taya wins.
“We want people to know that TrackingPoint Precision-Guided firearms can save our soldiers’ lives and protect our nation,” John said after unveiling the competition on Tuesday. “And, this event is also designed to let our enemies know what’s in store for them when they come up against American forces.”
The American Sniper Shootout will be held in Mason, Texas on December 5, 2015. You can see a trailer for the event below:
Note added 10-28-2015: This article’s text has been edited to correct mistakes in its content and clarify certain passages.
Image courtesy of TrackingPoint