Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The single awesomest gun book I own...

Several Christmases ago, my friend Jennifer gave me a copy of R.K. Wilson's Textbook of Automatic Pistols . Leather-bound, watered silk endpapers, and 300-plus gilt-edged pages of wisdom on the mechanics of self-loading firearms, largely from the pre-war pages of the British periodical, Game and Gun. The volume is incomplete, as the Jerries were impolite enough to attack Poland before Leftenant Colonel Wilson, Royal Artillery, could complete his magnum opus.

There are digressions into the operation and history of various self-loading rifles and machine guns, as well as commentary on the Webley-Fosbery "Automatic Revolver" ("It is, however, no quicker to load than the Service Revolver, and in the hands of the ordinary individual possesses no advantages over the latter; while the action is easily dislocated by mud or grit, and is therefore unsuited to service conditions.")

Some of the quotes are absolute gems.

On the "Broomhandle" Mauser:
It is the ambition of the average Continental officer to possess a Mauser pistol; ideas of stopping-power do not worry him in the least, and he has little use or need for a good fighting weapon; what catches his fancy is a high-speed, long-range arm that he can carry on his belt with ease - and the Mauser fills this bill exactly.

In America, on the other hand, tastes and requirements are exactly different. The American market is a very critical and exacting one, and there is a long tradition behind it which regards a pistol as first and foremost a fighting weapon, which means above all handiness, balance, and the feel of an arm for quick shooting. To-day, in America, as of old, the man who carries the gun, policeman, criminal, or private citizen, carries his life in the chamber, as it were, of that gun; and he must get there first with it if he is to walk the streets again.

On a French pistol:
It is known as "Le Francais", and is of irreproachable manufacture and finish, unlike most French arms.

On WWI-vintage Spanish pistols:
They are one and all of cheap and nasty appearance, of bad material badly made, and very dangerous to use.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is an informed, erudite volume that will help you to understand the differences between the various operating systems, calibers, and mechanical histories of many of the great design families of self-loading weapons, written by someone with hands-on experience of the lot of them. Pre-WWII England was obviously a very different place...

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

fat chance they could rouse anything like the home guard now-a-days.

Keads said...

With such a stellar review it is on the way! Thanks. Amazon Prime rocks!

Turk Turon said...

I'll add it to my Want List.

Rob Reed said...

Any idea of the fate of Leftenant Colonel Wilson, Royal Artillery in the Last Great Unpleasantness?

Rob (Trebor)

Anonymous said...

My kind of coffee-table book.

"Pre-WWII England was obviously a very different place..."

No doubt. But disdain and distrust of those tawdry Yanks, and a precursor of disdain and distrust of themselves, is evident:

"To-day, in America, as of old, the man who carries the gun...carries his life in the chamber...and he must get there first with it if he is to walk the streets again."

Which finds them now disarmed, dispirited, and just dis.

AT

The Jack said...

Ooooh, I love Wilson's voice.

If the whole book is written that way I will be quite happy.

And I am on the lookout for new books to read, so thanks.

MOBro said...

Sounds like coolness and groovitude!

docjim505 said...

The American market is a very critical and exacting one, and there is a long tradition behind it which regards a pistol as first and foremost a fighting weapon, which means above all handiness, balance, and the feel of an arm for quick shooting.

Well, this is so for many Americans, but by no means all. There are those for whom the pistol is a status symbol as well as those milque-toast souls for whom it is the height of uncivilized, scary ickiness.

To-day, in America, as of old, the man who carries the gun, policeman, criminal, or private citizen, carries his life in the chamber, as it were, of that gun; and he must get there first with it if he is to walk the streets again.

I think what the good colonel was getting at is that Americans had (as many still have) a sense of rugged individualism and grit that says, "I am responsible for the safety of myself, my family, my community, and my country, and I will be prepared to defend these things with lethal force and, if necessary, my life."

og said...

Ooh, it's cheap, too. Have to eat peanut butter for a week and use my lunch money for one of these.

nbc said...

Google tells me that there was a Lieutenant Colonel B Wilson, Royal Artillery who took part in Op Market Garden as CO of 55th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Tam said...

The author is somewhat of a mystery.

His preface is signed off "England, 85th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, 28.4.40"

The forward to my edition devotes a few paragraphs to the fact that, well, they haven't a clue who Wilson is.

Vaarok said...

I just bought three crates of old pre-WW2 firearm tomes at an estate auction last weekend. They're a little strange, because they often rely on text where an illustration with arrows would usually serve better, and references to "The Great War" are jarring, but you gotta admit they did their homework and presented the facts as thoroughly as they could at the time.

Anonymous said...

I assume this is part of the "Firearms Classics Library" from Palladium Press? I've always thought a dozen or so of these leather bound books on the shelf would really class up my bachelor pad, but they are only sold on a subsription basis, and I have not had much like finding them second hand generally.

Rob

RevolverRob said...

Very nice! I have ten of the Library Classics Series on the shelf as we speak. I recently got them from my father, who had them all, still wrapped in plastic, in the attic of the house. Such greats as, Gunsmithing, Hatcher's Notebook, The American Rifle, and Smith and Wesson Pistols. They are all most excellent books and definitely exceptionally classy looking.

-Rob

atlharp said...

I have always wanted a Mauser Broomhandle since I saw Destro have one back in the old days of G.I. Joe. My Dad picked one up a few months ago. It is so cool hold one of those things, hopefully he got some ammo to shoot it.

Michael in CT said...

Atlharp,

You can get Prvi Partisan 30 Mauser from either www.midwayusa.com or Grafs.com
It's good ammo and I've dealt with both of the companies and been very happy. I would suggest having a gunsmith check the gun out, the part that holds the bolt cam crack which means you'll catch the bolt right between the eyes which is likely to smart a bit.

Firehand said...

All the Prvi ammo I've used has been quite good. And the 7.62x54r brass I picked up from them is excellent quality

mariner said...

docjim505:

I think what the good colonel was getting at is that Americans had (as many still have) a sense of rugged individualism and grit that says, "I am responsible for the safety of myself, my family, my community, and my country, and I will be prepared to defend these things with lethal force and, if necessary, my life."

It sounds a lot better the way you put it, but I suspect anonymous at 1124 gets Wilson's meaning.

Tam said...

Mariner,

That is the fundamental disconnect between the Limeys and us.

The blog "Never Yet Melted" takes its title from a D.H. Lawrence quote: "The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted."

Only upon re-reading the quote did I realize that Lawrence, that Limey poofter, didn't mean that as a compliment, because it sounds just fine to me.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

I have a Le Francais. Fantastic little mousegun.