Take a Shot at History

On Selecting Good Reference Books

by Harry Viezens

There is so much printed material to sort through today on firearms it is really quite overwhelming. Seems like there is a new book out every couple of months on a gun or related subject. So how do you pick a book or books you need for your research? The one thing you do not want to do is have books or articles repeat themselves, with others you now have. A little cross reference is a good thing, but to have an entire book pretty much cover the subject on a book you already have without adding anything new to offer on important new findings or discoveries is in my opinion not a good buy.

So, what should we look for in a reference book? What are the guidelines to use in selecting books that will help us to understand and improve the knowledge we seek on your subject of interest? One of the things I love to see in a book is plenty of good photos to show details or to illustrate points the author wishes to convey to the reader. A good photo can make a complicated explanation simple to understand. Another thing, I believe, when at all possible, the photos should be in color. Black and white is OK for certain things but when you use color the nuances of detail and background seem to stand out. A good example of this is a two-book series that I have by Bob and Beverly Strauss Entitled {American Sporting Advertising} This series talks about early advertising like posters, calendars display etc. The authors did a great job researching their subject and cataloging the results in their books. my only complaint is that almost all these illustrations are black and white. There are a few photos in the book to “tease” you as to what these prints really look like in color. To be able to illustrate these amazing colors and artwork of these earlier lithographs would have made these books outstanding! It is a real shame that the authors did not take advantage of using color photos, when they were doing their research project. This in my mind makes one book an interesting book and another book outstanding!

One of my favorite authors is Jan C. Still, his series of books on {Germany and its allies pistols, in two World Wars}. Is in my opinion one of the best researched, illustrated and detailed to be had on this subject. What makes this book series so good is that not only are the guns illustrated, the holsters, accessories, pamphlets related to the subject, rare photos of these guns being used is also included. This makes these books so interesting to read and do the research on a item you may have. Not only that, you can also check out your gear you may have with the gun to see if it is in fact correct for that particular item you may have. What valuable information to have!

Another author that has done amazing job with his book is R.C.Larson. His book on the {M1 Carbine} is truly first rate! It’s easy to use, do research and generally look up anything related to the carbine. The way the author had cataloged each maker and the maker’s various modifications during that gun’s production run is really simple to understand and use. The illustrations of each part of the gun being used and its various markings during the various time frames of production is extremely valuable to the collector. This book is to me the best there is on the subject of the M1 Carbine!

Now I am going to comment on a good book. {A study of Colt’s New Army and Navy Pattern Double Action Revolvers 1889 to 1908}by Robert Best. The author did a great job illustrating the various Colts, their markings and what to look for to tell the different styles apart, The Modifications are clearly shown and photographed. There are plenty of pictures to illustrate what the author wishes to convey on each model. My only complaint is that the author stops there. It would be nice to see the various holsters, belts, ammunition pouches and accessories the U.S. Government used with these guns during their service life. If you were only interested in the guns, you would not be disappointed with this book. I like to learn more such as what I should look out for in accessories to complete my pistol. I am being picky I admit. But when you see how the two above authors handled their subjects compared to the last author mentioned I think you will get the idea. Do not get me wrong, I am not in any way telling you not to buy one book over another. Sometimes there is no choice in selecting one book over another as there may not me anything else on that subject. But if you do have a choice, it is nice to know what makes one book better than another.

I hope that this article will help you the reader, to be more selective in choosing your next book for reference material. Do not forget that a good reference book can serve you for many years in your quest for knowledge on your chosen subject.

Happy Hunting!