History: Historic Shooting Books

Historic Shooting Books
by Germán A. Salazar


In the spirit of the season, here is my gift to you: free books.  I can think of no better gift than knowledge, in this case knowledge of the early days of ballistic science, organized competitive shooting, the National Rifle Association of America and much more.  Google, a company we all know for its internet search service, has undertaken a massive project known as Google Books under which they are scanning and making available millions of out-of-print books with uncertain copyright ownership.  While the project has not been without controversy and is currently under attack by both the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust division and the French government, we as shooters are the beneficiaries of this project so let's hope it lasts.

Below you will find a list of books, each with a brief description and a clickable link (the title will be the link).  The link will take you to the Google Books page for each book.  You can read the entire book on it's Google Books page, or you can download it as a .pdf file and save it to your computer or print it.  You can also create your own Google Library and save the books there for access from any computer.  Most of these books are hundreds of pages long, so consider your paper and toner supply before printing!  I present the books in no special order other than my interest level, so pick and choose as you will and enjoy some history.

The Bullet's Flight From Powder to Target, Franklin W. Mann, 1909, 384 pages.
This is the original and still widely read and highly regarded book on internal and external ballistics.  Dr. Mann was a tireless experimenter and had the resources to pursue his interest with the best equipment available.  A close friend of Harry Pope as well as other notable experimenters in the early days of smokeless powder, Mann's work is thorough and well documented.  If you have an interest in ballistics, this is the foundation that you must know in order to understand the ensuing century of work in that field.

Irish Riflemen in America, Arthur Blennerhassett Leech, 1875, 216 pages.
This book chronicles the Irish rifle team's trip to America in 1874 to compete against the best of America's riflemen as organized by the Amateur Rifle Club of New York when the fledgling NRA ignored the Irish challenge.  The book also includes a great deal of history of Irish target shooting and an account of a hunting trip in the American West by members of the party.  Well worth reading.

Report of the Executive Committee of the Amateur Rifle Club - The International Rifle Match at Creedmoor September 26, 1874.  1875, 80  pages.
Absolute gold mine!  The report on the Irish-American match from the American side.  A late addition to our list but an absolute "find".



The American Rifle, Townsend Whelen, 1918, 637 Pages.
Townsend Whelen was - and remains for many of us - the dean of American firearms writers.  Here is a man who truly did it all and wrote about it with the authority of experience and the modesty of a true gentleman.  Despite his roots in Philadelphia society, Whelen sought outdoor adventure and hard living and he found it; we are all richer for his ability to document it so well.  This book, written immediately after (and during) the Great War gives a great insight into the period from a rifleman's perspective: equipment, reloading, shooting - it's all here.  A long book and worth every page.

Suggestions to Military Riflemen, Townsend Whelen, 1909, 243 pages.
Townsend Whelen's pre-war book on marksmanship which brought him to national prominence in the military establishment.  Whelen, who coached the national championship winning Army rifle team at Sea Girt in 1906, covers all aspects of shooting the Model 1903 rifle, including long-range shooting.  There is also an appendix covering the Krag-Jorgensen as it was still used by various state guard units at the time.  Positions, sights, zeroing, windage, score books, slow-fire, rapid-fire, long-range, ammunition, vision; it's all here.  Every topic you see covered in a modern book on marksmanship was covered by Whelen in this book.  You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been - this is a "must read" for the serious marksman and student of history.



Modern Rifle Shooting From the American Standpoint, Walter Guy Hudson, 1903, 155 pages.
Dr. Hudson was one of the leading lights of the early smokeless era (as well as the Schuetzen era), a contemporary and friend of Mann and Pope, Hudson was a tireless investigator of all things related to accuracy.  This very hard to find book is an introduction to target shooting with a detailed overview of equipment and practices and is well illustrated with many plates of top level equipment of the day; a real gem.

How I Became a Crack Shot; With Hints to Beginners, W. Milton Farrow, 1882, 204 pages.
Milton Farrow was one of the top shots of his time.  Well bred and well educated, modesty was not among Farrow's virtues which makes for entertaining reading as he describes his travels and his many shooting accomplishments.  The Hints for Beginners section has advice that remains sound even these many years later.



Annual Report 1902, 1903, 1904, National Rifle Association of America, hundreds of pages.
The NRA annual report of the three year period cited, this volume contains complete membership rosters for each year, association business, results of state, national and international matches including the Palma.  The 1902 Palma was won by the US with Krag rifles fitted with Pope barrels, later determined to be a violation of the rules and resulting in forfeiture of the trophy.  Many period photos and advertisements, a researcher's gold mine.

Annual Report 1905, 1906, 1907, National Rifle Association of America, hundreds of pages.
The NRA annual report for the three year period cited.   Contents as in the volume referenced above.

The Gun and its Development, William Wellington Greener, 1907 (8th Ed.) 786 pages.
Originally published in 1881, Greener's book covers all aspects of the firearms world at that time and this 8th edition has many updates.  While much of the text focuses on shotguns, there is a great deal of other material in this massive tome, including coverage of gunpowder and explosived, pistols, rifles, target shooting, rifle clubs and much more of interest to the modern rifleman.  Many great period advertisements at the end will make you wish for a time machine!

Rifles and Rifle Shooting, Charles Askins, 1919 (reprint of 1912 edition), 256 pages.
This book is by the elder Askins, not his son, who is more known to the current generation of readers.  His style is more readable than the son's, but equally lacking in technical rigor.  A broad but superficial coverage of the topic including some Schuetzen discussion.

Cartridge Manufacture, Douglas Thomas Hamilton, 1916, 167 pages.
This book is a well written, technical presentation of small arms cartridge manufacturing during the Great War.  An inside look at all processes at the Frankford Arsenal including case manufacture, bullet manufacture, loading and packaging.  A useful historical treatise on the topic.

Sporting Rifles and Rifle Shooting, John Caswell, 1920, 283 pages.
A broad coverage of sporting rifles, emphasis on hunting rifles but with an appendix by Harry Pope describing his rifle barrels and some coverage of Schuetzen rifles.  A well written work providing broad coverage of the time period.

Manual for Rifle Practice: Including Suggestions for Practice at Long Range, George Wood Wingate, 1879, 303 pages.
Wingate was the central figure in the founding of the National Rifle Association of America and like Whelen's manual 30 years later, Wingate's book was adopted as the training manual by many military organizations.  An authoritative view of state of the art marksmanship instruction in the day of the Trapdoor Springfield, Sharps, Remington Rolling Block and Peabody military rifles including diagrams and instructions for their care.

The Book of the Rifle, Thomas Francis Fremantle, 1901, 558 pages.
This English book is a very thorough history of rifles and of the British target rifle shooting.  There is so much here that is is difficult to summarize; it would be best for the prospective reader to sift through the contents as he will surely find something of interest.

Description and Rules for the Management of the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1903, United States. Army. Ordnance Dept., 1904 (5th revision 1914), 72 pages.
Here is the original US Army manual for the new Springfield Model 1903.  A must-have for the Springfield 1903 buff or student of history.

Description and Instructions for the Management of the Gallery-Practice Rifle, Caliber .22, Model of 1903, United States. Army. Ordnance Dept., 1907 (2nd Revision 1913), 12 pages.
The original US Army manual for the .22 caliber training version of the Model 1903.  This is not the Model of 1922 but rather the early subcaliber conversion which had a .22 barrel but used .30-06 size cartridge holders to hold the .22 rimfire cartridges.  A hard to find reference for a very rare rifle.

Military Rifle Shooting, U.S. Cartridge Company, 1902, 122 pages.
Overview of military rifle shooting in each state, coverage of ranges, courses of fire, targets, trophies.  Great coverage of early Palma shooting and a picture of the original trophy at pages 94 through 98.



U.S. Marine Corps Score Book: A Rifleman's Instructor, Captain William Curry Harllee USMC, 1912, 122 pages.
A scorebook as used today in Highpower shooting, but with many instructional tips and wind tables.  A nice look at an early work of this sort by Capt. Harllee who was instrumental in the development of Marine Corps marksmanship in the modern era.

Our Rifles: Firearms in American History, Volume 3, Charles Winthrop Sawyer, 1920, 413 pages.
A very complete history of rifles in America including a well detailed description of rifle manufacturing in 1920 and a call for a renewed interest in marksmanship among civilians - a call we must still heed!  Sawyer was a graduate of MIT and later a professor of architecture there; the book reflects his scholarly methodology while being easy to read.

The Scientific American War Book: The Mechanism and Technique of Warfare, Albert Allis Hopkins, Scientific American, Inc., 1916, 338 pages.
A broad coverage of warfare at the time of the Great War, and while most of the book is not directed towards rifle accuracy, the chapter on powder manufacture at page 171 and the chapter on bullet streamlining by Edward C. Crossman at page 143 are worthwhile to the student of rifle accuracy.

Machine Guns: Materiel, Captain Julian S. Hatcher, 1917, 233 pages.
An early work by Hatcher, a good read for the student of firearms mechanisms or the machine gun.
 

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