REVIEW OF AIRGUN LITERATURE
By Robert D. Beeman
10 April 2008
Relatively speaking, the literature of the airgun field is not yet extensive. In order to help you find your way at first, I often will give my blunt opinions. I hope that you usually find that these opinions reflect several decades of intense experience more than personal bias. This review largely will be limited to separate publications such as books, periodicals, and booklets, rather than individual airgun articles.
Certainly, in my opinion, the world leader in the airgun literature field has been the “dynamic duo” of Tom and Edith Gaylord. In their joint endeavors, Tom did most of the writing and Edith supplied the technical publishing support. Both have a great deal of hands-on experience in the shooting and collecting of airguns. This astonishing pair has produced several different types of literature. This material is outstanding, and unusual, not only for its breadth and lucid writing, but for its positive, balanced, frank, and fair approach - and broad perspective. Here is writing without elitism, without a private agenda, even without very much provincialism, and never reflecting the tiny cliques of the “nattering nabobs of negativism” and those few arrogant "talking heads" of airgundom whose wisdom is inversely proportional to the amount of their talking. Only very occasionally will Tom get carried away a bit by the current enthusiasms of some airgun cliques, but, given his own enthusiasm, that is understandable and forgivable. What is really important is that both Tom and Edith maintain an unbiased perspective and almost always manage to come back rather soon to the realities of the sport’s mainstream, the world of those hundreds of thousands of airgun shooters who just use and enjoy adult airguns - generally outside of the comparatively small world of organizations and clubs. The volume and nature of Tom and Edith’s output is astonishing and is supplemented by interesting material from some of the most experienced writers in the airgun field. All of the Gaylord’s publications are a must to anyone, anywhere in the world, who is seriously interested in adult airguns, their selection and use, as well as their history and collection. Their complete lack of advertisements meant that, unlike almost any other airgun periodicals, they were not beholding to any makers or sellers.
The Gaylords’ basic item was their Airgun Letter, a monthly newsletter of 12 to 16 pages, which remains as among the world's best reference material on "adult" airguns. In August 2002, Tom moved from the Airgun Letter and Airgun Revue to found a newsstand magazine entitled Airgun Illustrated. The first five issues, with Tom's input, were truly wonderful. Unfortunately, the success of those first issues emboldened the publishers to try to go it without Tom's incredibly competent direction. The publication folded in January 2004 - after they seem to have lost their way - going off into depth about American pump up and CO2 airguns and soft air guns. These areas, while interesting, generally are not dear to the hearts of most serious American airgunners - the adult part of the airgun market which will subscribe to such publications. Every year or so, the Gaylords produced a beautifully slick compendium of other original articles in an Airgun Revue of about 100 pages. They also published a fine soft cover book of 174 large pages, entitled The Beeman R1 Supermagnum Air Rifle (now an expensive collectible). Regardless of your areas of interest in airguns you must get as many of the Airgun Letter issues, Airgun Revue, and pre-2003 Airgun Illustrated copies as you can afford (the huge listings of Airgun Resources at the back of the Airgun Revue are, just by themselves, worth the price of admission). At least get one each of the Airgun Revue and especially the R1 book (even if you deprive yourself of the special pleasure of owing a real R1!). The R1 book is a basic, essential item for every airgunners bookcase. As if this wasn’t enough, the Gaylords used to host The Airgun Forum, an on line forum, until it became too much to handle and a few "air heads" took the fun out of it. Unfortunately, the Gaylords no longer have any of their publications for sale; you will have to search the secondary book market for these prizes. (Try FSI at 906-482-1685). We can rejoice that Tom has returned to the airgun writing world in the production of America's only airgun column in Shotgun News and other publications. The other publications of the Gaylords jump in value with every passing year!
For a long time, the only general references on airguns of the twentieth century were Smith’s Standard Encyclopedia of Gas, Air, & Spring Guns of the World (Smith, 1957) and the very British Air-Guns and Air-Pistols (Wesley, 1955). The original hardbound editions, despite the disorganization of the former and many errors, are now much sought after collector’s items. Later editions, even paperbound, have been produced, but are now out of print and also very expensive, if you can find one! Gerald Cardew’s good revision (Wesley and Cardew, 1979) of Wesley’s above classic was a very welcome improvement, but the work remains rather dated. In 1970, George C. Nonte Jr. produced the Complete Book of the Air Gun; somewhat light weight and now badly dated, but definitely useful. All About Airguns (Traister, 1981) was a pot boiler, formula book, largely derived from the then current Beeman Precision Airgun Catalog/Guide book. The National Rifle Association produced a small booklet entitled Air Guns: A Guide to Air Pistols and Rifles (Beeman, Banosky, Ford, Pitney, and Sexton, 1991). NRA’s booklet, despite the facts that it is what one might expect from a committee and that it greatly abbreviates and revises my original edited manuscript, is a useful, very basic introduction to the field and is a good introduction to the NRA’s many airgun shooting programs. Another little paperback, entitled Airgun Shooting (Herridge, 1987), gives a basic introduction to airgunning in England. The Airgun Book began (Walter, 1982) as John Walter’s British-based, but absolutely excellent, register of recently produced airguns but broadened its scope considerably in the fourth edition (1987). The third edition (1984) includes a section which probably is the very best ever survey of airgun manufacturing history from 1900 to 1984. Walther also authored a tiny hardback pocket book Airgun Shooting, Performance, Directory, and Index of Suppliers from A to Z (Walter 1985) which mainly is a data compilation on the then current array of adult airguns. It contains a surprising amount of other information packed into its tiny print, even including the only revelation on how the early Beeman company managed to obtain the highest quality of the various pellets on the market.
Another British book of note is Modern Airweapon Shooting (Churchill and Davies, 1981). Despite the fact that it is now somewhat dated and promotes the atrocious use of the provocative word "weapon" for airguns, it is an excellent introduction to formal target shooting with airguns. D. R. Hughes, a delightful and extremely knowledgeable former British airgun dealer, published a tiny series of booklets on particular airguns, such as the HW35 (Hughes, 1981). In 1990 John Groenewold printed a large listing of technical airgun articles (Groenewold, 1990). And if I do say so, I think that the best set of references for some aspects of the airgun field is a set of the Blue Book of Airguns editions. The Blue Books have pricing as only their third priority - airgun info, illustrations, specifications, and operation are the top matters - so you really must have all editions - they don't go out of date!
A general recent reference, absolutely excellent, but in German and restricted to air pistols, is Die Luftpistole (Brukner, 2000). Just the illustrations of this outstanding book are worth the price of admission, whether or not you read German. Walther collectors, or those just interested in that wonderful German brand, must obtain Manfred Kersten's (2001) 400 page English-language masterpiece Walther - A German Legend (first published in German as: Walther - eine Deutsche Legende), the absolute master reference on all of the Walther airguns and firearms. Its size and quality compare with the wonderful L. R. Wilson firearm books (Colt, Winchester, etc.).
American Air Rifles and CO2 Pistols and Rifles by James House (2002, 2003) pursues the theme that pellet guns by Daisy, Crosman, etc. should be seriously considered by shooters of all ages. These well-illustrated paperback publications give some of the best airgun ballistic information that can be found for airguns of this level. The author personally developed most of this data and information.
One of the extremely few publications on hunting with an airgun is the interesting, but severely provincial, small British paperback, Guide to Airgun Hunting (Shepherd, 1987). John Darling (1988) presents a "classic" view of hunting with an air rifle in England while more recent information on British airgun hunting is given by the Airgun Hunters Field Guide. Advice on the control, by airguns in England, of what Americans would call pest species, or varmints, is given in Vermin Control with an Air Rifle (Tyler, 1988). By far the best publication on hunting with an airgun is Tom Holzel’s delightful The Air Rifle Hunter's Guide (Holzel, 1991). Although mainly presenting crow hunting as a sport philosophically similar to fly fishing, Holzel gives a basic, but absolutely outstanding, introduction to selecting airguns for hunting, airgun hunting techniques, and the external field ballistics of magnum air rifles. I consider his chapter "Killing As Sport" to be one of the best presentations ever made on the morality or ethics of hunting.
Three thoroughly Texan tomes on airgun hunting have been written by Ron Robinson. If you really are interested in hunting with regular and big bore airguns (and some with bows and firearm pistols), and willing to wade thru some hearty, but interesting, jawing to get to the meat, there is excellent material in A Sporting Proposition (2003), Airgun Hunting and Sport (2001), and The Manic Compressive (1998). Ron is enamored with customized domestic airguns and the latest oriental big-bore airguns, but his true inner intelligence does shine through when he features a Beeman SS-2 scope on the cover of his first book and refers to the Beeman R1 as "THE (emphasis his) modern spring-piston sporter" and indicates that the trimmer, lighter R10 "falls just within my preferences". Of course, I don't agree with every opinion, but my hat's off to this real hunter and real character!
Jim Chapman (2003) has produced a very practical, absolutely excellent manual entitled The American Airgun Hunter. Actually it covers hunting experiences in several countries. It provides information from gun selection to hunting techniques that would be invaluable to both those just considering airgun hunting for the first time as well as to those with considerable experience but who wish to benefit from the careful considerations and experience of one of the best. It is interesting that Jim's favorite hunting air rifle is the Beeman C1, a gun which I designed with just the airgun hunter in mind. Jim Chapman teamed up with Randy Mitchell (2003) to produce The Airgunners Guide to Squirrel Hunting. Although Jim is so practical that he promotes, not only his favorite springers, the Beeman R1 and C1, but converted and Oriental airguns that I won't be caught dead with in the field. While I am partial to esthetics and fine detail, he is just thoroughly interested in results! Although mixed with some entertaining gab, this is a quite essential guide for those interested in any kind of airgun hunting! In early 2006, Jim extended his hunting series with an undated, but very unique, 144 page booklet entitled African Airgun Safari which recounts his adventures hunting African game from birds to spring hares (like a giant gerbil) to the Greater Kudu, a giant antelope. Jim killed a large cow, which can weigh up to 450 pounds, and noted that one of his .50 caliber air driven bullets went completely through the animal- diagonally! I was especially interested in his notes on hunting the hyrax, a furry mammal like an oversized guinea pig.(Editor's note: Because these strange animals are, most amazingly, related to elephants, I had been especially interested in locating some when Mrs. Beeman and I were hunting with cameras on the Serengeti Plain in Africa. This search became very exciting when I thought I finally had spotted some hidden in bushes around some isolated big rocks. When I got within about 15 feet, I suddenly realized that the "hyrax-like" furry masses were part of two very large, wild African lions - fortunately they were too sleepy or too full to notice me quickly backtracking into the Land Rover!) Jim's fascinating book lets the reader realize that he too can really have such a hunt and it gives wonderful information to any airgun hunter, especially those seeking big game on our own continent.
There is an especially limited literature on airgun field target shooting. Perhaps the key references on this special sub-field of airgunning are Airgun Field Target Shooting by Herridge and Law (1989) and Field Airgun Shooting by James Marchington (1988). Standard paper target competition with airguns is also served by an extremely limited literature. Skanaker and Antal (2001) have included a chapter on air pistols in their Sportliches Pisotolen-schießen (Competitive Pistol Shooting) German language book.
The outstanding, very substantial book, The Beeman R1, Supermagnum Air Rifle was mentioned above. It is a pity that there aren’t many more airgun books like this masterpiece by Tom Gaylord (1995). Although it has an emphasis on one model, it has great application to all spring piston airguns. There are excellent tips on how to get the most accuracy from spring piston airguns - ranging from how to hold a powerful air rifle during firing to various tune ups. Excellent diagrams and text give inside information on how spring-piston airguns work and it provides a wealth of general information ranging from how to build a mainspring compressor to the operation of the Webley Power Booster. (I was delighted to provide a chapter on the development of the trend setting Beeman R1 rifle - which became the Weihrauch HW80 in overseas markets.) Several airgun experts have stated that this large volume is the most useful book on the market for understanding any spring-piston airgun. It simply is one of the basic books for any airgunner. Like most real classics, the Beeman R1 book, has now become a collector's item in itself and its value has soared.Do try hard to get a copy - you will be very glad you did!
Mike Wade, a British engineer, produced a small, technical booklet (Wade, 1984) The Weihrauch HW 80 and Beeman R1 Air Rifle, A User’s Guide to Higher Performance.
An excellent book, for those who can read Japanese, is Takenobu Kishi’s The Magnum (Kishi, 1999); a very through coverage of magnum adult air rifles. Its material on ballistics is especially interesting and detailed. Because it is Japanese, you may have trouble locating it; try the ISBN number 4-7733-6563-3 C0075. Also, even if you can't read Swedish, you also might find Av Kenth Friberg's Luftvapen (2001) interesting for illustrations of several airguns generally not well known to American collectors.
Over the entire world, only a handful of periodicals currently deal exclusively with airguns. In the U.S. we had the outstanding Airgun Letter and its sub-publication, the Airgun Revue, both discussed above (followed by the late Airgun Illustrated magazine), and the former Rimfire and Airgun (which replaced U.S. Airgun) and the former American Airgunner (which replaced Airgun News & Report), while the British publish the monthly Airgun World and monthly Airgunner (both by Romsey Publishing Co., 4 The Courtyard, Denmark St., Workingham, Berkshire RG402AZ, England). The Airgun World articles of Roy Valentine (under the pen name “Harvey” in the 1970s) and later, those of John Atkins in Airgunner and Tim Saunders in Airgun World, are especially valuable to the collector and airgun student.
No sooner had the dust settled from Airgun Illustrated's downfall but another airgun magazine was born. However, this magazine was on-line and we expected a better chance of survival due to the economies of such publication. The illustrations can be much better and in color, with almost unlimited article size, for no extra cost! Wayne Trapp and his wife Dena established the on-line "e-zine" Addictive Airgunning in January 2004. It was putting out over 110 pages per issue, but died after only one year. In October 2004, we saw the very welcome arrival of what is now America's only airgun periodical, Airgun Hobby. Published by genuine airgun enthusiasts Ron Sauls and Jim Giles (www.airgunhobby.com), this quarterly is a somewhat less glitzy presentation ( black & white images, etc.) than some of the previous airgun periodicals, but far superior in reporting airgun shows and events and information on airgun collecting. It is a must item for all airgunners. This new publications is well worth supporting!
In addition to the above, there have been several other English language airgun periodicals which have come and gone. Some of these issues have very useful and valuable articles. The Philippine Airgun Shooter produced only four quarterly issues, plus an annual, in 1989. Trevor Adams and Trevor Morris produced the New Zealand Airgun Magazine from February 1986 to April 1988. There also was an Air Rifle News published in India in 1979 - many of its articles were lifted from early Beeman catalogs! Airgun Journal was published by Beeman Precision Airguns from 1979 to 1984. Many of the articles are still valuable to collectors. If you are aware of others, in any language, please let the author know at BlueBookEdit@Beemans.net .
At the time of this chapter’s publication, the world’s very best coverage of airguns in a general gun publication is to be found in the lavishly illustrated, prestigious German language magazine, VISIER, Das Internationale Waffen-Magazin. VISIER Specials, such as the 1996 Special Number 4, are completely devoted to some of the best written, and certainly the best illustrated, airgun articles ever presented. The British gun magazine Guns Review formerly carried excellent articles on airguns; especially noteworthy was the pioneer research of the late Dennis Commins in the period around the 1970’s. These are well worth researching at the library and buying as rarely available.
Two American gun magazines, The Rifle and Guns, have featured airgun columns, while most American gun magazines, such as The American Rifleman, Guns and Ammo, Sports Afield, etc. have only occasional airgun articles. The magazines Precision Shooting and The Accurate Rifle, perhaps the best shooting magazines in the English language, frequently present excellent article on airguns. The National Rifle Association, as part of its new program to promote airguns, promises to have one airgun article in at least one of their several publications each month. Rarely, airgun articles will be found in other outdoor magazines, such as the beautifully illustrated, but strangely captioned, article on some of the Beeman Airgun Collection items in Gray’s Sporting Journal (Atkinson, 1992). By all means, seek out that article just for its gorgeous color photos of some remarkable antique airguns. All airgunners should obtain each volume of The Air Gun Digest; the first edition by Robert Beeman (1977a), and the second and third editions by Jess Galan (1988, 1995). A small monthly publication, Airgun Ads (Box 1795, Hamilton, Montana 59840), consists completely of advertisements for airguns and accessories, primarily vintage and modern working specimens, and sometimes antique models. Political correctness forced airgun sales off eBay and Yahoo, so, for sales of old and new airgun models, check the very dependable www.ActionArms.com and www.GunBroker.com websites.
In addition to following the current airgun periodicals, one cannot remain current without consulting the latest editions of airgun catalogs from Beeman Precision Airguns, Dynamit-Nobel (RWS), etc.. The reader should take caution to note that although there are a number of really excellent airgunsmiths and dealers, there definitely are some “companies” who have little or no real substance but who may look much more significant, in printed ads and on the Internet, than they really are. The loudness and dogmatic nature of advice and opinions in our interesting field generally is inversely proportional to the competence and real status of the individuals concerned. One good clue: you can be pretty sure that you are dealing with a poor operator if he tries to denigrate certain other persons, or companies, to make himself appear larger or more important.
Sooner or later, most airgun enthusiasts begin to gather a variety of airguns. For some, the gathering begins to become a collection. For others, there is a growing interest in the development and history of airguns. It is not easy to see where to start looking for information on vintage and antique airguns, so a comment on entering the available literature might be appropriate here. Certainly an airgun collector or student will have gathered, and will be using, many of the general airgun books, catalogs, and other publications mentioned in this chapter. Referred to as essential, and which many consider as the starting point of perhaps most of America's airgun collections, is the introduction to airgun collecting in The Art of Airgun Collecting (Beeman, 1977b). At this time, your best starting point may be the article on airgun collecting in the First Edition of the Blue Book of Airguns and on the www.Beemans.net website. The “Rare Air” article in the edition one guide brings the previous introduction to collecting up to the year 2001. From there, what literature to seek will depend on what kind of airguns have become of greatest interest to you. For American BB and pellet guns, the most basic references are The American BB Gun - A Collectors' Guide (Dunathan, 1971) - a true, and highly collectible, classic (the old prices now are awesomely low - try increasing them by at least a compounded 10% per year and adding significant premiums for highly desired models), The American BB Gun -A Collector's Guide (Thomas, 2000) (basically 75 photocopied pages of Dunathan's work briefly updated), Know Your Sheridan Rifles and Pistols (Elbe, 1992), the real classic: It’s a Daisy! (Cass Hough, with Jack Powers, 1976), and bound collections of Crosman and Daisy factory literature and ads compiled by Dean Fletcher (1996-98).
Daisy airgun fans, and their numbers are legion, were delighted with the November 2002 publication of Neal Punchard's Daisy Air Rifles & BB Guns, The First 100 Years, a 156 page hardbound book which features 300 color illustrations. Delightful as Punchard's book is, the dreams of "Daisy people" (at least those even slightly interested in the Daisys made in Plymouth, Michigan) were answered in 2007 by Gary Garber's An Encyclopedia of Daisy Plymouth Guns! This monumental 414 large page tome, about the same size as recent issues of the Blue Book of Airguns, stands as the BIBLE of Plymouth Daisys. It also stands as a model of what we want for each brand of airgun in the Blue Book! Despite a delivered price of over seventy dollars, this gem sold out in just a few weeks after publication. Collectors and airgun historians eagerly await the second edition or they plan the ambush of one of the present lucky owners!
The Quackenbush airguns and firearms of America are beautifully covered in a classic work, Quackenbush Guns, by John Groenewold (2000). Old models of German airguns of the early 20th century have a very brief coverage by Detlef Behrend (1999) who published a small, 35 page booklet with photocopied black and white illustrations of models from Diana, Haenel, Tell, Fritz Langenhahn (F.L.Z.), Mars, Em-Ge, Roland, and Stern. For those interested in a wider geographic range of modern airguns, one must have Dennis Hiller’s Airpistols (3rd edition, 1993) and Air Rifles (4th edition), although those now discontinued guidebooks report quite dated gun values that are far more depressed in Britain than in America and they are severely short of information on American models. John Knibbs (1986) did a wonderful coverage of the British BSA air rifles in his B.S.A. and Lincoln Jeffries Air Rifles book. Unfortunately there isn't yet a good book covering the wonderful Webley air rifles, but the very rich collecting field provided by the wide range of Webley air pistols is beautifully presented by Gordon Bruce (2000). Bruce's book, Webley Air Pistols, which features almost 300 illustrations of these great guns. The noted airgun collector Bill Johnson (2003) has expended tremendous effort to produce the definitive work on the Bailey and Columbian Air Rifles (often referred to as the Heilprin airguns). Johnson's book is especially noteworthy for presenting all of the guns in 1/4 and 1/2 scale detailed drawings, supplemented by 160 photos on a CD. Ernst Dieter (a pseudonym) (2002), a former top engineer at Haenel, diligently compiled Luftgewehre und Luftpistolen nach 1945 aus Suhl und Zella-Mehlis ("Air rifles and air pistols after 1945 from Suhl and Zella-Mehlis") covering the post-WW2 airguns from Haenel. Though only 143 pages, it presents very valuable information on almost 60 (!) different models.
Collecting and studying air machine guns is a field onto itself and there finally is one book that really does justice to this fascinating group. Larry Behling self-published Air Machine Guns in mid-2006. This book surely will stand as the ultimate reference on this subject. I was delighted to supply Larry with a good deal of information and especially detailed pictures of dozens of air machine guns in the Beeman collection. Every known air machine gun is illustrated, usually in incredible detail, and virtually everything known about each gun is presented, again in wonderful detail. This is a BIG book, just about the same size as the current Blue Book of Airguns, containing hundreds of photographs, drawings, patent copies, etc.A large number of the images are in full color! It is worth every penny of its $65.00 price. Add $8.40 for shipping/handling in the USA. Overseas buyers get a special deal: persons in the 55 countries of the International Postal Union (most of the leading nations of the world) need add only US $9.50 for priority air-mail shipping/handling -with shipment taking only 3 to 5 days! (Customers in the other "difficult" countries [Iraq, Iran, etc.] must send $35.00 for shipping/handling.) Direct orders to Larry Behling, 220 County Rt. 6, Suite B, Phoenix, New York, 13135, USA or just click on PayPal at www.paypal.com and request payment from your credit card or bank account to firstname.lastname@example.org for a very secure, instant, easy payment! (Foreign customers need only list the amount in US Dollars - PayPal will handle the currency conversion without any effort or figuring on your part!
It now is imperative that ALL airgun collectors, airgun students, airgun historians, and airgun buyers/sellers, should obtain the first and later editions of the Blue Book of Airguns (esp. one of each of the "1 of 50" hardbound, signed copies!). This series has become the first international guide to identifying airguns and the first standardized list of airgun model and variation names (great when you want to list or understand an airgun for sale!). We are delighted that The Blue Book of Airguns generally is now considered the most important airgun reference all over the world. Brett Reno (2004) did airgunners a tremendous favor by printing his Airgun Index and Value Guide, a ring binder with over 150 pages of information on 1900+ different airguns. Based on advertised prices, not actual selling prices, the values given must be incomplete and only a rough guide, but the really great value of this guide is its expression of its original objective - to list references for most of those models! Leading American airgun collector Larry Hannusch has published (2001) Pneumatic Reflections, a compilation of the last twenty years of his interesting and well done airgun history articles. It will soon be a virtually unobtainable collectors' item. In December 2003, the Rock Island Auction Company printed a lavishly illustrated guide to the largest airgun auction ever held: over 1200 vintage specimens. Understandably, some of the information was not correct, but this is a very valuable item for collectors. It was their first list to ever sell out completely and now is very hard to locate. The estimated values are interesting, but only the separate, later list of actual realized prices is really meaningful!
The latest, and truly amazing, developments in the matter of the .46 caliber airgun carried by Captains Lewis and Clark on their famous "Voyage of Discovery" exploration trip of 1803-06 are reviewed in the fifth, and especially the sixth edition, of the Blue Book of Airguns. Be sure to note the quotations attached to the listings of the several papers referred to at the end of that article. The U.S. Army War College now owns this amazing 22 shot, rapid fire "assault rifle" of 1803. Their historians, and so many others, feel that this is the most important airgun of all time and probably the most important individual gun, of any kind, in the world. This because they feel that this individual gun was the "Key to the American West" - the very reason that an American flag is flying over most regions of the American West!
Beeman Precision Airguns published extremely limited numbers of just six numbers of The Airgun Journal, which carried articles ranging from current use of airguns to collectors' items, from 1979 to 1984. Unfortunately, due to destruction by the new owners of that company, these journals, the scores of pre-1993 Beeman Technical Bulletins, and the early Beeman Precision Airgun Guide/Catalogs, starting with Edition One (only 500 were printed!) in 1974, have become very scarce. Beeman's Airgun News was distributed to its retail customers, but was basically a sales bulletin. Especially interesting to airgun collectors are the Beeman Used Gun Lists published in the 1970's to 1990's. They hold a wealth of information on, and descriptions of, the large numbers of vintage and antique airguns sold by the Beeman company over that period. The former prices of the collectors' items will make today's collectors pale! Beeman “UGL's" and Technical Bulletins now are also collectors' items.
Air Rifle Headquarters also published an extremely limited number of small bulletins under the name of Air Rifle Monthly. There were 22 "volumes" of ARM published from 1965 to 1971. Many were oriented towards sales of ARH items but some had very interesting technical information written in charming, but incredibly verbose, West Virginian prose which, as author Bob Law himself noted, would have made his English teacher weep. The most useful of these bulletins, at this time, is Number 18, published in 1968. It contains wonderfully detailed and illustrated information on the disassembly, reassembly, tune-up, and use of Weihrauch air rifles - using the HW 55 as an example. Fortunately, the Beemans had a warm relationship with Bob Law (even supplying airguns from our import shipments to him when he could no longer manage such shipments). He sold a small supply of these booklets to us before he hauled his inventory of old publications to the dump when health and family problems forced the closing of his business.
Readers who are interested in pre-1900 airguns should obtain, or at least regularly consult, the indispensable, but extremely expensive (well over $500), 2287 page, German language, three volume Heer der Neue Støckel (Heer, 1978) which catalogs virtually all gunmakers from 1400 to 1900. Walter's (2002) The Greenhill Dictionary of Guns and Gunmakers, a huge tome covering all guns and gunmakers from 1836 to 2000, includes an unusually good amount of airgun information. The classic works on antique airguns are Air Guns (Wolff, 1958), try to find an original museum printing of this; Air Gun Batteries (Wolff, 1963), Airguns and Other Pneumatic Arms (Hoff, 1972), Windbüchsen und andere Druckluftwaffen (Hoff, 1977), and, to a lesser extent, Guns, The Development of Firearms, Air Guns, and Cartridges (Moore, 1963). A less important, but wonderful booklet, The Scheiffel and Kunitomo Air Guns is Eldon Wolff's (1967) rarest publication. A fascinating collection of older American airgun patent copies is presented in Pneumatic Arms & Oddities, Vol. 1 (Parks, 1994a), and Vol. 2 (Parks, 1994b). Blowguns, the most primitive airguns but still in use today, were considered by Janich (1993). The Airgun Letter and Airgun Revue have many excellent articles on antique airguns.
Finally, scour books, old arms auction catalogs, and journals directed to antique firearm collectors, such as Man at Arms, Gun Report, etc. for their rare references to airguns. For instance, the beautiful book, The Mortimer Gunmakers, 1753-1923 (Munson, 1992) has excellent material on, and wonderful illustrations of, the elegant air rifles made by the Mortimer family in the 1700's to early 1900' s, and a few other airguns, even a single Girandoni-system repeating air rifle made in the beginning of the 19th century.
The matter of airgun ballistics finally is beginning to receive some attention in the literature, but it may be decades before we catch up to the firearms field. The pioneer work was Compilation of Air Arm Articles and Data by John Kolyer (1969). An updated version entitled Airgun Performance by Kolyer and Rushworth (1988), even includes material on blowguns and slingshots. The first publication on the internal ballistics of airguns was fairly technical, but absolutely fascinating: The Air Gun from Trigger to Muzzle (Cardew, Cardew, and Elsom, 1976). That work was revised and expanded to include some external ballistics in the indispensable The Airgun from Trigger to Target (Cardew and Cardew, 1995). The binder style FSI Airgun Ballistic Tables (Brychta, 1994a) and FSI Advanced Airgun Ballistics (Brychta, 1994b) present essential basic ballistic information and a large collection of ballistic tables for the very serious airgun user and experimenter. Some of the most practical airgun ballistic information is given in Holzel (1991). A book in a class by itself is Richard Middleton's (2005): The Practical Guide to Man-Powered Bullets. Its 212 pages are a delightful presentation of how various projectiles get and use their power- virtually all of the information is derived from experiments carried out by the author in the most amazing ways. While it covers catapults, crossbows, blowguns, and bullet-bows in addition to low and high powered airguns, even the non-airgun material is basic to anyone who wants to know how airguns work and how projectiles behave.
Finally, it should be noted that many astute collectors, now most notably Doug Law, have realized that airgun literature itself has become a key field of collecting. Unlike the airguns themselves, the literature, especially the airgun company literature, generally is quickly lost. Thus the literature becomes both a challenge to collect and a vital link to the special history of the field - which like so many histories, soon becomes very hazy. As every year passes, this literature becomes harder to find and more valuable in several ways. Many readers will quickly find that many, if not most, of the references mentioned here have been printed in only limited editions and cannot be purchased “not for love nor money".
Where should you look for these various publications? Do try gunshows and the special order desks of Barnes and Noble and Brothers book stores, but your best bet is going to be on the search services of their websites and those of www.Amazon.com, www.Alibris.com, and especially www.AddALL.com Used and Out of Print books. A few are available at www.Beemans.net. Also check out the website of Ray Reiling of New York who undoubtedly has the world's largest selection of used and out of print gun books. He sometimes has a few airgun books - but generally these books are not going to be easy to find and you should act fast when you do find any.
Editor's Note: A few copies of the some of the publications mentioned in this article are available for sale in this website's For Sale section. Authors or publishers who have an airgun book which is not covered above should contact Robert Beeman at DrAirgun@Beemans.net.
PARTIAL REFERENCE LIST
Adler, Dennis. 2001. (Edited by Dr. Robert D. Beeman and S.P. Fjestad). Blue Book of Airguns, First Edition. 160 pp. Blue Book Publications, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Atkinson, R. Valentine 1992. Air Looms. Gray’s Sporting Journal Sept. 1992: 35-41.
Baker, Geoffrey, Collin Currie.2006. The Construction and Operation of the Air Gun. Vol. 1 - The Austrian Army Repeating Air Rifle. Revised Second Edition, 102 pp., Vol.2. The Walking Stick Air Gun, 79 pp. email@example.com
Beeman, Robert D., 1977a. Air Gun Digest. 256 pp. DBI Books, Northfield, IL.
Beeman, Robert D. 1977b. Four Centuries of Airguns, pp. 14-26. The Basics of Airgun Collecting. Pp. 218-235 (Later reprinted together as The Art of Airgun Collecting by Beeman Precision Arms in 1986, 23 pp.)
Beeman, Robert and M.J. Banosky, John W. Ford, Randy Pitney, Joel Sexton. 1991. Air Guns, A Guide to Air Pistols and Rifles. National Rifle Association, Washington, D.C.
Beeman, Robert D. 1995. The Odyssey of the Beeman R1. Chapter in the Beeman R1 Supermagnum Air Rifle, pp. 1-9. GAPP, Inc., PO Box 2478, Fort Worth, TX 76113
Beeman, Robert D. and John Allen. 2002 , 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007. The Blue Book of Airguns, Second to Sixth Editions. Blue Book Publications, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Beeman, Robert D. 2006. Meriwether Lewis's Wonder Gun. We Proceeded On 32(2): 29-34. Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Association. On the Beeman Girandoni: “this rifle, in fact, was the one carried on the expedition.”
Beeman, Robert D. 2007. Air Power Diplomacy: Lewis’s Assault Rifle. Blue Book of Airguns, 6th Edition, pp. 16-22. “New study …..has not only removed all of the objections to such a rifle being carried by Captain Meriwether Lewis but has identified the actual rifle”.
Behling, Larry. 2006. Air
Machine Guns. 324 pp. Pub. by L. Behling.
Bruce, Gordon. 2000. Webley Air Pistols. 224 pp. Robert Hale, London.
Brukner, Bruno, 2000. Der Luftpistole. Second edition, 230 pp.. Journal Verland Schwend.
Brychta, Frank S. 1994 a. FSI Airgun Ballistic Tables. 88 pp. 1994b. FSI Advanced Airgun Ballistics. 52 pp. Firearms & Supplies, 514 Quincy St., Hancock, MI 49930. (www.AirgunsUSA.com).
Cardew, G.V. & G.M. Cardew, E.R. Elsom. 1976. The Air Gun from Trigger to Muzzle. 96 pp. Martin Brothers, Birmingham, England.
Cardew, G.V. & G.M. Cardew. 1995. The Airgun from Trigger to Target. 235 pp. Privately published. ISBN 0 9505108 2 3
Chapman, Jim. 2003. The American Airgun Hunter. 234 pp., African Airgun Safari, 2006 (but undated), 144 pp. Chapman, Jim and Randy Mitchell, 2003. The Airgunners Guide to Squirrel Hunting. 128 pp. Jaeger Press, 67 Sentinel, Alviso Viejo, CA. www.geocites.com/echochap/airgun_hunter.html .
Churchill, Bob & Granville Davies. 1981. Modern Airweapon Shooting. 196 pp. David & Charles, Devon, England.
Darling, John. 1988. Air Rifle Hunting.160 pp. Crowood Press, Wilshire, England.
Dieter, Ernst 2002. Luftgewehre und Luftpistolen nach 1945 aus Suhl und Zella-Mehlis. 143 pp. WTS Waffentechnik in Suhl GmbH, Lauter 40, 98528 Suhl, Germany.
Dunathan, Arni T. 1971. The American BB Gun: A Collector’s Guide. 154 pp. A.S. Barnes and Co., Cranbury, N.J.
Eichstädt, Ulrich 2007. Corpus delicti, Die Suche nach der Lewis & Clark Windbüchse. (Body of Evidence -The Search for the Lewis & Clark Airgun), VISIER Jan.2007:135-143. Europe’s leading airgun historian and author says: “the puzzle about the legendary airgun carried by Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark from 1803 to 1806 appears to have been solved.”.
Elbe, Ronald E. 1992. Know Your Sheridan Rifles & Pistols. 79 pp. Blacksmith Corp.
Fletcher, Dean. 1996-98. The Crosman Arms Handbooks, 259 pp.; and The Crosman Rifle 1923-1950, 265 pp., The Crosman Arms Model “160” Pellgun, 144 pp., 75 Years of Crosman Airguns, 223 pp., Crosman Arms Library (CD). Pub. by D.T. Fletcher, 6720 NE Rodney Ave, Portland, Oregon 97211. (For more Crosman info see Eichstädt, Ulrich and Dean Fletcher. 1999. Eine Unbekannte Größe. Visier, Feb. 1999:52-57 and Oakleaf, Jon B. 1979. Vintage Crosmans. The Airgun Journal 1(1): 1-3, 1980. Vintage Crosmans II. The Airgun Journal 1(2):1-7.)
Fletcher, Dean. 1998c. The Chronology of Daisy Air Guns 1900 - 1981 & Daisy Toy and Metal Squirt Guns. 18 pp. 1999. The St. Louis and Benjamin Air Rifle Companies, 305 pp Pub. by D.T. Fletcher.
Friberg, Av Kenth. 2001. Luftvapen.191 pp. Karlshamm\Göteborg, Sweden. (K. Friberg, Ekbacken 3, 37450 Asarum, Sweden).
Galan, Jess I. 1988. Airgun Digest, 2nd Edition, 257 pp. DBI Books, Northbrook, IL.
Galan, Jess I. 1995. Airgun Digest. 3rd Edition. 288 pp. DBI Books, Northbrook, IL.
Gaylord, Tom. 1995. The Beeman R1. 174 pp. GAPP, PO Box 2478, Fort Worth, TX 76113
Garber, Gary. 2007. An Encyclopedia of Daisy Plymouth Guns. 414 pp., privately published by Gary Garber, P.O. Box 1682B, Collierville, TN 38027-1682.
Groenewold, John. 1990. Bibliography of Technical Periodical Airgun Literature. 28 pp.. Pub. by John Groenewold, Box 830, Mundelein, IL 60060.
Groenewold, John. 2000.
Quackenbush Guns. 266 pages. Pub. by John Groenewold, Box 830, Mundelein, IL 60060-0830. Phone
Hannusch, Larry. 2001. Pneumatic Reflections. 280 pp. L. Hannusch, 5521-B, Mitchelldale, Houston, TX 77092, firstname.lastname@example.org .
Herridge, Les. 1987. Airgun Shooting. 96 pp. A & C Black, London.
Herridge, Les.1994. Airgun Shooting Handbook. 80 pp. Andrew Publishing Co. Ltd.
Herridge, Les and Ian Law. 1989. Airgun Field Target Shooting. 100pp. Peter Andrew Publishing Co.
Hiller, Dennis E. 1982. The Collector’s Guide to Air Pistols, Rev. 2nd Ed. 187 pp. Pub. by Dennis Hiller.
Hiller, Dennis E. 1985. The Collectors’ Guide to Air Rifles, Enlarged Third Edition. 276 pp. Pub. by Dennis Hiller.
Hoff, Arne. 1972. Air Guns and Other Pneumatic Arms. 99 pp. Barrie and Jenkins, London.
Hoff, Arne, 1977. Windbüchsen und andere Druckluftwaffen. 105 pp. Parey, Berlin.
Holzel, Tom. 1991. The Air Rifle Hunter’s Guide. 159 pp. Velocity Press, 52 Lang St., Concord, MA 01742.
Hough, Cass S. 1976. It’s A Daisy! 336 pp. Daisy Division, Victor Comptometer Corp., Rogers, Arkansas.
House, James E. 2002. American Air Rifles. 208 pp., 179 b&w illus. 2003. CO2 Pistols & Rifles. Krause (www.krause.com).
Hughes, D.R. 1973. An original handbook for the model 35D, 27, 35 & 50 air rifles. 77 pp. Pub. by D.R. Hughes, England. (Original brand = Diana, RWS, Gecado, some Winchester, some Beeman, some HyScore).
Hughes, D.R. 1981. HW 35. A Handbook for Owners and Users of the HW35 Series Air Rifles. 65 pp. Optima Leisure Products, 75 Foxley Lane, Purley, Surrey, England.
Janich, Michael D. 1993, Blowguns, The Breath of Death. 81 pp. Paladin Press, Boulder, Colorado.
Johnson, Bill 2003. Bailey and Columbian Air Rifles. Also CD avail. Bill Johnson, PO Box 97B, Tehachapi, CA 93581.
Kishi, Takenobu. 1999. The Magnum. 303 pp. Printed in Japan. ISBN 4-7733-6563-3 C0075.
Kersten, Manfred. 2001. Walther - A German Legend. 400 pp., Safari Press, 15621 Chemical Lane B, Huntington Beach, CA 92649-1506 USA.
Knibbs, John. 1986. B.S.A. and Lincoln Jefferies Air Rifles. 160 pp. John Knibbs Publications, Birmingham.
Kolyer, John M. 1969. Compilation of Air Arm Articles and Data,, 130 pp. John Kolyer, 55 Chimney Ridge Drive, Convent, New Jersey 07961.
Kolyer, John M. & Ron Rushworth. 1988. Airgun Performance. 157 pp. Sangreal Press, Newport Beach, California.
Law, Robert. 1969. The Weihrauch Handbook. 44 pp. Air Rifle Monthly, Grantsville, West Virginia.
Lawrence, Andrew. 1969. Development of the Hy-Score Air Pistol. Engineering Case Library No. 134. Department of Mechanical Engineering. Leland Stanford Jr. University.
Marchington, James. 1988. Field Airgun Shooting. 200 pp. Pelham Books/London (Penguin).
Middeton, Richard. 2005. The Practical Guide to Man-Powered Bullets. 212 pp. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA.
Moore, Warren, 1963. Guns, the Development of Firearms, Air Guns, and Cartridges. 104 pp., Grosset & Dunlap, New York, N.Y.
Munson, H. Lee. 1992. The Mortimer Gunmakers, 1753-1923. 320 pp. Andrew Mowbray, Lincoln, Rhode Island.
Nonte, George C. 1970, Complete Book of the Air Gun. Stackpole, Harrisburg, PA.
Oscar Will-Catalogue Venus Waffenwerk Reprint of 1902/03 catalog. 94 pp. Journal-Verlang in Schwäbish Hall.
Parks, Michael R. 1992, 1994.
Pneumatic Arms & Oddities, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. 245 and 211 pp. Southwest
Sports, 1710 Longhill Road, Benton, Arkansas 72015.
Punchard, Neal. 2002. Daisy Air Rifles & BB Guns, The First 100 Years. 156 pp., 300 color illus., MBI Publishing.
Reno, Brett, (2004). Airgun Index and Value Guide. 13th edition, 150+ unnumbered pp. Brett Reno, RR2 Box 63, Heyworth, IL 61745.
Robinson, Ron, (1998) The Manic Compressive 125 pp.; (2001) Airgun Hunting and Sport, 138 pp.; (2003) A Sporting Proposition, 126 pp. Ron Robinson, 4225 E. Highway 290, Dripping Springs, Texas 78620. www.asportingchance.org
Saunders, Tim. 2006..
History Maker, Airgun World Oct. 2006, pp. 47-59. British report on
the Beeman Girandoni: “The weight of new evidence is
such that few doubt that it is indeed the actual Lewis and Clark rifle.”
Schreier, Philip 2006. The Airgun of Meriwether Lewis and the Corps of Discovery. American Rifleman Oct.2006: pp. 66-69, 86, 97-99. Senior Arms Curator at the prestigious National Firearms Museum of the NRA says of the Beeman Girandoni as the Lewis airgun: “the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming”.
Skanaker, Ragnar and Laslo Antal. 2001. Sportliches Pistolen-schießen. (Competitive Pistol Shooting). In German. 194 pp. Motorbuch Verlang, Postbox 103743, Stuttgart 70032, Germany.
Shepherd, Arthur. 1987. Guide to Airgun Hunting. 123 pp. Argus Books, London.
Smith, W.H.G. 1957. Smith’s Standard Encyclopedia of Gas, Air, and Spring Guns of the World. 279 pp. Arms and Armour Press, London and Melbourne
Støckel, Johan F., 1978-82. Revision edited by Eugene Heer: Heer der Neue Støckel. Internationales Lexikon der Büchsenmacher, Feurwaffenfabrikanten und Armbrustmacher von 1400-1900. 2287 pp. Journal-Verlang, Schwend GmbH, Schwäbish Hall, Germany.
Thomas, James F., 2000. The BB Gun Book- A Collectors Guide. 75 pp.
Self-pub.. (Rev. of 1971 Dunathan
Townshend, R.B. 1907. The Complete Air-Gunner. 88 pp. I. Upcott Gill, London, Chas. Scribner's Sons, NY (reprinted)
Traister, Robert J. 1981. All About Airguns. 306 pp. Tab Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA.
Tyler, Jim. 1988. Vermin Control with an Air Rifle. Andrew Publishing Company, Ltd.
Wade, Mike, 1984. The Weihrauch HW 80 and Beeman R1 Air Rifle, A User’s Guide to Higher Performance. 19 pp. Techpress, Mike Wade Engineering, 87 Elgin Rd., Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex, England.
Walter, John. 1981. The Airgun Book. 146 pp. Arms and Armour Press, London.
Walter, John. 1984. The Airgun Book, 3rd Edition. 176 pp. Arms and Armour Press, London.
Walter, John. 1985, Airgun Shooting, Performance Directory and Index of Suppliers from A to Z. 96 pp. Lyon Press Ltd., West Hampstead, London. 1987. The Airgun Book, 4th Edition. Arms and Armour Press, London.
Walter, John. 2002, Greenhill Dictionary of Guns and Gunmakers. 576 pp. Greenhill Books, London and Stackpole Books, Pennsylvania.
Wesley, L. and G.V. Cardew. 1979, Air-Guns and Air-Pistols. 208 pp. Cassell, London.
Wolff, Eldon G. 1958. Air Guns. 198 pp., Milwaukee Public Museum Pub. History 1, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Wolff, Eldon G. 1963. Air Gun Batteries. 28 pp. Milwaukee Public Museum Pub. History 5, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Wolff, Eldon G. 1967. The Scheiffel and Kunitomo Air Guns. 54 pp. Milwaukee Public Museum Pub. History 8, Milwaukee, Wisconsin