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Conferences Gun of the Week Topic #82
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Aug-02-17, 03:30 PM (EDT)
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"a note on sources"
   In a couple of recent GotW posts, the ones on the Savage Model 1899 and Remington New Model Army, I have used as a source George Markham's 1991 book Guns of the Wild West: Firearms of the American Frontier 1849-1917. The end paper notes this as part of a series of such books, along with Guns of the Elite, Guns of the Empire (it doesn't specify which empire, but since the books were published in London, I'm guessing the British one) and Guns of the Reich (again, which one is unspecified, I suspect the Third).

Guns of the Wild West is a decent source as these things go, but I have to say that Mr. Markham is a somewhat vexing historian. For instance, he seems to have conflated two different men called Rollin White in his description of the infamous "bored-through chamber" patent of 1855, and the narrative about that patent is scattered about several sections of the book, never concentrated in one place. (For example, only in one passage far removed from most of the rest of the information about the patent does Markham mention that, prior to White's unsuccessful attempt to win an extension for his patent from Congress, Smith & Wesson had managed to get it extended by three years themselves. Nor is there any explanation of how long patents normally lasted in the 1860s, nor when White's was dated from for purposes of calculating its original expiration.)

It's all a bit haphazard, is what I'm getting at, which is especially odd when you consider that, from its tone and the general presentation (despite the use of "Wild West" in the title and the cover photograph of a cowboy holding a Winchester saddlegun, which were probably decisions not made by the author anyway), it's trying to be a serious reference work. It has an appendix that's all about different types of ammunition, which is not something you would find in a book aimed solely at the mass market. But the overall effect is a bit... odd.

Mr. Markham is also given to curious choices of phrase. For instance, the last line in the section about the Smith & Wesson Schofield double-action revolver, which was briefly adopted by the U.S. Army cavalry before logistical concerns forced them to take up the 1873 Colt like the rest of the army, is: "By a quirk of fate, the inventor took his life with one of his own revolvers in 1882." Now... how is that a quirk of fate? I mean, if anyone could be expected to have a Schofield revolver on hand when selecting a suicide weapon, surely it would be the man who invented them. I submit that a quirk of fate would have been if the only gun he had handy was an 1873 Colt.

All in all, a good resource, but a peculiar one. I can recommend it, but only with that qualification.

Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.

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