Category Archives: Guns

Gunner’s Guide. — George Baekeland


Here is an item I found this afternoon in a local used bookshop. Gunner’s Guide was published in  New York in 1948 by the Macmillan Company. That I found a first edition copy with its dust jacket pleases me no end. Gunner’s Guide is a neat little book that will appeal to the shotgunner who fancies side-by-side double barrelled guns. The book consists of seven chapters in 101 pages. It includes 8 tables and 12 illustrations (line drawings) and a bibliography and index. While the author discusses the different repeating actions in shotguns of the time (semi-automatic and pump action) he makes his preference plain in noting “observation leads me to conclude that double-barrelled guns are more reliable, better proportioned, and better balanced than repeaters of similar bore. They are usually lighter than repeating guns, notwithstanding the added weight of their second barrel. Recently, however, some light pump guns have been produced which compare favorably, weight by weight, with double-barrelled guns. But the finest examples of gun beauty and precision are to be found only in double-barrelled guns.”

While I am inclined to concur with the author on the elegance and some of the features he attributes to the side-by-side double barrelled shotgun, I cannot discount the utility of semi-automatic and pump action shotguns. While I have no semi-automatic shotguns in my collection, as I am a left-handed gunner and semi-autos are typically manufactured with right-handed gunners in mind, I swear by my Browning BPS pump action shotgun for waterfowling. I have used my Lanber Model 95 over and under effectively as a waterfowl gun, but find I prefer the pump action as it has the advantage of a third shot. In the uplands, I swear by my Winchester side-by-side in 20 gauge with 26 inch barrels and choked improved cylinder and modified. It is very light to carry in the thickets where I gun for woodcock and grouse and practically points itself when I walk up my dog Hera’s points and flush a bird.


For those shotgunners who appreciate the look and feel of the side-by-side, Gunner’s Guide is a good read as Baekeland discusses topics familiar to shotgunners, bores, chokes, patterns, shells, fit, form, lead and safety, from the perspective of his preference for the side-by-side double barrelled shotgun.

Posted by Geoffrey



The Art of Shooting. — Charles Edward Chapel


This is the latest acquisition to our library collection, something Mika found while browsing in  the Ottawa Public Library used book shop. The Art of Shooting was published in New York by A. S. Barnes and Company and in London by Thomas Yoseloff Ltd. in 1960. The author, Charles Edward Chapel, published a number of books on firearms including Field, Skeet and Trap Shooting, Forensic Ballistics, Gun Care and Repair–A Manual of Gunsmithing, Gun Collecting, The Gun Collector’s Handbook of Values and Guns of the Old West. In The Art of Shooting Chapel takes on the subject of rifle and pistol shooting. The book is well illustrated with line drawing by Sanford Strother. Chapel covers the history of the development of the rifle and the pistol in two parts: part one opens with the history of the rifle, touching on the early hand cannons of the fifteenth century, moving on to the match lock, wheellock and flintlock (muskets), then to the modern rifle (the M1 Garand rifle in this case). In part two he details the development of the pistol in the same manner, starting with the hand cannons of the fifteenth century and moving on to the match lock, wheellock and flintlock to the modern revolver and semi-automatic pistols.

The Art of Shooting goes into great detail in every aspect of owning and using a rifle and pistol, with detailed instructions on how to load, aim and fire properly, how the rifle and pistol operates, how to properly clean and maintain rifles and pistols and crucially, how to use them safely.The book includes a chapter entitled What the N.R.A. can do for you. Yes, the debate between gun owners and prohibitionists was raging as far back as the 1950s. Regarding the NRA, Chapel notes “it is not affiliated with organizations of arms and ammunition manufacturers, receives no subsidies from the arms trade, and serves as the governing body for the shooting activities in much the same capacity as the Amateur Athletic Union and the National Amateur Athletic Federation serve other sportsmen. All rifle and pistol shooters who engage in official competitions, and several thousand local shooting clubs, support the  N.R.A.” This may have been the case in the 1950s, but currently, the NRA accepts donations from fun manufacturers. See the Ruger 1 Million Gun Challenge, for example, and frankly, why not.

He concludes The Art of Shooting with a chapter entitled The truth about firearms registration laws. Interestingly, and hardly coincidentally, here are the assertions put forward by prohibitionists in the 1950s in favour of gun registration:

(1) registration of weapons reduces crime by making it more difficult for undesirable persons to obtain weapons, (2) solving crimes would be easier because the weapons used in the commission of crime could be traced through the registration records, (3) it would be possible to arrest all persons found possessing possessing unregistered weapons, thereby making it easier for the police to apprehend criminals wanted on more serious charges, (4) gun registration keeps guns out of the hands of children, mental defectives, habitual drunkards, drug addicts, and other persons who should not have firearms, and (5) stolen guns can be returned to their owners more easily.

Chapel easily refutes these assertions, pointing to the tired comparison between automobile registration and gun registration, noting the familiar refrain of since you do not object to registering your automobile, why do you object to registering your guns? The difference between the two, he points out and as we know all to well in the present, is “the registration of an automobile is automatic. When a license is granted, no one questions a person’s right to own an automobile. If the tax is paid, the license tag is issued without question… The essential feature of firearm registration is the power of law enforcement authorities to say who may own a gun. The difference between automobile and firearm registration is obvious and vital under our constitutional form of government.”

The book is 424 pages in total and includes an extensive bibliography and an index, making it a useful reference source. While some of the information is dated, on the whole The Art of Shooting remains a good read and a nice view of the gun culture and shooting sports as they existed in the United States in the mid-twentieth century.

Posted by Geoffrey


Deer Hunting Hints. — C-I-L (Canadian Industries Limited)


Some of you may remember C-I-L as the manufacturer of ammunition and sporting guns commonly found for sale at Canadian Tire and other retailers of hunting and shooting supplies. Imperial and Canuck were the brand names for the shotgun shells I recall seeing and using on occasion when I was a boy. C-I-L also manufactured rifle cartridges under the Imperial brand name. Together with the ammunition C-I-L manufactured the company published a series of booklets packed with useful information for hunters, and,  of course, advertisements for its line of sporting guns and ammunition. I remember my father had some of these booklets, which, unfortunately, are lost to history, but I keep an eye out for these booklets when I browse at used and antiquarian book shops. Deer Hunting Hints was published in 1950, though there is no date on the copy in our library collection; it may be a reprinted edition. Still, in its 37 pages, it packs a lot of useful information for the hunter interested in the pursuit of deer.

The opening chapter introduces the reader to the three species of deer, white-tailed, mule and black-tailed, their ranges and provides illustrations on how to identify them. The second chapter takes on the subject of firearms, offering hints as to what kind of rifle and ammunition the hunter should use in deer hunting and showing the C-I-L line of rifles and shotguns and ammunition, how very clever of them.


The remaining chapters cover topics such as cleaning and maintaining your deer rifle, sighting it in, clothing and equipment for deer hunting, deer hunting techniques and how to dress and butcher a deer once it is on the ground and crucially, the Ten Commandments of Hunting Safety, in this publication called the Basic Rules for Hunting Safely. I remember in each of these C-I-L publications these safety rules were included.


In keeping copies of these publications I enjoy learning about the hunting culture in Canada as it was in the past, before I was born. I find that it is really not so different in the present as this quote from the introduction of Deer Hunting Hints shows: “The first consideration, of course, is sportsmanship; the good sportsman respects his quarry as well as the rights of others. In the actual hunting of game, the first concern of the novice should be to perfect his marksmanship. He must be able to place his shots where he wishes them to go. This is his prime objective and it is not achieved without constant practice.” Publications such as Deer Hunting Hints preserve a record of our hunting and sport shooting heritage, that it has always been about sportsmanship and safety and is well worth defending for succeeding generations of hunters and sport shooters in Canada.

Posted by Geoffrey

Hunter’s Guide. — Revised by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Originally published by the National Rifle Association of America)


The Hunter’s Guide was revised by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources with permission from the National Rifle Association of America and the Alberta Department of Energy and Natural Resources. The National Rifle Association holds the copyright to the material used in this publication. It was first published in 1982. The Hunter’s guide was printed and distributed in Ontario by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and served as the text book for the Hunter Education Program prospective hunters are required to complete before being issued their first hunting license. In its 301 pages, it is a comprehensive guide to hunting, hunting regulations, wildlife management, hunter safety, proper and safe gun use and the science of wildlife management. Of those 301 pages, there is one page (shown above) which demonstrates how to use handguns safely. These were included as the safety test one was required to pass before being granted their Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC), the precursor to the current Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) included handling of handguns, whether you intended to acquire handguns or not. This was a provision mandated by the passage of Bill C-17 in 1991 by then Minister of Justice Kim Campbell in the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

The fact that the NRA had a hand in the publication of the Hunter’s Guide did not go unnoticed by prohibitionists. In 2000 controversy erupted when the OFAH donated copies of the Hunter’s Guide to Ontario School Boards for addition to school library collections. Gail Nyberg, Chair of the Toronto School Board in 2000, objected to the donation and ordered the books returned to the OFAH. Her complaint was “it sends a message that it’s okay to me. That our government, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and a legitimate group, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters think it’s okay to have handguns. Well I don’t think it is okay to have handguns. We’ve had to deal with school violence. The possibility of guns and weapons are all over North America. I just think it’s highly insensitive.” (as cited in CBC News)

I remember when this story broke. As a librarian myself, I made a point of contacting the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and bringing to their attention the Canadian Library Association Statement on Intellectual Freedom. I pointed out that somehow these principles were lost on the the Toronto School Board in 2000.

All persons in Canada have the fundamental right, as embodied in the nation’s Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity, and to express their thoughts publicly. This right to intellectual freedom, under the law, is essential to the health and development of Canadian society.

Libraries have a basic responsibility for the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom.

It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable. To this end, libraries shall acquire and make available the widest variety of materials.

It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee the right of free expression by making available all the library’s public facilities and services to all individuals and groups who need them.

Libraries should resist all efforts to limit the exercise of these responsibilities while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups.

Both employees and employers in libraries have a duty, in addition to their institutional responsibilities, to uphold these principles.

Though the Hunter’s Guide is no longer in use as the textbook for the Hunter Education Program in Ontario, it remains a very useful source of information for new hunters and a good read.

Posted by Geoffrey


Automatic and Repeating Shotguns. — Richard Arnold


The latest selection from the shelves of our library is this volume, Automatic and Repeating Shotguns, by Richard Arnold, originally published in 1958 in London, UK by Nicholas Kaye and reprinted in 1960 and 1962 in New York by the A. S. Barnes and Company. By repeating shotguns, Arnold refers to autoloading, slide or pump action and bolt action, noting “the modern repeating semi-automatic shotgun is essentially an American invention which was introduced more than fifty years ago by John Moses Browning. Today the repeating shotgun in semi-automatic, in slide action, and in bolt-action form is a formidable competitor to the conventional double-barreled weapon.” As it happens, the development of the repeating shotgun has an interesting history. Continue reading

Firearms Ownership and Use in Canada: A Reporty of Survey Findings, 1976. — Philip C. Stenning and Sharon Meyer


This publication, co-authored by Philip C. Stenning and Sharon Moyer, gives an accurate and objective view of the state of gun ownership and use in Canadian society in mid-1970s. It was published in 1981, three years after Bill C-51 came into effect in 1978. Bill C-51 became law in 1978 and thereafter to lawfully purchase (but not to own) a firearm in Canada you were required to apply for and be issued a Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC). All that was required in getting an FAC was to complete the application form, pay the small fee and pass the cursory criminal background check that was carried out. My understanding of the rationale behind this legislation is that it was intended to insulate peaceful and law abiding gun owners from the elements of Canadian society that would misuse guns. Interestingly, when Bill C-51 was voted on in parliament, the Progressive Conservative Party serving as the Opposition, led by Joe Clark, voted against the Bill. My father and I, and most likely just about every gun owner in Canada, were none to pleased with this turn of events, but tried to take it in stride.

Philip Stenning is a criminologist and has an impressive list of academic credentials to his name. In carrying out his research on gun ownership and use in Canada he was neither serving the agenda of gun rights advocates, nor those of gun prohibitionists. This publication is an example of pure research. His findings, however, are very much of interest to gun rights advocates. In 1976 it was estimated there were 10,231,000 guns in civilian hands in Canada, mostly shotguns and rifles. Gun owners were overwhelmingly male, 95%. Then, 1970-1975, guns were used in approximately one third of suicides, averaging 35.2%. Between 1970-1975 there was an average number of homicides by gun of 225 per year.

The most noteworthy conclusion of the study concerns what gun prohibitionists complain about and base their assertions on: firearms availability. Access to guns is the familiar complaint you hear time and again from the varied prohibitionists across Canada and the United States. However, Stenning concluded the following: “we have noted that the data available from the Gun Ownership Survey, when compared with the limited data available on firearms incidents, disclose no credible evidence of any direct relationship between firearms incidents and firearms availability. This is not to say, however, that such a relationship does not exist. It does mean that if such a relationship does exist, the available data are currently too crude to be able to detect and measure it.” Whether or not such a relationship does exist has yet to be demonstrated, insofar as I can see, and the burden of proof falls on gun prohibitionists. To date all they offer is the tiresome complaint that access to guns is to blame, because we say so.

This publication is a good read for those who are interested in finding the truth about gun owners and gun ownership in Canadian society as it is not advocacy research. Stenning and Moyer did not have an agenda in conducting the survey and publishing their findings. That Stenning has the academic credentials, body of research and publications to his name ensures the publication is a sound piece of scholarship.

Posted by Geoffrey

The Shotgun Book. — Jack O’Connor


I spend most of my time in fields, marshes and the uplands in pursuit of game birds so shotgunning is something with which I am very well acquainted. My first shotgun was a hammerless Savage break action single shot with a 28 inch barrel, and full choke. It belonged to my father. I have a fleeting memory of the day he purchased it in 1965, in Maryland, when I was four years old. We were living in Laurel at the time. My father was serving in the Canadian Army and had been posted to work in Washington, DC. Ten years later he offered it to me and I happily accepted the offer. I shot my first grouse with this gun, on the wing no less. It was a snap shot, just like I read in a booklet published by Canadian Industries Limited (C-I-L) on upland gunning. The bird flushed and I caught sight of it between two cedar trees. I mounted the gun and fired. I walked up to the gap between the cedar trees and there on the ground was my grouse. I sure was excited. I remember calling out “Dad, I got a grouse!”

As it happens, The Shotgun Book was published in 1965 by Alfred A. Knopf. The author, Jack O’Connor (1902-1978) was the arms and ammunition editor for Outdoor Life magazine for 31 years. The book is a comprehensive guide to the varieties of shotgun most commonly in use: double barrelled, pump action, autoloading and the less common bolt-action. O’Connor opens the book with a chapter on a brief history of the shotgun. Shotguns, their forebears at least, were first manufactured in the 18th century. The book is well illustrated, with plates and diagrams, showing the inner workings of shotgun actions, models of shotguns, cartridges, chokes, shot and, interestingly, the earliest models of variable choke in use, the Poly-Choke, shown in the illustration below.


While some of the information found in The Shotgun Book is dated–it was published before the ban on the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting went into effect–it is still a good read. It brings back memories for me of the old copies of Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field and Stream my father had accumulated over the years. I pored over these magazines in the years leading up to my 15th birthday when I would be old enough to get my first hunting license. I searched through the magazines, looking up every article on shotgunning, learning about gauge, shot sizes, choke, patterns, the basics of wing shooting, all the while dreaming of getting into the field in pursuit of upland game birds and waterfowl. The Shotgun Book compiles all this information very masterfully and includes an index which makes for quick reference. For anyone interested in seeing the hunting culture in North America, as it existed in the mid-twentieth century, The Shotgun Book is well worth reading.

Posted by Geoffrey

The Bolt Action: a Design Analysis. — Stuart Otteson


The bolt action rifle is of particular significance to me, being a left-handed shooter. Most semi-automatic rifles are designed for right-handed shooters, as are most bolt action rifles. The difference between the two is I can easily use a bolt action rifle designed for a right handed shooter. As it happens, I am the proud owner of a Browning X-Bolt Medallion bolt action 30:06 Springfield calibre rifle in left-hand. I use this rifle for big game hunting and as fate would have it, shot my first deer with it exactly one week after I purchased it just ahead of the rifle season in 2012. Though the bolt action rifle is primarily a tool for hunting in the present, it has an interesting history, having been designed in the 19th century as an assault rifle for armies of the day. The first bolt action rifle was the Dreyse needle-gun was introduced in 1841 and became the main small arm in service in the Prussian infantry in 1848. The Dreyse needle-gun, though single shot, revolutionized warfare with its rate of fire of 10-12 rounds per minute.

The Bolt Action was published by the Winchester Press in 1976. The opening chapter discusses, in detail, the history of the Mauser Model 98 rifle designed by Paul Mauser (1838-1914). The Mauser Model 98 bolt action rifle was adopted by the German Army in 1898. Otteson includes detailed illustrations in the book and describes the design and engineering that went into the development of the bolt action rifle. The book is a comprehensive survey of the bolt action rifle including the Springfield M1903, Arisaka M1905, U.S. Enfield M1917, Remington Model 30, Winchester Model 54, Pre-’64 Winchester Model 70, Remington Model 720, Remington Models 721/722, 725 and 700, Weatherby Mark V/Mark V Varmintmaster, Sako L-461 Vixen, Remington Models 600, 660, and Mohawk-600, Mossberg Model 800, Remington Model 788 (Rimless Versions), Winchester Model 70 (1968 Version), and the Mossberg Model 810.

Otteson’s book is a very good read for those with an interest in the history and the design and mechanics of rifles, the bolt action rifle in this instance. As my hunting buddies can attest, my aptitude for engineering and design is wanting; I simply savour the pleasure of using a finely crafted rifle in the field and on the range. Having a copy of The Bolt Action Rifle in my library collection has given me a better understanding and appreciation of the rifle, its history and how it continues to be manufactured as a sporting arm, having long since become obsolete as the main small arm for use by the infanteer in modern armies.

Posted by Geoffrey

Canadian Shooters Rights. — Edward L. Burlew, L.L.B. Barrister & Solicitor


This volume, published in 2000 by Edward L. Burlew is a very useful guide to wading through the tangled web that is the current state of firearms law in Canada. In particular the book addresses the reality that faces gun owners in Canada as of December 1, 1998 when the Canadian Firearms Act became law. Burlew notes the foundation of the Canadian Firearms Act is licensing and the content of this legislation is aimed at the law abiding gun owner. What this means is that when the Canadian Firearms Act became law, possession of a gun in Canada is now a crime, unless the owner is licensed. The book has chapters detailing licensing, the buying and selling of guns, storage of guns and ammunition, dealing with police and courts and the handgun prohibition (short barrelled .25 and .32 calibre handguns were prohibited with the passage of the Canadian Firearms Act) that went in to effect in 2001.

Burlew identifies two key points of which gun owners must be acutely aware: (1) Licensing and (2) Storage of guns and ammunition. Gun owners need to be licensed and see to it that their license is current, that there is no lapse between the dates of expiry and renewal. With regard to storage, he is clear on this point, stating, “read the actual regulations and be sure you are storing the guns and ammunition in strict compliance with the regulations.” He illustrates the importance of seeing that you are in strict compliance with storage regulations in the chapter titled Hunters Beware. This selection from the chapter tells the story of what happened to one peaceful and law abiding hunter.

Mr. Hunter took several guns with him hunting. He kept them in his pickup bed. The guns were cased, covered, but not trigger-locked and not in locked hard cases. Ammunition was carried in the bed and in an unlocked box. The pickup bed was covered with a locked cap, bolted down and an additional wire and lock held the cap door closed in addition to the lock. Mr. Hunter slept in a hotel. During the night thieves broke the cap door off at the hinges. The lock held fast and two guns were stolen.

The police arrested the thieves, impounded Mr. Hunter’s truck without a warrant and seized his remaining guns and ammunition. Mr. Hunter faces criminal charges of unsafe storage of guns and ammunition and unsafe transportation for leaving his guns unattended. The police say he should have had trigger locks or locked hard cases and the ammunition should have been in a locked box.

This may sound ridiculous to you, Mr. Hunter has a good defense and should be found not guilty. The police say let the judge decide. Mr. Hunter’s guns are seized until trial. He must hire a lawyer and travel from home to the court where the theft took place. The trial will be nine months after his truck was broken into.

This book, though published in 2000, is a timely reminder of the reality facing Canada’s gun owners following the passage of the Canadian Firearms Act, the intentions of the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien that passed it and the dire straits Canada’s gun owners find themselves in until the Canadian Firearms Act is repealed.

Posted by Geoffrey

My Friend the Partrige: Memories of New England Shooting . — S.T. Hammond


Stephen Tillingshast Hammond (1831- ) had a lifelong love of upland gunning with dogs, the ruffed grouse being his favourite quarry. My Friend the Partridge was published in 1908 by the Forest and Stream Publishing Company. The copy in our library collection is from a limited edition reprint, one of 1025 copies (copy no. 812), published by Laurence G. Barnes of the Gunnerman Press. The book is an early form of the genre that became very popular in  the 20th century. It is a memoir of Hammond’s experience in gunning for ruffed grouse, ecology of the ruffed grouse, training dogs for the hunt and wing shooting. He dedicates a chapter to wing shooting, noting that in his boyhood, ground swatting was the norm, noting that “I well remember that, when I was a boy, the man who could ‘shoot flying’ was looked upon as a wonder, and pointed out to strangers as one far above the common herd, but now ‘the woods are full of them’.”

Times have changed since 1908 when My Friend the Partridge was published. In Hammond’s day, hunting was viewed more favourably and the introduction of young people, boys and young men, to gun ownership and hunting were seen as a good thing, not cause for alarm. He notes in the chapter on wing shooting:

The noble sport of field shooting has done much for the men and boys of the last two generations. It has enabled them to store up a stock of vitality that has done them good service in the time of need. The forms of those who practice it will not be prematurely decayed, their minds will not easily be warped by worldly cares; for there is a stimulus in the air of the forest that fills their veins with a potent power to withstand the debilitating effects of the strenuous life. Not only this, but the average boy must perforce, in some manner, work off the surplus steam that all boys are possessed of–at least, all boys  that are worth while. It has been my experience that in many instances these high-strung youngsters, who did not take to the woods, have worked off this surplus steam in a manner that was very distressing to their friends, and far from being conducive to their own well being.

So when your boy asks for a gun, thankfully place it in his hands and wish him good luck.

In spite of the negative attitudes held by some in the present day toward hunting and gun ownership, for those who appreciate upland gunning over dogs as I do, Hammond’s words ring true. I grew up learning from my father and other hunters to appreciate the pleasures of the hunt and looked forward to the day when I could have my own gun. When I came of age, I was given my own gun, with the understanding this was a privilege, that I was leaving childhood behind and taking on the responsibilities of an adult. What has changed since Hammond wrote these words is that in the present day it is both young men and young women who are introduced to the pleasures of hunting and gun ownership. I am bringing the son of friends of mine into the field this season as he has come of age and desires to take up hunting. I am happy to bring him into the fold and hope that the hunting tradition S.T. Hammond wrote of continues in North American culture for generations to come.

Posted by Geoffrey