So begins Townsend Whelen's 1918 book, The American Rifle. You can read or download it free at Google Books; click here. It is more than 600 pages long. It covers so much that it is more nearly like an encyclopedia than a recreational read. A look at the table of contents will give some idea what I mean.
This book was the current info as of the year 1918. There have been advances since then. The powders, primers and optical sights are better now. Some actions are in use today that were undreamed of back then. But it is curious how much of the information and reasoning still stands up. It is also interesting that some favorite rifles from those days are still used and enjoyed today. (Others have long gone by the wayside.)
There is a chapter of more than 100 pages giving the details of rifle models in use at the time. The descriptions are accompanied by illustrations, cutaway views and instructions for taking each rifle apart. Rifles covered include the wares of Remington, Winchester, Savage and Marlin, and some also-rans like Ross and Newton. Here's what Whelen has to say about one of my favorites, the Winchester '94:
That's a pretty thorough run-down, I'd say.
The section on cartridge reloading covers the use of a tong tool to resize case necks. Some people still use
those, but bench-mounted presses able to resize the full length of the cartridge case are more popular today. The book's lessons in taking a cautious and conservative approach to handloading are still fully applicable today. (Don't try to use the antique loading data from the book, though; get a modern and up to date reloading manual.) The instructions on casting, sizing and lubing your own bullets are practical, coming from the era when casting bullets was a common practice; the details are well covered.
There is, of course, much more besides, covered in the same thorough and matter of fact style. Some of it is obsolete information and quaint, unless one wishes, for hobbyist reasons, to understand authentic old methods such as loading a Schuetzen style cartridge rifle from the muzzle end (Chapter XX).
Much of the book is still fully up to date in its thinking, if some of the tools and weapons have changed. I particularly enjoy Chapter XLI, The Rifle in the Wilderness. It is filled with advice such as this:
This sounds to me like the kind of advice old timers sometimes pass along--think of this book as a very long visit with an old timer. This book is a historical snapshot of rifle shooting as it existed in the distant days when some riflemen were legends and all of them wanted to be. Thanks to the Internet and Google Books, it is free. You can read it online or download a PDF. That link, again, is:
Free Ebook, Whelen's The American Rifle
If you fall in love with this book and decide you have to have it in a bound printed copy, here are some options:
The American Rifle (Original, first edition)
The American Rifle: A Treatise, A Text Book, And A Book Of Practical Instruction In The Use Of The Rifle (1918)
The American Rifle; A Treatise, a Text Book, and a Book of Practical Instruction in the Use of the Rifle
The American Rifle
The American Rifle: A Treatise, a Text Book. and a Book of Practical Instruction in the Use of the Rifle (Special Edition for The Firearms Classics Library)
The American Rifle: A Treatise, a Text Book, and a Book of Practical Information in the Use of the Rifle