Reviews of CAS-Related Books

Gunsmithing Guns of the Old West
by David R. Chicoine

First, the press release from Krause Publications

Gunsmithing Guns of the Old West Cover Learn to repair, fine-tune Old West firearms

Iola, Wis. - Nov. 29, 2001 - "Gunsmithing Guns of the Old West" shares detailed instructions on repairing and fine-tuning Old West firearms. Available from Krause Publications, this valuable reference covers more than 40 original and replica handguns, shotguns and rifles--a must-have for cowboy action shooting enthusiasts. For anyone who works on these types of firearms, this is the textbook to have on the workbench.

"Gunsmithing Guns of the Old West" by David R. Chicoine is packed full with information that is available nowhere else. This new book provides an overview of guns of the Old and new West, common gunsmithing tools, general repair work and step-by-step disassembly instructions on more than 40 Old West firearms and their modern-day replicas. The more popular classic and replica firearms are covered including those from Colt, Merwin-Hulbert, Remington, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Starr, Marlin, Sharps, Springfield, Winchester, Henry, David Pedersoli and Aldo Uberti. The detailed instructions guide readers through the process of making hard-to-find parts to assessing a job to decide if the work should be left to a skilled professional. There is even an explanation of exactly what a skilled professional gunsmith was in the 19th century. Exploded drawings and parts lists accompany the models covered, and a glossary explains gunsmithing terms at length.

Illustrated with more than 300 photos and more than 100 original drawings, readers can expect to see repair information and takedown instructions, as well as a basic knowledge of how these guns function. Now anyone can get to know how these old guns work. More than a third of the book offers extensive information on the inner workings of firearms, firearms restoration and little known gunsmithing secrets. Detailed troubleshooting procedures for several popular antique and modern revolvers teach the reader how to diagnose symptoms to find the cause of a problem.

Chicoine is a professional gunsmith and firearms restorer who has been restoring and repairing classic and antique firearms for more than 20 years. These firearms have included Colt, Merwin-Hulbert, Remington, Sharps, Smith & Wesson, Winchester and many others too numerous to mention. For many years he was the only gunsmith to whom Smith & Wesson and Winchester (U.S. Repeating Arms) referred their customers with older/obsolete model firearms for expert repair and refinishing work. Chicoine also has acted as a consultant for several of the major firearms companies and today writes for several firearms publications.

"Gunsmithing Guns of the Old West" can be purchased from major bookstores (ISBN 0-87349-252-8) or directly from the publisher, Krause Publications, Book Department PR01, PO Box 5009, Iola, WI 54945-5009, for $27.95 plus $4 shipping of the first book and $2 for each additional book. Residents of the following states please add appropriate sales tax: Calif., Iowa, Ill., Penn., Tenn., Va. and Wis. Non-U.S. addresses pay $20.95 shipping for the first book and $5.95 for each additional book. Contact Krause Publications at (800) 258-0929, or visit us at

Okay, that's what the fellows from Krause tell you about the book --
what is it really like?

The first thing I have to say is this -- most people have no business at all doing their own gunsmithing. Gunsmithing is not easy. It requires special tools and special training. An amateur gunsmith can mess up a really good gun just about as fast as an amateur watchmaker can mess up a Rolex. It's just harder to get a Rolex open. However, when you are out in the field and your revolver won't revolve, you really feel let down. That's one reason that everyone involved in shooting sports should know some basic gunsmithing.

That's why I took Judge Gullett's Cowboy Gunsmithing Course via the internet a couple of years ago. It was darn well worth it. I'm glad I did. I have already saved as much money on gunsmithing as I spent on the course. However, there is a lot of material in this book that was not covered in the course.

The book starts with historical information on the types of guns that are used in Cowboy Action Shooting™ (CAS™), the kind of metals that were used in them and plenty of information about the merits of black powder vs. smokeless powder. This is especially important if you have an actual antique gun, which was never intended to be used with smokeless powder.

He discusses the basic terms of gunsmithing in detail. Are you unsure about the real meaing of "headspace?" It's in here. What about "bore diameter" and "groove diameter?" These are in there, too. Do you know where the "bolt" is on your Colt revolver? You really should know this stuff, it's pretty basic. And it's all in here.

Many of the guns that are covered in the book are not permitted in CAS™ competition, particularly the double-action revolvers; however, if you have one of these, I am sure that the information about them will be very useful to you.

The author is particularly savvy about safety. Some inexperienced gunsmiths may feel this is overdone -- each description of how to work on a firearm starts with a warning to make sure that the weapon is unloaded. Overdone? I don't think so. Many people who should know better are killed or injured with "unloaded" guns every year. His methods of work are logical and are based on years of experienced and sound observations of gunsmithing protocols and techniques.

Much of his information covers the reasons NOT to do something as well as the reasons one might want to do these things. Puzzling? Let me give you some examples.

When should you "restore" an antique pistol and when should you leave it alone? He gives detailed advice on this controversial topic.

What about trigger jobs? How do you slick up that action so it works like breaking a piece of glass? And what should you NEVER do to your sear engagement?

His information concerning tools is excellent. His "capture box" would have saved me many an hour on hands and knees. And the screw jack he gives you the plans for is so much more elegant than the rig I put together with a cabinetmaker's vise and a couple of pieces of plywood.

If you plan to restore old guns, he shows how to rescue damaged screws -- some methods are beyond the average tinkerer -- secrets of metal finishes, and he even shows how to repair damaged stocks. All in all, this is excellent information, and it is all directed toward the guns we use in our sport.

Should you have this book? Definitely. Is it worth the price? Definitely. Would I have bought it in my local gun shop? In a heartbeat.

There is only one glitch that I think needs mentioning. There is a drawing on page 127 of a Colt SAA revolver in which the numbers do not actually correspond with the names of the parts. The text opposite it on page 126 is also scrambled. Most of us would be able to figure out the correct part names, especially by referring to other drawings further along in the book. However, Krause publications is aware of this problem and will send corrected pages to you upon request.

I give this book 5 Stars.

Bill Palmer -- Three Eyed Willy

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