Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Gun Nut Book Review--III

I just finished reading Shotgun Technicana by Michael McIntosh and David Trevallion. I picked it up when I saw McIntosh had a hand in the book. He's the author of my favorite books on shotgunning, Shotguns and Shooting and the aptly named More Shotguns and Shooting. McIntosh writes in a beautifully clear style. His prose can be almost poetic without being flowery. I'd read a shopping list if he wrote it.

Trevallion is not actually a writer. He's a gunmaker, trained at Purdey's of London. He came to America in 1964 soon after Britain's Worshipful Company of Gunmakers accepted his masterpiece and welcomed him into the company. He now builds and repairs fine old shotguns. He also did most of the photography in the book.

Shotgun Technicana is of course well written and crafted. However, it's not for the faint of heart because of its strict attention to detail. Trevallion builds guns in the old style and McIntosh has always betrayed a fondness for fine English side by sides. Several chapters detail development of boxlocks and sidelocks going into great detail on how they were invented and how they work.

Other chapters talk about repairs showing some that Trevallion has done. Even if your fine straight-hand stocked Holland & Holland should break at the wrist, Trevallion is the man to fix it. If you need a new stock configuration, Trevallion can perform a "butt transplant" and give you what you need (he removes an offending or broken stock and transplants a new one, hiding seams in checkering--I'd never heard of it being done).

The most interesting chapter for me was "Protocol at Purdey's." McIntosh, through company photos and research, takes you into Purdey's of the 1950s. They describe meticulous handwork that makes Purdey's so desirable and expensive today (I've seen one in person with a $30,000.00 price tag hanging off it). Craftsmen hand-made each part using rough blanks. Even screws were hand made. The company gave clear names to each craftsman. A stocker built stocks, an actioner built actions, and a screwer made screws. One wonders if a screwer proudly announced his job title to his parents--a screwer was usually an apprentice.

If you like fine old shotguns in the British mold--even those made in America--you'll like Shotgun Technicana. I like all guns and I liked the book, but sometimes found it hard going. The writing was clear enough, but when they start using British names for the many parts in a sidelock, it's confusing. Some chapters like how they make a leather-covered buttpad did get tedious. I can't imagine making such a pad after reading that chapter.

So, I recommend this book with one caveat--you really need to love everything about its subject, fine old British-style shotguns, before you read it. Or, if you like technical descriptions written in a clear almost elegiac style you'll probably like Shotgun Technicana.

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