Norm Flayderman opened an antique gun shop in 1952, and a few years later expanded his marketing to a mail-order catalog. He would ultimately print 119 such catalogs by 1998, researching and documenting a tremendous amount of information on antique American firearms. In 1977 he published the first edition of Flayderman’s Guide, compiling this information into a single volume. Mr. Flayderman passed away in 2013, but his Guide has been a central pillar of firearms knowledge, reprinted most recently in the 9th updated edition (this video shows the 8th edition). The information in Flayderman’s Guide is generally not very deep, but it is specific and direct, covering production numbers, configurations, and other basic important details of an incredible breadth of American arms history. From the Colonial period and American Independence through the Spanish-American War, this work covers virtually everything.
There are not many books that I would consider essential staples of any firearms reference library – usually such things are too varied by specific areas of interest. But Flayderman’s is truly a book that every scholar and enthusiast should have. Happily, it was printed in significant quantity, and is easy to find. The current 9th Edition retails for $45, but older editions are readily available for less than $10 at gun shows and through sellers like Abe Books.