Video Book Review: Textbook of Automatic Pistols

Every pile of dusty old books you find at a gun show has a zillion reprints of Cartridges of the World and how-to pamphlets on stock refinishing from 1960. But occasionally you’ll find a real gem in those piles – and this book is one of the gems. Written by R.K. Wilson and published in 1943, the Textbook of Automatic Pistols gives a deeply technical explanation of all the very early automatic pistol designs, including a bunch of very unusual ones virtually never seen these days. It also covers the design and ballistics of the cartridges used by these guns – cartridges like the .45 Mars, .35 S&W (yeah, the .35), and 5mm Clement. It’s an absolute wealth of information that you can’t find anywhere else.

If you would like a copy, you have three options. One is to keep a lookout for one at gun shows – you may find it sooner or later. Two is to go online and find a copy of the original printing and pay $100 or so. Three is to go to Amazon and get a copy of the 1990 leather-bound reprint “Textbook of Automatic Pistols 1884-1935” by Wolfe Publishing for a paltry 25 or 30 bucks. You’ll have to go through a 3rd party dealer to find it (Amazon doesn’t stock it themselves), but for that price I think it’s a screaming deal and worth the extra effort.


  1. A possible alternate source for this book is The Firearms Classics Library. I have such a copy published by Palladium Press in 1999. This was sort of a “book of the month club” for classic firearms books. I’m not sure but I think they are offering it again.

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