The Aviation Collection

Sportsman’s Vintage Press is proud to announce a new line of books: The Aviation Collection

The Aviation Collection launched today with an initial line-up of ten titles with more titles planned for release throughout the rest of the year. The books are available for purchase directly from The Sportsman’s Vintage Press website or from Amazon.

The Aviation Collection is ideal for aviation enthusiasts, engineers, or mechanics and is a vital part of the reference library for anyone undertaking the construction of an amateur built experimental aircraft. Many of the books in this Collection come from the heyday of the amateur built aircraft and are especially well suited for the experimental aircraft library.

Though nominally old, the books of the Aviation Collection are still relevant to the field of aircraft construction and engineering. Planes from this era are not only still around, but remain some of the most popular aircraft in the sky today. Piper Cubs and Supercubs, Taylorcrafts, Ercoupes, Cessnas, and Aeronca Champs are all as popular today as they ever were and are all from the same era as these books. Likewise, the engines used in these aircraft such as the Continental O-170, O-190, and O-200 remain the backbone of the aviation engine market and can be dated to the same years as the books in this Collection.

We are also pleased to announce that Drake’s Aircraft Mechanic Series is available in its entirety as part of The Aviation Collection. Drake’s Aircraft Mechanic Series was written in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s and is comprised of seven books, each covering a different aspect of aircraft construction, repair, and maintenance. Written both for the layman or the experienced mechanic, Drake’s Aircraft Mechanic Series was designed to help the reader pass the test to become a licensed aircraft mechanic (which was then administered by the Civil Aeronautics Administration, or CAA). The series covers wooden aircraft construction, welding, sheet metal work, engines, electrical systems, hydraulic systems, instruments, and repair and maintenance of all aircraft components. These books are written simply and in non-technical terms and are profusely illustrated. They are fit for both novices and experts in the subject.

Whether you are building your own experimental aircraft or learning to repair and maintain factory built aircraft, or if you are simply an aviation enthusiast, the Aviation Collection by Sportsman’s Vintage Press will make a great addition to your library.

The initial ten titles of the Aviation Collection are as follows:

Aircraft Construction Handbook by Thomas Dickinson

Aircraft Sheet Metal Work by C. A. LeMaster

The Aircraft Apprentice by Leslie MacGregor

Aircraft Woodwork by Rollen Drake

Aircraft Welding by Rollen Drake

Aircraft Sheet Metal by Rollen Drake

Aircraft Engines by Rollen Drake

Aircraft Electrical Systems, Hydraulic Systems, and Aircraft Instruments by Rollen Drake

Aircraft Maintenance and Service by Rollen Drake

Aircraft Engine Maintenance and Service by Rollen Drake

Why We Read Old Books Part III

In the first two parts (Part I, Part II) of this series we discussed why someone might read an old book about outdoor activities for the purposes of entertainment and for historical enlightenment.  In this final part of the series I will seek to explain the value of reading these old books for their intended purpose—to instill in the reader some practical knowledge of how to hunt, fish, shoot accurately, etc.

When originally published, these books were written by the foremost authorities on sporting activities and many of the books are still regarded today as the standard by which other books on the subject are judged.  Still, we must admit that fifty or more years is a long time and face the possibility of out-datedness head on.

Many modern hunters will eschew these books as hopelessly out of date and not worth reading because so much has changed in the last half century—heck, many of these books are so old as to predate the .223 Remington and .308 Winchester.  There is some merit to this way of thinking, after all, many of the companies discussed in these books are no longer in business and many of the rifles, cartridges, and other technology which were used in the 1950’s are out of production and impossible or impractical to find nowadays.  Furthermore, given the advance in technology over the years, the techniques and technology may no longer be the most efficient way of taking game or fish.  All of these statements notwithstanding, these books are still of immense value to the modern sportsman.

It is simple to overcome the issue of out of date information regarding what rifles and cartridges are available on the marketplace.  First of all, many of the guns you will read about in these books still exist in a modern form—for example, the Winchester Model 70, 1894, or 1886—or they can be found on the used market relatively easily.

And if that is not comforting enough, you can always use a little creativity in following the advice found in the books.  If Townsend Whelen suggests a modified Mauser military rifle for hunting in the backwoods, you can take a look at the Ruger Model 77, which is based on the Mauser action and retains many of the original features such as the claw extractor and the angled recoil lug.

The same goes for cartridges.  You will find that many of the writers suggest cartridges that are still readily available in today’s sporting goods stores, such as the 30-30, .375 H&H Magnum, .338 Winchester, and the venerable .30-06 Springfield.  And just as with rifles, if someone suggests a hard to find cartridge you can always find a modern equivalent that will offer comparable ballistics.

For example, if someone recommends the .300 H&H Magnum—which is still available, but maybe not readily so—you can substitute the .300 Winchester Magnum, or if Elmer Keith recommends his 334 OKH wildcat cartridge—which probably never saw use by many people outside of Keith’s own circle—you can substitute the .338 Winchester Magnum and get equal or better performance.

The point is this; even if some of the rifles and cartridges referred to in these books seems archaic, there is always a way to bring the information into the present.  And given that the authors of these books were esteemed for their expertise on these subjects, it seems prudent to try our best to bring this information into the 21st Century.

Let us not also forget that some things don’t change when it comes to our preferred outdoor activities.  The best way to dress and pack out game hasn’t changed and likely never will until the day we all go into the wilderness in our own private helicopters.  The techniques for marksmanship which earned Col. Whelen and C. S. Landis national championships haven’t changed and anyone would be well served to follow their advice for hitting the bull’s-eye.  The laws of physics haven’t changed, and the tables for drop and wind drift of a .22 caliber bullet in Small Bore Rifle Shooting are still accurate to this day.

The best area to place your bullet, or look for game, or drop your lure also hasn’t changed.  While technology may have changed in the past fifty years, we can take comfort in the fact that the quarry has not.  If Edward Freeman made his hunting trips with a .38-55 Winchester Model 94 and dropped hundreds of deer in the Maine woods, you can be sure your .308 Winchester has the potency to take down a whitetail.  Hunters may have added camouflage, scent blockers, and range finders to their bag of tricks, but the animals have remained the same.

For all of the above reasons, classic sporting books still have a place in your library for their original intended purpose—to teach you how to bag your quarry or hit the bull’s-eye.  Good information is good information, regardless of when the words were put down on paper.  Much of the information in these books stands the test of time and requires nothing of you, other than to read it, for it to make your outdoor excursions more enjoyable and successful.  And whatever information has become outmoded due to advances of technology is easily transported into this century with just a modicum of creativity on the part of the reader.

And this is to say nothing of the man who prefers to take to the woods in the fashion of his father or grand-father and is steadfast in his commitment to tradition.  I know these people are out there.  People who wish to take the woods with wood stock and blued steel instead of synthetic and stainless; people who prefer wool, cotton, and leather to acrylic, polyester, and rayon; people who value patience and perseverance; and people whose foremost desire is to enjoy the outdoors and their time spent in it, rather than to simply get in, get their game, and get out.  For these sportsmen, books like this provide hours of enjoyment and a lifetime’s worth of valuable knowledge.

Why We Read Old Books Part II

In the first part of this series we covered how classic books about the outdoors can stand the test of time purely for their entertainment value to readers, particularly the enjoyment that is can be had from the stories of hunting and fishing.

The second part of the series is similar to the first part, but instead of deriving enjoyment from stories of trophy elk or trout, the enjoyment comes from connecting to another time.  Granted, these books are not that old, ranging anywhere from fifty to one hundred years old, but to many people, it’s an era that holds a certain level of fascination.  Whether the fascination stems from learning how your father hunted, how your grandfather hunted, or remembering how you hunted as a youth, the fascination is undeniable and these books provide a way to learn about the history of hunting.

Some people are simply captivated by how things were done in the past, even if they have no intention of using those tools and techniques in their own sporting excursions.  For people like that, classic books about the outdoors are a goldmine of information.  Almost all of these books cover in great detail the tools used for the particular subject—rifles, cartridges, clothing, rods, reels, lures, tents, packs, etc.—so that one can get a complete picture of how hunting, fishing, or match shooting was done decades ago.

History of hunting and camping
A hunting camp the old-fashioned way.

Examples of books of this kind are ample, the most notable being Wilderness Hunting and Wildcraft by Townsend Whelen, Keith’s Rifles for Large Game by Elmer Keith, and Rifle-Craft by C. S. Landis—currently the oldest book published we publish, dating from 1923.

We can learn about the history of hunting from C. S. Landis
Information circa 1923

One of the more unique books that comes to mind for its historical value is This Business of Exploring by Roy Chapman Andrews.  While this book is not about hunting or fishing or any other sportsman-like pursuit, it remains a fascinating account of a bygone era.  The book is about one of the expeditions of the author, a noted explorer, in his search for fossils and other artifacts in Mongolia in the late 1920’s.  In the book, Andrews writes of death, war, and groundbreaking discoveries in an age of scientific exploration which no longer exists.  Reading almost like the journal of a real-life Indiana Jones, Andrews’ book has tons of entertainment and historical significance.

history of archaeological expeditions
An account of the 1928-1930 Mongolian expedition of Roy Chapman Andrews.

Smith & Wesson Hand Guns by Walter Roper and Roy McHenry is a book written about the history of the Smith & Wesson Company from the founding of the company through World War II.  This particular book was written from the ground up as a historical account and has been used by Smith & Wesson collectors as a reference for decades, as the book contains a fair amount of detail on the changes to each Smith & Wesson model through the years.

history of the Smith & Wesson company
One of the standard references for Smith & Wesson buffs.

Elmer Keith makes reference to Smith & Wesson Hand Guns many times in his own brief historical account of the revolver—which can be found in Sixgunsand Keith’s history of the revolver is itself a valuable reference work to firearms historians as a secondary source, since Keith personally interacted with Civil War veterans and other Old West survivors.

history of hunting and revolvers used in hunting and self defense
The standard by which all other books about revolvers are measured.

It is impossible to deny that these books are valuable to those of us who read books for their historical content.  From learning how things were done by a prior generation, to learning about the founding of a company and the technological advancements of firearms, these books have it covered.

In the final part of this series we will discuss the practical value of classic sporting books.

Why We Read Old Books Part I

Sportsman’s Vintage Press publishes books which were generally written in the first half of the 20th Century by men who were born as early as the late 1800’s, so we clearly have a stake in the old-fashioned ways of doing things.  Not everyone will be interested in reading books from several decades ago, but for those who are thinking about picking up a classic book about the outdoors, I thought I would provide some rationale for doing so.

The most obvious reason that someone might pick up a classic book is purely for entertainment value.  Just as with a novel, many of the older books about hunting are plenty entertaining to read regardless of any practical knowledge they may contain.  While the original purpose of the these books was to instruct the reader about how to do certain things, the authors almost always include a good deal of first-hand accounts and fishing and hunting stories.

Elmer Keith’s books, for example, are chock-full of his experiences in the game fields and the match shooting ranges.  Keith’s stories about his successes and failures with a firearm are so entertaining that a book like Sixguns—which at its core is a practical volume on the use of a revolver—can rival a novel for its ability to keep the reader firmly planted in their chair and their eyes glued to the page.  Additionally, Keith tells many stories which he heard second-hand from an even older generation of men who lived through the Civil War and Old West era–which is reason enough on its own to read one of his books.

Elmer Keith told great hunting stories
Elmer Keith: A legendary American sportsman and a great storyteller

Many of these old books give us the chance to live vicariously through someone who had the means to take a sporting trip we can only dream of, and did it in one of the golden ages of hunting.  For example, many hunters dream of making it to Africa someday for a safari, but such a trip is expensive and time-consuming, so the opportunities for excursions of this kind are limited.  However, Charles Askins made many trips to Africa and a recounting of one of his more extensive trips is available in Asian Jungle, African Bush.  This book not only includes practical how-to information for the travelling hunter but also includes a journal of Col. Askins’ trip which details in both words and pictures his hunting experience on two continents.

hunting stories from Asia and Africa
Asian Jungle, African Bush includes a journal of Col. Askins’ hunt on two exotic continents.

Another writer who gives us a look at a world we may never experience first-hand is John “Pondoro” Taylor, who was a professional hunter in Africa and whose book African Rifles and Cartridges draws on his decades of experience on the Dark Continent.  And a book like Greatest Fishing by Joe Brooks is a similar recounting of exotic trips taken in pursuit of game, but this time the quarry is fish.

Hunting stories from the golden age of African hunting
“Pondoro” Taylor was a professional hunter in Africa and wrote “African Rifles and Cartridges” specifically for Americans who planned to venture abroad

So, while the original intent of these books was primarily to teach the readers how to do something—whether it was how to hunt, fish, or shoot—these books can and should be read purely for their entertainment value.  Whether one wants to be regaled with stories of a far away land or hear of events which happened on our own continent, authors such as Elmer Keith, Charles Askins, “Pondoro” Taylor, and Joe Brooks are happy to oblige.

In the second part of this series, we will cover the historical value of older books.