View Full Version : What makes guns work?

March 29, 2009, 07:10 PM
Need to pick your brains to help budding firearms enthusiast.
My buddy’s 12 year old son is a heck of a shot, took two deer this, his first, hunting season and is darn near a genius. He’s a straight A student and is considering a military career.
He’s a voracious reader of library books and on line articles, forums and gun related topics. He’s been raiding my small library of books on guns and hit me with some good basic but very technical questions on how guns work. I’m trying to help but have run out of info. I can only give him rudimentary ideas of what really happens as and after you pull the trigger in the mechanism and in the “bang” for bolt action or semi-auto pistols and rifles.

Can you recommend some good books that will do a good job of introducing him to how firearms work? Thanks, you’ll be helping a real good kid in the right direction.
If this request should be in another part of the Forums, please let me know.

March 29, 2009, 07:18 PM
It seems to me the Lyman reloading manual covered the basics fairly well, but does it from the perspective of reloading, of course. I thought of it because it includes some good illustrations of how a flintlock works. Part of the question will be into what level of detail he wants to go? For someone already basically familiar with firearms, Hatcher's Notebook is a classic and explains a lot about various details and in particular the development of machineguns and how they work and differ.

If he becomes interested in a particular gun, lots of gunsmithing information can be got hold of. The Kuhnhausen books have details. For that matter, the web has details, too. I know there is a virtual .45 I've seen that demonstrates the 1911's operating principles. You Tube has tons of animated videos on how guns work. This, for example (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1H3IFJXxyEs).

March 29, 2009, 08:24 PM

This site is not bad

March 30, 2009, 09:04 AM
Unclenick: You're on the right track with Hatcher's Notebook. He's looking for the real techie stuff that many of my basic gun books don't cover. I've recommended Nonte's "Pistolsmithing" and as a good general book Ezell's "Small Arms of The World" along with several of the Scott Duff books and Brophy's '03 book.
He likes the history of the battle rifle and has moved in to the technical end. His questions on pressures, CUP, bullet design, barrel design, gas or blow-back function etc are great and it's fantastic to see him really dig in to it.
Again, thanks to all for your suggestions.

March 30, 2009, 09:41 AM
If battle rifles are an interest, Hatcher's Book of the Garand covers a lot of the development and thinking and ammo history involved up through WW II. If the interest continues and he is a math and science kind of guy, once he gets past third year calculus, McCoy's, Modern Ballistics is where he'll want to go.

Consider getting a copy of Harold Vaughn's book, Rifle Accuracy Facts. Vaughn is a decorated combat pilot who went to school to become an aeronautical engineer after the service and wound up as head aerodynamicist for the White Sands sounding rocket program, IIRC? An avid hunter and gun nut, to boot. His book covers a lot of details to do with shooting to resolve old questions and show what is involved in getting a gun to shoot well by working an example with a .270 sporter and getting it down to under 1/4 moa. Pretty interesting stuff, and not a hard read. Technical details are in his appendices, such as his accelerometer transducer and strain gauge amplifier circuits and software code.

March 30, 2009, 10:23 AM
Get him this book, HATCHER'S NOTEBOOK, MG J. Hatcher. It will provide a life time referance on just about everything firearm related. No serious shooter should be without this book.


Brian Pfleuger
March 30, 2009, 11:03 AM
"The ABCs of Reloading" has some excellent information also.

James K
March 30, 2009, 08:54 PM
At that level, "how stuff works" should be fine. An alternative is one of those "coffee table" books on guns, which usually start with the invention of gun powder (or at least the myth) and progress through the hand cannon, the slow match and so on. Most gun books at the level of the folks here are way above the level of a 12-year old.

Hatcher, for example, is good, but I doubt the young man will be interested in the rifling characteristics of the Model 1917, or the metallurgy of the M1903 Springfield. Time for that stuff later; there is a lot to learn in the field, and most of us are still learning. There are those who think they know everything about guns; they are wrong.


April 1, 2009, 09:40 AM
I just came across this book The Gun Book for Boys and Men
By Thomas Heron McKee that might be good.
Also I recently found The gun and its development By William Wellington Greener, have not read all of this one but it may be of some use if the lad is bright.
Both are older books ( 1918,1907 ) and so lack some modern information, as well as containing some outdated material- then again he may enjoy reading about Damascus barrels, etc.

The benefit is both are available as free downloads from http://books.google.com/ (http://books.google.com)