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The pinfire system.

* Probably the most maligned, overlooked facet of gun collecting is the pinfire. In fact, this curious round, with its external tail-like striker, heralded the era of the practical breech-loading self-contained cartridge, and continued into production for many years alongside the more sophisticated centerfires and rimfires.

True, to the uninitiated casually cruising the aisles at gun shows, there does seem to be a preponderance of inexpensive, and downright cheap, guns chambered for pinfire loads littering the tables; and in fact countless numbers of junk guns were actually produced.

To those of us fortunate enough to view some of the world's finer private and public collections, however, it soon becomes evident that cleverly designed pinfire arms of the highest quality and decoration were also turned out in considerable numbers. Unfortunately, nobody had really studied or cataloged them, and they tended to be relegated to a lesser strata of collectibity.

The Pinfire System by Gene P. Smith and Chris C. Curtis, Bushman-Bradshaw Publishing Co., San Francisco, California, will hopefully change some collectors' attitudes toward these unique arms. It is certainly the most definitive work on the subject to date.

I have been aware of Chris' interest in pinfires for some time, and when he told me of the project several months ago, i eagerly awaited the product. I'm happy to report that the wait has not been in vain.

Beginning at the beginning, The Pinfire System essays an explanation of the arms' development and a short, pithy biography of Casimir Lefacueaux, father of the design. Subsequent chapters cover cartridges (including a valuable guide to headstamps), shotguns, rifles, military revolvers, pinfires in the American Civil War, pepperboxes etc. Of particular interest is the chapter on Civil War usage. Probably no facet of pinfire development has been so confused. It seems that any pinfire made between 1845 and 1900 is touted by its owner as being Confederate issue. Messrs. Smith and Curtis go a long way in clearing up many misconceptions in this area.

To be sure, the voulume is not without its faults. Many of the photos are murky and out of focus. As well, some of the captions merely titillate rather than inform. Occasionally the layout becomes downright complicated, and it is often difficult to match photos with comments. Some of the phraseology is a bit awkward and spelling ("calibre" for "caliber") a tad pompous. But to give the authors their due, often a writer's real intent can get somewhat distorted by the time it hits the printed page.

Actually, these minor complaints really don't detract from the overall purpose of the book--which is to inform. This it does beautifully. Should you have some arcane revolver or shotgun, there is a pretty good chance that you will be able to find a picture or description of it somewhere within the volume's' 215 pages.

Frankly, The Pinfire System has already found a prominent place on my bookshelf and will be a valued reference when preparing my "Gunsmith" column or other features for Guns & Ammo. It is available for $35 plus $2 postage (California residents add $2.10 sales tax) from The Pinfire System, Dept. GA, P.O. Box 16184, San Francisco, CA 94116. As the printing is limited to 1,500 copies, it probably would be a good idea to get your order in early. I think the book will be a real winner.
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Author:James, Garry
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1984
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