It’s more likely than not that American gun owners have at least one firearm bearing a famous name from the industry giants of the 19th century. Samuel Colt, Oliver Winchester, Eliphalet Remington, Horace Smith, Daniel Wesson. Today their names live on in the form of iconic designs, whether they’re family heirlooms or fresh off the assembly line, but before the guns, there were the men themselves. John Bainbridge, Jr. does the firearm community a service in shedding light on the lives of these men, of whom we know little, outside of their monikers.
Gun Barons, despite what appears on the cover, is less about the guns themselves and more about the men and machinations that led to their being, as well as their use in battle. In more than 350 pages, Bainbridge delves into the private lives of these designers, giving us insight into their upbringing, character and innovative spirit. Through Bainbridge’s artful telling, readers plunge into scenes of the 19th century, whether it’s a circus in Manchester, Conn., the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London or the battlefields of the Civil War. The tales are so immersive it seems almost impossible that such details are available to us today, nearly 200 years later in some cases, but Bainbridge’s well-cited source material at the end is illustrative of the remarkable amount of work that’s gone into bringing these facts to the fore.
Gun Barons is a great read for every firearm enthusiast, providing us with a glimpse into what some consider to be the “golden era” of arms development.