Rifleman Q&A: Out-Of-Print Sources

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posted on February 13, 2024
firearm magazines

Q. I have noticed that your writers of vintage firearms often refer to rare or obsolete catalogs in their articles. Not all of us have access to such a vast, and I assume, expensive, library of reference books. Is there an affordable way to obtain information as well as out-of-print catalogs on vintage guns such as Winchester, Colt, Marlin, L.C. Smith, etc.?


A. I can empathize with your frustration. After all, part of the allure of owning vintage firearms is knowing their history, what they cost when new and what special-order options were available. Much of this information can be found in older catalogs that were contemporary with the guns. But, as you noted, the original catalogs have become expensive and hard-to-find, and many are very collectable. There are some readily obtainable resources, however, for information on older firearms, including:

The NRA National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va., has more than 2,500 firearms on display. By logging on to its website and clicking on “Guns,” you can find information on individual firearms spanning the centuries.

Another great source is the online Blue Book Of Gun Values, which lists practically every conceivable firearm by manufacturer, model and variation. A printed version of the Blue Book Of Gun Values, available for $60 at bluebookofgunvalues.com/shop, contains the same information but also provides approximate values. An updated edition is printed annually, and I often refer to it.

If you’re seeking detailed information on specific firearms, Mowbray Publishing has a wide selection of books on topics ranging from antique guns to modern battlefield firearms.

And, finally, if you want actual reprints of older gun catalogs, there is no better source than Cornell Publications, a mail-order repository of more than 6,000 firearms catalogs, books and manuals spanning the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Their reprints are available for a fraction of the cost of the originals.

—Rick Hacker, Field Editor

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