Wolfe Publishing Group

    Book Reviews

    Reloading Tools of the Black Powder Era 1850-1910 Bols. 1 & 2

    There are people today who believe the printed word in the form of books is obsolete. All we need, they say, is a “plastic box” connected to the Internet, and knowledge will flow like spring water, dissipating ignorance as does darkness at sunrise. Well, maybe, but sunrise has a much better track record regarding reliability.

    At any rate, one form of book that can never be replaced by the “plastic box” is the collector reference book. Note I said collector reference and not investor reference. Most collecting today has degenerated into investment decisions. Folks who are interested in collectibles see a way to make a bit of money. Who can blame them?

    Unfortunately this has led to reference books becoming simply price guides with a bunch of short stories thrown in about finding a $100,000 antique in a pile of junk at a carport sale behind a “$1 each” sign.

    Even worse are the books that don’t have prices but rather values. In this case “value” is a euphemism indicating the item is actually worth the price stated. That’s not good. Nearly 60 years ago I learned first hand that antique, pawn shop and similar businesses service a totally buyer’s market. Except for a few firearms, some furniture, and jewelry for its gold or gemstone content, the rest has no value whatever – only what someone can be convinced to pay. This has caused a lot of heartaches.

    Thus the discovery of the two-volume set reviewed here came as a pleasant surprise. They are written the way a collector

    reference should be and perhaps will lead to more such work on the subject. Reloading Tools of the Black Powder Era, Vol. 1 by Tom Rowe and Ed Curtis is exactly what the title says it is. In hardcover, 8½x11 format with 314 pages, it covers tools made (or sold) by Ideal, Bridgeport Gun Implement, Union Metallic Cartridge Company, Ballard, Marlin, Maynard, J. Stevens and Providence Tool. Volume 2 continues with Remington, Sharps, Smith & Wesson, Colt, Frank Wesson, Whitney, Winchester, military and lots of small makers.

    There is not a great deal of text because, in most cases, detailed histories of the tools, separate from the larger gun companies, are very difficult to find at this late date. Much has to come from catalogs showing the tools, so many such original pages are reproduced. These and the tools are shown in nearly full size on the large pages. Thanks also to the magic of digital photography, all rust, corrosion and chipped paint so dear to the hearts of serious collectors is shown in perfect focus and full color.

    Of note is that the paper is not shiny, but slightly matte, eliminating annoying glare. It is also thick, .006 inch as opposed to the more common .0045 to .005 inch, and stiff. Four sheets are folded and sewn into signatures – proper construction for frequently used hardbound books.

    Overall it is hard not to speak too highly of these volumes. They are excellent for both beginning collectors, and those who have been acquiring such tools for a long time but have never seen any factual data on them. A perfect example is Ideal’s tong-type tool. Did you know there were 10 numbered tools on the way to the well-known No. 310? Each has several variations as well as several cartridge options. All this is explained and each variation is pictured, as are special markings shown in inset photos. Powder measures and early bullet moulds are also included.

    Finally, a most important detail: There are no prices (or values!) anywhere. Instead, a numerical Rarity Scale of 1 to 5 rates tools, boxes, accessories and tool/cartridge combinations. Sure, this is a bit subjective, but some 60 collectors had input, so it’s very worthwhile information. After a person identifies the reloading tool he has or wants to find, the “plastic box” can be consulted to obtain dollar figures, if that’s important. These books will be a first source reference for a long time to come. Price: $79 each. Contact Rowe Publications, PO Box 207, Sugar Grove VA (276)783-8037; email: Rowebooks1@gmail.com.

    Wolfe Publishing Group