Book review: The Airgun Book by John Walter

The Airgun Book third and fourth editions on a cut log with an air pistol resting on top

The Airgun Book - Third and fourth editions. Just another two to complete the set. - Credit: Archant

So good it came in four editions, Pete Evans takes a look at The Airgun Book

Back in the early 1980s, ‘The Airgun Book’ by John Walter was reviewed in this magazine. Contained within that article were the words, ‘Something rather special … might well become an airgun classic’. Were those words prophetic? We’ll reserve judgement for now, instead let’s meet the man behind the book - John Walter. 

PROLIFIC WRITER 
Born in Glasgow during the early 1950s, and later in life destined for a career in chemical engineering, does not sound the stereotypical start for an author with 70 books to his name – but that’s how it started. As well as the writing, John has experience of magazine editing, feature writing, engineering on conservation projects and printing. Those aforementioned books are largely concerned with militaristic topics, although he has been known to write about such diverse topics as wine! Testament to the appeal of his writing is the fact that his books have been translated into 12 languages, so an author of international renown. A simple Internet search for the subject of this article turns up copies for sale in North America, and Australia, which goes to show this sport of ours certainly boasts a worldwide appeal.  

KEEPING STEP
The Airgun Book was published in four editions over a period spanning 1981-1987, each of the editions featuring a different colour for the cover; blue, green, red, and creamy marble, so that each edition is easily identified.  
Editions 1-3 have very interesting historical information about the development of airguns, followed with an alphabetical study of the various manufactures and what was available at the time. As you would expect, the content keeps time with the industry so that new models are included, which of course didn’t exist at the time of earlier editions.  
The fourth edition is a little different; it reflects the changes in the airgun scene during the latter half of the 1980s, which includes an increase in club shooting, customisation, and of course, the increasing popular pre-charged pneumatic.  
It is so interesting to see a visual recording of the shifting airgun scene, during a period many would describe as the most exciting decade in the annals of airgun history. Household names such as Daystate, Air Arms, and Theoben pushed the boundaries in relation to what we had seen before, and in some cases rewriting the book in regard to the performance of airguns we were accustomed to using. If I were to describe these books in one word it would be, ‘dynamic’, and I would recommend obtaining all four editions in order to get the full story. Obtaining the book might not be the easiest thing because they will no longer be available to order new, but the good news is that they do become available regularly through secondhand booksellers and on-line auctions. At the outset I quoted the words from Airgun World concerning this book becoming a classic title, and I have no doubt that those words have come to pass. 


The Airgun Book by John Walter. Published in four editions. 
Prices will vary according to condition, approximately £20-£40