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Margaret E. McGinnis, Collection Development Officer, Science, Technology & Business Division
Note: Originally compiled by Richard F. Sharp, retired Business Reference Librarian. Revised, updated, and annotated by Margaret E. McGinnis in 2020.
Created: October 1, 2020
Last Updated: February 9, 2022
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Firearms makers are among America's oldest business establishments. Guns and gunsmiths were critical to survival of early European American settlements, success in the Revolutionary War, the westward expansion, and triumph in the Industrial Revolution. Whether a tool for survival, battle, or recreation, firearms are intimately a part of American history and lore. Firearms manufacturers were also responsible for fundamental technological innovations, such as interchangeable parts and the American system of manufacturing. Because the history of the industry and its individual companies reveals important threads in the industrial development of the nation, interest in the history of guns and gunsmiths continues unabated.
This guide includes a selection of general works about various types of firearms and their roles in American history followed by lists of books about individual gunmakers and their important weapons arranged by company name. Many of the volumes cited contain detailed biographical material about the early entrepreneurs who shaped the industry and whose names, such as Oliver Winchester, John M. Browning, and Samuel Colt, have become eponyms of their firearms. Finally, there is a selection of books about prices and collecting firearms. In addition to standard price guides, many of the titles cited throughout the guide provide information about specifications, model runs, serial number ranges, and company histories, all of which are useful in determining approximate values and relative scarcity of collectible firearms. Almost without exception these works are illustrated with photographs and drawings which are crucial to proper firearms identification.
Part of the Science, Technology & Business Division at the Library of Congress, Business Reference Services is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of business and economics. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of business assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of business and economics materials.