W. F. Vickery's Advanced Gunsmithing, which first appeared in the Samworth series of publications in 1940, has been reprinted this year by Skyhorse Publishing. As the subtitle states, this is "A Manual of Instruction in the Manufacture, Alteration, and Repair of Firearms," and for once this is precisely what this book is about. After a preliminary survey of shop equipment, Vickery explains "Barrel Changing and Its Adjustments," proceeds to "Chambering, Boring, and Reaming Tools," and then gives a clear account of "Rifling Tools and the Rifling of Barrels." Actions and their alterations come next, then "Sights, Scopes, and Small Parts." And so Vickery proceeds: after rifles, shotguns; then rimfires; then pistols. The following chapters discuss hand tool procedures, soldering and brazing, heat treatment, and bluing. The last two chapters cover making cartridge dies and reloading tools.
I mentioned earlier that the subtitle is accurate. So, too, the title: this book covers advanced gunsmithing. The beginner like me can learn from it, but not as much, I imagine, as the more experienced gunsmith will learn. As in any craft, the more you know, the more you realize what you don't know. Advanced Gunsmithing is valuable both for Vickery's broad coverage and for the insight he provides into methods of work current seventy-five years ago. Like other Skyhorse paperback reprints, it is relatively inexpensive, so it should be a useful addition to any gunsmith's reference library.
Vickery is one of the clearest writers I have ever read, in no small part because he knows how to move from one aspect of a given task to the next. It seems a bit odd, therefore, that this carefully arranged exposition has neither a table of contents nor an index. I have never seen the original 1940 edition of Vickery's Advanced Gunsmithing or the limited edition published by Wolfe in 1988, so I don't know whether these omissions were present in the original or due to Skyhorse. In any case, be advised: it's a good idea as you read to make a running list on the end pages of the topics that interest you.