Hits and Misses

Hits and Misses

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ken Waters' Notebook: A Review

Ken Waters needs no introduction to firearm enthusiasts because of his numerous contributions to Rifle and to Handloader magazines plus his reloading publications, Pet Loads.  Not only did he know an enormous amount, but he experimented indefatigably. It's more the pity, therefore, that Ken Waters' Notebook (Wolfe Publishing, 2006) does not serve his legacy well.

This volume has numerous faults, none of them attributable to Waters and all of them to Wolfe Publishing.  To start at the beginning, the title gives an altogether misleading idea of the book itself.   It's a collection of his correspondence, so why call it a notebook?  Something like Ken Waters:  "Best Wishes for Good Shooting" would have been more accurate, and Waters, as we all know, cared about accuracy.

Second, its principle of organization is chronological, starting with a letter dated July 13, 1968, and closing with one dated December 28, 1989.  Such an organization might be useful if in that interval Waters changed his mind about some topic, let's say undersize vs. oversize cast bullets in the .30-06.  But I'm pretty sure he doesn't.  What a chronological organization does do is create a hodge-podge of topics, all mixed up.  The book is divided into chapters, and these chapters list some--but not even all--of the topics covered, but that is it as far as organization goes.

Wait, you may be thinking, what about the index?  Index?  Wolfe Publishing apparently believed they didn't need no stinking index!  I could understand this if the collected letters were arranged differently:  by modern rifle calibers, say, then by obsolete ones, then by handgun topics, and then by whatever; within each category, the order could be from smallest caliber to largest.  Other arrangements might be even better.  Almost anything would be preferable to having to go through the book making notes of the pages on topics that you might want to refer to later.

So:  misleading title, lack of organization, no index--all negatives. Unfortunately, that is not all.  To me, the final straw is the duplication of letters.  You turn the page, wearily go through yet again some minor variation of Waters' customary apology for taking so long to respond (most of these could have been cut with no loss), only to find that you just read this same letter a few pages ago.  Check out pp. 107 & 109; 155 & 166; 156 & 167; 222 & 225.  This is simply inexcusable.  Ken Waters took pains to get it right.  This volume is sloppy; it doesn't remotely represent what Ken Waters stood for.

Is this book a hit or a miss?  No question:  at one time, Ken Waters was a competitive rifleman, and I can imagine his ghost in the target pit, vigorously waving Maggie's Drawers.

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