Books that, unexpectedly, have good firearms detail? (Monkeywrench Gang)


August 12, 2006, 08:13 PM
Has anyone ever read a book that was surprisingly accurate in it's description of firearms?

Not just a mystery or Western novel where you'd hope that the detail would be good, though it frequently isn't, but in some non-gun type fiction?

I was thinking about the re-introduction of the Ruger Flat-Tops recently, and remembered the book that got me interested in the old small-frame Rugers: The Monkeywrench Gang, by Edward Abbey.

For those unfamiliar, it's the original eco-terrorist novel, in which a variety of nonconformists in the Southwest (doctor, Vietnam vet, riverboat guide) decide that development is ruining the wilderness, and go about pulling up survey stakes, sabotaging bulldozers, and moving towards larger and larger acts of destruction. I'm certainly not advocating ecoterrorism or illegal acts, but it was an interesting read.

For a book that one would reflexively associate with hippies and the left, the firearm details were uniformly accurate. The Vietnam vet carries a Ruger revolver, and though it's never referenced specifically by model, you can piece out by the details throughout the book that it's a blued 5.5" .357 Old Model. The M1 carbines and other weapons carried in the book are likewise clearly described.

I don't know whether Abbey's weapons background was, but I did find the details interesting. Anyone else ever ran across such a book where you thought "I didn't think the author would know this stuff, but he does" ?


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August 12, 2006, 09:32 PM
Dean Koontz' books, horror novels with happy endings, are competently accurate in firearms details. I think the man may be "one of us."


August 12, 2006, 09:40 PM
i read a book several years ago that went into detail about each gun that was used in the story. i cant remember what it was though. i remember it was part of a whole series too.

August 12, 2006, 09:47 PM :)

Robert Ruark, Hemingway, Koontz, Hunter, Mickey Spillane, Nelson Demille...

Best sit down for this one : Montana Sky - Nora Roberts
Great Mystery too!

Travis McGee
August 13, 2006, 12:48 PM
Dean Koontz is for sure "one of us." Just read "Dark Rivers of the Heart."

August 13, 2006, 06:14 PM
Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm series is excellent in detail. I don't always agree with all of the author's opinions, but they are clearly expressed as opinions. In many ways, his ballistic philosophy reminds me of my next door neighbor when I was growing up. Not too surprising, as they were from the same generation.

If it is detail you want, search the used book stores for Jerry Ahern novels. When one of his characters draws his weapon you will not only read about which specific model it is, you will also discover any custom modifications which have been made, and many times the index number of the ammunition he is using.

In science fiction, Robert Heinlein has had pretty good details of actual arms in some of his books.

I recently read a book with unusually good detail which did have one surprising statement. At the end, the hero fired 3 230 grain bullets from his suppressed .45 automatic. The author reported this as less than 1700 foot pounds of energy from a just barely subsonic bullet. Do the math, 3 230 grain bullets travelling just barely subsonic can indeed produce just less than 1700 foot pounds of kinetic energy. However, at that point they are travelling about 200 FPS faster than conventional .45 hardball does.

I would have written just a bit less than 1100 foot pounds. Maybe I nitpick too much.

August 13, 2006, 11:25 PM
by Halffast. I don't know if that count's as a "book" since I don't think it's published but it's easily accessible and I think a lot of people have heard of it.

It's the best thing I've read in a long time.

Malone LaVeigh
August 14, 2006, 01:20 AM
Read any of Abbey's nonfiction collections. He was an army vet, very familiar with guns, and one of the most eloquent arguers for the RKBA I have ever read.

August 14, 2006, 01:31 AM
Y'know, to be considered a skillful writer, shouldn't one have their details correct, be they details of firearms or details of cars, food, wine, antiques....etc. Kinda OT, I know, just thinking out loud.

Bwana John
August 14, 2006, 11:08 AM
Hayduke Lives!
The Monkey Wrench Gang is one of my favorite pieces of litature. Abbeys discription of thermite is just as good or better than his discription of firearms.

August 14, 2006, 11:30 AM
MV - Near the end of his life Ed Abbey was an abrasive, old drunk (He'd probably smile and agree). He was "teaching" creative writing at the U/A in Tucson and whiskey figured prominantly in his day. He was still one heck of a writer who made no bones about the usefulness of firearms and I respect his memory to this day.

Bwana John - I had drinks (very plural) with "Hayduke" (aka Doug Peacock) once courtesy of a mutual friend. He was as interesting a character as you would imagine. Back then (mid-'80s) he was spending a lot of time around very large bears. But unlike that unfortunate soul who got himself eaten up in Alaska, he seemed to be a bit more careful. From what he said it didn't sound like he carried when doing so. I've not seen him since and don't know if he's still kicking. I do recall that when Ed Abbey died he packed him out into the desert and buried him in an unmarked grave.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.


August 14, 2006, 11:41 AM
While I like to read Tony Hillerman's mysteries, he doesn't know firearms at all (or how radios work).

I had a chance to talk with him about this a couple of years ago, and he told me that his readership as a whole didn't seem to note the glaring errors that I pointed out to him. I offered to proofread any of his new works for him :evil: but he never took me up on this.

Old Dog
August 14, 2006, 12:28 PM
Still am not convinced about Dean Koontz. I recall one of his novels wherein the main character, wisely deciding to arm himself ... goes right out and purchases a Korth revolver. I've never seen one of those in any gunshop, but at any rate, I'm thinking a $300 S&W (at the time) wheelgun would've been a bit more realistic ...

And I can tell you one author to avoid if gun detail errors spoil books for you (as I'm sure they do for most of us). David Baldacci's books contain numerous and frequent egregious firearms detail errors ... One of his, "Split Second" was so chock-full of stupid gun errors I quit reading ... a Secret Service agent carrying a "service revolver" that is described as a .357 that later becomes a SIG (book published in '94, a bit before the .357 SIG round appeared), plus descriptions of SIGs as "sleek black pistols" and then characters "taking the safety off" on their SIGs ...

It bothers me greatly when authors do obvious painstaking research on so many aspects of their works, especially technical stuff, but then neglect firearms detail ... Stephen Hunter is still one of the select few who get it right almost all of the time.

August 14, 2006, 01:10 PM
I've always liked Hillerman's Chee-Largo books, even with the firearms errors. Fourtunately for me I don't know enough about radios to see the problems there. Do they rise to the "revolver safety" mistakes or are they more subtle?

August 14, 2006, 01:20 PM
There's a series of related (but you can easily read them individually) books. Primary character is a Vietnam Sniper, but there's one about his father, etc. Some of the best books I've ever read. Check 'em out. Probably the best one is "Time to Hunt", which I just read for the 3rd time (and I rarely re-read a book unless its REALLY good).

August 14, 2006, 01:27 PM
It has been some time since I have read the books or talked with Mr. Hillerman, but one radio error had the Navajo Police Officers communicating with ordinary CB instead of Public Service (IIRC). Another error related to radio wave propogation, but I am fuzzy on the details.

Malone LaVeigh
August 20, 2006, 10:11 PM
rwc, did you take Abbey's class? That would be an experience I would love to be able to claim. The best I did was a quarter of "Literature of the Wilderness" with Gary Snyder at UCD.

I never met Peacock, but I had a few with Dave Foreman.

August 20, 2006, 10:52 PM
David Drake novels have good weapons-handling, even with fictional weapons.

August 21, 2006, 01:15 AM
William Johnstones Books, "The Ashes Series" His Westerns and for the most part the other novels he has written (Over 200) are very accurate in his description of Firearms.

August 21, 2006, 01:41 AM
M LaV-
Sorry, no. Maybe a dozen years earlier he would have helped my writing.


August 21, 2006, 12:23 PM
Dave Balducci's stuff is actually what inspired me to try to become an author.

It was so damn bad that I thought to myself, if this joker can get published, then so can I!

August 21, 2006, 01:00 PM
I haven't read a Louis L'Amour western for years, years, and years. However, it seems as if I remember that he would often arm his characters with firearms that were straight out of history and not necessarily a type that everyone had heard of by going to the Western movies. That is, not every one was carrying a SAA in 45 Colt. Moe U S Navy 1960-67 Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club 1965 USS Coral Sea 1965 Also, Thank you to all veterans and those of you presently serving for serving your country.

September 2, 2006, 08:54 PM
At the risk of resurrecting a dead thread, I just finished reading Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston. He is either a gunny, or does extensive research, as he talks about using an AR-15 with M885 rounds (although he later describes shooting it on full auto at the heroes, and describes a hit in the back from the NATO round eviscerates the victim). The bad guy uses the AR-15 and a 10mm Glock 29 with 10-rd magazine. The hero's wife uses a 5-shot S&W revolver to good effect, and the hero is forced to use an old H&R 9-shot .22 revolver, for which he can find only one round.

IIRC, he's also a co-author of The Relic in which the hero uses a Colt Anaconda in .44 Mag.

BTW, both are good reads. The Relic is not for the faint-hearted. :eek: :evil: :evil: :evil:

September 2, 2006, 09:17 PM
I find books that go into tremendous detail about the protagonist/antagonist's choice of weapons to be incredibly tedious. I prefer when the weapons are presented accurately from the perspective of the character observing the object.

Raymond Chandler gets a pass, of course.

September 2, 2006, 09:53 PM
I am kind of like wrc. I do not want too much detail. But I like things like Elmore Leonard wrote in a book I just finished, title is KILLSHOT. There is a character in that book who has a Smith and Wesson model 27 revolver in nickel plate. I checked a reference book and found that, in fact, (I had no real doubt) such a SW item was made. There was just enough detail about the gun to make it interesting with out being overblown and yet the character was given more by the author than a simple revolver or nickle plated revolver or SW revolver. It is the talent for this type of balanced writing that seperates the good authors from mediocre.

September 2, 2006, 11:18 PM
On the flip side, I stoppe dreading "THe Postman" after the protagonist "flipped the safety off his revolver."

September 3, 2006, 02:15 AM
Stephen Hunters Point of Impact. I'm only about 200 pages through it and its awesome. He describes the characters Rem 700 and everything he does with it.

Then he talked about a pre 1964 Winchester 70 in 300 H&H Mag (serial number 100000 ('a 1 followed by goose eggs'!!!)as he used it to hit a target at 1400 yards (or some crazy figure like that)

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