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By request, here is an update of a list of what I consider to be the dozen or so essential reference books for a serious US martial collector. As with all my free opinions, these recommendations come with a full money back guarantee!
The First Book for Any Arms Library
[Norm] "Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Arms and their Values" If you only own one gun book, it MUST be this one. "From my cold dead hands!" if you want mine. Basic advice on collecting and things to look for in the first several chapters are valuable knowledge for ANy arms collector.
Bruce Canfield's "US Infantry Weapons of the First World War" and his older "US Infantry Weapons of WW2" Excellent summaries of everything from handguns to small crew served weapons. Loaded with good photos, production numbers, collector tips. The more specialized books will have more details, but these are highly recommended starting points for your library or your research.
George Moller's multi-volume "American Military Shoulder Arms" Two volumes out so far, covering colonial period through the end of the flintlocks. Vol 3 covering the percussion era is well along. Encyclopedic coverage with much well researched information that has never appeared in print. (Both volumes are out of print and demand a premium).
Robert M. Reilly- "U.S Military Small Arms 1816-1865" Rock solid research with superbly detailed line drawings of virtually every standard Civil War era musket, rifle, carbine, or pistol. Procurement, production and variations details found nowhere else
Al Frasca & Robert Hill "The .45-70 Springfield" 2 volumes, is the definitive work based on soid research. M.D. Waite & B.D. Ernst "Trapdoor Springfield" is also recommended as a cheaper but less comprehensive substitute or supplement, somewhat easier for the beginner to use, but best to verify in the Frasca & Hill book to ensure that you have the latest information.
William S. Brophy "The Krag Rifle" or Frank Mallory's "Krag Rifle Story" (out of print)
William S. Brophy "Springfield 1903 Rifles" Covers the rifles and everything remotely related to them in great detail. Clark Campbell's "The 03 Era..." is also excellent.
Charles Clawson "Colt .45 Service Pistols" the definitive work on M1911 series pistols and a heck of a lot more, including an essential explanation of WW1-WW2 Ordnance Department organization and policies needed to understand the way things actually happened. (Although a recent book it is out of print and selling for huge-but well deserved- premium.)
Peter Senich "Complete Book of US Sniping" His other sniping related works are excellent, but this one hits the basics.
Larry Ruth "War Baby" volumes I and II. Definitive history of M1 carbines and everything related to them.
Scott Duff- "M1 Garand: WW2" and "M1 Garand: Post WW2" Definitive works on the M1 Rifle, but omits NM and some other exotic variations.
U.S. Military Arms (except firearms)
Scott Meadows' "U.S. Military Holsters and Pistol Cartridge Boxes" Amazing wealth of information and photos showing various holsters in use. Scarlet leatherette binding with high relief Ordnance department escutcheon on the cover is the most beautiful example of the bookmaker's art that you will see. Out of print and selling for a premium.
M.H. Cole "US Military Knives, Bayonets & Machetes- Book 3" Covers most of the sharp and pointy stuff usually found. Book 4 has even more, but basics are all in Book 3.
Robert M. Reilly, "American Socket Bayonets & Scabbards". Definitive study by an acknowledged expert.
Eugene Hackley, Woodin & Scranton "History of U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition, 1880-1939 (volume 1) and 1940-45 (volume 2)" Loads of info on standard, oddball, and experimental ammo; the rest of the story of what made US arms effective. Neat collecting field.
William S. Brophy "Arsenal of Freedom: Springfield Armory 1890-1948" Dull as dirt collection of all the annual reports from Springfield, but a gold mine of factual data.
Harold Peterson "The American Sword." Venerable classic but still the most useful book on swords despite several newer, larger, more illustrated books.
1. See book catalog pages at http://OldGuns.net for some of these.
2. An excellent source is Jim Alley at IDSA Books, PO Box 1457, Piqua, OH 45356 (937)773-4203
3. Another excellent source is Rutgers Book Center, Highland Park, NJ.