Brief book note.

This is not a review or an endorsement, since I only picked this up yesterday and haven’t read it yet. But I do want to put in a quick plug for it: it was published last year by Texas Tech University Press and I am afraid it has already fallen into obscurity. I didn’t know anything about it until I stumbled on a copy at Half-Price Books.

Shooting for the Record: Adolph Toepperwein, Tom Frye, and Sharpshooting’s Forgotten Controversy is a book about Topperwein, Frye, exhibition shooting, and the world record controversy.

Back in the old days, the various gun companies paid “exhibition shooters” to travel around the country and put on shooting demonstrations with their products. Adolf “Ad” Topperwein was a shooter for Winchester (along with his wife, known as “Plinky”). At one point, Mr. Topperwein held the world record for aerial shooting: “…more than 72,000 hand thrown blocks 2½ inches in diameter, and missing only nine“.

Then Tom Frye came along. Mr. Frye was an exhibition shooter for Remington, and was a little younger than Mr. Topperwein. In 1959, he used the then newly introduced Remington Nylon 66 rifle to shoot 100,010 wooden blocks over a 14-day period, hitting 100,004 of them and breaking Mr. Topperwein’s record. However, Mr. Topperwein apparently felt that Mr. Frye’s setup wasn’t entirely fair: specifically, the distance Mr. Frye was shooting at was too short, and Mr. Frye’s throwers were using a different technique that made it easier for him to hit. (Also, the Nylon 66 was much lighter, and thus easier to hold for long periods, than the Winchester rifles that Mr. Topperwein used.)

As I said, I haven’t read the whole book yet, but I did get through the author’s preface. One of the things that interested him about the Frye/Topperwein controversy was that Mr. Frye may have actually been using “performance enhancing drugs” in his record attempt, predating Barry Bonds by about 40 years.

This book pushes a couple of my hot buttons. In the past couple of years, I’ve become more interested in the 20th Century exhibition shooters, like the Topperwins and Frye and Herb Parsons and others. (There’s a pretty good DVD, “Fast and Fancy Shooters“, that has vintage footage of some of these people at work. Link goes to Amazon, but I was able to find it cheaper on eBay when I bought it.)

In addition, I have my own personal reasons for being interested in Mr. Frye: one of these days Real Soon Now, I’m going to finish the long post I started a while back about my Nylon 66, Tom Frye, and childhood nostalgia.

In general, out of my group of shooting friends, I think I’m the most interested in shooting history of the bunch. I expect this to be a swell addition to my library, and I encourage anyone who has a set of buttons like mine to pick up a copy.

On a semi-related side note, you know who else is interested in firearms history? Karl of KR Training, official firearms trainer of Whipped Cream Difficulties. I bring this up here because he’s been working on a series of “Historical Handgun” courses: the first one was a 1/2 day course he ran this past weekend, and he has a full day class coming up in September. For personal reasons, I can’t attend, but I’m looking forward to the two-day version of the class he plans to run sometime in 2018.

In the meantime, though, he’s got some blog entries up: an after action report on the 1/2 day class, discussion of the FBI’s qualification course circa 1945, and even a couple of book reviews. I encourage my readers to give Karl’s blog some affection, even if you do live too far away to enroll in his classes.

(I think it’d be kind of fun, though, if Karl could develop this into a sort of standard curriculum and share it with instructors in other regions. It might be fun to have people all over the country running these classes and showing how it was done in the old days. Heck, maybe we could make this a thing, like cowboy action shooting and the zoot shooters: combat matches with “appropriate” guns from different eras. This could be a whole bunch of fun.)

One Response to “Brief book note.”

  1. […] More about Ad Toepperwein in this book (Whipped Cream Difficulties) […]