Book review: "1911 - The First 100 Years" by Patrick Sweeny [Archive] - Glock Talk


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01-06-2011, 23:03

I recently picked this up. I've seen it mentioned here before but I thought I'd throw in my two cents as amateur book critic.

Negative: Sweeny's writing style tends to be more casual conversational than scholarly or academic. But in my years of reading gun websites and books, I've noticed a certain writing style predominate among gun writers. Its hard to pin down, but you know it when you see it. Its best described as a tendency to mingle stats or facts with impressive-sounding personal anecdotes (i.e., "The 9mm is a fine defensive round, but if you're looking to kill more than just ballistic gel, go with the formidable and patriotic .45 ACP- it can drop a man or make him drop in his pants when he hears it warning him to reconsider his attack).
Sweeny's other major flaw is that he tends to be wordy. Because of his habit of interjecting what would otherwise be pure scholarly research with personal anecdotes (and he does this a lot), his sentences often run on and on. But what he lacks in brevity he makes up for by making you feel like you're hanging out with him in his gun den, just talking guns. At first it annoyed me, but I eventually grew to appreciate it.
The book also lacks an index. This vexed me greatly as I was looking (for example) to see how the Browing Hi-Power was received at the time compared to the 1911. Or to read specifically about the introduction of the .38 Super. Annoying!

Positive: The pictures! In my recent years of gun fancy, I've tended to just surf the web for pics of that model I'm looking to buy. This book can keep your attention for hours, based on the pictures alone. Grab a scotch and just flip the pages! Not just plentiful pictures, but technically and aesthetically stunning. There are gorgeous shots of historically important guns, as well as a healthy dose of your staple "1911 resting on some WWII dog tags and camo" shots. This book is a pleasure to look at, even if you aren't much of a reader. The graphic layout is clean, modern, and uncluttered.
Sweeny has certainly done his homework: there is a mountain of history in these pages. Its not a technical manual. It won't give you tips on doing a trigger job but it will tell you the historical reasons for why many 1911s needed one. He tours the Colt and S&W factories (something most of us only can dream about) and gives them a great write-up.

Overall: Won't give you technical know-how or gun smithing tips. But for fans of history (or even fans of gun photography) this book is an absolute must. Sweeny's studious historical research is obscured a bit by his tendency to ramble. My one suggestion would be that his editor could make this book a bit leaner. But overall, I'd give it an "A."

01-06-2011, 23:28
Thanks for taking the time to write that up. I am prob going to pick it up this year, but I am already so far behind on my booklist I cant see over the top of it. Defiantly a good level set for expectations.

01-06-2011, 23:35
Thanks for the book review. It sounds like a good coffee table book.

01-07-2011, 04:54
I still need to pick that up. :)

01-07-2011, 08:22
POSITIVE: Sweeny's writing style tends to be more casual conversational than scholarly or academic.

Fixed it for ya. :supergrin:

01-07-2011, 10:55
I have it and I love it. While I appreciate clearly laid out, itemized manuals at times (I do have a science degree, so go figure), I loved the personal feel that this book gives. It really does feel like sipping a glass of good whiskey and talking about 1911's with an experienced and knowledgable gun guy. At the same time, it's stuffed full of historical and technical data, so it loses nothing to get that casual feel.

The pictures are amazing. The historical anecdotes and tangents are refreshing, discussing parallel weapons development in other countries as well as political and competition influences as the design evolved. Some may not like his personal stories and opinions, but I think they are in moderation and are valuable additions that lend credibility to his writings. I can't say enough good about this book. It should be in every 1911 fan's library.

01-07-2011, 10:56
I have it and think it is a great book... I like his narrative voice.. Many do.. That is why he is Editor of Guns and Ammo.

01-07-2011, 13:08
Having not read the I am speaking out of some ingnorance;

I will get it and I will read it, but having read Sweeny before I will not read much into it as his books are full of errors and he says a lot of ignorant things that shows he is a gun writer...not a gun user. (Check out his AR books.)

If nothing else it will contain good pictures.

01-07-2011, 13:09
If nothing else it will contain good pictures.

that's why i bought it.

Jason D
01-07-2011, 17:23
I have a couple of his books, but not that one.

01-07-2011, 18:48
I'll have to add it to my 1911 book collection. All three of them... Mostly for gun porn, I mean pictures.

01-07-2011, 18:52
I want to get it too.