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Time Travel
September 1999
Dan Martinez

Benchrest scene from the 1960 Lyman reloading handbook

I've been a shooter for a relatively short period of time. I wasn't brought into the world of guns by my Pappy or any other family member. A burgler did it in October of 1991. I never actually faced the miscreant, but the feeling of having discovered that my possessions had been removed from the garage while my family and I slept was enough to introduce me to this wonderful new world known as the gun culture.

I've been a reloader for even less time. My wife presented me with the gift of a Lyman T-Mag II Turret Press Expert Kit during Christmas of 1995. Now, I find that obsessing over load combinations and assembling my own ammunition can be a very enjoyable passtime.

The shooting sports have a lot of history behind them. I constantly find myself learning new things that the old time shooters have known for a long, long time. I try to read up on my favorite new hobbies of shooting and reloading as much as I can. And I do enjoy reading the old references.

I mentioned above that Pappy didn't bring me up into the gun culture, but he did have a couple of long guns. After his passing, one of the items that found its way into my possession was one of his old shooting books. It's The Hunters Shooting Guide by Jack O'Connor, published in 1957. This of course considerably precedes my interest in the shooting sports (it even precedes me), but in contrast to today's digital world, it's kind of comforting to realize that in the shooting world, what was true 40 years ago is still better than 90% true today.

Though I missed the opportunity to read any of Mr. O'Connor's writing while it was fresh, I very much enjoyed reading this book. One big reason was because the back cover tells me that Jack was born in Nogales Arizona, in 1902. Jack's writing in this book is sprinkled with early Arizona hunting tales. I didn't become an Arizonan myself until 1988. Just as I enjoy learning about what I missed in the shooting scene, I enjoy learning about this great state before my arrival.

My reloading kit included within it, the 47th edition of Lyman's reloading manual. I never much thought about the significance of that until last year, when one of my wife's friends passed on to me, her dear departed grandad's Lyman/Ideal reloading Handbook No. 40, published in 1955. Here was another wonderful old reference book to take me back into the land of Shooting Past. I learned that the Lyman company has been around since 1878, and every few years, they put out another in their long line of reloading handbooks.

In the last month or so, I've discovered eBay. For those yet to discover eBay (www.ebay.com), it's an Internet website where people from all over the U.S. and even the world, offer stuff to sell at auction. By typing in the search phrase of "reload*", I discovered lots of stuff I was interested in. In particular, I stumbled into people offering old Lyman/Ideal reloading handbooks for sale.

I've decided to start a collection of these books. I've won enough auctions now to fill in my collection with books number 38 (1951) through the present (book 47, 1992). The picture on this page is from book number 42, published in 1960. Book number 39 (1953) was a real bonus because within its pages is a complete reprint of one of the very early (No. 3?) Ideal handbooks from before 1900! They go into detail, for example, about how to paper-patch bullets for the early black powder metallic cartridges. Neat stuff! It's caused me to start thinking about adding another rifle to my collection. How about a Browning Model 1885 single shot in .38-55?

My first winning bid brought me a package deal of Lyman books number 42 and 45, and as a bonus, Sierra book number 1, which was published in 1971. I was really only after the Lyman books, but having to also pay for the first Sierra reloading manual surely didn't make me mad! Sierra published an update to this book in '74, and this update was incorporated in my book. Then, as now, Sierra's was a 3-ring loose-leaf binder which made publishing updates for shooters to add to their books easy.

I got these three books for a total cost of $23.00 including shipping costs from Pennsylvania. When they arrived, the first thing I noticed was something that's normally foreign to Arizonans: a moldy smell! Apparently they had been down in someone's basement for a number of years. Aside from some dirt (or was it mold?) on the outside covers, which was easily damp-sponged off, these books were in very good condition. By bringing them to Arizona, I believe I've arrested any further molding, thereby even better preserving them for the future.

So far, I've payed as little as $8.00, and as much as $24.00 for single specimens. In one auction for the 1948 book that I was watching, the highest bid had been at $20.00 for about a day. When a higher bid is placed, an email is automatically and immediately sent to the previous high bidder, to give him the opportunity to raise his bid higher if he wants to. Each auction has a scheduled end time, and by waiting for the last moments of the auction to outbid someone, the hope is that he won't have time to react to being outbid. In the closing moments of this auction for the 1948 book, I placed a bid of $22.50. But there were at least two other guys using the same last-minute bid technique, and though I was high bid for a moment, by the time the auction ended about two minutes later, those two guys had bid the price up to $45.88!

Book No. 30 (1931) recently sold for $46.75. The oldest book I've seen offered since I started watching, is the 1927 book, No. 28. Having blown my allowance just getting the books back to 1951, I decided to sit this auction out. This book finally sold for $77.99!

After getting my first batch of books from Pennsylvania, I was leafing through the Sierra book when a further, poignant clue as to the origin of these books fell out. It was a letter to a Mr. Ivan C. Eckel of Williamsport, Pennsylvania on the letterhead of the Mutual Beneficial Association of Penn Central Employees, Inc. It was dated September 15, 1977, and read as follows:

Dear Mr. Eckel:

Having received executed Release Form and Certificate No. 52xxx in connection with your Endowment at Age 65 payment, we enclose our check in the amount of $1,000. in full settlement.

If you care to continue as a Social Member, you may do so at the rate of $3.00 per year, which includes the Mutual Magazine each month.

With kind regards, I am

Very truly yours,
E.P. DeCeck,
General President

The person I got the books from was not named Eckel. Presumably, Mr. Eckel would be 87 this year, and my receiving his books was probably due to the liquidation of his estate.

As I put this newsletter to press, I am celebrating my 41st birthday. I am at that age right now that the distance to my birth in the rearward direction, and the distance to my death in the forward direction are approximately equal. I am both young and old at the same time. I watch my 5 and 8 year old boys play and can clearly remember what it's like to get lost in a boy's imagination. Since my own Dad had to leave early, I look to our senior club members to get an idea of what my life will be like in retirement.

Finding that letter was a potent reminder that no matter how many toys or other material possessions you may amass during an active life, you can't take any of it with you when it's your time to leave.

As a fellow shooter and outdoorsman, I salute you, Mr. Eckel, and promise to take good care of your books. By starting this collection, I feel as though I'm acting as a bridge between the shooters of Mr. Eckel's generation, and the next generation of shooters; my kids and my future grand-kids. It's like taking a trip backward in time to acquire these books, then traveling forward in time to deliver them to an as yet unknown destination in the future.

Honeywell Sportsman Club. All rights reserved.


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