When I was a little boy, reading matter was a staple on the family list of Christmas presents.  As both primary gifts and “stocking-stuffers,” I did the same with my kids, and they do the same with theirs.  This being mainly a gun blog, let’s look at some good reading for “gun guys and gals” on your gift list.  Be warned: there will be some degree of controversy in each.

Gun Guys: A Road Trip.” Author Dan Baum is a self-described left-wing liberal gun owner, who I think did his best to take an unprejudiced look at the whole gun ownership controversy.  The book is insightful interviewing and participatory journalism in which the reader hears from those of us who carry, as well as those who hate guns.  Like most impartial views of this complicated topic, he will manage to anger the hard-core advocates on either side, but I think a dispassionate reading will show that logic brought him, for the most part, to our side.  (Which seems to be the usual outcome in unprejudiced analysis of this topic, but I digress.)  Wherever the reader personally comes down on the issue, no one can expect to defeat an opponent they don’t understand, and Baum gives insight into the thinking of pro-gun and anti-gun people alike.

The Third Bullet.” Stephen Hunter is one of my very favorite novelists.  His fictionalized account of the JFK assassination, while I don’t see it as a template for reality, may be the most believable “conspiracy theory” yet to see print.  I think it’s appropriate that it’s presented as fiction.  It is, simply, a great read brought to us by a master of the writer’s craft.

Dangerous Men.” Scott Ferguson is a lifelong student of human conflict in general and gunfighters of the Old West in particular. He is also a deeply-experienced instructor of defensive shooting and police officer survival tactics.  Blending vocation with avocation, “Dangerous Men” is a study of gunfights and the people who fought them. From the OK Corral to the infamous “FBI Firefight” of 4/11/86, Scott reminds us that different historians have different takes on these events, but the takeaway lessons of tactics and the psychology of coping with mortal violence remain the same over the centuries.  Excellent, insightful reading for anyone who keeps or carries a gun.

The first two are now out in paperback for affordable stocking-stuffers, as well as hardcover, Kindle and Audio.  I’ve seen the first two on the rack at Barnes & Noble.  Amazon has “Dangerous Men” in eBook form at their Kindle Store.


  1. I would think that a look at the shelves at your local Walmart in the sporting goods section will also lead to some good choices. Our Walmart has a few from an author that we have heard about Massad Ayoob.

  2. Massad who? Seriously though, I’m a huge Stephen Hunter fan as well. I just picked up “The Third Bullet” over at Audible.com. Thanks for the suggestion Mas.

  3. Stephen Hunter’s book looks interesting. I downloaded it a few days ago and its third down on my reading list. I am glad that it was marketed as fiction. I’ve read good reviews for the other two books. I haven’t seen any of Mas’s books in our Wal-Mart but don’t forget that magazines make good reading during the winter months.

  4. It’s great that you brought this subject up right now, Mas, because I’ve been wanting to ask you about your books. I have, at one time or another, owned all or most of your books, only lost the last few in the flood of Hurricane Ike. Just a couple of months ago I bought a Kindle Fire and love reading on it. It got me to thinking about what would possibly be a great idea if it’s workable. What’s the chance of you offering all your books through Amazon for Kindle at a bulk price? You pick it. $200, $300, what would work for you? Then we could just make a single purchase and have all of them on a Kindle, tablet, home computer, whatever we want. If it can’t work because of different publishers, then what about the same kind of thing by publisher? It’s well worth kicking around a bit, and I promise to be the first purchaser if you give me the chance. You’re welcome to email me.

  5. Just an after thought: A really good book is a lot like sex; while reading, all else becomes secondary. You’re in a hurry to get to the end, but also know that once there, the thrill is gone and you have to start looking for another good book.:-)

  6. Glenbo, what goes on audio instead of paper is up to the publisher. Most of my books are published by either Police Bookshelf or F-W Publishing, the latter being the Gun Digest folks. When you’re interested in getting something on audio or Kindle or whatever, write to the publisher; it is the publisher, not the author, who makes that decision.

    Tommy Sewall, the Gun Digest book series at Wal-Marts are generally found at the gun counter, not the book section, it seems.

  7. While some may consider it ancient, Bill Jordan’s ” No Second Place Winner ” needs to be in everyone’s library.

  8. Mas, I remembered the location of the gun books in Wal-Mart yesterday while waiting on my wife getting groceries. My Wal-Mart runs are generally well planned and executed to get in and get out as quickly as possible. I choose to peruse books at local favorite bookstore and internet coffee shop.

  9. Are we going to have no discussion about the Renisha McBride / Theodore Wafer and Ronald Westbrook / Joe Hendrix cases? In very broad strokes, both are cases in which a person in a home in the middle of the night was confronted with someone violently banging on their door in the middle of the night in an apparent attempt to break in. A confrontation followed in which the apparent intruder was shot and killed, only to later learn that they were impaired by either substances (alcohol, perhaps drugs) or Alzheimer’s dementia and, at least according to first reports — which may prove to be inaccurate or sensationalized, were only seeking help. One shooter has been charged with murder, the other is being investigated. Let’s presume for the moment that in both cases (a) the shooter genuinely believed that the use of deadly force was reasonable and necessary and that the use of force was wholly legally justified but (b) that they were, notwithstanding their honest and reasonable belief, absolutely wrong. How should we as a society regard these cases? Oops? Sad, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs? The price we pay for normal and responsible people to be safe? Blame the one for wandering around drunk and the other’s caretakers for not keeping up with them, while holding the shooters up as paragons of righteous self-protection? Or what?

  10. Regarding the Miami shootout, the lesson that no one seems to point out is that if a person has long guns around automobiles, they need to be handy. The bad guys had a sawed off shot gun and a folding stock rifle. The FBI had their long guns, 20″ barrel fixed stock shotguns, in the back seats and that certainly kept one of them out of the fight. If O’Neal had come out of his car with a shot gun, instead of with his snub nose, I really doubt anyone would have remembered the shootout except for Agent Dove at his retirement party.

    The FBI blamed the ammo, then quietly went with 14″ shotguns and short barreled, folding stock, rifles.

    Back on the 1980’s all the gun mags turned into statistical journals for a while, listing all the stats (velocities, ammo capacity, group sizes) of everything, but very few people ever asked if a gun was handy, if it had a good trigger, sights one could use well.

  11. Mas, I have to say that it’s a difficult question. Ultimately, the question must become this: Do we value self-protection so highly that we, as a society, consider it more important than protecting impaired people, some of whom will be impaired due to no fault of their own? How far are we willing to tilt the legal protections of self-defense, the amount of risk which must be bourne and the amount of care which must be taken before one can obtain those protections, to protect one group or the other? Who should we look to to exercise the greater degree of care: A person who is impaired through no fault of their own or a person who is confronted with a potential threat? Which group is more capable of exercising that care? Either way, there’s going to be a price to be paid in lives. The question then becomes whether the price is going to be higher one way or the other and which set of lives we value more.

  12. Dave, the gun owner already has a high standard of care.

    The drunk who does something fatally stupid is, in essence, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. If Mr. Hyde does something so evil he has to be killed to stop him, the good Dr. Jekyll dies with him…but, having created Mr. Hyde in the first place, Dr. Jekyll is largely responsible for his own demise.

    When those who are mentally ill or brain damaged through no fault of their own do something that brings death upon them, at least part of that responsibility falls on caregivers who failed to keep them out of trouble. There’s often “enough blame to go around.”

  13. Mas, I can’t disagree with you — at least not entirely — about the drunk or other self-impaired person, but with the person who is impaired through no fault of their own the issue of blame between the shooter and the caretaker misses the point I made in my last post, above. What should be the apportionment of responsibility between the shooter and the impaired person himself? Caretaker’s homes and facilities are not and cannot be expected to be prisons, but despite the best efforts of jailers and the heightened security of prisons, some prisoners escape, far more so impaired persons who don’t live in prisons. Moreover, some people are, or become, impaired without caretakers or before caretakers become assigned. We put a Constitutional-level value on the rights of mentally-impaired persons not to be confined and to be allowed to live independent lives if possible. Other people are impaired in less obvious ways — Yoshihiro Hattori’s impairment was a less-than-perfect command of English and American culture. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Yoshihiro_Hattori ) You say, correctly, that gun owners already have a high standard of care, the question is whether that standard is high enough, having been reduced in recent years through SYG-anywhere laws.

  14. I hear you, Dave. The Hattori shooting was a classic example of a lack of cultural understanding getting the stranger in the strange land killed, when he didn’t deserve to die.

    We can’t come up with a formula beforehand to apportion blame, nor even when we see the headlines about this or that recent shooting. Each case has to be thoroughly investigated and analyzed on its own merits, within what the courts call the totality of the circumstances.

    What needs to be done about the mentally ill whose aberrant behavior results in death — those who do things that get them killed, and those who snap and kill others — is one of the knottiest questions our society faces, so knotty that a great many people do not wish to face the question at all.

  15. “Shooting to Live” by Sykes and Fairbairn is a fun historical read.
    Enos’ “Practical Shooting: Beyond Fundamentals” has been tremendously beneficial to me, but lots of folks I know start to roll their eyes at the Zen stuff.
    My most valuable book, though, has been the diary I got from Barnes and Noble to keep next to my reloading bench and chronograph.

  16. With regard to recent defensive shooting cases, it is clear that most media reports are largely biased. With regard to the Theodore Wafer case, it is difficult for a member of the public to know the facts until after the case has concluded. Hopefully, these events will not just fade into history but provide society with a lessons-learned opportunity.

    As a society, we must always balance right from wrong as best we can. We balance the right to self-defense against the small number of tragic events we see in the media. We can look at numbers to support our decision but this, in part, leads us to an infinite and unresolved debate. Statistics don’t lie but, often times, liars use statistics.

    As Mas points out, most gun owners do observe a higher level of care. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely, there is always room for improvement. Education, training and discussion are a means for society as a whole to learn from events that end in tragic loss of life. Hopefully, society will learn from these events and their occurrence will soon diminish.