Book Review: P.O. Ackley—America’s Gunsmith

by Gary Howes
Guns and Gunsmiths Editor

Recently I receive a copy of a new book written by our own G&G contributor and AGI Instructor, Fred Zeglin. Until then, I had some  knowledge of P.O and knew that he was a cartridge designer best known for his “Improved” ammo designs, but not much more than that. I was soon impressed with how much more this great American gunsmith achieved during his life, and Fred has given us a great history lesson as well as a valuable technical manual for anyone interested in gunsmithing, wildcat cartridge design, and reloading.

The press release for this book says in part:

“In P.O. Ackley: America’s Gunsmith, Zeglin’s extensive research highlights not just the history of cartridge and rifle development, but a never-before-seen look at a humble man who influenced nearly everything we know about shooting and ballistics today. Ackley’s ideas on reloading, rifle accuracy, safety, cartridge choice, and wildcats are just as relevant for modern “gun cranks” as they were in Ackley’s heyday.

“The book is illustrated with never-before-seen photos from personal archives of Ackley’s friends, family, and associates — a veritable who’s who of giants from the firearms industry who went on to shape the shooting sports as we know it. From the dusty, oil rag-covered machine shops of Ackley’s early years, to stunning modern-day firearms chambered in Ackley’s timeless wildcats, the full-color center section brings to life this colorful character and his accomplishments in gunsmithing and cartridge development.”

The book consists of 22 chapters in about 250 pages and is essentially divided into three sections. The first covers the history of this great gunsmith, the gunsmithing techniques he developed, his stint as gunsmithing instructor at Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado, his collaborations with others in the firearms field, an insight into his cartridge development for which he is so well known, and much more.

The second section starts to get more technical with detailed explanations of his cartridge designs and the reasons for the decisions he made. Fascinating stuff for both “wildcatters” and regular shooters and reloaders.

Lastly Fred has included written descriptions of each of Ackley’s designs as well as detailed charts of loading and performance data making this book not only greatly entertaining, but an invaluable resource for those interested in these cartridges.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Fred about the book and why he wrote it. Here is that discussion:

About the Author

Author, gunsmith, reloading expert Fred Zeglin

Fred Zeglin has been building custom hunting rifles for over thirty years. Zeglin has taught classes for the NRA Short Term Gunsmithing program at three separate colleges and is the Coordinator/Instructor for the Firearms Technology Program at Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC). He has published two books, Hawk Cartridges Manual and Wildcat Cartridges, Reloader’s Handbook of Wildcat Cartridge Design and contributed to numerous publications. Fred has worked with American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) to produce two instructional DVDs, Taming Wildcats and Reloading A to Z.

Special Offer for G&G Readers! Get a SIGNED copy with this Discount AND Free Shipping!

Fred has generously made available a special offer just for Guns and Gunsmiths readers.

Visit and use the coupon code gag717 and you will receive a signed copy of the book at $9.95 off the regular price, and free shipping!

Thanks Fred. Everybody who loves guns and gunsmithing needs to have your book.


6 Responses to Book Review: P.O. Ackley—America’s Gunsmith

  1. Wow! Very interesting Fred! P.O is certainly an interesting and very accomplished person. Thanks a bunch for sharing!

  2. I had known of P.O. From back in the early 1960 as I was learning to become a gunsmith myself. I did some apprentiship work for the old gunsmith :Mashburn Arms in Okla. city. He made some of his calibers hisself. He was kind of hard to work with But learned a lot from him. When I Learned P.O. Was going to quit teaching from Trintidad junior in 1987 I enrolled in one of his classes. We built me a .257 improved Roberts. This is when I found out the 25 calibers weRE one of his favorites. Looking forward to reading your book. Keep up the good work.
    Keith Greenwood

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