BOOK REVIEW: “Sixguns” by Elmer Keith, Now Available in Paperback

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

August 25th, 2012



Click pictures for a larger version.




“Sixguns” by Elmer Keith is one classic book that should be on every shooter’s bookshelf.

Elmer Keith was born in Hardin, Missouri in 1899, but lived out most of his life out West in Idaho, Oregon, and Montana. Mr. Keith was a rancher by trade, but his love of guns and experimentation with such led him to become a very prolific writer, contributing to The American Rifleman and other magazines for decades.

Mr. Keith’s work as a guide for big game hunters, along with his experimenting with heavy loads in revolvers, gave him unique insight into what could and could not be done with a sixgun. Mr. Keith was the driving force behind the development of the magnum cartridges that we have today, particularly being credited with the development of the 44 magnum. Mr. Keith would load 44 Special handguns to their limit, and urged Smith & Wesson to develop a hotter 44 and a gun in which to fire the cartridge.

Elmer Keith designed his famous Keith lead bullet for the 44 in 1926, and to this day, it is still one of the best bullet designs ever produced. Mr. Keith designed a very useful and practical holster, along with innovations in sixgun grip ergonomics that is still as good as it gets today. Mr. Keith was an early proponent of hunting with a handgun, and made some amazing shots on game using a sixgun; not as a stunt, but out of necessity.

Elmer Keith’s writings bridged the gap for many of us who read his works between the Old West and where we are today. He lived in an era in which the rifle and sixgun were tools used in daily life. While many folks lived in that era, Mr. Keith took the time to write it down. Some of his best is contained within the pages of “Sixguns”. “Sixguns“ follows the development of the revolver from its beginning through the introduction of the 44 Magnum. It is 331 pages of entertaining and useful information, along with vintage pictures of Mr. Keith, his family, and shooting friends. This book has been out of print for many years, and often fetches high prices in used book stores and at internet book sellers. “Sixguns” is now available in paperback, and if you don’t own an original copy, I highly recommend this book to those who are interested in handgun shooting, revolver development, or in the life of an amazing man.

“Sixguns” is available on, but you can save three dollars by ordering it here, and putting in the discount code YGTFDWGC at checkout. I suggest that you buy while you can, as the world is flush with gun writers, but there will never be another the likes of Elmer Keith.

Jeff Quinn

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