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There is also another attraction in the writings of O’Connor and Keith that is simply not available to contemporary writers, and it’s that the world was a different place back then. In many ways times were simpler back then but also more difficult in many respects. From a technological point of view, we are light years removed from those days, even though we still use calibers and firearms designed and even built in those days. The advances in optics have been astounding. The ammo is far superior to what was then available and a modern reloading setup would be considered science fiction by Keith and O’Connor with progressive or turret presses, digital scales and automated dispensers, annealing machines, powered trimmers, etc. The quality of the firearms and their precision is a quantum leap from those days.
Imagine these guys with digital cameras and PCs. Then again, maybe not. In a way the dearth of accompanying photographs in their stories forced them to write more eloquently, to the point where they took you along in their adventures with their written word and that’s a difficult thing to achieve. Nowadays, I find writers rely too much on the accompanying pictures. I relish articles with few pictures; many times the written word paints in my mind, a picture that is more engaging than a photograph. Reading is not just a spectator sport, you get to participate with your imagination and Keith & O’Connor could do that very well. They say a picture is worth a thousand words; well maybe I enjoy reading a thousand well-crafted words more than looking at the picture.
The final aspect of the attraction of some writers of yore as opposed to many (but not all) contemporary writers is they projected their personality in their writings. The way they thought, lived and so on came across very unequivocally to the reader. When a writer is able to do that, his story come to life and while we do have some current writers who can do that, for some reason they do not do it consistently. Some of their writing is theirs, and some of it seems to be just formulaic, as if filling out a report on a rifle following a set template. Boring.
What you say about how much the shooting world has changed is so true. In the '40s and '50s when O'Connor, Keith, Askins Sr., Warren Page and others were in their prime, very little was known about ballistics, bullet performance, powders and handloading. What they wrote was front-page news, because much of it was new information based upon their experiences. Nowadays, we pretty much take for granted what these early writers discovered about shooting.
Today's writers tend to focus a lot on "new products" because much of the science of shooting has been discovered.
I should add to the list a writer who lived in your neck of the woods, the late Bob Brister. As you may know, he was the outdoors editor for the Houston Chronicle for many years and wrote several books on shotgunning. Until his "Shotgunning: The Art and the Science" in the 1970s, very little was known about shot string, shotgun patterns, shot size and hardness, and other aspects of scatterguns. He was a good writer, a champion trap and skeet shooter and a fine gentleman.
I've read every single word I could ever find that Elmer Keith wrote, because that's how much I've enjoyed his writing.
I've been to visit Mister Keith when he was still alive. Lorraine Keith was the most gracious lady I've ever met.
Boddington is still out there bringing us great video.
Back in the 1970's, Guns and Ammo magazine gave us the writings of others such as Peter Hathaway Capstick, Mel Tappan, Colonel Townsend Whelen, Jeff Cooper and so many others.