Salopian, I meant to reply to you earlier this week. I have read the book. I wrote this up for the Vintage Gunners newsletter a while back:
The Traditional Side by Side: King of the Upland Bird Guns by Doug Stewart is a recent (2018) addition to the literary canon of our favorite type of shotgun.
In heartfelt, unpretentious prose, author Doug Stewart tell us why he believes the side-by-side shotgun is the best gun for upland hunting. A fine example of Stewart’s style is this quotation: “A traditional side by side has a soul of its own. The soul was given to the gun by a craftsman who produced this piece of art part by part.”
Stewart is a health and fitness trainer from Colorado, and is an avid bird hunter. His focus is the on use of side-by-side guns in upland settings, so most of the information presented in the book is written from that perspective.
As he discusses in the book, Stewart loves to test his beliefs about shotguns and shooting and apply what he learns. Stewart tells us, “Through these many years I have become really big on trial and error…I shoot, test, and study everything to do with shotguns and shooting…” He provides evidence of this work in the chapters on ammunition and gun barrels.
Stewart covers a lot ground in less than 200 pages. He divides the book into big sections with sub-sections that generally equate to chapters. There are chapters on common gauges used for upland hunting, chapters on the basic parts of a gun, and chapters on shooting technique and ammunition. There is also a directory of some of Stewart’s favorite gunsmiths and gun dealers at the end of the book.
The author is not afraid to offer his opinions. He shoots and owns guns of various makes, American, British and others, but his favorites are Parkers, and he tells you why. Stewart believes in using the best ammunition, saying, “Feed your special double the best nutrition you can.” I cannot say I agree with everything Stewart writes, but at least he is willing to share what his testing and experiences have taught him and lead him to believe. I take that as a sign of honesty and integrity.
I enjoyed the book; Stewart’s enthusiasm is infectious, but for anyone who has studied side-by-side guns for many years, there will not be much new information. However, I would recommend The Traditional Side by Side to anyone starting on their double gun journey. I think it helps answer the question of why many people are passionate about these old guns. It has been a while since we have received such full-throated endorsement of the classic side-by-side, and it is refreshing to hear it in a new voice. If your double gun faith is in need of a revival, give this a read, and give a copy to anyone who is starting to show interest in side-by-side guns.
Stewart mentions a couple of times that he is working on a second book, so hopefully we will hear more from him in the future. (Part II is now available -- I do not have it yet)