Julian Hatcher (1888-1963) is about as closely aligned with firearms as a person could be. Raised in the same time period that saw the innovations of pump-action, lever action, and self-loading rifles and pistols and machine guns, his life spanned a period that encompassed the greatest advances in firearms. He held positions in Army Ordnance, the NRA, and numerous competitive shooting organizations as well as writing and editing for several firearms periodicals.
Perhaps most notably, he was the Officer In Charge of the Springfield Armory Experimental department and participated in numerous studies and experiments spanning a broad range of firearms design related subjects.
During these years, he kept notes, and these were eventually compiled into a book Hatcher’s Notebook – a veritable cornucopia of information about firearms, designs of the times, and experiments that most of us would find impractical to conduct given that we don’t have the financial backing of the government.
In 1957, he updated Hatcher’s Notebook to include some new material. That work, the 1957 edition of Hatcher’s Notebook, is a goldmine of firearms history, design detail, and observation that is unlikely to ever be reproduced in the public or private sector.
It is nearly impossible to review Hatcher’s Notebook without providing a laundry list of material covered as the topics explored range broadly across virtually all aspects of firearms. Among the items mentioned on the front cover are: automatic mechanisms, machine guns and semi-automatics, barrel obstructions, rifle strengths and weaknesses, exterior ballistics, recoil problems, headspace, triggers, caliber equivalents, range, and gunpowder.
I know of no other firearms manual which so directly addresses the broad study of firearms design. It is, however, an old manual and suffers slightly in some regards. Hatcher’s discussion of ‘spin drift’, for example, contains conclusions that are now considered erroneous. Fortunately such errors are few and far between.
This is a book that undoubtedly belongs on the shelf of anyone engaged in firearms design, but it is not perfect.