Proofs, Stamps, & Trade Marks for Rifles, Pistols & Shotguns by Fowkes and Skennerton

Book review: Proofs, Stamps & Trade Marks for Rifles, Pistols, Shotguns

Old guns tend to have a lot of interesting markings on them. Not just dings and scrapes from being used by soldiers or hunters, but proof marks, military markings and more. 

Proof and ownership markings are an important way of identifying specific information about many guns, particularly military firearms and European sporting arms.

Proofs, Stamps, & Trade Marks for Rifles, Pistols & Shotguns by Fowkes and Skennerton

While there is a lot of information about proof and trade marks on the internet, it doesn’t compare to having it all in a single book – which is a big part of the appeal for the subject of this review.

Queensland arms historian Paul Fowkes has, together with renowned historical arms authority Ian Skennerton, put together Proofs, Stamps, & Trade Marks – Rifles, Pistols & Shotguns; the first comprehensive printed guide to the subject since the late 1970s that I’m aware of.

The book (RRP $88) covers exactly what it says on the tin – firearm proof marks and other markings – and there are 144 pages devoted to them, covering everything from civilian proof marks to military acceptance markings through to trade labels found on vintage gun cases and even logos on handgun grips.

As a firearms historian, I’ve found it extremely useful, and having it all in one book, written by people who are historians themselves, saves having to wade through a lot of internet websites and forums to find reputable sources to confirm what a certain marking actually means.

The main issue I’ve found with the book is the lack of polish in some aspects of the presentation. For example, some of the proof mark images appear to have a background to them while others don’t. Some of the images seem a bit blurry too, as if they were too low resolution or had too small a file size.

Proofs, Stamps, & Trade Marks for Rifles, Pistols & Shotguns by Fowkes and Skennerton

None of that affects the information itself, which is extensive, and includes aspects which have received scant attention in English-language print works before – notably Japanese arsenal markings and Spanish proof codes by year. 

Proof markings and the like aren’t just for collectors, either. They provide valuable information for shooters about what ammunition a firearm is chambered for and safely capable of firing. This is especially important for older shotguns, where the proof markings can tell you if it’s chambered for smokeless shotshells or not.

A lot of cheap and cheerful old guns don’t have understandable markings on them, so having a list of the majority of manufacturers’ markings is a big help for anyone who’s ever bought or inherited an old gun and tried to find out more information about it – and that would include dealers, who often get a lot of weird old guns across the counter.

While possibly a bit pricey for someone just wanting to know the origins of a single old shotgun they’ve acquired, serious collectors, dealers and vintage firearms enthusiasts will find this reference work a worthwhile purchase.

If your tastes in firearms run to the older or collectible side of things, you’ll find Proofs, Stamps & Trademarks an invaluable addition to the bookshelf.

Proofs, Stamps, & Trade Marks – Rifles, Pistols & Shotguns is available from a number of arms and militaria dealers, as well as the author’s website.




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Royce Wilson

Royce is something rare in Australia: A journalist who really likes guns. He has been interested in firearms as long as he can remember, and is particularly interested in military and police firearms from the 19th Century to the present. In addition to historical and collectible firearms, he is also a keen video gamer and has written for several major newspapers and websites on that subject.