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Shooting To Live (1942)

Price $286.00 Sale


W. E. Fairbairn & E. A. Sykes

OLIVER & BOYD LTD, Edinburgh & London, 1942

A 1st edition of this classic WW2 close-combat firearms handbook, complete with the very rare original dust jacket. written by Captain W. E. Fairbairn and Captain E. A. Sykes, the celebrated creators of the Fairbairn-Sykes Commando knife. This is the first edition, published by Oliver and Boyd in 1942. Drawing on the authors experience with the Shanghai Police during the inter-war years, and using real-life examples of combat situations they encountered, the book covers all aspects of close quarter combat with handguns. It is well illustrated with line drawings and was aimed at preparing members of the armed forces and police for any handgun combat situation they might face. The techniques described are still in use today and the authors are widely regarded as pioneers in the theory and practice of close quarter combat. With detailed instructions covering firearms training, the choice of weapons, revolvers and automatic pistols, aiming and firing techniques, and a discussion on the stopping power of various weapons and types of ammunition.

William Ewart Fairbairn (1885–1960) was a British soldier, police officer and exponent of hand-to-hand combat, firstly for the Shanghai Police and later with allied special forces in WW2. He developed his own fighting system known as 'Defendu', which included innovative pistol shooting techniques and the use of the legendary Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife. Fairbairn served with the Royal Marines and joined the Shanghai Municipal Police in 1907. During his service in Shanghai, Fairbairn experienced hundreds of street fights in the course of his twenty-year career. He created, organised and trained a special anti-riot squad, as well as developing firearms training courses and items of police equipment, including a bulletproof vest designed to stop high-velocity bullets. During WW2, together with fellow close-combat instructor Eric Sykes, Fairbairn trained British and Canadian Commandos in close-combat, pistol-shooting and knife-fighting techniques. Fairbairn emphasised the necessity of forgetting any idea of gentlemanly conduct or fighting fair: 'There’s no fair play, no rules except one: kill or be killed'.

Eric Anthony Sykes (1883–1945) was a soldier and firearms expert, most famous for his work with Fairbairn in the development of the eponymous Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife and modern British Close Quarters Battle martial arts during WW2. Originally working for an import/export company selling weapons in East Asia, he joined the volunteer branch of the Shanghai Municipal Police in 1917. In 1939 he joined the British Secret Intelligence Service, working with them at the Special Training Centre in Lochailort, Scotland. After training special forces units throughout 1940, Sykes and Fairbairn were commissioned into the British Army. Their 1942 book Shooting to Live is considered by many to be the classic text of pistol combat, and one of the best codifications of the high-stress point shooting method. But this was the last time the pair worked together; by mid-1942 their friendship had ended, with Sykes claiming that Fairbairn treated him as an inferior. Soon after, Fairbairn travelled to Canada to instruct commandos and secret agents. Sykes stayed in Britain, training Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents.


In very good condition. The boards are in very good condition with some fading to the top and bottom of the spine. The dust jacket is in good condition, with some old tape repairs to the rear panel, a section missing from the spine, and some archival paper tape repairs. The dust jacket is now protected by a removable archival film sleeve. The binding and hinges are very good and secure. The text and illustrations are in very good condition.

Published: 1942
Illustrated with line drawings
Green boards with gilt titling
Dimensions: 115mm x 170mm
Pages: 96