Best known for his Ackley Improved family of cartridges, the eminent gunsmith P.O. Ackley was also a tireless self-promoter and well-known writer. Here are some of our favorite Ackleyisms.

  • P.O. Ackley made no secret of his disdain for many popular magnum cartridges.
  • Ackley responded to hundreds, perhaps thousands of personal letters.
  • The man was multi-talented when it came to gunsmithing.
  • He could make the finest barrels or blow up the strongest actions.
  • And he could offend the thickest-skinned of the rifle intelligencia.
P.O. Ackley
Photo of the man himself, P.O. Ackley, from the collection of gunmaker Jerry Fisher. Fisher visited Ackley in the mid-1970s and remembers him talking about all facets of gunmaking. Making a living was a key subject in the discussion.

Best P.O. Ackley Quotes

As Col. Charles Askins once said, “With a total interest in the shooting game, with a dedication and a devotion to rifles and their loads, the man had given countless hours, money and effort to the betterment of the existing American family of rifle cartridges. The debt of the shooters of this country to Parker Ackley is a major one.”

P.O. Ackley was careful about the words he published for the general public verses the comments he might write to a friend. A few examples of these comments come from his private letters written to friends and acquaintances.

For example, on large capacity magnums he declares, “Of course, these big ones make more noise and they would be highly efficient if you could scare animals to death.

Letterhead-logo
Letterhead logo from the early days in Trinidad. Collection of Ron Pearson.

“If you look through my Volume I book you will find that about 2,800 fps is about all anyone has been able to get out of a .35 caliber 250-grain bullet, regardless of what case is used,” Ackley wrote to Bevan King. “So anyone claiming 3,400 is either using some highly specialized system or he is a liar. And I am pretty much of the opinion that the latter is correct.”

So, without further ado, here are some more of our favorite Ackley quotes.

Ackley On Extreme Accuracy

Discussing extreme rifle accuracy Ackley wrote to a friend that, “There are not a very high percentage of the shooters who are able to shoot like that no matter how well the gun is made or how accurate it is. I have noticed that some benchrest shooters or target shooters would shoot fifteen or twenty groups and then throw away all but one and then they would brag about their rifle being able to do that every time. You should have seen some that had been thrown away. The more rabid they get on the accuracy kick the more psycho they become.”

Ackley-On-Extreme-Accuracy
“I have been making barrels for forty-four years or more and I don’t know half as much about it as someone who has been at it four years,” said Ackley to a friend.

Parker On His Critics

“I have been making barrels for forty-four years or more and I don’t know half as much about it as someone who has been at it four years,” said Ackley to a friend.

Insights Into Elmer Keith

“I don’t think Elmer Keith would be caught dead hunting with anything smaller than a .300 Magnum. And he used to tell me that was about minimum for deer. For other stuff he starts up from there. Of course, if you figured things proportionately, guns for moose or bear; the gun would probably be at least 37mm,” Ackley wrote.

Dressing Down Bureaucrats

On property tax Ackley declared, “When I sold the land out back I intended to fix up the house. When we moved to Holiday in 1951 … taxes have gone up so much that I am just letting the joint fall down. If I do any work on it they will come around and reassess it. Like everywhere else we have a surplus of public parasites.”

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Dennis Belm (right) consulting P.O. Ackley (left).

P.O. Ackley On Gunsmithing

“The smoothness thing which is so often proclaimed in the various discussions of the .17 caliber barrels is a myth. It sounds good but it has no basis in fact. I have worked with .17 caliber barrels now for more than 25 years and although I admit I don’t know very much about barrel making after more than 30 years at it, I do know that the best way to get an answer to the problem is to ask someone who has never made a barrel. They can always tell you.”

Taking Down More Magnums

[Magnum cartridges are] “so inefficient that no one in his right mind could see anything good in them except sales possibilities … It would be fine if by putting a belt on a case and advertising it as a magnum it would revolutionize the industry, but it only revolutionizes sales.”

P.O. Ackley On His Competitors

“I have no quarrel with the man who has a lower price. He knows better than anyone else what his product is worth.”

Editor’s Note: This excerpt is from P.O. Ackley: America’s Gunsmith available exclusively at  GunDigestStore.com.


P-O-Ackley
P.O. Ackley: America’s Gunsmith

The “Ackley Improved” and Beyond

Writer and Gunsmith Fred Zeglin gives a never-before-seen look at the humble man whose research thrust the firearms industry forward in P.O. Ackley: America’s Gunsmith. From pushing rifle chambers to their limits to developing superior barrels to designing red-hot cartridges, readers will walk away with a new appreciation for Ackley’s exploration and ideas. And his concepts on reloading, rifle accuracy, safety, cartridge choice, and wildcat use are just as relevant for today’s “gun cranks” as they were in Ackley’s heyday. Get Your Copy Today