Shooting for the Record Cover

Tim Price, Shooting for the Record: Adolph Toepperwein, Tom Frye, and Sharpshooting's Forgotten Controversy. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2016. 304 pp. Hardcover $27.95.

In Shooting for the Record, journalist Tim Price introduces readers to two men, Adolph Toepperwein and Tom Frye, whose lives intersect at sharpshooting’s forgotten controversy. In dispute is which man actually earned the record for most targets hit over consecutive days as they shot under different circumstances and conditions. For example, even target size was not standard.

In chronological, alternating chapters, Price interweaves the stories of each man’s professional and personal lives. Both men were introduced to shooting at an early age. Toepperwein was born in Texas in 1869 to German parents, his father a gunsmith and landowner. Tom Frye was born in Ohio in 1915, his father a draftsman.

Toepperwein worked as cartoonist for a San Antonio paper, but his heart was in shooting. He would eventually become involved with Winchester. He met his wife, Elizabeth (later known as Plinky), in New Haven, Connecticut. Although Elizabeth worked in a Winchester factory, she had never fired a gun. Soon, however, she would become an expert shooter, and Ad and Plinky would become the “Fabulous Topperweins” -- the name Americanized. They traveled the country performing shooting exhibitions and winning numerous competitions. Toepperwein began to create bullet hole art or “shoot outs,” using bullet holes to draw pictures. Toepperwein’s major accomplishment came in 1907, when he shot at 72,500 targets with only nine misses.

Frye would eventually end up working for Remington. He would serve as a Remington field representative for the west coast and perform exhibition shooting, which brought him into contact with actors and other celebrities. (One of his shoot outs was given to Ronald Reagan.) Unlike Toepperwein, Frye’s first marriage ended in divorce. His back was severely injured in a car accident leaving him in constant pain, although he was able to have a surgery that corrected his back problem. But, Frye’s major accomplishment would be sharpshooting. In 1959 Frye shot at 100,010 blocks, hitting 100,004, and setting the Frye record.

Price’s work offers much more detail than this brief review. He details the history of sharpshooting and exhibition shooting as well as the history of the times in which both men lived. The book is full of accounts in which Toepperwein or Frye participated. Price tells of each man’s personal life, successes and failures, happiness and tragedy. Price is able to tell each man’s story separately, yet blends the stories in a way that compares and contrasts their lives. Price’s work is presented in a manner that appeals not just to the sharpshooter or exhibition shooter enthusiast, but also to the general reader.

Jennifer Spurrier

Texas Tech University