Michael Helms is a firearms historian living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
He holds a degree in history (summa cum laude) from North Carolina State University where he wrote his thesis on the evolution of the American firearms industry in the late 1850s and early 1860s. The focus of that research was on Smith & Wesson and its seminal Model 1 revolver, but the research expanded into the worlds of Samuel Colt, Simeon North, Robert Johnson, Rollin White, and a dizzying array of other gun makers, engineers, craftsmen, lawyers, politicians, and crooks.
He is particularly interested in how Smith & Wesson’s rise fits into Alfred Chandler’s theories about management and the growth of the modern enterprise, and how this intersects with the rapid advances in metalworking and machine tools over the first half of the 19th century. He also examines the parallel shift in how patents were being increasingly leveraged by large enterprises to maintain monopolies, and how “production engineering” became an important vocation.
An accomplished public speaker, Michael has displayed and presented his research to the following organizations and publications:
- The Smith & Wesson Collector’s Association 2019 convention in Richardson, TX
- The American Society of Arms Collectors spring 2019 meeting in Springfield, MO
- The April 2019 issue of Arms Heritage Magazine
- The Texas Gun Collectors Association fall 2018 show in Denton, Texas, where his Model 1 display was awarded a Judges Choice award
- The Texas Gun Collectors Association fall 2017 show in Ft. Worth, Texas, where his Model 1 display was awarded a Judges Choice award
- The Smith & Wesson Collector’s Association 2017 convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he won the Antique award for his Smith & Wesson Model 1 exhibit
- The 2017 North Carolina State University History Graduate Student Association Annual Conference
- The Smith & Wesson Collector’s Association 2016 convention in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- The 2015 State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research & Creativity Symposium in High Point, North Carolina
- Guest speaker at the Joel Lane Museum House in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 2015
Michael maintains active memberships in numerous collecting organizations including the American Society of Arms Collectors, the Smith & Wesson Collectors Association, the Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation, and the Colt Collectors Association. A skilled marksman, he earned the Appleseed rifleman designation and is a certified range safety officer and a certified Glock armorer.
Michael has been an amateur genealogist for over 30 years and actively maintains an online family tree. He is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution through his g-g-g-g-g-grandfather John Frederick Gaul. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 2014 while still a junior at NCSU and has been a Toastmaster since 2006. He earned a Geological Technician diploma from Fleming College in 1999. And his call sign is W5MJH.