Collector Grade Publications Founder R. Blake Stevens Passes Away

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss

If you have a passion for the history of firearms or collecting old guns then you will probably be familiar with Collector Grade Publications, a publishing house which has been publishing excellent, well researched and curated books for nearly 40 years. I’m saddened to say the man behind Collector Grade, R. Blake Stevens, has passed away, aged 80.

Collector Grade, founded in 1979, has published dozens of important books covering important firearms such as the FAL and M16 as well as the Luger, the MP40, M1 Carbine, Maxim Gun and the BAR. While Blake was himself an accomplished writer, researcher, and historian – responsible for wonderfully in-depth books on the FAL, High Power, the FN49 and roller locking rifles, he was also the driving force and editor of dozens of other books published by Collector Grade.

Blake’s obituary, written by his family and shared on the MacCoubrey funeral home website, reads:

Robert Blake Stevens
October 16, 1938 – April 22, 2018

“They always will believe a lie

Who see with, not through, the eye”

In his own words:

“Robert ‘Blake’ Stevens was born in Toronto on October 16th, 1938 the eldest of the three children of the late Thomas Herbert Stevens and Beatrice Ena Stevens (née Lake). Blake is survived by his loving wife and business partner Susan Fraser, daughter Elizabeth, grandson Elijah, sister Brenda van Lier (Winston), and sister-in-law Gail Stevens, widow of his late brother Clyde. Life never really made much sense for Blake until he was in his thirties, when it all came together during and after his first experience with LSD. Suddenly the world was divided into two groups of people: the few who understand the above edited quote from William Blake (1757-1827), and the many who do not. A 10-year career in systems analysis and computer programming no longer holding any appeal, Blake left the corporate world and studied for two years at the New School of Art, all the while maintaining his lifelong passion for music and high-fidelity sound. In 1979 Blake founded the small but now world-renowned company Collector Grade Publications, where for a period of nearly forty years he edited and produced a series of over sixty critically-acclaimed books on modern small arms, twelve of which he wrote or co-authored himself. He felt that this endeavor was well in keeping with the adage attributed to the Buddha, who is purported to have said that one has to learn how to make their living with their left foot if they are ever going to get anywhere with their head. While death is the ultimate demarcation, requiring the end of existence in this beautiful and beguiling world, it may lead to the opportunity for Blake’s soul to be reborn into another world of the same order as itself, which would be reward indeed for faithfully enduring the last ordeals in his struggle with cancer.”

Cremation has already taken place. A date to honour Blake will be forthcoming in the next months. Condolences may be made online at, and if so wished, a donation in Blake’s name to the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.

Sadly, I never had the pleasure of physically meeting Blake but we exchanged emails regularly for a number of years and I greatly enjoyed his insight and generosity with his time and knowledge. He was even kind enough to grant me an interview for my website, Historical Firearms. If you’d like to learn more about Blake and his work you can find my interview here and an earlier 2013 interview with Small Arms Review here.

Through Collector Grade, Blake achieved a great deal and provided an unparalleled medium to propagate historic firearms knowledge. His death is a real loss to not just those lucky enough to know him but the firearms research community as a whole. I sincerely hope that Collector Grade will continue to publish their fantastic books in his memory. Rest in peace Blake.

Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: & Overt Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. Matt is also runs The Armourer's Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms. Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news. Reach Matt at:

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  • Joey JoJo Jr. Joey JoJo Jr. on May 01, 2018

    I have several of his books in view on the shelf, as I write this. He did good work and will be greatly missed! God bless you and keep you, sir.

  • Phil O'Dell Phil O'Dell on May 02, 2018

    Blake was truly a great friend and I was privileged to know him for many years. I recall his passion for accuracy and one winter evening, reviewing a draft of the first "Black Rifle" book (I was an engineer at Diemaco at the time having helped Blake with some pictures and details of the Canadian program), one individual stated they would prefer not to be acknowledged in the credits... to which Blake immediately stopped and asked, honestly, "Why?" and so began a long discussion of the "other side" of the great rifle controversy and to his ultimate credit Blake stopped publication (it took over a year before the final version was printed) and began a massive rewrite of the book to credit both sides of the project equally - and properly - rather than be caught putting out "a one sided history". Such was his passion for accuracy and correctness and - "hesitation locking aside" - I can't ever think of another individual gun book author who had his critical eye and absolute driving need to get things right.

    You will be truly missed my friend, and I do owe you many many favours, which will repaid to the next generation as you so aptly said on several occasions, and I hope that you, Uzi, Ed, Gene, and Derek are up there having some incredible discussions. And if I hope one day (not soon mind you!) to be reunited with you great friends for many more in depth talks.

    My sincerest condolences to Susan and your family.

    Phil O'Dell