Book Review: The World’s Elite Forces: Small Arms & Accessories
by Larry S. Sterett

The World’s Elite Forces: Small Arms & Accessories
By John Walter
c.2002 ISBN 1-85367-496-6
Published by Stackpole Books
Dept SAR
5067 Ritter Road
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
Price: $24.00 plus $4.00 s&h

This 144-page hardbound volume does a superb job of covering the subject of the best small arms for the best forces. Following an excellent introduction, it features nine sections devoted to the respective weapon types and their accessories, from handguns to silencers.

The Introduction is worth reading at least twice, simply to mull the history of modern weapons development. Author Walter makes some opening statements on which arms designs need to reflect. “There is no such thing as the ideal weapon...Each generation has seen great successes and equally spectacular failures. Designs such as the Maxim machine-gun or the Bren Gun have been instantaneous successes, but most others...” The British press almost prevented the adoption of the short Lee-Enfield (SMLE). Only the arrival of the World War I made it successful, and Patton’s favorite rifle, the M1 Garand almost didn’t make it. The Russians were so uncertain of the Kalashnikov, they ordered the more conventional SKS into serial production in case the more radical AK should fail. The ArmaLite AR15 was criticized for its early performance in Vietnam, but managed to survive and is now manufactured in many different versions. Unfortunately, as it progresses through various modifications, it seems to have gained weight. The original AR15 design was simpler and weighed less than the later M16, which was simpler and lighter than the M16A1, which was simpler and lighter than the M16A2. The original AR15 weighed about six pounds, loaded, while the M16A2, loaded, weighs around nine, depending on the magazine, and possibly more with attachments.

Divided into nine chapters, Handguns, Shotguns, Infantry Rifles, Sniping Rifles, Light Automatic Weapons, Sights, Edged Weapons, Grenades and Silencers, this volume contains a list of abbreviations, but no index. The chapters are further divided into sub-topics. Each topic features an introduction, some brief, some lengthy, followed by the individual models. Handguns are divided into revolvers, semi-automatic pistols traditional forms, semi-automatic pistols transitional design, and semi-automatic pistols modern style. Shotguns are divided into traditional slide-action, traditional bolt-action, traditional semi-automatic, and modern designs. Each model of handgun, rifle, shotgun, etc., is listed under the manufacturers name in alphabetical order by country.

Coverage for individual models consists of text followed by specifications. The latter includes caliber, cartridge, operation (method), locking system, length, weight, barrel length, magazine (type and capacity), and muzzle velocity. The rate of fire may also be listed, when applicable, and all dimensions are listed in both English and metric units. Each model is illustrated with a black and white photograph with over 120 illustrations in this volume.

Some of the models, particularly the handguns, are often seen on the civilian market. Others, such as the Hungarian Gepard M3 anti-material rifle are not seen outside military circles. Some of the designs are no longer in production, but are still in use.

This is a handy reference volume for collectors of military arms, military historians, researchers, and anyone interested in what’s available for use by the world’s elite forces. It doesn’t cover every small arm ever produced, nor is the coverage extensive. (It does provide more coverage of shotguns than is usual.) Well presented, illustrated, and easy to use, it even mentions some of the designs tested in various trials throughout the world.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N1 (October 2004)
and was posted online on July 12, 2013


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