Book Reviews: Combat Shotguns
by Larry Sterett and Charles Cutshaw

Combat Shotguns
By Leroy Thompson.
ISBN 1-85367-515-6
Published by Stackpole
Books, Dept. SAR, 5067 Ritter Rd, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055.
Price: $24.00, plus $4.00 s&h
Available at bookstores, or direct: orders@stackpolebooks.com
Review by Larry Sterett

One of the Greenhill Military Manuals, this small hardbound volume is one of the few books covering the subject of shotguns that have been designed, and/or configured for, combat. The first five chapters are devoted to: Evolution of the Shotgun in Combat, Characteristics of the Combat Shotgun, Missions of the Combat Shotgun, Improvements to the Combat Shotgun, and Combat Shotgun Ammunition. This is followed by coverage of shogun action types: slide-action, self-loaders, dual action, rifle/shotgun combos, rotary chamber, double barrel, and single barrel. (The only action type not covered, and some of which are known to have been used in combat, is the bolt-action.) Overall, more than four-dozen shotgun models are covered, with 28 of these being slide-action models.

Each model is illustrated, frequently with a double-page photograph, and discussed briefly with regard to special features or characteristics: gauge (including chamber length), length overall, barrel length, weight, sights, stock type, and magazine capacity. Measurements are in metric and English units.

Not all the models discussed are “issue” weapons, although in an emergency anything is better than nothing. Some models, such as the Stevens Model 311R may still used by police or security agencies, but the Snake Charmer II is better adapted to a survival pack than to combat use. The Ithaca Auto & Burglar Gun has not been in production for decades, although some Spanish produced copies have been manufactured for police use. Another design ahead of its time was the High Standard Model 10. Ideal as a short heavy-caliber weapon, but limited by magazine capacity, only a few ever saw police use, and possibly none by the military.

This is a handy reference volume on the subject. No experimental designs or prototypes are discussed. Anyone, military historian, arms student or collector, interested in the combat use of shotguns, past, present, or future, should find Thompson’s book useful.

The P.38 Pistol, Volumes One through Three
By Warren H. Buxton
Ucross Books
P.O. Box 764,
Los Alamos, NM 87544-2350
Volume One -
The Walther Pistols 1930-1945
1978, ISBN Number: 0-87833-303-7
328 pages, black & white
photographs and drawings
Volume Two -
The Contract Pistols 1940-1945
1984, ISBN Number: 0-96-140240-7
247 pages, black & white
photographs and drawings
Volume Three -
International Distribution,
Post 1945
1990, Second Printing 1999,
ISBN Number: 0-96140240-1-5
270 pages, black & white
photographs and drawings
$68.50 per volume plus $3.50 each shipping
Review by Charles Cutshaw

The Walther P.38 pistol is a true handgun landmark that has never had its full

story told, until now. In three lavish volumes, Warren H. Buxton lays out virtually every detail of the design, operational history, commercial sale and worldwide distribution of this historic pistol. The P.38 not only was far ahead of its time, but has had its short recoil operating system used as the basis of many subsequent designs, including the current US military Beretta 92F (M9).

The first aspect of Mr. Buxton’s definitive P.38 work is the high quality of the books. These volumes are all physically beautiful with red leatherette binding and a gold foil impression of a P.38 on each cover. The pages are of high quality stock and the profuse photographs are of high quality and excellent resolution. The photos are supplemented by drawings produced by the author. Close-up photos of various markings ensure that each P.38 model is illustrated in detail.

Although the books stand alone and are in fact sold separately, all three are necessary to have a complete history of the P.38. Volume One covers the design and development of the P.38, beginning about 1930 and ending with the cessation of World War II when Walther ceased production of all handguns until the mid-1950s. Volume Two covers World War II contract pistols manufactured by Mauser, Spreewerk, FN and others. The level of detail on all manufacturers’ variants leaves nothing to the imagination. Volume Three details postwar distribution of P.38 pistols throughout the world for use by military and police.

Where possible, national markings of these “surplus” pistols is included. Each volume has an extensive index and is profusely illustrated. It is difficult to conceive of the massive amount of research that went into the production of these volumes!

In Volume One, the author does not limit himself to the P.38, but also discusses competing models that vied for German military adoption in the mid 1930s, including Mauser, Sauer & Sohn and BSW pistols.

The author also discusses firearm laws and regulations under Nazi German government and policies in occupied countries. For the average German, handgun ownership was tightly regulated, but possible upon obtaining a permit to purchase and then another to possess.

The P.38 Pistol is clearly the definitive work on the P.38 pistol in all its manifestations. The volumes are laid out in a logical manner and are well organized. The many photographs and drawings are interesting in and of themselves, besides supplementing the text. These definitive books belong in the reference library of any student of modern firearms.

The present three volumes do not comprise the complete history of the P.38. Mr. Buxton has three more volumes in preparation to complete the P.38 story. Volume Four will cover the postwar “Ulm pistols” made by Walther and Manurhin. These pistols include the P38, P38II, P1, P38K, P4, P5, P88, commemoratives, special orders, and others. Military and police distribution will also be covered in Volume Four. Volume Five will feature holsters used with P.38 and related pistols since the 1930s. Volume Six will be a reappraisal of the material contained in all the preceding volumes, with emphasis on World War II pistols.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V7N3 (December 2003)
and was posted online on September 27, 2013


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