Book Reviews: November 2003
by Larry Sterett and Vic Fogle

The Encyclopedia of Handheld Weapons
Edited by James Marchington.
ISBN 1-930983-14-X
Published by Lewis International Inc.
Available from Cheaper Than Dirt,
Dept. SAR, 2524 NE Loop 820,
Fort Worth, TX 76106.
Price: $27.97, plus $7.99 s&h
1-800-421-8048 or www.cheaperthandirt.com
Reviewed by Larry Sterett

Following a short Introduction discussing such topics as the “changing face of war,” this thick hardbound volume provides coverage on nearly 300 different modern handheld weapons. There are a dozen categories, ranging from Semiautomatic Pistols to Utility and Special Purpose Blades. Each weapon category begins with a one-page Introduction, after which the weapons are presented in alphabetical order by name of country of origin. (The Assault Rifles, Sniping Rifles, and Combat Shotguns are presented in order by country of origin, but the Submachine Guns are presented in order by the name of the manufacturer of model.

Coverage of individual pistol, revolver, and submachine gun models includes Background, Operation, Controls, and for some models, Service. The long arms and edged weapons are discussed differently, without specific feature coverage, but often with additional comments. Each model is illustrated with one or more black and white photographs or drawings; some parts, fieldstripped, in the field shots illustrating the weapon in use may be included. In addition, specifications are provided for each weapon. However, the specifications provided depend on the type of weapon.

This is a handy volume for quick reference on many of the handheld weapons currently in use by the military, police, and security agencies. Light machine guns or weapons above assault rifle size are not covered. This volume has a useful nine-page Glossary, beginning with ACR and ending with Zero, but it does not have an index. Locating a specific model is not a problem, however, and is easily accomplished by looking for the model under the proper category in the Contents pages. Small arms students, military historians and researchers should find this a useful volume for reference. It’s not Jane’s Infantry Weapons, but it provides good basic information and the illustrations are good.

The Complete Machine Gun: 1885 to the Present
By Ian V. Hogg
London: Phoebus Publishing Co.
and New York: Exeter Books, 1979
128 pp., illus, artwork index, tables
out of print, ISBN 0-89673-012-3.
Reviewed by Vic Fogle

The Complete Machine Gun is a compact but surprisingly comprehensive trip through most of the era of the machine gun - roughly the last part of the 19th century and most of the 20th. In this period the machine gun largely dominated combat on various battlefields of the world. In assessing the importance of the coming of the machine gun, Ian Hogg wrote “if any single event can be said to have transformed the history of warfare it was the perfection of the true automatic machine gun by Hiram Maxim in 1885. Its effect was far greater than the introduction of aircraft or even nuclear weapons to the battlefield. Its importance paralleled the introduction of firearms themselves into a world of arrows and spears.”

The volume contains two separate but parallel surveys; published earlier in Great Britain, one covering machine guns and the second submachine guns. The periods into which the author divides his presentations are pre-World War I, the war itself, between the wars, World War II, and post-World War II up to the late 1970s. The surveys conclude with discussions of the Mini gun and the MP5. Upon this framework the author stretches a canvas upon which he paints in a background of national aspirations and rivalries, differing military philosophies, diverse national characteristics, and changing combat conditions, displaying the guns against this setting. Ignoring 19th century colonial use, mainly by his own countrymen, and domestic American use by industrialists and by National Guardsmen acting in their behalf, Hogg’s emphasis is upon 20th century military usage, and he shows how national tensions called forth new weapons and, in turn, counters to them. He discusses more than just the most popular models. While the most produced models are featured, so are many little produced or failed models: certainly the MG42 is included, but so is the super rare Gast; the Thompson naturally appears, but so does the SIG MP41.

Photos abound, some are large as a complete 11 3/4” x 17 1/4” page spread, usually showing the guns in action or being carried. Additionally, there are line drawings and many colored illustrations. Indeed, so copious are the book’s graphics that the only index is an artwork index covering the 280 illustrations, of which 153 are in color.

By pausing briefly from time to time, Hogg enriches his survey with additional, often non-mechanical, explanations. While he describes operating systems and parts for submachine guns, he also draws our attention to such things as German tactical doctrine on the difference between light and medium machineguns, rather than the reverse. He explains the Japanese model numbering system and Japanese ammunition. He details the Carl Gustav-Swedish K-Port Said lineage and that of the Sten family. And he summarizes Japan’s struggle with the Taisho 11 by noting that “it can come as no surprise to find that the weapon handbook listed no less than 26 different kinds of stoppages that the gun might suffer from” In explaining why there was little development work done immediately after World War I, Hogg tells us that military establishments were tired, their budgets were being cut, and there was no immediately perceived threat. Moreover, most military planners throughout the world were convinced that World War I conditions were a non-recurring aberration. These brief commentaries over which Hogg lingers set the book apart from most similar surveys.

The large format and relative thinness of this book give the impression, at first glance, that it may be a “coffee table” book, meant to impress visitors. But it is the reader who will be impressed. This is a fine job for what initially appears to be a quick survey. There is enough history in it to provide good depth, so that designers and armies do not seem to exist in a vacuum, unacted upon by any other forces. One always wants more in a good book, but Hogg packs a great deal into this one.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V7N2 (November 2003)
and was posted online on October 4, 2013


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