Book Reviews: July 2000

By Charles Q. Cutshaw

Silencer History and Performance:
Volume 1 Sporting and Tactical Silencers
By Alan Paulson
Available from: Wideworld,
P.O. Box 1827,
Conway AR, 72033
(autographed copies)
412 pages
ISBN: 0-87364-909-5
$50.00 plus $5.00 shipping and handling
Reviewed by Charlie Cutshaw

If anyone is qualified to write on the subject of silencers (correctly called suppressors), it is Al Paulson. This landmark book, the first in a series of three volumes, is arguably the definitive work on silencers/suppressors. In this masterpiece of suppressor information, Al Paulson takes the reader through the world of suppressors, beginning with the nature of sound, a basic understanding of which is essential to the understanding how these devices function. Beginning with an examination of the sound itself, the author explains the decibel and how it is used to measure sound, again necessary to understanding suppressor effectiveness. In fact, this book could be used as an introductory text in explaining the nature of sound and suppressors to the uninitiated. At the same time, it is a valuable reference for the professional who already understands suppressors.

The author spends almost an entire chapter elaborating on the legitimate uses of silencers and this theme is subtly carried throughout the book. Indeed, some of this early information concerning the legitimate uses of silencers is clearly a reasoned appeal for deregulating their use to some extent and is a thinly veiled criticism of government policies towards them. Despite the fact that I couldn’t agree more with the author’s position with respect to silencer use, I suspect that the argument is wasted on most who read the book. The vast majority of readers will already be enlightened as to the fact that silencers have legitimate purposes and that they are not the nefarious instruments mayhem depicted by Hollywood. If the reader happens to be a liberal, the argument is still wasted, as most liberals are incapable of reasoned or logical thought, instead making their decisions based on nebulous “feelings.”
If there is any complaint I can think of about this otherwise superb work, it is a minor one regarding the layout of the early chapters which establish the foundation for the detailed technical chapters on silencer performance which make up the bulk of the book. For example, Chapter 1 discusses the nature of sound and how the human ear perceives it. The first chapter also defines the decibel and how it is used to measure sound. Chapter 2 is a basically non-technical examination of the legitimate uses of suppressors and the successes of foreign countries such as Finland in encouraging their use by the average shooter as opposed to the United States which generally treats suppressors as if they were instruments of the devil. Chapter 3 then undertakes a technically oriented examination of hearing protection devices (HPD) and silencers to reduce hearing loss. Chapter 4 examines the tactical uses of silencers, a mix of technical and tactical information. Chapter 5, arguably the most important chapter, undertakes a detailed examination of measuring suppressor performance. This chapter is especially critical as it establishes the scientific basis and protocol for the detailed testing that constitutes the balance of the book. My sole complaint is that I would have put all the basic information in sequence in the first one or two chapters and gone on from there, rather than the way it was done. This, however, is carping on my part and cannot truly be considered real criticism because the necessary information is there and it is accurate.

Al Paulson has made a significant contribution to the technical literature of suppressors. Not only has he written a definitive reference, he has established a rigorous scientifically valid test protocol for measuring suppressor performance. The many suppressors tested in this large book were all evaluated using the same stringent criteria and procedures so that the reader has a standard benchmark to use for evaluating suppressor performance. This in itself is reason enough to buy the book. Beyond that, the author also provides the reader with a solid understanding of how suppressors work and their use, both sporting and tactical. This book, as mentioned previously, is only the first of three volumes. The current volume covers .22 rimfire, submachine gun and centerfire pistol suppressors. The second volume, now in draft, will cover suppressor technologies for close quarters battle (CQB), suppressed pistol caliber carbines and centerfire rifle suppressors. The final volume will deal with suppressor manufacturers and their products from the first suppressors of Maxim to the present day. All will use the scientific evaluation methods established in this first volume so that the reader will have a reliable benchmark against which performance can be measured. If Volume 1 is any indication, we can’t wait to see the next book in this definitive series by Al Paulson.


The Ultimate Spy Book
Foreword by William Colby and Oleg Kalugin
By H. Keith Melton
Published by DK Publishing, Inc.
95 Madison Avenue,
New York, New York 10016
Price 29.95 plus 4.50 s&h
Reviewed by Stephen Stuart

Fiction and nonfiction spy stories have captivated the human psyche since the beginning of print and before. Stories of secret agents doing almost impossible tasks of daring-do and their ingenious arsenal of tools is a staple in our society. It is these “neat” gadgets that separate the secret agent from the rest of society and help round out any good spy story. In Mr. Melton’s new book, The Ultimate Spy Book, Melton takes into the world of real spies and their high tech gear.

Mr. Melton is not a newcomer to the world of intrigue. He is the author of several books; CIA Special Weapons And Equipment, OSS Special Weapons And Equipment, and Clandestine Warfare. He is also probably one of the supreme collectors in the field. Some of his immense collection has also been featured on the Discovery Channel Specials; Spy Tek. The book contains everything an historian or James Bond fan would enjoy.

For the NFA weapons enthusiast, there are regular pen guns (for example, a .22 caliber Stinger), poison pen guns that fire cyanide, cane weapons that fire poison pellets, suppressed pistols and rifles, and other exotic weapons. My personal favorite was the lipstick tube that was in reality a 4.5mm single shot firearm used by the KGB. Several of the suppressors featured have sections cut away allowing one to see the internal components of these earlier designs. Along with the firearms are cutlery items used by the OSS and SOE during World War II. Other sections detail electronic equipment, namely clandestine radios, and of course bugs.
One of the really neat things about his book is that it just doesn’t cover American and British equipment. It also covers Eastern Block countries such as, East Germany and the Soviet Union. The equipment depicted ranges in age from World War II though the Cold War.
The text is easy reading and the color photography is truly excellent. Captions adequately describe the objects and are concise. There is not anything negative I can comment on this book except, I wish it was longer and had more photographs. For those curious about what real spies carry and use, this is a must book for your library.


Imperial Lugers And Their Accessories: The Pistols Of Germany And Her Allies In Two World Wars Volume IV.
By Jan C. Still
Published by Walsworth Publishing Company
Marceline, Missouri 64658
Price $52.95 plus $4.50 s&h
Reviewed by Stephen Stuart

This text, written by Mr. Jan Still, is part of a series on Lugers spanning the time period of pre-World War I through World War II. As one might guess from the title, this book and the others in the series deal almost exclusively with the German -produced P-08 Luger as issued to the German military forces. I decided to cover Volume IV first, since it deals with the earliest variations of the German Lugers- principally the Imperial issue models.


The beginning of the text takes the reader though the initial tests conducted by the Army of the 1902 and 1906 Lugers. This starting point leads the readers into the first actual issue pieces, notably from DWM and Erfurt. The pistols in the text are broken down by not only their manufacturer but also the date manufactured, for example if you have a 1916 model Luger produced by Erfurt. There is a small section telling the owner such important information as; where the army proof marks are located, inspection stamps, and the different characteristics of the weapon, in our case the Erfurt 1916 model.

For the Class III enthusiast, all the long model (artillery model) P-08s are covered. It should be remembered that it wasn’t very long ago when stocked firearms, such as the artillery Lugers had to registered as Class III firearms. Luckily, some of the stocked pistols have been taken off registry, and now are legal to possess without all the paper work. Some of the long models covered include the so called, army and navy models.

Besides all the wonderful pictures in the text, both the black and white and the color photographs, the author does a wonderful job of covering most of the accessories available for these handguns. The section on the different holsters and the different markings (maker and unit stamps) are some of the best coverage at this time. The author also covers such necessities as take down tools, magazines, literature, cleaning rods, and of course artillery accessories (stocks, drum magazines, and leather equipment). Of special note to collectors are the sections dealing with serial number ranges, American eagle test guns, and Gortz-Walter production and serial number ranges.

This book is truly a classic. It will be a useful reference to anyone with an interest in German military Lugers, especially World War I production models. As a collector of Lugers myself, I only wish I would have purchased this book earlier, for the information inside is definitely worth it’s basic asking price of fifty-three dollars. The text can definitely save the collector from purchasing a fake and /or help the collector to spot a real gem at a gun show.


The German Assault Rifle 1935-1945
By Peter R. Senich
Paladin Press
P.O. Box 1307
Boulder, CO 80306
ISBN 0-87364-400-X
$49.95 plus S&H
328 pages
Reviewed by David Fortier

Peter R. Senich, the name says a lot. In this work Mr. Senich once again works his magic and gives the reader an incredible look at the German assault rifle, from its development, trials, wartime issue, to its final stand in the streets of Berlin. Profusely illustrated (an understatement) with very good black and white photographs and drawings this book lets the reader see the Wonder Weapons that revolutionized military firearms.

Early in the 1930’s the German military recognized that their Mauser bolt action rifles were obsolete and started the search for their replacement. In this search the tides of war and politics can be seen from the start. Mr. Senich takes the reader through the search for and development of a suitable cartridge, to the 7.92x33 Kurz cartridge finally adopted. Early designs by Haenel, Walther, and Vollmer are covered. The MP 43, MP 43/1, MP 44, and STG 44 all have their own chapters. There are excellent close up pictures, as well as original wartime photos. Accessories such as magazines, stripper clips and guides, take down tools, magazine pouches, grenade launchers, and scopes are all detailed. The 7.92x33 Kurz is covered at length, including original German ordnance drawings. Specialty cartridges and headstamps are shown. Also the curious curved barrel (Der Gebogene Lauf) attachments are covered with information on American Ordnance post war testing.

German 7.92x57 mm automatic rifles are touched upon as well as Soviet semi-auto and early select fire rifles. Weapons intended for the Volksturm are also covered. Finally, Mr. Senich ends by covering the FG 42 in detail. This is an excellent work as it covers not only the weapons themselves but also the politics involved and the need for simplicity of manufacture. If there is a down side I just wish there was more information on the actual use and success/failings of the weapons themselves in combat. While not cheap, this book is worth every penny.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N10 (July 2000)
and was posted online on March 13, 2015


Comments have not been generated for this article.