Book Reviews: March 2000

By Stephen Stuart

German Trench Mortars And Infantry Mortars 1914-1945
By Wolfgang Fleischer
Published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
77 Lower Valley Road
Atglen, PA 19310
ISBN # 0-88740-916-4
Price $9.95 plus $4.50 s&h
Reviewed by Stephen Stuart

Mortars were first used in this century during the Russo-Japanese War. Their intended purpose was to deliver a small charge at close range, allowing troops to destroy wire and other man made obstacles. After seeing the potential of the Mortars in the east, the German high command began designing mortars for use for German troops (original production was at first given entirely to the engineering corps).

The first German mortars were of principally three designations; heavy, medium, and light. The heavy model were 25cm, the medium 170 mm, and the light models 77 mm. Trials of these weapons were still on going when the First World War began. In Mr. Fleischer’s text, the author details the working of these early weapons, along with other war produced models such as the Granatwerfer 16, a light spigot type mortar weighing 1.9 kilograms for example.
During the 1930’s the German military began designing the next generation of mortars, these were designed specifically for infantry troops. These new mortars included the Granatwerfer 36 (light mortar in 50mm) and the later Granatwerfer 34 (in 80 mm). Both of which saw extensive service during the battles of World War II.

The earlier light mortar (the Granatwerfer 36) was slowly phased out during the course of the war due to it’s limited range of roughly 500 meters. The Granatwerfer 34 replaced the light mortar due to its increased range to 2625 yards and larger projectile which caused greater damage than the smaller 50mm projectile.

One of the nice things about this text is the photographs, they really bring the reader up close to some of the early types of mortars used by German. The drawings are also very informative as well. I highly recommend this text for all you lawn dart enthusiasts out there, its top notch.

German Automatic Weapons of WWII
By Robert Bruce
ISBN 1-85915-043-8
Published by
Window and Greene Ltd
5 Gerrard Street
London WIV 7LJ
$29.95 plus S&H
Reviewed by David Fortier

There are times that we expect one thing and receive something else. Sometimes its good and sometimes we shake our fists. So it was with this book. I ordered it with several others on a whim, German weapons just not being my niche. When I received it I found that it was my favorite book out of all I had ordered.

Robert Bruce gives us a users look at the different German automatic weapons fielded during World War II. In 128 pages he covers the Mauser Schnellfeur-pistole, MP-40, MG 34, MG 42, FG 42/I and II, and the Sturmgewehr 44. What separates this book into class of its own is the photography. Each weapon is shown being carried, handled, fired, and stripped by someone dressed in a period German military uniform with all correct field gear. It’s the QUALITY of the photography that sets this book apart. Other books may have more historical information, but this work gives you the best look at the weapons themselves and how it actually feels to fire them. His color pictures are very clear and crisp. As someone who has run a roll or two of 35 mm film I know how hard it is to take pictures of this quality.

Of special interest is the section in each chapter where he covers the loading procedure for each weapon, step by step. He covers the firing, including not only the methods taught by the German army, but what it actually feels like to fire, say a MG 42 at a blistering 1200 rpm. Plus he covers the stripping of each weapon in detail. For someone interested in German automatic weapons, this would be a nice addition. While it’s not encyclopedic, it’s visually grabbing. Everyone I showed it to had a hard time putting it down. Highly recommended!

Honour Bound; The Chauchat Machine Rifle
By Gerard Demaison and Yves Buffetaut
Edited by R. Blake Stevens
Published by
Collector Grade Publications Inc.
PO Box 1046
Cobourg, Ontario Canada
Price $39.95 plus $4.50 s&h
Reviewed by Stephen Stuart

Very little has ever been written about the French Chauchat machine gun. Most looks only devote a paragraph or single brief page to this weapon, if they mention it at all. The French Chauchat has been rumored as the worst machine gun ever fielded by any army including the United States (the American Expedition Force, AEF for short, was sent to France with no machine guns what so ever. Due to this shortage the AEF outfitted itself with at first French 8mm Chauchats. This lasted until the French produced the CSRG Mle 1918, which fired the standard U.S. .30 caliber round).

Collector’s Grade Publications has produced the definite work on the 8mm and.30 caliber Chauchat models. Everything you ever wanted to know is in this text. The book covers the initial test trials, inception, factory production, combat reports, equipment accessories, and even a little bit on trouble shooting problems, including the .30 caliber American model. The American 30-06 model was plagued with problems from the outset of it’s production. Most of the problems were due to manufacturing inconsistencies, namely not milling out the extraction groove correctly and not reaming out the chamber correctly. The appendix goes in detail describing the 8mm Lebel cartridge. This short history on the cartridge is highly useful, it also covers such hard to find 8mm Lebels as the practice round, incendiary rounds, and dummy rounds.

The authors do an excellent job of exploring and detailing the Chauchat series. The only fault I find in the text is that they tend to glorify this horrible weapon. They also describe it as the first truly successful assault rifle. This is a big claim in my opinion, ( I personally believe, as do others, that the German Sturmgewehr series was the world’s first true assault rifle).

Besides these minor points the book is second to none on this interesting period of history on the Chauchat. The black and white photos are first rate, and the information is research grade. For those of us who own one of the Chauchats this book should be on your must get list (I must admit, I always wanted one due to the fact they were odd and they have a very unique history. The other reason was because they are a relatively inexpensive machine gun, a fairly unusual thing in today’s market). People wishing to see the French perspective on the Chauchat will not be disappointed.

The World’s Fighting Shotguns
By Thomas F. Swearengen
Published by Chasa Limited
Distributed in the U.S.A.
by T.B.N. Enterprises
Post Office Box 55,
Alexandria, Virginia 22313
Price $34.95 Plus $4.50 s&h
Reviewed by Stephen Stuart

No weapon is more powerful or effective in up close and personal work than the shotgun. Since the use of the Blunderbuss in the colonial time period to the use of the shotgun by law enforcement and the military, the shotgun has always had a role in US conflicts. In Thomas Swearengen’s classic work, The World’s Fighting Shotgun, Mr. Swearengen explores the roles of the shotgun in our society up until 1978 (the date of the first printing). Don’t let this early date fool you, even though the text was written over twenty years ago, the information contained in this text is just as informative as when it was first released.

For shotgun enthusiasts, Mr. Swearengen breaks the chapters up into the following manner; single-shot models, multi-barrel, rotary chamber, lever action, bolt action, slide action, autoloading, a systems of weapons, and ammunition. The single-shot section includes such interesting models as a cane gun, several different model pen guns in .410, and the Handy gun. The multi-barrel section focuses mainly on double-barreled models, for Class III fans the Auto Burglar A and B can be found here. The rotary chamber chapter has some very different models, particularly the Manville models. Individuals who are more interested in conventional slide action shotguns will like the coverage of the Winchester Model 12 Trench gun, the Remington 870, Ithaca 37, and the Mossberg 500 series. One can readily see that the National Firearms Act shotgun collector will appreciate this book as will individuals who just like shotguns.

The book is very informative reading. It takes the reader from the development of the earlier shotguns of our country to the most recent so called modern ones. Here one can see the earlier influence of the different model shotguns on the high tech models of today. As a starting point in understanding shotguns, especially the fighting models, this truly is the classic work in the field.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N6 (March 2000)
and was posted online on July 31, 2015


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