Book Reviews: February 2000

By Stephen Stuart

OSS Special Weapons & Equipment, Spy Devices of World War II.
By Keith Melton
Foreword by William Colby
Published by Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.,
387 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10016
Price $14.95 plus $4.50 shipping and handling
Reviewed by Stephen Stuart

During World War II the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the British Special Operations, Executive (SOE) produced a catalog type text that listed all the equipment that was available at that time for it’s personnel. In OSS SpecialWeapons & Equipment, Mr. Melton reprints the entire catalog (copy number 40) for the intelligence historian. The manual is very straight forward in the manner it presents information; first it gives a brief description of the device or item and its intended purpose. This is followed by a complete run down of its characteristics which include, the weight, length, and in some instances, how many per shipping carton and the total weight of the carton in pounds(useful information for clandestine air drops over occupied Europe). Some of the items listed are; brass knuckles, garrotes, and a variety of different knives. Items of interest for the Class III buff are a stinger (.22 long rifle) type pen gun, a .22 lr single shot cigarette, and of course suppressed rifles and pistols. There are other weapons as well that are designed to cause fear or psychological trauma, these include the dart pen and “Who, Me?”. The latter comes in a tube and smells like feces, something that Orientals considered offensive.

For those of you interested in coded messages, a one time pad is covered. As well as the M-94 cipher device. This little device allowed agents in the field a quick method of encrypting and decrypting messages. The larger M-209 cipher machine is listed. Unfortunately, the book does not go into depth on how to operate the different machines or one time pads.

Personally, since I like spy equipment, I found this text a worthy edition to the library of strange (and in some instances forgotten) spy paraphernalia. The best thing about this book is that it covers only the time period during the operation of the OSS and SOE. This allows one to use it as a reference for World War II spy activities, and as a way of dating certain devices, if they are found at antique or gun shows. When used in this regard the text proves extremely useful in the field.

By Fred A. Datig
Available from
Handgun Press
Box 406
Glenview, Illinois 60025
(877) 852-0966
$29.95 plus $5 S&H
152 pages well illustrated
Reviewed By David M. Fortier

Datig’s work on Postwar Soviet Military pistols is interesting for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is of course for the topic being covered. There are chapters on the PM Makarov pistol, the Stetchkin machine pistol, the diminutive P.S.M. 5.45x17.8 pistol, clandestine handguns and weapons, and Postwar Soviet pistol cartridges. Up until fairly recently not very much was known about any of these handguns. Datig’s work sheds needed light on these interesting weapons.

Datig was working at Aberdeen Proving Ground in the late 1940’s and developed an affinity for Soviet small arms. Over the years he has meticulously collected every scrap of information on Soviet weapons that he could come across. In doing so he has accumulated the wealth of information that is contained in this volume. Covering the weapons, markings, and ammunition Mr. Datig backs up his statements as if he is making a Theological Doctrinal Statement. The photographs are truly excellent, including photos of ornately engraved presentation Makarovs. The section on clandestine weapons is interesting, especially the firearm that looks like a pack of cigarettes, used in a murder in West Germany.

The book’s weakness stems from its publication date, 1988. At this time we were still locked in the Cold War and there was no access to Soviet records or information. Therefore the information contained in the book is reverse engineered. Datig had access to weapons and some information, but he was forced to theorize simply because all the needed information was simply not available. Eleven years down the road with the Wall down and a Makarov in every gunshop we can see that some of his suppositions were incorrect. Never the less, this is still an interesting and valuable resource written on a level not often seen. If these weapons are of interest to you, consider it.

Astra Automatic Pistols
By Leonardo M. Antaris
Published by FIRAC Publishing Co.
PO Box 104, Sterling, Colorado 80751
Price $41.95 plus 4.50 shipping and handling
Review by Stephen Stuart

When I was growing up in Southern West Virginia, the only thing I ever heard about Astra or Spanish firearms for that matter was, “they aren’t worth having, the barrels are nothing more than a sewer pipe”. This opinion of Spanish firearms has been largely passed down in the firearms community. But the truth is, Astra has produced some of the nicest weapons in the firearm community, some of the special engraved editions are truly works of art. In Astra Automatic Pistols, author Leonardo Antaris introduces us into the unique field of Astra handguns.

The original business was Esperanza y unceta and was formed in July 1908. The firm as of the 1980’s has produced in excess of 1.5 million handguns. The earliest model was the 1911 (not to be confused with the American 1911 handgun in .45 ACP). The 1911 was produced in 7.65mm, and was basically a pocket pistol design. Models such as the 1913 (9mm Largo) and the Compo-Giro model 1913-1916 (also in 9mm Largo) helps round out some of the early produced Astra handguns. German World War II handgun collectors will be most interested in the M300 series procured for the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War (the author lists all the serial numbers of all these acquired for German consumption). German purchased models such as the Models 400 and 600 are also nicely featured. For those of you who love fully automatic firearms you will not be disappointed. The author includes the Model 900 series select fire pistol (a variation of the German M712 Schnellfeuer pistole). Several of these models are featured; the M900, M901, M902, and M903. These fully automatic pistols are definitely a treat to rapid fire fan. For those of you who can remember the 1950’s and 60’s, the Model 2000 (cub) is covered in great detail. Unfortunately due to the 1968 Gun Control Act, these small pistols are no longer able to be imported. Modern automatic pistols are also in the text, the Mod A-80 is featured (available in 9mm, .38 super, 7.65mm, and .45 ACP), this pistol has a very striking resemblance to the SIG produced handguns, such as the P220-228 series.

I must admit, I only own two Astra handguns (a Model 400 and 600), but I loved this book. I originally bought it to allow me to gain a complete serial number list for the Spanish produced pistols sold to the German Government. After reading the test from front to back, I was able to become more familiar with an often misunderstood series of automatic handguns. The author in 248 pages covers the entire line of semi-automatic and automatic handguns produced from the Astra factories. The tables on serial number ranges is the most complete in any book I have ever found. The black and white photos are sharp, and clarity is excellent. If you were ever curious abut Spanish pistols, this is definitely one of the top books in the field at this time.

Inside The NRA; Armed And Dangerous
By Jack Anderson
Reviewed By Chad Haire

Let me start off by saying this book is an anti-NRA, anti-gun, pro ATF regulation, Pro Bill Clinton script from start to finish. So why review something like this in a firearms magazine? I can give you two reasons. First, it never hurts to know what your enemies are up to. And make no mistake, Jack Anderson is the enemy of all gun owners - something that’s obvious after reading this book. Secondly, this $22.95 book was being dumped in the “we can’t sell them, so by it cheap” section of the bookstore for on $3.95. So even if Jack was getting a percentage of the profits, I doubt he is now.

So who is Jack Anderson? Years ago, he was a well known investigative journalist with a national newspaper column and numerous television spots. However, over the years Jack made many “goofs” that questioned his credibility. But the most questionable story Jack did was on a newly (then) introduced handgun called the “Glock”. Writing in his weekly newspaper column, Jack warned his readers that the Glock was a cheap, disposable, all plastic “terrorist weapon” that could pass through security airport metal detectors and X-ray machines. After this story, the media (and liberal politicians) went on a feeding frenzy, calling for a ban on the Glock, and even got a bill introduced, banning all “plastic” guns. The bill never passed, and all the claims about the Glock passing through metal detectors and X-ray machines were proven to be lies, but Jack is the guy who started the nonsense.

Now that we have some background on the author, lets review this book:

1. On page 50, Jack mentions the Glock again. Does he apologize for the misinformation he printed about the Glock? Nope. In fact, incredible as it seems, he STILL insists all the claims he made were true! For example he tells a story where he smuggled a Glock pistol past the Washington D.C. Capital police metal detector system (which is illegal), then took the pistol to the office of then Senator Bob Dole to demonstrate what he did, and how dangerous the Glock is. What’s interesting here is that Jack admits he had a quantity of 9mm ammo that got through the metal detector too! Sounds like a problem with the metal detector to me.

2. On page 52, Jack claims that the Constitution does not apply to states, only the federal government. So there is no misunderstanding, let me quote his exact words:

“The Second Amendment is a limitation on the power of Congress - That is, on the power of the federal government. It does not impose a limitation on the states, which are free under the Fourteenth Amendment to enact laws as local officials see fit... Thus, Washington D.C., can ban guns with the approval of the city folks, but Montana or Wyoming would be ill advised to try the same thing””

Say what? It states can ignore the Second Amendment, then how about the First, Fourth, and all the others? If what Jack is saying is true, then the states could outlaw freedom of the press, religion, free speech, and everything else! Obviously this claim is totally absurd, but he said it, not me.

3. On page 43, he attacks the NRA for contributing money to “right wing Republicans”, whatever that means. Funny he has no problem with the money taken from the groups like Handgun Control Inc. by left wing Democrats.

4. On page 69, Jack claims the NRA is funding right wing “Militia groups”, who want to take over the government. Of course, his definition of right wing militia is anyone who believes in the Second Amendment, and is against gun control. Any they (meaning you!) are, of course, racists, Ku Klux Klan, Posse Comitatus, anti-abortion, hate mongers, and crackpots if we are to believe Jack Anderson.

5. Jack has plenty to say about WACO and Ruby Ridge too. The ATF were the clean cut all American good guys, while Randy Weaver and the Branch Davidians were a bunch of criminals who got what they deserved, he claims. On page 137, Jack tries to convince his readers that it was the “paranoid imaginings of the NRA leadership” that fueled the Branch Davidians and Randy Weavers behavior! Oh sure, Jack.

6. On page 19, Jack tells us there is no way the federal government or Bill Clinton would ever take away our guns, and the idea is a silly NRA fantasy. To quote him:

“They (NRA members) don’t want laws that would take away their guns, but they know perfectly well that Congress is not going to pass an such law and that the president - including this president, Bill Clinton - would veto the law if it were passed.”

Bill Clinton veto a gun bill? Obviously, anybody who believes this line of garbage is totally out of touch with reality! Jack tops this off by saying.

“With or without the NRA, a handgun ban would not pass through Congress in this century or the first half of the next, A rifle/shotgun ban has not chance at all. If the NRA ceased to exist tomorrow, the right of the people to keep and bear arms would be completely secure.”

Of course, anyone who has read the pending Brady Bill part II knows otherwise! And how can the right to keep and bear arms be secure when Jack has already told us there is no right to keep and bear arms throughout this book?


I could go on about the total nonsense that’s in this book, but I think you get the idea. This whole publication is nothing but a slanderous piece of anti-gun trash written by a has-been journalist who appears to be attempting another comeback. But more important, it shows just how out of touch the anti-gun kooks are, and why it is more important that ever to stop them. You can be sure I will be renewing my NRA membership next year!.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N5 (February 2000)
and was posted online on August 28, 2015


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