Book Review: V20N9

By Dean Roxby

50 Guns That Changed the World: Iconic Firearms That Altered the Course of History
by Robert A. Sadowski
Hardcover, color throughout, 200 pages, 8 ¾”x 11 ¼”
Published by Skyhorse Publishing, copyright 2015

Any time a Greatest Whatever list is drawn up, there is bound to be some discussion as to whether this is worthy or why that was not included. Adding the phrases “changed the world” and “altered the course of history” raises the stakes even higher. As long as the discussion is all for fun, then it’s fair game.

The first point to note with this list is that there are a good many sporting firearms listed, at the expense of other military arms. While finely crafted sporting arms are a joy to behold, they seldom change the course of history. Certainly not the way that the Maxim and Vickers machine guns did, dominating the trenches in WW1, or how the Lee-Enfield helped the Commonwealth forces win two world wars. Neither is profiled in this book.

The AK-47 is covered, as it well should be, but the German MP-43/StG-44 that set the standard for the modern assault rifle is not profiled. Oddly enough, it is briefly mentioned in the Ak-47 chapter, and on the back cover as being historically significant, and of its influence on the AK-47.

As well, the list features mostly recent guns from the last 100 years or less. There is no mention of American Civil War muskets or the arms of Great Britain during the years when most expansion occurred. Certainly the Brown Bess and Martini-Henry rifles must meet the criteria of altering the course history.

To be fair, the author does recognize the hazards of creating an arbitrary list, and explains in the introduction that he considered affordability as criteria. This could account for no mention of the StG-44, Maxim, or an original Gatling, as these are horrendously expensive now.

With that out of the way, this book does profile some interesting firearms. There is a good mix of both military and sporting arms profiled. Crisp color photographs along with older period magazine ads make give this a light-hearted feel. Numerous sidebars, old style engraving prints, and cutaway drawings also add interest to the subject. Overall, a very nice book, but in this author’s opinion, it does not live up to its title.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V20N9 (November 2016)
and was posted online on September 23, 2016


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