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Book Review: V22N3

By Dean Roxby

WEAPON OF CHOICE: SMALL ARMS AND THE CULTURE OF MILITARY INNOVATION
AUTHOR: MATTHEW FORD
PUBLISHER: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
ISBN: 9780190623869
COPYRIGHT: 2017
PAGES: 264, HARDCOVER, COLOR DUST JACKET, 5 ¾” x 8 ¾”
USD: $39.95

Ford Provides Well-Researched Look Into Rifle Purchases by Governments

This book is definitely not an easy read. Some books are rightly described as “page-turners,” the type that you just cannot put down. This is not one of those.

Having said that, it is a well-researched look at the complex and convoluted ways in which militaries and governments choose service rifles.

As firearms enthusiasts, we often discuss what rifle or cartridge should have been chosen or should be chosen next. We base this on little more than what is our favorite cartridge or gun maker. This book goes much deeper into the science behind such decisions, as well as the military and political backroom dealing as well.

Author Matthew Ford is a lecturer in International Relations at the University of Sussex, England. He earned a PhD in War Studies from King’s College London and is an Honorary Historical Consultant to the Royal Armouries. Additionally, he is a former West Point fellow and a founding editor of the British Journal for Military History. So, he is certainly well versed on military issues. Perhaps it should be no surprise that the book has 36 pages of endnotes and a bibliography spanning 12 pages.

The author begins by noting that the procurement of small arms was previously done in a logical, systematic way. Scientists would study the science of ballistics, particularly terminal ballistics, and come up with a set of parameters for bullet diameter, weight, velocity and so on. Then government engineers would build a suitable rifle around those parameters, based upon what the military felt they needed. With scientist, engineer and soldier all desiring much the same, the resulting service rifle should be a success.

Now, the government arms factories have been privatized, and big business is in the business of upselling their product. Ford goes into great detail about how complex this can be. He refers to “soldier status...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N3 (March 2018)
and was posted online on February 9, 2018

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