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Book Reviews
Books of Interest to Gun Collectors
 
If you have found a good or bad book, or if you agree or disagree, let us know we may  post your opinion!
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**NEW** W. Darrin Weaver, Hitler's Garands: German Self-Loading Rifles of World War II. Collector Grade Books, 2001, 361 pages. Produced and edited by Blake Stevens.$75.00

This outstanding study is a significant contribution to arms collecting knowledge, and military history. It is also one of the first books that I know of that has relied heavily on world wide contributions from collectors and historian via the internet. Despite the use of new technology, the author still has made extensive use of archives and museum collections and put together an exceptionally comprehensive study of this previously little known area. This is also one of the few arms collecting books that does more than just casually mention that there may be fakes or reproductions out there. He devotes an entire chapter to "fakes, frauds and fantasies" and ways to tell them from originals. Anyone considering a purchase of a G43 related item on ebay really needs to read this book first!

Weaver covers the earliest Mauser attempts at semi-auto arms, the influence of the Russian Tokarev, the meddling of der Fuhrer in arms requirements, the successes and failures of the G41(M) and G41(W) and the difficulty of introducing a new weapons system in the midst of a war that you are losing. Further, the involvement of the SS in "helping" with production (apparently helping themselves to the finished product was widespread) He shows that the name change from Gewehr 43 to Krabiner 43 was not reflected in weapons details, but rather a propaganda driven decision to make people think the Germans were fielding yet another new weapon.

Format is similar to that used in the late Richard D. Law's "Backbone of the Wehrmacht" study of the K98k Mausers, with detailed tables of marks and features for each of the makers and the various time frames. Large, clear, period photos are found throughout the book, along with detailed photos of parts variations and pertinent archival records. Weaver is very careful to use the correct German terms (helpfully translated into collector jargon as well). Production figures are stated where known, and deduced where necessary. Besides the rifles, he also includes exhaustive coverage of the various scopes and mounts, both pre-May 1945, post-war military production by various nations, and recent fakes for gullible collectors, the latter being alarmingly common. Among other aspects, he covers the G/K43 connections with Czechoslovakia, East and West Germany, Denmark, Norway, and even tenuous connections with Brazil, Israel, and other nations.

He also covers accessories and other related items so you won't run out of things to lust after. All of this is presented with the attention to detail, and quality that is a hallmark of Collector Grade Publications, well bound, with high quality paper.

This outstanding book belongs in the reference library of anyone interested in WW2 armament of any country. If you plan to buy (or sell) a G43/K43 the $75 price of this book will be repaid immediately by making you a better informed buyer, or seller.

The extent to which this book balances the historical, technical and collector details, drawn from an exceptionally wide range of sources, has truly raised the standard for future arms book authors.


Gary M. Cunningham, American Military Bayonets of the 20th Century, Export, PA 1997, 115 pp. Soft cover, $19.95

     This is an excellent reference that lives up to its subtitle "A Guide for Collectors, Including Notes on Makers, Markings,  Finishes, Variations, Scabbards, and Production Data."
    The information is thorough, accurate, and useful, sometimes, but not always based on specific references.  Guesses and speculation are clearly identified as such, allowing the reader to dig further if they desire.  Only available in soft cover, this would be nice to have in a hardcover edition on slightly better paper for permanent reference.  Anyone interested in the subject should get one for reference now.  It is a valuable guide, and will prove a useful check list as collectors seek examples of every known variation.
    Covering the Model 1892 Krag bayonet through the latest variations of the M9 bayonet for the M16 rifle, line drawings are provided usually showing the overall bayonet, and/or scabbard and often the marking variations.  While useful, the drawings are not to scale, and not all variations are shown.  M.H. Cole’s U.S. Military Knives, Bayonets and Machetes, Books III or IV have better drawings, but little production or historical data. so I thnk Cunningham's book is more useful.
     Cunningham has assembled information from official documents, published references (such as Brophy’s Springfield book and Larry Ruth’s works on the M1 Carbine) as well as extensive examination and measurement of actual bayonets.  Thus coverage is accurate and comprehensive.  There are one or two minor points where a further minor variation may exist, or another tidbit of information might be added.  However the author and publisher (Scott Duff, the M1 Garand guru) eagerly seek additions and corrections for future editions.  That will only make this excellent work even better.
     This is now the standard work on this subject, much as Robert Reilly’s U.S. Martial Socket Bayonets and Scabbards has provided us the information on socket bayonets.  There is still a vast chasm of ignorance and misinformation about American sword bayonets, but hopefully someone will fill that in the coming years.  Albert Hardin’s respected, pioneering but not always complete or accurate The American Bayonet will then be completely replaced by better works, albeit not under a single cover. John Spangler



Wilson, R.L., The Official Price Guide to Gun Collecting, New York, Ballentine, 1998. 465 pages 8.5" x 11" soft cover. List price $19.95

R.L. Wilson is a highly respected authority and author. His thirty previous works include The Book of Colt Firearms; Steel Canvas: The Art of American Firearms; Winchester: An American Legend; Ruger and His Guns: A History of the Man, the Company and their Firearms. Those are superbly done and authoritative and belong in the library of any serious collector or student of arms.

Unfortunately his new work is a great disappointment and only of marginal usefulness to either the beginning or advanced collector. The first 60 pages allow the author to introduce himself and the subject of arms collecting. He mentions some of the most prominent collectors and finest firearms in their collections, and himself and his connections with these collectors and the firearms. His comments on shows are interesting, and obviously his taste is for the more exclusive shows, the finer guns, and the wealthiest collectors. Again, many prestigious collectors, dealers and auctioneers are mentioned by name, along with the author's connections to them. He also reveals his desire to have a new book available every year at the prestigious Las Vegas Antique Arms Show produced by Wallace Beinfeld. Apparently this book satisfies that goal.

The meat of the book, the price guide, consists of an alphabetical listing of makers, sometimes with a phrase or even a paragraph on the maker's location or history. Models are then listed by unacceptably brief descriptions, and then prices for them in Fair, Very Good, and Excellent condition. Nowhere does he share his definition of those conditions with the reader, so one is left to wonder if the gun in his hand is "Excellent" or something else. In the "how to use the price guide" section he provides some rules of thumb for determining values at the (also undefined) intermediate condition levels of good or fine. However a quick attempt to apply these resulted in gross disparities with the values listed, such as something good being worth less than the same thing in fair condition. An amazing variety of makers are listed. These include modern makers of low quality arms most would not consider collectable; many of the brands of "suicide specials" and even some Italian makers of snaphaunce pistols from the 17th and 18th century, as well as the expected traditional makers of interest to most collectors. Within each maker the listing is chaotic, sometimes by model numbers, other times by caliber.

Being most interested in U.S. martial arms, I was disappointed to find those covered in a total of less than two full pages, sometimes omitting major standard models, while including exotic variants unlikely to ever be seen by a collector. His listing of a total of four "Flintlock Rifle" models omits the 15,000 Model 1803 rifles made at Harpers Ferry, but includes the Model 1807 "Indian carbine" (a smoothbore) of which only 1200 were made. A ".54 [caliber] M1814, rifled, 36" barrel, antique [under federal laws]" rifle is listed (presumably those made by Deringer), but the 38,000 Model 1817 "Common Rifles" are not. The remaining flintlock rifles listed are two Halls, including one by Whitney (which I believe to be erroneous) but not other hall variations. Under "Percussion Rifles" the Model 1841 Mississippi is erroneously listed as being .58 caliber, and .45-70 trapdoors are inexplicably included in the percussion category. Some U.S. military values are grossly out of line with observed market values. I would happily sell M1922M2 [sic] .22 Springfields in Very Good condition at the $1,800 figure he provides. Then I would gladly invest in all the Model 1873 trapdoor carbines he would care to sell in excellent condition at $1,500. His listing "M1903, .30-06 Springfield, machined parts…$6,000 [in fair condition]" will lead many sellers to be unhappy when it is explained to then that Wilson probably meant the Model 1903 rifle in .30-03 with a ramrod bayonet, while their rifle is a common model really only worth a few hundred.

The lack of adequate, or even basic descriptions to match a gun with the proper entry in the book, makes the entire book nearly useless. While the Italian snaphaunce makers are included, we find that the Warner carbines used during the Civil War are not included either under a heading for Warner, the inventor, or Massachusetts Arms Company, the maker.

A collector looking for information on the value of a gun, and possibly enough information to properly identify it, would be far better served by Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms and their values if interested mainly in arms made before World War Two. (Note that a new Seventh edition will be released in April, although Norm Flayderman had little to do with the update, so revision of the values may not be as respected as in the past.) If interested in newer arms, Ned Schwing's Standard Catalog of Firearms or S.P. Fjested's Blue Book of Gun Values will prove much more useful. Of the hundreds of gun books in my library, I only regret the purchase of a few. Unfortunately this work by a distinguished author and respected authority is one that I would warn others to avoid wasting their money on. Although listed as a first edition,without drastic changes and improvements it would be merciful not to inflict subsequent editions on the public. John Spangler 


Pate, Charles W., U.S. Handguns of World War II: The Secondary Pistols and Revolvers, Lincoln, RI, Mowbray, 1998. 368 pages 8.5" x 11" hard boundsoft cover. List price $39.00

One of the best books on U.S martial arms in recent years, this solidly researched and well organized account will open the door to a collecting field that has hitherto suffered from a lack of information. I would expect to see the large numbers of collectors competing to add examples of these arms to their collections generate major increases in values in this field in the next year or two.

While the focus is on secondary handguns (anything other than the official standard M1911/1911A1 .45 automatics and substitute standard M1917 revolvers by Colt or Smith & Wesson) there is a surprising amount of useful information on them as well. Similarly, although focused on World War II, much information is presented on the pre-war procurement of arms, building understanding of the "normal peacetime" process compared to chaotic "wartime" expediencies adopted later.

Pate presents an astonishing amount of information on the S&W Victory model, the Colt Pocket Models in .25 ACP, .32 ACP and .380 ACP, and some lesser known .22 trainers. Wherever possible, he cites factory ledgers, military receipts or shipping records, and provides serial numbers. In some cases he illustrates the actual document and a gun related to it. Excellent details on inspection and markings (or lack thereof) are provided, with careful mention where guesses or speculation are involved. Additional coverage is given to various non-standard Iver Johnson, Harrington and Richardson and High Standard pistols. Careful reading is necessary to follow and understand the fact that during most of WW2 U.S. military offices purchased handguns not only for U.S, military needs, but also for lend lease shipments to allies, for OSS (forerunner of the CIA) usage, defense plant guards, merchant marine needs, etc.

Appendices provide useful information and photos of holsters, ammunitiion, the reasons behind the S&W Vistory model and Colt .380 modifications, and even Coast Guard markings.

As with most Mowbray publications, this has a nice layout and plenty of clear, relevant photos. A neseccary addition to the library of serious collectors, and good background information for a better understanding of small arms policies adopted to support the war effort. We owe Charles Pate our thanks for taking the time to research and write on the less well known subjects he has so thoroughly and skillfully covered here. John Spangler


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