Brassey's Essential Guide to Military Small Arms
Design Principles and Operating Methods
By Derek Allsop ( Editor )

9 January 1999
By Julian Freeman

A copy of Brassey's Essential Guide to Military Small Arms (D. Allsop, ISBN 1 85753-107-8) recently came my way, via Scholar's Bookshelf.  The quality of printing and paper is surprisingly poor for an $80 book and the drawings are almost amateurish, but the content was outstanding.  It might have been entitled, The Physics and Engineering of Small Arms. Overall, the book provides an excellent discussion of the physics and design principles of small arms, at a technical level that is rarely, if ever seen outside of internal manufacturer's data and design monographs. The slant of the book is UK and Czech/Russian rather than USA, which may make it more interesting than otherwise for an American reader.  About half of the book reflects the experiences of its many Czech authors, but it still gives a good treatment of design approaches used throughout the world.

About a third of the pages are filled with equations and line graphs - and plentiful.  A knowledge of basic (differential and integral) calculus really is very useful, but the English text would still be very interesting to anyone who has forgotten, or never learned the math. Despite the level of math presentation, concepts are explained succinctly, but clearly.  Where relevant, test data, mostly from UK, Czech, and Soviet sources are provided to illustrate the principles. Some of the sections do go into the history of firearms development, but even there, the emphasis is on physics and  engineering.  There is minimal mention of any firearm by name, nation, or manufacturer. Illustrations are very simple line drawings of graphs, charts, and mechanical mechanisms or configurations.  The artistry of Zhuk's Encyclopedia is absent, as are the plentiful photos and "practical" info of Ezell's books.

While lacking those pretty-appearance features, the book provides an excellent discussion of the design features and limitations that go into all modern, and most older small arms, and how the problems are solved by those who engineer them in the current decades.

Overall, this book would appeal to anyone who found Feynman's Lectures on Physics to be enjoyable reading, or (from the text alone) anyone who wants to read about the basic physics and principles of firearms operation, even without mathematics and bringing to it only a basic understanding of the concepts of general physics such as momentum, energy, center of mass, etc..

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