Heavy on the WWII German: this week’s gun books

The latest deliveries from the Big Brown Truck include the following:

From Collector Grade Publications

The Devil’s Paintbrush: Sir Hiram Maxim’s Gun by Dolf L. Goldsmith. The Maxim was the grandpappy of machine guns, and Goldsmith is the expert. This is a typically photo-rich, information-dense book from Collector Grade Publications. All in all there are 568 pages of Maxim facts including technical information and combat reports from the late 19th and throughout the 20th Century. Goldsmith points out things others take for granted, like the happy coincidence of the invention of the solid-drawn brass cartridge case arriving just in time for Maxim’s experiments with automatic weapons. (From today’s perspective, we tend to assume “it was always there,” but it most definitely wasn’t). This is a great book. If it has a failing, it is one that it shares with much of the Collector Grade line: poorly documented sources. (Not that it is poorly sourced; a great many primary documents grace its pages in facsimile. It’s just that a reader interested in following up has nowhere to go, but to contact Mr Goldsmith himself). Further, a non-fiction book automatically loses one star if it lacks an index, and the Collector Grade publications may be aimed at the true fanboy who will memorize the book, for none of them has an index.

Backbone of the Wehrmacht: the German K98k Rifle 1935-1945 by Richard D. Law. What we said about “typically photo-rich, information dense book from Collector Grade Publications” applies here also. This is one volume of a multi-volume life’s work from collector and expert Law. Unless you are fascinated by Mauser 98 variations, there is much information here you will never need. However, there is also an amazing collection of original factory production information, not only the production figures by plant everyone’s curious about, and the plaintext breakout of Nazi war production codes, but also a description of the barrel-straightening machine (which seems to have combined an optical comparator with a hydraulic press), the Mauser-Werke’s assembly checklist, and cost accounting information. (There’s an MBA capstone, several of them in fact, in here for somebody).  The same issues about sourcing apply, along with the sad note that Mr Law is deceased and not available to answer questions.

Desperate Measures: The Last-Ditch Weapons of the Nazi Volkssturm by W. Darrin Weaver. This book came to us highly recommended by Ian over at Forgotten Weapons and GunLab. It’s another Collector Grade tome, and the title describes the subject quite comprehensively. This Nazi militia used a mélange of obsolete, improvised/crudely manufactured, captured foreign, and standard issue German weapons in its ill-starred attempt to hold off what were, by this time, relentless war machines squeezing Germany from West and East. All these weapons are covered in a book that lavishes its most detailed examination on weapons produced specifically for the Volkssturm. Some of these showed remarkable ingenuity — and others showed nothing but a dying dictatorship going down hard and ugly. One of the more interesting things Weaver notes is that the Volkssturm, while almost completely ineffective in the West, was more of an obstacle to the Red Army. He ascribes this to the motivating nature of the East’s no-quarters combat. In dealing with the improvisations of a failing and soon-obliterated regime, documentary evidence is hard to come by but where it exists, Weaver seems to have found it. This book has a more thorough bibliography than the other Collector Grade tomes.

From Special Interest Publicaties

Man does not live by Collector Grade Publications alone. SI Publicaties from the Netherlands has the (English language) “Propaganda Photo” series that tells the story of particular Nazi weapons as told by official propaganda photo. While the photos are posed and their captions often phony, they do by definition depict the weapons in the hand of their original users. We added two books from this series this week.

The K98k Rifle by Guus J. de Vries and Bas Martens is Volume I in the series and, as the title suggests, it covers the fundamental German individual infantry weapon of World War II, the Mauser 98 in its K98k World War II version. While the bulk of the book is, as promised, period propaganda photos, the book explains the history of the K98k, including all the main variations and some quite obscure and rare ones. It also addresses foreign Mausers which were widely pressed into Wehrmacht service. Rare variants like grenade-launcher hosts, Krummlauf shoot-around-corners barrels, and sniper 98s are also covered. For the generalist who wants to know about the K98k but isn’t obsessed with understanding every production change and every Bohemian workshop’s Waffenamt codes, this is a much better choice than the multivolume Richard D. Law set from Collector Grade.

German Anti-Tank Weapons: Panzerbüchse, Panzerfaust and Panzershreck, again by de Vries and Martens, is Volume V in the series and covers the German infantry anti-tank weapons of World War II. It actually begins with the World War I anti-tank rifle, the Mauser Tankgewehr, and also introduces the interwar weapons of foreign nations that drew inspiration from it, including the British Boys AT rifle and the Polish Wz.35. Germany’s Panzerbüchse 39 and its Soviet counterparts are covered. These AT rifles quickly became obsolete as tanks grew harder armor, forcing the development of Munro Effect shaped-charge weapons. The two principal weapons were the Faustpatrone and Panzerfaust series of expendable self-launching grenades, and the Panzershreck which was an improved copy of the US M1 Anti-tank Rocket Launcher (“Bazooka”). This book has enough information for the collector or hobbyist to understand and identify these weapons. (The book Desperate Measures cited above has more on the development of the hollow-charge weapons)


These books were enough of a hit — particularly the K98k one — that we’ll be getting more of this series. But we’ll be buying them smart. 

What does that mean?

Buying the Books without Breaking the Bank

Now, these books are expensive, and so we’ve been “saving” money by only buying them when we can get a break on the price. There’s two ways we do this:
  • By signing up for updates from Small Arms of the World, we also get periodic promotions on books from their affiliated store, Long Mountain Outfitters.
  • By haunting Amazon for discounted copies. Amazon itself usually beats the regular price from the SAotW bookstore, but not the weekly specials. But Amazon also acts as an interface for a network of small booksellers. These guys can often hook you up at a reasonable price.

1 thought on “Heavy on the WWII German: this week’s gun books

  1. NM

    Hello –
    I am trying to do some research on a gun given to my step-grandfather while he was the American Diplomat for Czechoslovakia up through the American involvement in the war. I have not seen the gun first-hand, but since he passed away it was in my aunt’s possession until just recently. In broken English I have been told “present from a nazi Luftwaffe Marshal Hermann Goering to your (step)grandfather.” It was a ceremonial weapon, not meant for battle, and not to be displayed. It was only for ceremonial use.
    My grandfather was killed during the War so he is the only grandfather I ever knew, and now that my aunt is gone I am having difficulty finding any further information. I am hoping some knowledgeable person here will read this and help me out. If you have a picture that would be really great. Thank you in advance.

Comments are closed.