Infantry Small Arms of the 21st Century, Guns of the World’s Armies

No one has yet replaced the WHB Smith epic Small Arms of the World but, in its field, this new book comes very close. The WHB Smith covered small arms from the earliest weapons to the latest in both military and civilian use with detailed notes on operation and field stripping. This book has a narrower remit but covers the latest development and in-service infantry small arms. – Most Highly Recommended.

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NAME: Infantry Small Arms of the 21st Century, Guns of the World's Armies
FILE: R3095
AUTHOR: Leigh Neville
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PRICE: £30.00                                                               
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Pistols, sub-machineguns, rifles, sniper rifles, self-loading rifles, assault 
rifles, self-loading pistols, machine-pistols, machine-carbines, grenade launchers, 
combat shotguns

ISBN: 1-47389-613-4

PAGES: 264
IMAGE: B3095.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/rt2ovef

DESCRIPTION: No one has yet replaced the WHB Smith epic Small Arms of the 
World but, in its field, this new book comes very close. The WHB Smith covered 
small arms from the earliest weapons to the latest in both military and civilian 
use with detailed notes on operation and field stripping. This book has a 
narrower remit but covers the latest development and in-service infantry small 
arms. – Most Highly Recommended.

The standard military weapons for millennia required strength and constant practice. 
With the exception of the dagger, weapons were too large to easily conceal and 
archers were unable to maintain a drawn bow for long. A further exception was the 
crossbow that could be cocked, ready to fire, and the pocket crossbow was considered 
revolutionary that a Pope banned it, using language now used to describe nuclear and 
biological weapons of mass destruction. 

Gunpowder changed all of that because it offered a weapon that was available in 
several sizes and which did not require the strength or hours of practice that earlier 
weapons had demanded. From the Medieval Period to the mid 19th Century, black 
powder guns did have draw-backs. The powder had to be kept dry, the gun had to be 
handled with care once fully loaded, and the loading of the most common single barrel 
weapons was relatively slow. Multi-barrel and multi-round weapons were difficult to 
manufacture for reliable use. The first to become successful were the Colt and 
Remington cap and ball revolvers of the mid 19th Century. However, the answer was 
to be the metal cased cartridge that could be carried ready to load and where a 
revolver could be loaded with a full cylinder with five or six cartridges. The cap and 
ball Remington revolver was also modified to fire metal cartridges and its method of 
changing the cylinder allowed a user to load the revolver and also a number of spare 
cylinders, for rapid change as soon as the previous cylinder was empty, almost as 
rapidly as changing box magazines would later become.

As cartridge loaded small arms became numerous, designers were able to make the 
next major step of magazines, belts and self loading actions which made it possible to 
produce pistols, rifles and machine guns that were reliable and effective. Those design 
basics still apply in the 21st Century but the first new weapons are slowly appearing. 

The H&K G11 has been one of the rifles to use caseless ammunition. This has not 
been without difficulties, mainly in achieving ammunition that leaves no residue in 
the chamber to jam later rounds. Dispensing with the metal case offers two 
advantages. The weight of ammunition is reduced, allowing a soldier to carry more 
rounds at a time, and the lack of a case means there is nothing to eject during firing. 
The latter might not seem significant, but it avoids a metal casing making a noise as 
it hits the ground or some other object, often the enduring problem for a sniper who 
can modify the sound of firing but still be betrayed by the noise of ejecting shell
 cases, if issued with a semi-automatic or automatic rifle. It also means that there is 
no need for an ejection port, reducing the opportunity for dirt to enter the action.

The other new area of development is in energy weapons or laser rifles. We may be 
some way away from the science fiction ray gun, but the first laser rifles are now 
being tested and promise a new small arms revolution. However, the bulk of 21st 
Century infantry small arms show improvements in design and materials, new 
manufacturing techniques, but essentially providing weapons that follow the 
principles of the last 70 years.

The author has provided very good descriptive coverage of modern infantry weapons 
with full colour photographs in illustration through the body of text. The casual 
reader may be surprised to find so many types of pistol in the age of the assault rifle, 
but the infantry soldier requires a range of weapons, personal and squad support 
weapons, making the pistol a very useful back-up weapon and for some purposes the 
primary weapon. Assault and sniper rifles have continued to be refined. The modern 
infantry soldier also requires specialist personal weapons in the form of combat 
shotguns for close quarter fighting and grenade launchers. These weapons in turn 
require support weapons for continuous fire and sub-machinegun and carbines for 
high fire rate personal use.