Book Review: V23N4

By Dean Roxby

Connections in History: Osprey Publishing’s Weapon Series

I have chosen to review these four books together, as the guns themselves are connected by history. The glorious old Vickers served Britain and other Commonwealth countries for over half a century until being replaced by the FN MAG. Likewise, the Maxim MG 08 and MG 08/15 served Germany through World War I and beyond, until the MG 34 and MG 42 introduced the General Purpose MG concept to modern warfare.

Each of these books is complete on its own; they certainly do not need to be purchased as a set. As is generally the way, each of these titles begins with a look back at the development of firearms for war. The book, German Machine Guns of World War I by Stephen Bull starts with a brief look at Sir Hiram S. Maxim, while the Vickers-Maxim Machine Gun title by Martin Pegler goes farther back in time, mentioning the Gatling, Agar, Nordenfelt and Gardner designs and even the goofy Puckle revolving gun (round shot for use against Christians, square bullets for others). These guns all had one thing in common; they were hand cranked.

The Maxim design was the first to harness some of the energy of the round firing to cycle the gun continuously. Maxim the man was a most interesting fellow. He patented many electrical products prior to starting on the gun he is best known for. Maxim was born in Maine, later moved to England, became a British citizen and began work on his machine gun. Most of the 1880s was spent on its design. Later, he was knighted (Sir Hiram) in recognition of the contribution his gun made to the British Empire.

Not only was he a genius at inventing a wide range of items, he was also wildly successful at marketing. Once the design was perfected, he traveled the world selling guns or license agreements to many countries, including Germany. It is interesting to note the short time between the adoption (1908) and the outbreak of WWI in 1914. With his adopted country using an improved version...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N4 (April 2019)
and was posted online on February 22, 2019


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