Bolt Action Military Rifles

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A Review of Bolt Action Military Rifles of the World, by Stuart C Mowbray and Joe Puleo.

The evolution of military rifles started with matchlock, and then flintlock and percussion lock muzzleloaders. Since the late 18th century, breechloaders started to become popular. In 1824, Johann Nikolaus von Dreyse produced the first bolt-action rifle. Good old Johann would continue working on his designs and in 1836, his Nadelgewehr (Needle Rifle) was perfected. Soon adopted by the blue-coated Prussian Army in 1841 it soon was the first bolt-action weapon to see combat in 1864. This gun started an arms race among small arms manufacturers that peaked with the Mauser, Mosin, and Enfield series rifles by the beginning of the 1900s. From 1864-1947 the bolt-action rifle was arguably king of the battlefield. It was only after the adoption of cheaper, lighter, and more effective battle rifles and assault rifles after 1947 worldwide that saw the bolt-action rifle relegated to history, although it is still often encountered wherever conflicts arise on all continents.

Quite possibly the preeminent and most concise single-volume work on these weapons is available from Mowbray Publishing. Appropriately entitled Bolt Action Military Rifles of the World, is owes its birth to authors Stuart C Mowbray and Joe Puleo.

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A look at Bolt Action Military Rifles of the World, by Stuart C Mowbray and Joe Puleo.

This book, at 408 pages including index is about the size of a municipal telephone book and has almost as much information in it. The volume is arranged in alphabetic order by country, covering more than 47 from Austria Hungary to Yugoslavia. Correctly, some of the largest chapters are consumed by such mega-design powerhouses as France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, and the United States, which average 20-30 pages apiece. However, a wealth of oddball countries and their weapons are covered in sometimes-extreme detail including Guatemala, Luxemburg, Persia, and Uruguay. This is important for the military historian as the weapons of these small countries without a great marital history are often only brief one-line footnotes in other books.

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The work is richly illustrated with at least one photograph on every page, and sometimes as many as a dozen. In fact, there are over 2400-pictures in this work. These are not the grainy hard to see reproductions commonly seen in martial books, but instead are all very tight and noteworthy studies highlighting the firearm in question. These are a mix of vintage illustrations showing the arm in action balanced with modern high-resolution color shots of collector grade weapons. These illustrations are very often shown in an exploded manner detailing minute details and design, disassembly, and maker's markings.

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While a work of serious study by dedicated author's intent on scholarship, there are also elements of dry and hidden humor hidden inside the tome. For instance on every chapter title page, I found myself eagerly looking for the background photograph. For instance, a beautiful Italian Vetterli Vitali Model 1870/87 rifle is shown in great detail resting on a bed of dry spaghetti noodles, garlic, and mushrooms. Many of the older photographs showing line troops with the weapons are of the snapshot variety, with the timeless and international traits of 19-year old grunts mugging for the camera shining through.

About the writers and the publisher

Everyone from Civil War buffs to Wall Street gurus are talking about the hottest trend in antiques today - historical guns, swords, and armor. Man at Arms books, published by Andrew Mowbry, Inc. are incredibly well known amongst gun writers and hobbyists that pursue anything to do with collecting and shooting vintage firearms. Man at Arms for the Gun and Sword Collector magazine - published continuously since 1979 by the company - is possibly the world's leading source of information and advice for novices and experts alike. Mr. Puleo's name appears frequently in the catalog of arms writers and he is attributed as the author of no less than four noted books on firearms. Mr. Mowbray is an eminent collector of marital knowledge, firearms, and accessories to which he has lent his knowledge to more than a dozen books ranging from antique sword, to the pepperbox pistol, to the Brown Bess musket.

In closing

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Bolt Action Military Rifles of the World, by Stuart C Mowbray and Joe Puleo, is unreservedly the best single book I have had come through my hands on the huge subject of these weapons. It is not a history book about armies and campaigns, but a history book of what those soldiers, sailors, and marines carried. If you have a bolt-action rifle, be it a Swiss Schmidt Rubin, French Lebel, Mexican Mauser, or American Springfield 1903, you owe yourself this book as a companion. If you are thinking about getting a bolt-action rifle, or even if you are just a historian, this is the book for you. After 408 pages, you can be one of the smartest people at the next gun show, range, or history channel marathon.

My copy is currently the subject of a custody battle inside my own house. My wife is just going to have to get her own.

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