Here at Firearms Talk we are continually on the quest to expand our knowledge of all things gun. One of the most important categories of gun in the past 150-years had been in the realm of military auto-loading pistols. You know the guns we speak of: the Colt 1911, the Browning Hi-Power, the German P08 Luger, the SIG P-series, et al. These guns have done the heavy lifting as military and police sidearms, as well as civilian target, hunting and defense pieces for the entire period that you have been alive.
A new book by Gordon Bruce, "The Evolution of Military Automatic Pistols; Self-loading Pistol Designs of Two World Wars and the Men Who Invented Them" offers a fresh look at the guns themselves by examining the men behind them.
About the Book
Published by Andrew Mowbray Publishers, one of the most respected firms for top-quality gun tomes, this new work by Gordon Bruce plays to the audience of collectors, students, historians, researchers and reenactors who love these military pistols. A quick read at just 164-pages, the book as a tremendous wealth of knowledge in its pages. There is tons of information accompanied by hundreds of illustrations in both B&W and color, both line drawing and photographs.
As the title suggests, while the guns are the driver of the book, it is the men behind the guns, -- the inventors, that the book spends the most time with. Starting with the oldest designs, from the 1890s-era Borchardt, to the HK and SIG designs of today, some 25 inventors are cataloged throughout the book in a series of in-depth biographies covering both man and machine.
Wide Sweep of Designers
The story of the legendary John Browning and his 180-odd patents, many of which were for some of the best military pistols ever made, is told in detail as would be expected. However, going far past the 'holy' tier of inventors such as Browning, Fritz Walther, and Georg Luger, you spent just as much time with relatively lesser-known individuals. These men, typified by Elbert Searle, William Whiting, and Vernacio Lopez, had in many cases just as much to do with modern firearms evolution as the better-known stars of the handgun design world.
For example, you find out about Tullio Marengoni, a lad who started working in his local factory at the ripe old age of 13 in 1894. The thing is, the factory was that of P Beretta, and Margengoni wound up designing just about every popular Beretta handgun from 1915-1951, variants of which such as the Model 21 and 92 are still in production today from his earlier designs. Then there is Charles Petter, father of the Model 1935 that led to the SIGs of today, not to mention Alex Seidel who really started the polymer pistol revolution, and ...well you get the idea
Unknown details explained
While we are often aware of the gun designs beforehand, the author places the pieces fresh in the mind of the reader. Moving past the pistols, he brings the whole story of the father to you so that you may help better understand the historical and emotional ties to the inventor's offspring.
Bruce paints a whole portrait of the inventors, warts, quirks, and all. You read of how Aimo Lahti was a prisoner in his house in later years, the victim of a nervous breakdown after being removed from his work. Of how Hugo Borchardt, considered the grandfather of the autoloading pistol, had patented designs for rock drillers, sewing machines and shirt-neck shapers (?) long before he moved to pistols. Did you know that Piotr Wilniewczyc, the inventor of the Radom WIS pistol, did so while he was taking a break from doing lab work on early rocket fuels? Or that the brothers behind the Mauser C96 pistol (think Han Solo's Blaster) were just two of 23 siblings?
Well I do, and it's because of Gordon Bruce.
Buy the book and expand your own knowledge. Better yet, get two and bestow one upon a likeminded individual. They'll thank you later.