Small Caliber Book Reviews: A History of Modern US Military Small Arms Ammunition

    Books are as important – if not more important – to small arms researchers than the actual firearms and ammunition they study. I think, then, it’s only appropriate that I begin a series of regular posts reviewing important books on small arms and their ammunition. The format I have chosen is a short one, covering the book’s area of relevance, its strengths and weaknesses, and whether it is more introductory or advanced.

    The subject of our first Small Caliber Book Review is the epochal tome A History of Modern US Military Small Arms Ammunition, Vol. I: 1880-1939 by F. W. Hackley, W. H. Woodin, and E. L. Scranton. This is a truly significant piece of research, and should be considered authoritative on the subject it covers. It is relevant to both ammunition researchers and collectors alike, and covers as exhaustive a catalog of US small arms ammunition as was most likely possible at the time of its publication. Inside, the reader will find a virtually encyclopedic coverage of cartridges like 6mm Lee Navy, .276 Pedersen, and of course more common calibers like .30-06 and .45 ACP. Experimental cartridges such as American squeezebore ammunition, and military .22 caliber experimentals from the 19th century are also included, though information on these is much more fragmentary.

    What HWS, as it’s lovingly called (after the initials of the three authors’ last names) by readers, doesn’t cover are the small arms that fired the ammunition detailed in it, much of the historical context the ammunition was designed in. It is almost purely an encyclopedia of US military small arms ammunition of the period.

    HWS is a great resource, with few weaknesses that aren’t endemic to the subject (some knowledge will almost always be lost over time) or fall outside its purview. In addition, it’s accessibly written to anyone from an introductory level up (though for those just beginning, it might be a somewhat dry read). For anyone interested in small arms ammunition specifically, I would not only recommend A History of Modern US Military Small Arms Ammunition, Vol. I: 1880-1939, I would suggest they pick up a copy of it right now.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]