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Book Review – Weapon of Choice by Dr. Matthew Ford

It may look like an airport bookshop thriller, but don’t let the cover fool you – Dr. Matthew Ford’s “Weapon of Choice: Small Arms and the Culture of Military Innovation” is a seriously rigorous academic study of the military small arms adoption process. The process is examined through the lens of the series of new rifles adopted by the UK through the 20th century – the SMLE, No4 Enfield, SLR, SA80, and FN Minimi.

Where most book on a subject like this focus on the weapons themselves, Ford instead examines the political and sociological factors that drove the decision making process. In doing so, he is promoting a particular sociological theory about group interaction – I think. Some of the language requires too many letter after one’s name for me to understand, but that does not obstruct the fantastic history at the heart of the book.

Was the SMLE a tool for the cavalry to remain relevant in a military environment becoming more suitable for ousted infantry?

Could the .280 British cartridge have been adopted by NATO if the British had challenged the US standard for terminal effectiveness instead of attempting to meet it?

Do soldiers actually have the perspective necessary to make effective weaponry choices or are they vulnerable to appearance and advertising like any normal commercial product?

How did the major NATO members differ in their vision of infantry combat and how did that lead to different small arms preferences among them?

What made FN so sneaky and effective?

Okay, Ford doesn’t really ask that last one, but one will probably close Weapon of Choice with a new respect for FN’s marketing prowess. The rest of these are major topics of the book, and Ford presents his theses with a substantial level of detail and insight that I have not found elsewhere. If any of these question pique your interest, then you should definitely pick up a copy of Weapon of Choice.

Available from Amazon here:

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