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Book Review: U.S. Small Arms of World War II by Bruce Canfield

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Bruce Canfield’s newly released book, “U.S. Small Arms of World War II”, is a book that attempts to cover a huge amount of material from bayonets to mortars and recoilless rifles. Where most books of this type end up providing only a rather shallow view of a large number of subjects, what Canfield has done here is simply ignore the conventional wisdom about how long a book should be. Want to add more content? Just add more pages! The result is a huge 864-page tome that covers a large numbers of small arms in significant detail. This is not a true collectors guide (note that Canfield’s previous book – a true collector’s guide – was equally long and covered only the M1 Garand), but it is the most comprehensive and useful overview of this scale that I have found.

In addition to all the typical weapons you would expect to find, this work covers a great many uncommon and rare guns, including prototypes never fielded. This includes guns like the Winchester Automatic Rifle, the M2 Submachine Gun, the Johnson M1944 LMG, and so on. Many arms that made it into limited service – like the Boys antitank rifle or 2″ Victory Model revolver – are also covered. On top of that, the scope extends to several families of weapons generally not covered at all – field and specialty knives, bazookas, mortars, flamethrowers, and both rifle and hand grenades.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the book is the extensive referencing of firsthand field accounts of weapon performance and use. How did troops really feel about their various weapons? No better way to find out than to ask them, and Canfield gives these opinions much more space in this book than most authors. I generally don’t looks for wide-coverage books like this one for my own library, but the sheer amount of context and information makes this one an exception that I am happy to have and will often reference.

“U.S. Small Arms of World War II” is printed by Mowbray, and at the time of the writing not available on Amazon. It is priced at $95.99 plus shipping, and you can order a copy direct from Mowbray here:

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