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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bolt Action - Review: Soviet Submachine Guns of World War II

I recently had the opportunity to read through Osprey's new title on Soviet SMGs in the second World War.

I'd never been very interested in the history of equipment in the war, but decided to give this book a chance, and it changed my opinion.


 In recent Bolt Action events, I have been playing Soviets, and their list offers unique opportunities for BARbarians to maximize submachine guns in the force. Originally, I'd discounted these short range weapons as an inefficient use of points. It's only taken two tournaments with SMGs to completely change my mind.

PPSh-armed soldiers are a serious threat to opposing soft targets. Even inexperienced submachine gunners can prove to be a devastating force to your opponent, and no one can take these weapons in the numbers the Russians can.

After these games, enjoying the effect of the PPSh on enemy soldiers, I decided I'd give this book a shot. I was pleasantly surprised that while it did offer dry statistics and information, it also offered interesting and engaging stories involving the weapon.

As you can expect with any Osprey title, the physical qualities of the book are superb. The cover is the soft, strong, laminated material so many of these books are protected with, and the pages are of an excellent paper grade.

Chris McNab, the author, does a great job of coloring the history of Soviet submachine guns and providing much more than a dry statistical analysis of the weapon. The images provided by Steve Noon and Alan Gilliland give much more than simply examples of the weapons in use; they illustrate the Russian condition during the war. The image below is one of many that not only shows the weapon in the hands of those that used it, but strikingly explains the severity of the situation. I can't say enough about the illustrations and photography in this book - much, much more than pictures of submachine guns.

Of course, the weapons of World War II didn't simply disappear when it ended. McNab's book goes on to describe their continued use afterwards. Unsurprisingly, extremely durable military equipment like the PPSh continues to be used today. 

Interestingly, McNab explains not only the history of the weapon's development and implementation, but also the doctrinal decisions that went into Soviet submachine gun distribution throughout the Red Army. Experiences in battle against the Finns, and then the Germans, as well as the style of warfare Soviet commanders decided to engage in, led to the weapon's proliferation.

Soviet Submachine Guns of World War II is a book I'm very happy to have read. Osprey sells many titles that describe the history of the weapons of WWII, and I can't suggest them enough. I'll never look at my PPSh-armed conscripts the same way again. Sure, we know some basic things about the firearms used by the belligerents in the war, but to hear the history of their development and employment provides an even greater level of insight. This knowledge really enhances my Bolt Action games. 

Do you have any experience with these books? Let us know about it on the forum.

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