Book Review: Vickers Guide: World War II Germany, Vol. 1

posted on December 20, 2017

The latest edition of the Vickers Guide, a series of coffee table reference books from 1st SFOD-Delta Force veteran and firearms instructor Larry Vickers, examines some of the most rare and interesting firearms used by Germany during World War II.

Vickers, perhaps best known for his Vickers Tactical youtube channel, first teamed up with co-author and photographer James Rupley to create richly illustrated reference books in 2015. The new book is the fourth in the series with earlier editions tackling the AR-15 platform and the iconic Colt 1911.

The 360-page Vickers Guide: WWII Germany Vol. 1 features a wide range of interesting firearms dating from the 1920s to the end of World War II, and includes high-quality, high-resolution photographs of some 60 firearms. While some of the firearms featured are held in public collections, many are from seldom-seen private collections. This gives the reader a look at some truly rare and fascinating firearms. 

The book covers German small arms as well as those confiscated and used by Germany during the war, offering a look at more than just the MP40 submachine guns, Lugers and K98k rifles seen in war movies. The reality of the war and the desperate need for small arms of all kinds saw Hitler’s Germany use anything it could get its hands on, from Soviet sniper rifles to Spanish handguns. 

To navigate this plethora of small arms, Vickers and Rupley solicited a team of subject-matter experts, to include Ian McCollum of "Forgotten Weapons" and Tom Whiteman of "Legacy Collectibles." 

The first volume of Vickers Guide: WWII Germany focuses on machine pistols, submachine guns, bolt-action service rifles, bolt-action sniper rifles, primary service handguns, Foreign Service and occupation handguns, and a wide selection of the other pistols used by Germany throughout the war. The book features everything from seldom seen guns such as the Polish Wz.35 VIS pistol and the Steyr MP34 submachine gun to relatively unknown firearms like the Astra 902 and the ERMA EMP. The book also captures the nuance and character of more well-known firearms like the FN High Power, MP38 submachine gun and Luger P08. 

James Rupley said the scale of the project presented their greatest challenges to date, explaining that the huge variety of firearms utilized by the German armed forces during the war, the relative scarcity of many of them, the prevalence of forgeries, and the sensitivities presented by the subject matter all seemed to come together in ways that created roadblocks for each step of production.

Many of the more rare arms featured are held by private collectors—a positive for the reader and photographer, said Rupley, as the access to the firearms can be much more hands on. Capturing the nuance and detail of objects can be a tricky task, however, he said. One particularly challenging aspect for Rupley was trying to successfully photograph the blued finish on many of the guns. “Tilt a blued gun in one direction, and it looks black. Tilt it in the other direction, and it looks white," he said. "I’m pretty sure Larry gets a kick out of seeing how many blued guns he can give me in a row before I start cursing.”

After taking thousands of photographs and editing them down to just hundreds, does Rupley have a favorite firearm from the project? “It’s difficult to pick out a favorite. … So many ... came out just beautifully,” he said, finally settling on two stand-outs, the PPSh-41, as its wood stock and the patina on the steel "are oozing character and history.” The other is the K98k bolt action rifle. "While the casual enthusiast might skip past the humble K98k in favor of the sexier submachine guns,” he said, the “K98k warrants special attention visually … There is elegance in the rounded bolt handle, the curvature of the receiver, trigger, and trigger guard, and the straight lines of the stock, bolt, and barrel.”

The book is filled with innovative photography showing angles and parts of guns not often featured in gun books, with a combination of double-page spreads, quarter views and close-ups. Despite the challenges faced in putting together such an ambitious book, Rupley said he was determined to capture the firearms in a way that would bring them to life. "My ultimate aspiration for each image has always been for a reader to know exactly how it would feel to pick up each firearm presented in the book—just by looking at the image." He continued, "When you can see actual detail in wooden pistol grip grooves, machining marks on the trigger, and imperfections on screw heads,” readers will know what he’s talking about.

The Vickers Guide team already have the follow up in the works. WWII Germany Vol. 2 will feature presentation and engraved guns, semi-automatic service rifles, assault rifles, machine guns and Nazi Germany’s desperate last ditch Volkssturm firearms. Will we see a similar book on Allied weapons from World War II? Rupley said that while it wouldn’t be the next release, “some version of the Allied Weapons of WWII would be an interesting book!” In the meantime Vickers Guide: WWII Germany Vol. 1 seems a must have for collectors of historic small arms and World War II history buffs. It's available now at $95 plus shipping.

Images copyright Vickers Guide


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