Review: The Broad Arrow Mk2 (Expanded And Updated 2nd Edition)

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posted on March 7, 2023
Broad Arrow Mk2 Book Review F

The author of this definitive book, Ian D. Skennerton, should not need any introduction to the readership, as he is one of the world’s foremost experts in the realm of British military firearms, especially of the 19th and 20th centuries. Indeed, Skennerton has published more than 25 books and pamphlets on these guns, and historians, collectors and museum curators alike have relied upon his credibility for many years. The level of research in all of his works is beyond question—and it is exhaustive!

This new book, The Broad Arrow Mk2 (Expanded and Updated 2nd Edition): British and Empire Factory Production, Proof, Inspection, Armourers, Unit & Issue Markings (2020), as its title indicates, is an updated version of the handy reference guide that the author first published in 2001. The long out-of-print 2001 version (now a rare and very valuable publication) was based on the “List of Changes to War Materiel” that laid out the systematic and chronological development of British military arms, and that book has been recognized over the past 20 years as one of the most important references on the markings found on British military arms.

This work draws on additional sources, and while the wealth of information in it is greatly expanded from that in the original book, the author admits that there never will be a fully definitive study—although this one does come close. However, as Skennerton states in his introduction, “the…expansion of the internet…will greatly increase the range of this fascinating study,” and more information undoubtedly will be discovered in the future.

Broken down into eight easily understood and definitive sections as chapter headings, the book goes far to untangle the oft-misunderstood topics (especially in “gun-show banter”) of proof markings, view markings and inspection markings, as well as armorers’ markings and unit markings. It also has an additional interesting catch-all chapter on strange markings that, hopefully, will solve some mysteries for arms collectors. Throughout the book, the author has charts, tables, photographs and drawings that explain what is being discussed in the text, as well as numerous alphabetized lists that provide for quick reference.

If you own, or intend to own, just one British military arm, you really need to have this book in your library, as the history of a particular British gun, or piece of related equipment, can be read like a book— if you know how to decipher the myriad markings on them. The collector of British guns can discover exactly when and where the rifle in his gun rack was made and where it was later modified.

Additionally (and more so than with many other types of arms, such as Springfields, Mausers, etc.), the collector often can put together the story of what the gun saw during its service life—from the plains of India to the veldt of South Africa, from the jungles of Asia to the deserts of the Middle East, and from trenches of France to the forests of Germany. Even better is learning about the illustrious history of those British and Commonwealth units that carried these arms when they were soldiering on for King and Country across the globe. 

The book is fully indexed, and it includes a cross reference to many of the author’s other publications in its bibliography. Additionally, a CD version is also available. Buyers can obtain the book by calling Bruce Smith in Grant’s Pass, Oregon, at (541) 659-0373 or by contacting the author by email at [email protected]. Price is $50 for the softcover or $100 for the hardcover presentation edition.

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