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From samurai weapons to sniper rifles, our Weapon series has a great new selection of books publishing in 2021. Read the options below and let us know which one you're most looking forward to in the comments!

WPN: British Sniping Rifles Since 1970

In the wake of its involvement in the Korean War, the British Army ended the selection and training of soldiers for sniping duties, instead concentrating its efforts on the perceived military challenges of the Cold War, in which sniping was no longer envisaged to play a part. But by the 1960s the British adoption of the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge was complete; moreover, the Soviet Union had developed a new sniper system based on the Dragunov self-loading rifle.

Almost a decade later, the British Army responded with the emergence of the 7.62mm-calibre L42A1 bolt-action sniping rifle. The L42 would go on to see twenty years of service with minimal equipment upgrades. 

After the Falklands War the Ministry of Defence drew up plans for the replacement of the L42A1 rifle and a number of weapon manufacturers, including Accuracy International (AI), were invited to submit examples for trial to replace the L42. AI won the contract and their PM Rifle, a world-beating revolutionary design, was adopted in 1985 as the L96A1, which went on to serve as the British Army’s primary sniper system. 

The L115A3, chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum, joined the L96A1 in the front line in 2008 and since 2012 has been Britain’s standard-issue sniping rifle.

Featuring specially commissioned artwork and detailed colour photographs, this study of the L42A1, L96A1 and L115A3 investigates their development, associated equipment and combat use.

WPN: The Bayonet

Although muskets delivered devastating projectiles at comparatively long ranges, their slow rate of fire left the soldier very vulnerable while reloading, and early muskets were useless for close-quarter fighting. The development of the flintlock musket produced a much less cumbersome and faster-firing firearm. When a short knife was stuck into its muzzle, every soldier could be armed with a missile weapon as well as one that could be used for close combat. The only disadvantage was that the musket could not be loaded or fired while the plug bayonet was in place. The socket bayonet solved this problem and the musket/bayonet combination became the universal infantry weapon from c.1700 to c.1870.

The advent of shorter rifled firearms saw the attachment of short swords to rifle barrels. Their longer blades still gave the infantryman the ‘reach’ that contemporaries believed he needed to fend off cavalry attacks. The perfection of the small-bore magazine rifle in the 1890s saw the bayonet lose its tactical importance, becoming smaller and more knife-like. When assault rifles predominated from the 1950s onwards, the bayonet became a weapon of last resort.

This is the absorbing story of the complementary weapon to every soldier’s firearm from the army of Louis XIV to modern-day forces in all global theatres of conflict.

WPN: The M4 Carbine

The M4 carbine has become one of the defining military firearms of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Developed as a fusion of the XM177E2 Colt Commando and the M16A2 assault rifle, the M4 offered a more convenient battlefield firearm than the full-length M16 variants, and the US Army adopted it as the standard infantry weapon in the 1990s. Today, military and law-enforcement personnel of more than 60 countries have adopted either the M4 or the M4A1 variant.

This study describes the development process in detail, from production of the first XM4 prototypes in 1984 through numerous modified types until it emerged into official use as the M4 in 1994. The M4 offered a weapon that was 1lb lighter and 6in shorter than the standard M16A2, yet could still deliver precision semi-auto and full-auto firepower up to an effective range of 500m. Over time, its capabilities have been enhanced by the M4A1 modifications plus an extensive range of tactical accessories. Numerous M4/M4A1 combat operations are investigated to reveal why the weapon has received such high levels of approval by front-line combat troops, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the M4/M4A1 has been intensively combat-tested, but also in contexts such as Colombia, India, Israel, and the Philippines.


WPN: Weapons of the Samurai

This fully illustrated new book describes and analyses the weapons and equipment traditionally associated with the samurai, Japan’s superlative warriors. It examines the range of weapons used by them at different times and in different situations.

Beginning with the rise of the samurai during the 10th century, this lively study traces the introduction of edged weapons (cutting and piercing) and missile weapons (bows and guns) over the next 500 years. The book shows clearly how they were employed by individual samurai using many previously untranslated primary texts, and explains how their use spread more widely among low-class troops, pirates and rebels. It also shows how schools of martial arts took over and changed the weapons and their uses during the peaceful Edo Period (1615–1868).