book reviews

Firearms Books
Reviewed by: T.J. Nelson

Surviving the Coming Collapse, expanded edition
by James Wesley Rawles
Clearwater Press, 2006


T he American economy collapses in a death spasm of hyperinflation and bank closings. The Stock Market crashes. Civil disorder and chaos erupt. Millions die of disease, starvation, and crime. Six months ago, the average person might have thought this scenario ludicrously improbable; yet after the 2008 economic crash, Rawles's description of the "Coming Collapse" seems, in some ways, almost prophetic.

This fictional story revolves around a group of survivalists and firearms enthusiasts in northern Idaho who create a rural sanctuary, filled with canned goods, farming utensils, some sheep ... and 300,000 rounds of ammunition. The author, clearly a survivalist, stuffs the narrative with all the factual details that people in this situation would need to know: characters discuss first-aid techniques, water supplies, fuel storage, and above all, firearms, in sometimes improbable detail. This book is practically a thinly-disguised manual in self-sufficiency.

<Spoiler alert > Although I'm not a big fan of fiction, the abundance of factual information makes the book interesting. Unfortunately, though, as the group morphs into a paramilitary force about halfway through the book, the story turns into the long-dreaded remake of Red Dawn. Using improbable weapons (homemade Claymores, thermite grenades, and .50-caliber machine guns mounted, somehow, on an ultralight aircraft) and even more improbable tactics, a handful of Idaho survivalists somehow defeat the entire U.S. military and invading United Nations troops, and establish a new democratic government: a paradise where income tax is unconstitutional and all gun control laws are repealed. Sure, that could happen. </Spoiler alert >

Although the author's writing is highly readable, he sometimes comes across as one of those Internet bloggers who, one suspects, knows way too much about firearms. This book is one of a growing number of survivalist fantasy tales, like Unintended Consequences by John Ross, which, though not necessarily qualifying as profound literature, are nonetheless important because they document the way of thinking of a group of patriotic men and women who are badly misunderstood by the average American.

Boston's Gun Bible:
by Boston T. Party
(Javelin Press, 2008 revised ed.)


A fter reading Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse (reviewed at left), I realized that there's one topic I know shockingly little about: firearms. As a recovering Damn Yankee, the very thought of firearms still makes me a little uncomfortable. And firearms aren't particularly interesting from a technological point of view. They're a well-understood technology that isn't particularly high-tech; in fact, not much has changed in a hundred years. But there are some things that, whether they're high-tech or not, are out there, and can kill you: tsunamis, poisonous mushrooms, and, yes, firearms. Even if you never plan to own one, let alone apply for a CCW, you still need to know about them.

So, okay, enough yakking, I hear you saying: which battle carbine ("assault rifle" is fightin' words, son!) has greater accuracy: an AK74 or an AR15? Which is better: single-action, double-action, or Glock-style mechanism? More importantly--stepping back a moment--why would someone want to own a firearm? This aptly titled book explains them all.

Mainly because he considers a main use of firearms to be defense against burglars and wild animals and (in a worst-case scenario) defense of freedom, the author recommends the M14 battle rifle as his weapon of choice, and discourages readers from relying on handguns. "A handgun," says Party, "is merely a weapon used to fight your way back to your rifle--which you shouldn't have left behind."

Yet, despite its 848 pages, the contents seem a bit light. The focus is purely practical: his purpose is to help the reader select the best firearm (or two, three, or four) for his or her use. (Of course there has to be some limit; otherwise, the clanking sounds you make when you walk down the street will attract unwanted attention.) There's no scientific information about ballistics or about metallurgical issues, and only one equation in the whole book. But it's also not a dry recitation of bullet diameters and muzzle velocities, with writing "Remember the first rule of gun fights: Have a gun." --Boston T. Party that's full of Dick and Jane sentences, grammatical errors and misspelled words, as is found in some other firearms books (although it is crawling with typos). The writing style is quite lively and even occasionally witty. The author expresses passionate libertarian views, and has a strong but rather cranky (and, toward the end, fiery) pro-second-amendment viewpoint. His enthusiasm for firearms, and for the American Constitution, is infectious.

I can't comment on the accuracy of what Mr. Party writes. However, the book has what seems to me a fatal flaw: its utility for beginners (like me) is almost zero, because it has very few illustrations, making it useless for learning how to identify firearms. If you're part of the American gun culture, you already know what all these things look like. If not, this book won't help. But what it will do is introduce you to an entirely different way of thinking. And that's always good.