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Unread 12-11-2007, 08:02 PM   #2
Dwight Gruber
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Default "Central Powers Pistols"--a review

Jan Still has announced over on his Forum that Central Powers Pistols is now available for sale. I wrote up this review for his site, figured it might be good to post here as well. --DG

Central Powers Pistols:
The Great War Pistols of Germany,
Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria
© 2007 Jan C. Still
Stills Books, ISBN 1-893513-12-2

In 1982 Jan Still published The Pistols of Germany and Its Allies in Two World Wars: Volume 1, Military Pistols of Imperial Germany and Her World War I Allies and Postwar Military, Paramilitary, and Police Reworks. This very small book (5x8 inches, 145 pages paperbound) with the very ambitious title was the progenitor of the series of red-bound volumes we have come to recognize as the definitive books about the Luger pistol in its role as the official German service weapon, published between 1986 and 1993 with volumes 2 through 5: Axis Pistols, Third Reich Lugers, Imperial Lugers, and Weimar Lugers.

Now, 25 years after its first publication and more than two years in preparation, Jan has returned to Volume 1 to bring it up to date and cover the one aspect of the subject left undone: the pistols of the Central Powers of the Great War.

The bare statistics reveal something about the scope and scale of the book: 460 pages, of which 251 are pages of photographs. A stunning 227 of these are in sharp, excellently reproduced color. Not quite half of the book is concerned with the P-08 (Luger): 146 pages of basic pistol information, and an additional 55 pages of the unit marking section. The remaining 259 pages are dedicated in equally detailed and stunning measure to all the other handguns which shared action in the hostilities.

In content, CPP offers a historical synopsis of each of the Central Powers, participation in the Great War, and a synopsis of their arms manufacturers and the guns they produced which served in their armies. Detailed descriptions of manufacturer and proof marks guide the collector through the sometimes complex process of manufacture and acceptance in identifying the particulars of a pistol they might own. Detailed, sometimes extensive data tables of reported guns and their characteristics are presented.

But this is only a technical description of the contents. In its pages Central Powers Pistols presents virtually every pistol known to have been accepted by a Central Powers government, and presents descriptions and pictures of nearly every variation; some of them unique; provided by owners of some of the deepest collections to be found. Even for the reader whose primary collecting interest may only involve portions of the subject, the book is a veritable cornucopia which can provide page after page of enjoyment.

One of the topics which comes into its own in this book is Imperial unit marking, greatly expanded beyond the coverage in Imperial Lugers. Unit marks on all pistols are mentioned as examples carry them and are presented in data tables, and mention is made of non-German unit markings as well. Most notably, there is a 43-page color gallery of unit-marked pistols and accessories, with associated commentary. This goes beyond the simple, factual collection and presentation of information. It is a careful and loving presentation by a collector who is dedicated to this aspect of collecting in a manner which goes beyond the simple acquisition of artifacts.

A comment in passing at the beginning of the section perhaps provides insight into the heart of this book, and the other volumes in the series: Many of the unit marked pistols illustrated herein were collected prior to the publishing of unit marking identification books each one is a collectors prize. [These pictures] represent a lifetime collection of such pistols. We as collectors and readers are the beneficiaries of this lifetime of dedication, and the drive to share it with us and to convince other lifetime collectors to share theirs with us as well.

The book does go somewhat beyond its ostensible subject area. In several appendixes the author takes the opportunity to include the most current information about the closely-associated topics of the U.S Test Lugers (including the .45 caliber variations) and some general and cautionary information pertinent to Luger collecting.

It is important to understand that Central Powers Pistols does not supplant Imperial Lugers. All the pistol detail information represents the most current state of knowledge. It supersedes and expands on the material in the earlier volume, and delves into new marking subjects. However, the book deals almost entirely with the pistols themselves, and does not extend into such topics as accessories. Also, most of the guns which are illustrated are different. The current edition of Imperial Lugers will remain a valuable part of the standard Luger library until such time as it might be revised and republished.

Central Powers Pistols is book of the highest quality, both physically and in its content, and sets a new standard for historical gun books.

(For anyone keeping track, review objectivity necessitates disclosure that this reviewer was involved in the books publication.)

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