on May 2, 2011
After I purchased this book, I realized that I had already read two others by this same author - both excellent. This set my expectations for the present book; I was not disappointed. In this splendid work, the author discusses the science of ballistics over the ages - from throwing rocks in pre-historic times to the latest in weapons technology. One thing that is made crystal clear in this book is that there is more to projectile delivery than one might think. The author has covered the physics of ballistics in three main sections: the launching of a projectile, the flight of the projectile and the interaction of the projectile with the intended target. The main body of the text is loaded with information as well as detailed explanations of the many physical principles involved. It is also well illustrated with plenty of graphs, tables, diagrams and photos. For those who are mathematically inclined, the author has included a set of 22 technical notes at the end of the main text; these give the interested reader more insight into the physics and mathematics of what is happening.
Overall, I found the information presented to be quite fascinating - even, at times, surprising. Although the explanations were generally clear, a few were a bit heavy going for me and slowed me down. I found the mathematical details in the technical notes to be quite useful. Most of the formula derivations in those notes were clear, some were more challenging to varying degrees, while others were simply presented without derivation (usually, the author asserts, because their derivations would be too lengthy and beyond the scope of the book).
The author writes clearly and authoritatively. His style is quite engaging, lively and often witty. This is a book that would likely be most appreciated by science buffs or any reader who is seriously interested in the science of ballistics, including those taking a course on this subject.
on September 12, 2011
Unfortunately, this book does not appear to have been carefully fact-checked or edited. It is a nifty topic and written in an engaging style. But Dr. Denny presents at least two factual errors in Chapter 3, one which describes the development of modern firearms. There is an awful lot in this book that is very interesting that I do not have the background experience and training to evaluate. But I *do* know a good bit about modern handguns. To most trained handgunners, the two factual errors I note below might be the equivalent of getting the wrong answer on an American history test question similar to, "Who was the first President of the United States?"
I know that theoretical physics is Dr. Denny's academic discipline and not firearms or any other history. But he presents information in this book as authoritative and presents himself as a credible authority. Having found these errors calls into question the credibility of other statements he makes throughout the book, even those pertaining to ballistics. After all, conscientious, detailed fact-checking is important for non-fiction book authors, and I think most would agree it should be all the more important when presenting information outside one's area of expertise.
So here goes.
On page 56, first paragraph, he describes that a person rapid-firing a double-action revolver will, "...repeatedly pull the trigger, which cocks and fires the gun, ejects the spent cartridge and loads the next round, all from the same trigger pull." In fact, double-action revolvers do not automatically eject spent cartridges and load new rounds. The text actually describes the functioning of a semi-automatic pistol, not a revolver.
Speaking of semi-automatic pistols, on page 62, second paragraph, Dr. Denny writes that semi-automatic pistols were invented by Hugo Schmeisser in 1916. In fact, the first commercially successful semi-automatic pistol was designed by Hugo Borchardt and appeared in 1894. Moreover, by 1916, John Browning's famous M1911 .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol had already been adopted (in 1911) by the U.S. Army as its standard sidearm after several years of development and extensive competitive trials.
on February 27, 2015
This is a book on a technical topic by an expert, trying to get across complicated concepts to an educated public but not one knowledgeable in ballistics. I do not have the technical expertise to know how well he does it, so see other reviews for that. I know now how complex the subject is, but I don't think I learned much, because I was unable to figure out several of the things he covered.
The book does offer some interesting information. The 7,000 longbowmen at Crecy fired a half million arrows. He describes how a crossbow works, shaped charges and such. I was unaware of the complexity of simply firing a cannonball, say: initial velocity, angle of the cannon, rotation of the ball, factors of wind, gravity, resistance of air, irregularities of propellant, all these and more are involved--I do not have mastery of the various technical terms. I now have much more respect for the technical capacity of designers and operators of such things.