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4.9 out of 5 stars
Weapon: A Visual History of Arms and Armor
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
The hallmark of the books published by DK is that leafing through one is like looking at a museum. That is certainly true of "Weapon: The Complete Visual History of Arms and Armor," that looks at the 4,000 years history of weaponry. There are hundreds of weapons on display in this 360-page book, and there are dozens of museums and collections thanked for contributing photographs. My son has designs on being a military historian, and this book is going to end up in his collection because I have no doubt he will enjoy the visual treats and historical information contained in this volume.

The introduction establishes a series of distinct categories of weaponry: bows, arrows, and spears; axes and clubs; swords and daggers; staff weapons; firearms; and armor and helmets (I am fascinated by the decision to put projectile weapons before clubs, as if there was a reasoned decision that the first weapon was something thrown rather than, as the opening of "2001: A Space Odyssey" so memorably suggests, something used as a club). The development of each category is briefly laid out. For example, Firearms begin with matchlocks and flintlocks before moving to percussion caps, revolvers, brass cartridges, repeater firearms, self-loading firearms, and machine guns. Consequently, the introduction provides both the basic definitions and the basic histories of the various types of weaponry.

The rest of the book is divided into five chronological sections: The Ancient World, The Middle Ages, The Early Modern World, The Revolutionary World, and the Modern World. Within each of those sections the chronology there is also due consideration to the different geographical locations, and as the Foreword points out we see interesting similarities between weapons from entirely different cultures and periods. Attention is also paid to how the development of particular weapons escalated the nature of warfare, the ingenuity and creativity of weaponry, and the symbolic significance of some weapons as well. There are descriptions of each weapon along with basic information regarding date, origin, weight, and length, as well as highlighted key features. If you want to know all of the pieces that make up European plate armor or the MP5 Submachine-gun that is the weapon of choice for most of the Western world's police and special forces units, then this is the book for you.

There are also special sections scattered throughout the book devoted to Great Warriors from the Greek Hoplite and Roman Legionary to Red Army Infantryman and US Navy SEAL, and Weapon Showcases focusing on key weapons from the Crossbow and Wakazashi Sword to Enfield Rifle-Musket and AK47. Ancient artwork, paintings, and photographs of weapons and soldiers in action are also included as well (e.g., a Norman Attack from the Bayeux Tapestry, a painting of Custer's Last Stand, a photograph of UN Soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia). So there is ample opportunity here to get a lot closer look at weapons like a Chinese mace, a European hunting gun, or Colt Python magnum pistol than most of us will have a chance to do in the real world, even if this is still a case of look but do not touch. If you are interested in weapons, then you will thoroughly enjoy what this book has to offer.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book as a source book for my D&D games, not only did it meet that goal to perfection but it was actually very interesting and a pleasure to read.

The pictures are great and really give you an idea of size and weight. And speaking of weight, most weapons have weights listed.

Great book, highly recommended!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I read this book at my public library, and now every time I go there, I just HAVE to read it. It tells the history of weapons like no other book before. The pictures are detailed and the descriptions are very informative yet easy for the smallest child to read. This is NOT one of those books that bores you out after a while. I even stick to the Handgun section, and I read it every time I see it. I'll bet there is no guide to weapons better than this book. Don't just consider it. Make it necessary for long trips.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The strength of this book is to be found in the amazing photos found throughout. This alone makes the book worth every penny. It is quite inspiring to look through and I've gotten a lot of reproduction ideas from it.

Here are the problems I have with this book:

1) With a few exceptions, the artefacts shown in the book do not have any direct references as to where they come from, making it difficult or impossible to double check anything. There are indirect references on the last page, where photo credits are given, but that is not always specific enough to help. Why is this important? Well...

2) I question the accuracy of some of the measurements that are given. For example, on pg. 65 the "Double-Edged Sword" is given as having a weight of 4 lbs, which is awfully heavy for a real sword of the period. The length also seems short at 32" (unless that refers to just the blade, but I don't believe such is specified anywhere). It'd be nice to know where the original is kept or elsewhere published to double check things.

3)While most of the info seems good, some of it is very wrong. I'm thinking mostly of pp. 48-49 regarding the Bronze and Iron Age warriors. For example, they assign the bronze sword on the bottom to the Celts, but this pre-dates the La Tene period by at least five centuries. No actual La Tene swords are even shown! The battle axe on pg 49 (upper left) is actually a Viking broad axe from the 10th - 11th Cent A.D., and certainly not Iron, let alone Bronze Age. The only Celtic artefacts are the helmet, the two daggers, and the Battersea shield (and even these are, technically, Insular rather than truly Celtic). Really, this should be two separate sections, one on Bronze Age and one on Iron Age Celts.

4) Though they're generally pretty good about stating whether or not a particular artefact is original or a modern reproduction, they do slip up in a couple places. Specifically, on pp. 52 and 53 the "Mail Shirt with Dagged Points" and the "Gjermundbu-Style Helmet" are definitely not original artefacts, and are most certainly modern repros, but are not labeled as such. As an aside, the "Swedish Helmet" actually dates from around 600-700 AD, and I think they misunderstand the method of construction, as well.

So, in sum, this is a good book but do not take it as a primary source. Be sure to double check details with more detailed sources.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I liked this book very much!! The pictures are amazing and I especially loved the fact that they included the weight of the European medieval swords and longswords, which goes further to dispell the myth that these weapons were unwieldy and weighed something like 50 to 100 pounds. The average weight of the Longsword was 3 to 4 pounds. Making it a deadly and effective weapon in the hands of a trained swordsman. Excellent Book !!!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book to serve me as reference and idea book for the fantasy illustrations I do and I have to say it does an excellent job.

There are enough photos in it to satisfy thirst for visual of any man and the minimal but informative and to the point amount of text that follows every image. The combination makes for a fast and entertaining read easy to browse through.

I found it to be an extremely rewarding experience.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is not an in-depth text about a particular weapon or type of weapon. It is a beautiful, & informative book. The book labels the weapons by name, place of origin, time period, & sometimes breaks down the components of a particular weapon. It covers everything from prehistoric weapons to modern guns & bayonets, everywhere from Asia to Africa to Europe. The binding seems like it will last for a good while - I first saw this book in my local library, before purchasing it - it was in very good shape.

Oh, for those who are also considering "Knives and Swords" (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/075665646X/ref=oh_o03_s01_i02_details), you should be forewarned that they are in many ways the same book. I purchased both, not realizing that they were from the same publisher. Knives & Swords has nothing that isn't in this book (so far as I can tell) but is a slightly sturdier, more coffee-table type binding. Of course, Knives & Swords does not the missile weapons from this book - including guns. I would recommend buying this book of the two.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I bought this for my son for Christmas. He's ten and loves to watch Pawn Stars. Every time someone comes in with an old gun or mysterious looking weapon, my son perks right up. He loves all the information about it, the look of them, all of it.

This book is beautiful. I do wish we had it in hard cover because it's seeing a lot of use, but hey, that's what it's for! It has big, clean pages and not too much stuffed on each, like a lot of Kingfisher books do. The photography is great, you really feel like you could almost reach into the book and pull out the sword, pistol, whatever.

I highly recommend this book for any lover of history, weaponry, etc. I also recommend it as a gift because between the cover, the heft, the size of the book and the amazing photography, anyone you think might like it, would like it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is a three in one review on the truly splendid books, Warrior, Weapon, and Battle. Or more formally: Warrior, A visual History of the Fighting Man. Weapon, A visual History of Arms and Armor. Battle, A visual Journey through 5000 Years of Combat.

They can be reviewed together because of their kinship in sharing the same visual concept and the same supremely expert author, R. G. Grant. No pilgrim, Grant is the author of over 20 books, most on the subject of conflict, implements of war and the fighting man.

All three books are wonderfully delicious for those of us whose DNA inclines us toward the history of arms, armament and the men who have carried them. These books are chock full of photographs, charts, maps and illustrations on every page to beautifully compliment and expand upon a tightly written, no fluff text. And this text is extremely well researched.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that I have not read each of these three books in their entirety. I've had them for only 2 weeks and after scanning them from start to finish, I am now devouring them slowly, page by page, like a monk with a holy book, meting out tasty morsels judiciously. I want this to last a long time.

Although, the books overlap to a degree, they are not repetitious in any negative way as they each have their own exclusive focus.

Warrior takes on the subject of the individual fighting man from 600 BCE to the present, from the Greek Hoplite, the Samurai, Zulu, Mongol bowman, American rifleman to the modern western infantry and special forces...and almost everything in between.

Weapon focuses on just about every kind of implement of a fighting man's arsenal of killing tools from Assyrian spears to the AK 47. In some cases, replicas have been photographed but mostly it's the often crusty, old real thing. The photography is first rate. As in all three books, the text and illustrations are intermingled in such an artful way as to make each page a visual smorgasbord.

Battle covers the first recorded major battle which is between the Canaanites and the Egyptians at Meiddo and takes us through conflicts in every age all the way to modern times. Its focus is on the Generals, the strategies, the troops and their weapons.

Battle was published by DK in 2005, Weapon in `05 and Warrior in `07. Highly recommended, all three.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
All I can say about this book is "Wow!" I purchased this as a gift for a friend, and truly enjoyed browsing through page after page of incredibly detailed pictures, each with a description of the weapon, its age, etc. I felt like I was touring a museum rather than reading a book. There's a great balance between ancient and modern weapons, and there are some very unique and fascinating weapons included. It's also conveniently arranged in chronological order. The book itself is beautiful, and heavy enough to live up to its name!
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