Book Review: Osprey “Weapon” Series

We have had several people ask us about the small softcover books printed by Osprey about various types of firearms, so today we’re looking at a couple of them. Osprey has a whole series of firearms volumes, including pretty much all the important military arms of the 20th century. Think of them like a Cliff’s Notes version of the serious research works published by folks like Simpson, Mowbray, and Collector Grade – they are inexpensive and a good way to get some background on a particular gun, but don’t have very much depth.

The three specific ones we looked at today were:

The Colt 1911 Pistol, by Leroy Thompson

The Lee-Enfield Rifle, by Martin Pegler

The Uzi Submachine Gun, by Chris McNab



  1. I do remember seeing a number of minor errors with the Weapon books (particularly with the photos); they’re a fun quick read and the plates are interesting to look at, but they are rather lightweight for anyone who is seriously interested in firearms history or technology.

    In fact I find them, as an Osprey series, to be considerably more pulpy than the others; almost for a younger demographic.

  2. Hard question: why Osprey books are so incredibly cheap if average decent publication is in around $150,- bracket? In the world where we judge merchandise by its sticker, what does it tell about quality of contents?

    • Osprey books are cheap because they are short and not particularly deep, and thus quick to write (and because Osprey has already amortized their printing equipment costs, I expect). However, they are not actually cheaper per page than really intense books. The three Osprey books I looked at this week were each 75 pages long, and Amazon has them for $13. That’s $0.17/page. Compare that to Dolf’s Volume I on the Browning, which is 500 pages and $75 – which comes to $0.15 per page. Simpsons’s new book on German flare pistols is $0.18/page (and all color).

      If you are just looking for background, Osprey is a good choice because you can get a whole bunch of them for the price of a single big volume. If you’re posting comments on this blog, though, you are probably looking for more detail and Osprey would be a waste of money for you. 🙂

  3. I’ve been using the Osprey series since 1974 as a reference guide in my OTHER major hobby/interest, painting military miniatures. The series was begun in the very late 60.early 70s as a set of Uniform Guides for painter and over the years the artwork has improved greatly…their weapons books are aimed at a different group/demographic if you will – those folks interested in weapons most cannot and will never get a chance to see or physically touch. They are great strictly from a painters/modelers point of view but those of us in the firearms & collecting hobbies require more (which is available from North Cape Pubs,Collector Grade Pubs and various other specialty publications…I have a personal collection of Osprey books (beginning in ’74 and continuing to just a few years ago) totaling some 150 to 200 volumes.

    CB in FL

  4. I can’t mention Osprey without a moment of silence for Angus McBride…

    As far as the books, yeah they’re thumbnail sketches and lacking in detail, but I’ve got shelves and shelves of the things. These days I usually get them to give me a Cliff’s Notes version of topics on which I am not already well-versed, which is why I haven’t purchased any of the small arms ones yet.

  5. Academic? Certainly not. But sometimes you need just a go-to handbook – especially as some subjects did not so far got a decent coverage. From the Weapons Series I’d certainly buy several volumes – e.g. the Enfield 1853 (a very important rifle, but on the fringes of my interest, and general orientation would suffice. I’d also LOVE to have a Brown Bess or Mle 1777/An IX out of this series, if there would ever be one), the Martini-Henry, the M-60 (unless you can propose me a serious book on the Pig, which I have so far ommitted), and the Wobbly-Webleys. Sure, for DETAILS of Webley revolvers I have a wonderful book by Dowell – but he lacks a bit of a Big Picture and is a wee fragmentated. The Osprey booklet puts the subject into a concise package, and gives it a quick run-over. Together they tell the story – Osprey for appetizer, Dowell for a three-course main chow with dessert and coffee.
    Now, Ian started to tell this, and then CB chimed-in: Ospreys are for a bit different group. And that’s wonderful of them – we stuck to our 500 pages multivolume COMPREHENSIVE books, but the youngsters would run crying if you try to shove these on them. 74 pp is their limit of comprehension until the hormone thing stops – only then they begin to think, and acquire the ability to comprehend a story out of a book that has more than 100 pages. Ospreys are mind starters, so keep them coming! It’s the last hope of us elderly white elephants reciting long gone patent numbers from our memory, overflowing with mechanical thingies that go bang. As long as there’s only ‘bang’ part of it that goes to them, let’s stoke whatever fire is simmering there with something easily combustible. That’s your Ospreys for you, gentlemen.

    Hell, I wish I could write shorter 🙂

    • Leszek –

      ‘Hog’ was the Vietnam-era American soldier’s nickname for the M-60 LMG. Pig would probably be a mistranslation into Polish. ‘Hog’ is southern U.S. slang for anything big, heavy, and brutal. Not necessarily a derogatory term, either.

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