Academic journal article Military Review

A REVOLUTION IN ARMS: A History of the First Repeating Rifles

Academic journal article Military Review

A REVOLUTION IN ARMS: A History of the First Repeating Rifles

Article excerpt

A REVOLUTION IN ARMS: A History of the First Repeating Rifles, Joseph G. Bilby, Westholme Publishing, Yardley, PA, 2006, 280 pages, $26.00.

Following in the steps of his earlier work on Civil War weaponry, Joseph Bilby's A Revolution in Arms describes how the search for rapid-firing projectile weapons reached a turning point in the 19th century. Focusing on the Civil War era, Bilby details the introduction to the American battlefield of the first breech-loading rifles and, more importantly, metallic rim-fire cartridges.

While scholars of the American West are sure to be familiar with the famed Winchester and Spencer rifles that "conquered" the Plains, Bilby relates the lesser-known tale of the technological innovations that gave rise to those weapons. Men like Benjamin Henry and Christopher Spencer, despite facing resistance from military bureaucrats and other weapons makers, developed firearms that pushed the boundaries of firepower.

This book is more than just a technological history. It also discusses how the new firearms were implemented during the Civil War. Using bureaucratic reports and personal accounts from officers and enlisted men, Bilby demonstrates how repeating rifles increasingly found their way into the eager hands of Soldiers over the course of the war. …

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