During the Second World War the Soviet Union field large numbers of light, medium and heavy machine guns of various models, starting with the very numerous Maxim-type guns but moving on to a series of Soviet designed machine guns of the 1930s. The book starts with a look at the development of these guns, organised by the chief designer.
The most impressive aspect of this book is the large section looking at how these machine guns were used in combat. It isn’t unusual for books of this nature to focus almost entirely on a technical description of the weapon in question, with the ‘in use’ section looking at one or two example battles or discussing known flaws. Here we get a much more in-depth look at how the Soviets used their machine guns, looking at their overall role on the battlefield according to Soviet doctrine and training manuals. One thing that immediately becomes obvious is that all weapons of the same type were used in the same way – as far as the overall doctrine was concerned a heavy machine gun was a heavy machine gun, and it didn’t matter which exact model a unit was equipped with.
We do also get sections on the details roles of the heavier gun’s crews, which is a valuable reminder that machine guns were a much more complex weapon to operate than one might think, needing several men for each gun, and careful planning for the firing position. We then get plenty of examples of individual actions, a useful analysis of how the number of machine guns available and their distribution changed during the war, and the German view of what it was like to face Soviet machine guns in action.
Author: Chris McNab