Review of Practical Military Ordnance Identification (2nd Edition)

Article by John Ismay in the NY Times:

In my experience, when it comes to technical information, there are really just two kinds of bomb technicians. There's most of us, who are content to know enough about munitions to keep us out of trouble, but who depend heavily on technical data for support when confronted by unknown ordnance. Then there are those rare technicians who love the intricate details of munitions variants and fuzes; and who can name the most obscure bits of ordnance trivia, and happily argue incessantly over details.

Practical Military Ordnance Identification, Second Edition, is a book for the rest of us. It provides a common sense, systematic method for people confronted by unknown ordnance (and without access to professional military assistance and technical publications) to help them identify what they have and how to deal with it safely.

I bought the original edition of this book, liked it and found it very useful. In this second edition, Tom Gersbeck and Daniel Evers give us even more technical details, additional information on explosives and suggestions for added safety. If you are in the public safety arena and need information to help you identify unknown munitions, you can't do better than this book.

The most obvious difference between the editions is the binding. The original used standard book binding and this new edition uses a spiral wire binding. For me, and most of the people I have asked, we all love the spiral binding. You can lay the book down open to the page you want without it constantly trying to close itself. You can fold the book in half, without risking breaking the binding and potentially losing pages. For me, the spiral binding makes this a much more functional tool. I bet you will like it too.

For those of us who like studying about explosives and learning more about munitions, the book is enjoyable to read, but it is most useful for the average user faced with an unknown piece of ordnance. Following the seven step process will enable the identification of what you see. You don't have to be an expert to use it, just follow the process step by step. If you do that, your chances of getting a very accurate identification are excellent. Knowing what you have is critically important to determining what you may do with it, and this could save your life. The seven step process used to identify unknown munitions is the essence of common sense bomb disposal. This simple approach, starts with safely gathering information (photos, measurements), determining the fuze group (impact? mechanical time? Powder train time?), determining the ordnance category (aerial bomb, rocket, missile?), determining the ordnance group (HE, smoke, practice?), determining if the munition has been deployed, determining the critical safety precautions, and then researching the literature and identifying the munition. For each category and group, useful examples, photos and drawings are provided to help point the way.

Years of experience training military and law enforcement to safely manage munitions provides solid perspective on what works. The methodology provided by this book is, not surprisingly, the same system used by the best training organizations. This book will not replace formal explosive ordnance disposal training, but will absolutely provide a tried and true method for anyone to learn to identify unknown ordnance found outside military control. Whether used as a text book outline for a formal course, or as a stand-alone methodology for identifying unknown ordnance, this book will not disappoint. I highly recommend it as a valuable tool for public safety agencies or small departments who may not have access to dedicated explosive ordnance disposal resources.

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