March 4, 2024

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Thorneycroft to SA80 cover

Book review Thorneycroft to SA80 by Jonathan S. Ferguson

I have been a fan of Ian McCollum’s Forgotten Weapons for years, so I was eager to pick and review Chassepot to FAMAS. When it was announced there would also be a book on British bullpup rifles, I became very excited. The difficult development of the E.M. series and the SA80 is infamous. Yet, Jonathan Ferguson premise behind Thorneycroft to SA80 is different. Ian McCollum’s book dealt with a series of rifles that were actually adapted by France but whose history was obscured by state secrecy of its arsenals. The British bullpups that Jonathan Ferguson discusses were for the most part never put in service. Yet the author reveals there is a long-established history of bullpup design originating from the UK. In addition, there a number of misconceptions surrounding these weapons. As such Thorneycroft to SA80 is a must-read addition to the bookshelves of any fan of Forgotten Weapons.

Thorneycroft to SA80 Janson EM 2

At 622 pages this book is noticeably thicker than Chassepot to FAMAS, it took me most of Pentecost to read it. Yet, it is a relatively easy text to understand. Jonathan explains the necessary details of each rifle with the right amount background information and technical description. Unlike Ian’s book Jonathan becomes less bogged down in the details of each rifle’s accessories. This is part due to the fact that most were never produced in substantial quantities. With the right amount of humor this text is understandable even for those without any experience with firearms. The book is richly illustrated, thanks to contributions by N.R. Jenzen-Jones and of course James Rupley. The photography is gorgeous as are the illustrations. Thorneycroft to SA80 is both a coffee table book as well as a serious authoritative book on British rifle designs of the 20th century.

SA80 development iterations

E.M. 2 and SA80

So, what does this book cover? Chapter 1 is an introduction to the term Bullpup and what should qualify as a Bullpup-style rifle. Next, chapter 2 discusses the earliest attempts: the Thorneycroft & the Godsal. Chapter 3 discusses the various efforts made during the Second World War, including those in the former colonies. The first serious attempt to replace the Lee-Enfield as the de facto service rifle was made in the late 1940s. The next several chapters cover this era with discussions on the Korsak E.M. 1, Thorpe E.M.1 and the Janson E.M. 2. The author delves considerably into the politics behind their development. Finally, there is Chapter 8 covering the 485 Enfield Weapon System and finally several chapters covering the SA80. Due to handsomely meeting several Kickstarter stretch goals there are a plethora of appendices covering munitions, designations and reliability data (guess on which rifle!).

Thorneycroft to SA80 A3

Beyond Thorneycroft to SA80

Just as with Chassepot to FAMAS I think Thorneycroft to SA80 is a major success. It is an exciting look at what was previously a semi-obscure part of firearms history. That some details are publicly ensures there are gross misconceptions. Headstamp Publishing has more to release. Ian McCollum’s has just unveiled his new book ‘Pistols of the Warlords‘ covering the import and production of handguns during the 1930s in China. Right now, he crashing through all of the stretch goals, and I of course helped him by ordering a copy of that book. Though I did get the dark retail cover. For those interested in a copy of Thorneycroft to SA80 can purchase them directly from the website of Headstamp Publishing. Meanwhile no word yet on the other offerings: The Story of the Russian Avtomat and The Emir’s New Rifle. 2022 at the earliest I think.

Thorneycroft to SA80 by Jonathan S. Ferguson
EM 2 field manual
Accesseries to Thorneycroft to SA80