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Book Review
Superguns 1854-1991
Superguns 1854-1991 - Extreme artillery from the Paris Gun and the V-3 to Iraq's Project Babylon
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

This is a review by Randy L Harvey of the Osprey Publishing book Superguns 1854-1991 - Extreme artillery from the Paris Gun and the V-3 to Iraq's Project Babylon by author Steven J. Zaloga and illustrator Jim Laurier.


    ** Over the last 150 years, gun designers have sought to transform warfare with artillery of superlative range and power, from William Armstrong’s 19th-century “monster guns” to the latest research into hypersonic electro-magnetic railguns.

    Taking a case study approach, Superguns 1854-1991 explains the technology and roles of the finest monster weapons of each era. It looks at the 1918 “Wilhelm Gun”, designed to shell Paris from behind the German trenches; the World War II “V-3” gun, built to bombard London across the Channel; the Cold War atomic cannons of the US and Soviet Union; and the story of Dr. Gerald Bull’s HARP program and the Iraqi “Supergun” he designed for Saddam Hussein. Illustrated throughout, this is an authoritative history of the greatest and most ambitious artillery pieces of all time.**

** Quoted from the back cover of the book.

Osprey Publications has released Superguns 1854-1991 - Extreme artillery from the Paris Gun and the V-3 to Iraq's Project Babylon as Number 265 in their New Vanguard series. It is a softcover book with 48 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs, color photographs, color illustrations, technical drawings, schematic drawings, quotes, detailed captions and more. It has a 2019 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-2610-7. The book details various countries superguns from their development to deployment and use in various conflicts during two different centuries.


- Introduction
- Prelude to modern artillery
- Wilhelm Geschütz: The Paris Gun
- The V-3 London Gun
- The Biggest Boom
- Project Babylon Supergun
- The Future of Superguns
- Further Reading
- Index

Author Steven J. Zaloga focuses on the development and use of various superguns in various conflicts during two different centuries in nicely written and well detailed text that is written in an easy to read and follow format. Please refer to the Contents section of this review to learn all that is discussed in this volume. Some of the countries superguns that are discussed are the United States, Britain, Germany, France, the Soviet Union and Iraq. The four eras of conflict covered are World War One, World War Two, the Cold War and the “New World Disorder”. The book does not go into great detail in regards to railroad guns as they have been covered in previous volumes in the New Vanguard series and coastal defense guns are mentioned but not covered in great detail. As I read through the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing.

Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on military superguns to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the text for yourself.

There are 28 black and white photographs and 16 color photographs in total. The photographs range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable, however a few have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and others appear too light. This is typical for the discussed periods of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that some of the photographs are several years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book. I appreciate the fact that there are several photographs of just the weapons themselves as opposed to photographs that feature the weapons in a broad generalized military photograph. In my opinion it makes it much easier to study the various weapons and their details. Author Steven J. Zaloga stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to the large military gun enthusiast due to the details they contain.

Some of the various weapons shown and discussed are:
- Tsar Pushka 890mm bombard
- RML 16in. 81-ton gun
- Wilhelm Geschütz: 21/35cm Paris Gun
- 800mm K(E) Schwerer Gustav “Dora”
- Lyman-Haskell multi-chamber 6in. gun
- T21 36in. (914mm) Little David
- M65 280mm “Atomic Annie”
- 406mm 2A3 Kondensator-2P Self-Propelled Gun
- 16.7in. (424mm) L/86 HARP gun
- Project Babylon System 350 L/150 Gun
- BAE Systems EM Railgun

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the photographs for yourself.

There are 7 color illustrations by illustrator Jim Laurier. The illustrations are of:
    Ammunition of the Super Guns
    - Seven different types of ammunition for seven different guns is shown with information provided for each projectile. The information provided lists the type of projectile, the gun it goes to, the caliber of each, the weight of each, the high-explosive equivalent of each, the muzzle velocity of each and the range of each.

    Wilhelm Geschütz: 21/35cm Paris Gun
    - A two-page illustration showing a Wilhelm Geschütz: 21/35cm Paris Gun emplaced and ready for action. Along with the illustration is information providing details of the crew, overall weight, Caliber, overall barrel length, barrel rifling twist, projectile weight, propellant charge, initial muzzle velocity and the maximum range.

    Hochdruckpumpe Tausendfüßler, Mimoyecques, France, 1944
    - An illustration showing the HDP Tausendfüßler gun at the Wiese (Meadow) complex in Mimoyecques, France.

    Langrohrkanone 15 F 58 Fleissiges Lieschen. 1.Batterie, Artillerie-Regiment.705, Lampaden, Germany, January 1945
    - An illustration showing the SS built smaller 12-segment Langrohrkanone 15 F 58 Fleissiges Lieschen at Lampden, Germany.

    M65 Gun, Heavy, Motorized, 280mm “Atomic Annie” (See attached scan)
    - An illustration showing the one and only live firing of the M65 that took place on May 25, 1953 near Frenchman Flat at the Nevada Test Site as part of the Operation Upshot/Knothole trials.

    A double illustration showing the left side profiles of the two Soviet weapon systems listed below. (See attached scan)
    - The S-103 420mm recoilless rifle
    - The 406mm 2A3 Kondensator-2P Self-Propelled Gun

    Project Babylon System 350 L/150 Gun, Jabal Hamrayn, Iraq, 1990 (See attached scan)
    - An illustration showing a subscale 350mm version of the Project Babylon Gun emplaced on the side of a mountain in Jabal Hamrayn, Iraq that was built to demonstrate the basic concept of the weapon.

Please refer to the scan that I have provided so that you can judge the illustrations for yourself.

There is one informational chart included in this volume:
    Wilhelm Geschütz versus Paris.

    A detailed comparison list of the Wilhelm Geschütz guns in action against their intended target, Paris. The chart provides information on the various locations the Wilhelm Geschütz gun was located, the appropriate dates of actions, the number of rounds fired form each location, the number of rounds that impacted on Paris from the various locations and the percentage of rounds fired against rounds impacting the intended target, Paris, from each location.

There is 1 note included in this volume and it is:

- Author’s Note

The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown. The captions go into very specific detail as to weapons and their variations, dates, which side of the conflict they were used by and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by Steven J. Zaloga’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions I have seen that are very brief and lack detail.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the captions for yourself.

As with the other Osprey Publishing weapons series titles I was impressed with this volume. This is a very nice reference book that contains a well written text, close-up detailed subject specific photographs and illustrations and well detailed captions. It details various countries superguns from their development to deployment and use in various conflicts during two different centuries. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey Publishing titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.

Osprey Publishing also has Superguns 1854-1991 available as:

eBook (ePub)
eBook (PDF)

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.


UK £10.99 / US $18.00 / CAN $24.00
Highs: Well written text and captions. Subject specific photographs and illustrations.
Lows: Nothing to mention.
Verdict: Another excellent volume in Osprey Publishing’s New Vanguard series. Definitely beneficial to the military weaponry enthusiast.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 978-1-4728-2610-7
  PUBLISHED: Mar 02, 2019

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


Thank you for getting this posted Fred. I appreciate it. Randy
MAR 03, 2019 - 03:51 PM
I would really be interested in finding out more about the Paris gun.
MAR 04, 2019 - 11:06 AM

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