Gun Anatomy Poster 03

“Anatomy” of Guns: Body Parts of a Complicated Killer

Soldiers' rifles defined World War II, but you've never seen them like this. Photographer Nagao McCarthy shows them off—naked, dismantled (and beautiful)—in all their deadly glory

When I was 10 years old, I could name half the planes that were in flight in 1942. I could name nearly all the tanks and trucks, and even a few artillery pieces. Years later, at age 24, I had forgotten all this. I stood in a field on a farm in the middle of nowhere and held a gun for the first time. It was a weathered Soviet rifle, manufactured in 1942, and it was heavy. I couldn’t believe I was about to press this rusty, old thing against my shoulder, let alone pull the trigger. The sound was unlike anything I’d ever heard. The concussive blast shook every molecule of my body, and more importantly, changed my whole perspective.


Police approach artist Pyotr Pavlensky sitting on the pavestones of Red Square during a protest in front of the Kremlin wall in central Moscow, November 10, 2013. Pavlensky nailed himself to the pavestones by his genitals as part of an art performance in protest of what he sees as apathy in contemporary Russian society and the possibility such indifference can lead eventually to a police state. The performance coincided with the day when the Interior Ministry honoured its service members. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev (RUSSIA - Tags: SOCIETY CIVIL UNREST POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) 

Do you own a gun?

When we talk about the technology of World War II, we usually refer to planes, ships and tanks. But for many soldiers, the war was a long march with a single firearm, and when it came to rifles, each nation had decisions to make. Accuracy, reliability, weight and rate of fire were some of the crucial components that had to be balanced against a limited labor budget. In other words, the best had to be made with the least.

My Anatomy photo series, seen below, focuses on World War II and the eight major participating powers. It is meant to reveal the pins and screws of the rifles that went into sustaining that great struggle.

Nagao McCarthy

Check out more of Nagao's series 'Anatomy' and other projects at C&Rsenal.

Gun Anatomy British No4 Mk I Enfield
British Rifle, No. 4 Mk I "Lee-Enfield"


Gun Anatomy British Webley Mk IV
British Webley Revolver, Mk IV


Gun Anatomy US M1
U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1 "Garand"


Marriage Detective India Poster Images124652

Gun Anatomy German MP 40 SMG
German MP 40 SMG


Gun Anatomy Japanese Arisaka
Japanese 九九式短小銃 "Arisaka"


West Point Drugs 15246070

Gun Anatomy German Mauser C96
German Mauser C96 Pistol


Psycho Brains

Gun Anatomy US Thompson M1A1
U.S. Thompson M1A1 SMG


Gun Anatomy Russian Mosin
Russian Винтовка Образец 1891/30 "Mosin-Nagant"
Respond Now
  • The BAR on top is nice, however, missing is the M1911 .45acp. Why the Webley Revolver? The 1911 was carried by US officers for 80 years.

Activists of the Right Sector movement and their supporters gather outside the parliament building to demand the immediate resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov, in Kiev March 27, 2014. A prominent Ukrainian far-right activist, part of a hard-line nationalist movement that played a leading role in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich, was shot dead by police overnight, authorities said on March 25. The Interior Ministry said Oleksander Muzychko, also known as Sashko Bily, was killed by officers of the 'Sokol' special unit as he tried to escape from a cafe in the western Ukrainian region of Rivne. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3IWHV

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