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