Tales of the Gun (1998– )

TV Series  |  Documentary, Biography, History
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Historical profiles of various small arms.

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Title: Tales of the Gun (1998– )

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Historical profiles of various small arms.

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Release Date:

1998 (USA)  »

Box Office


$125,000 (estimated)

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User Reviews

Bigger and Better.
30 August 2014 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

The episode takes a historical approach, beginning with stone balls shot by the gun of a 15th-century, man-powered ship whose main armament was the ram. It ends with a retired captain of the US Navy, who once commanded a battleship, claiming that battleships are not obsolete, as everyone seems to think, but should be refurbished so that they can discharge their original duties. (I can't believe it either.) There are a couple of talking heads, none of them boring and all of them informative. We're taken on tours of Horatio Nelson's ship, Victory, now a museum, as well as the USS Texas and the USS North Carolina, moored at Wilmington, North Carolina. When I stepped into one of the crowded steel turrets of the main battery, I was immediately followed by a dozen Boy Scouts. It is no place for claustrophobics.

It covers several epic naval battles -- the Spanish Armada, Trafalgar, and the Monitor and the Merrimac -- with just the right amount of relevant detail, including a couple of quotes from witness's reports. The focus, of course, is not so much on the ships themselves but on the guns they carried. The ship I served on carried one five-inch thirty-eight gun. I knew that the "five inches" was the diameter of the bore, but it wasn't until years later that I found out the "thirty-eight" meant that the barrel was 38 times as long as the diameter of the bore.

The narration points out that handling explosives is a dangerous business, even during peacetime. It briefly mentions a 1989 accident, an explosion in one of the forward turrets in which more than forty sailors died. It wasn't the sort of thing you could hush up because it was all over the news. It was quickly blamed by the Naval authorities on one sailor who had a history of homosexuality. Finally the truth came out, much later. But social psychology experiments have established the fact that when people hear a lie, they believe it. When they're later debriefed and the lie refuted, after a time they will still remember only the lie.

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