I've recently received a review copy of one of the newest AFOL-driven books, BrickGun, by Jeff Boen, published by No Starch Press. While this is off-topic for my blogs, I'm going to post this review across most of my blogs (except SciBricks and GodBricks), because I want to support AFOL authors and also encourage publishing houses to produce more books for and about the community. You can learn more about Jeff Boen, see additional models that did not find their way into the book, and even purchase kits to build these guns on his site, BrickGun. Also, if you are interested in purchasing this book, right now No Starch has a 40% discount if you buy through their site.
First up, a bit of a disclaimer and then a defense. I understand that a lot of people do not like the idea of a book celebrating full scale models of realistic weapons. When Huw reviewed this book on Brickset a week and a half ago (yes, I'm slow), a lot of the feedback was very negative on even the idea of this book, and some criticized Huw for reviewing it at all. Some people pointed out that playing with full scale LEGO guns can get you in a lot of trouble. Of course, so can playing with fig-scale guns. As I said, though, I do understand the concern. I previously reviewed No Starch's LEGO Heavy Weapons book, and it was right in the aftermath of the horrible school shooting in Newton Connecticut, and I was torn about the idea. On the flip side, I think a lot of the hue and cry is hypocritical. There are a huge number of militaristic MOCs out there, and we don't see similar comments on the latest tank or fighter plane. When the custom dealers such as BrickArms or BrickForge come out with a new realistic weapon, people run out to order them for their next WWII diorama. Even official sets come with some sort of weapon as often as not. My own theme of choice is castle, and my figs are usually carrying some sort of sword or battle axe. I'm under no illusion that these were for peaceful purposes. Like it or not, weapons are a big part of our LEGO play.
Anyway, on to the book itself. It is pretty much a set of full instructions to build five guns. Four are replicas of pistols and are life-size. They have moving features like triggers that can be pulled, and one has a magazine that can be inserted. The MAC 11 subcompact machine pistol is 'working', in that it fires rubber bands. At least to my untrained eye, the models themselves look very authentic. The instructions are detailed and in color. One critique is that since these are built almost all out of black, it might have been nice in the instructions to print the previous layer in a faded color, so that the new bricks being added would stand out. I have not built any of these, but reading through the instructions it seems that any reasonably experienced builder would be able to follow along with no problems.
There are a few pages of text at the start of the book, but IMO these could have largely been left off. Aside from a few building tips, most of this text is autobiographical and IMO a little self indulgent (basically saying how he built the MOCs and describing all of the great response he received). Perhaps the book would have been improved by a little bit of history of the weapons depicted in LEGO form, as seen in the LEGO Heavy Weapons book. That suggests a bit of side-by-side comparison of BrickGun (BG) with the LEGO Heavy Weapons (LHW) book. I haven't built the models from either, so I can't really compare them, but based on the pictures I like the look of the BG models better. The BG models seem to be based more on basic bricks, plates and slopes, while the LHW ones seem to use more Technic elements, though both books use both types of pieces. BG has color pictures on glossy paper, vs the black and white LHW. Color doesn't seem necessary, since the models are mostly black, but it does make the book seem a little nicer. BG is about a third shorter (222 pages vs 354 for LHW). This seems odd since BG has 5 models vs 4 for LHW. Flipping through the instructions it seems the LHW models have more fiddly bits, which probably explains the greater number of pages. The LHW models are supposed to launch bricks, while one of the BG models fires rubber bands. Oh, that reminds me of what I found quite funny. On the last page of BG, you're told to not fire rubber bands at people. Were the publishers never kids? That's pretty much the point of a rubber band gun - from the simplest rubber band looped over the end of a ruler up to these highly detailed LEGO versions.
As I've said, No Starch has previously published the LEGO Heavy Weapons book, and they also have Badass LEGO Guns and some guns in the Forbidden LEGO book.
One complaint is that these, especially the BrickGun and LEGO Heavy Weapons, seem to be a little repetitive. At least they seem so to me as a non-gun-guy. One humble suggestion is that if No Starch does another of these books, they may want to go back and do historical guns. Imagine a book that had a LEGO musket, pirate-era pistol, a six-shooter from the old west, etc. A very cursory look on Flickr finds, for instance, this WWI era revolver by Cole Edmonson. Going further back into history, there are lots of people who have made full-scale LEGO swords, shields, and other medieval weapons. Or, they could go the other direction, and do futuristic weapons. There are a lot of builders who have made 1:1 scale models of different weapons from the Star Wars universe, such as Captaininfinity's Han Solo blaster. I would imagine that a book of these would tap into both those builders interested in full scale models of weapons, and also the vast Star Wars fanbase. Alternatively I've seen full scale LEGO versions of Star Trek weapons or other sci-fi accessories. One last direction, Ken Robichard has done a series of full scale Avengers accessories, and there are others who have done 1:1 models of different comic book items. Of course, all of these last ideas would necessarily run into licensing issues.
Anyway, in summary, this is a pretty niche market, but fits that market well. I can understand why some people would not want to build life-size LEGO guns, but if you do, this book (and the other No Starch offering) is perfect for you. The book is well made and a good addition to your LEGO library. I hope they continue to make AFOL-driven books like this, perhaps focused on different subject matter as well.