New Book: “LEGO Heavy Weapons” by Jack Streat
The nice folks over at No Starch Press asked if I’d like a copy of this new LEGO book to review and talk a little about on the blog. Obviously I said yes. I wasn’t familiar with the book before it arrived, but after I thumbed through it and read the release notes accompanying from No Starch, two things immediately jumped out at me:
1) The book is incredible
2) The author, Jack Streat, is only 17
So, what exactly is LEGO Heavy Weapons?
Streat is an accomplished LEGO weapons builder. No, he is not a mold designer and builder that pops out the little plastic guns the pirate minifigures hold. He literally takes a metric crap-ton (note: measuring crap-tons in metric units makes them larger) of a plethora of different bricks and pieces and assembles them into 1:1 scale models of modern day weaponry. And they’re functional. No, you don’t need to worry about your child picking off squirrels in the backyard because they only fire LEGO bricks. So, maybe just stunning the squirrels a bit…
While this is Streat’s premiere book, his history in the LEGO weapons community goes back over four years. At the age of 13, he posted a build of his first gun to an online community board. It got a little attention, but enough to make him try harder. After that, he began pushing his design skills further. He began uploading instructional videos to YouTube on a regular basis showing his builds, and directions. The resulting years of trial and error have finally culminated in this book.
Streat writes the introduction to the book himself, letting readers into his world of LEGO armaments. He talks briefly about his methods for piecing together his models, including what bricks to use. Perhaps most interesting is his explanation of the LEGO CAD software he uses to virtually assemble the models before putting them together in reality. The software works like any CAD software, allowing users to choose from a variety of pieces in the LEGO menagerie and Tetris them into whatever design your heart desires. Most useful, however, is how to acquire the multitude of specialty and normal LEGO bricks needed for such an undertaking. There is a brief explanation of how to follow the directions in the book, and some of the terminology used. Overall, it’s as useful as the rest of the book so be sure not to skip it.
LEGO Heavy Weapons features instructions for building Streat’s 1:1 scale version of four of the most widely recognizable (and awesome) guns around:
- Desert Eagle .50
- Lee Enfield Carbine rifle
- SPAS 12 shotgun
Here are a few excerpted title pages:
As you can see, the guns are incredibly detailed, and truly show a resemblance to their real-life counterparts. As a person who holds and appreciation for weaponry in general, I’m impressed with the model’s realism. Not only does Streat show incredible ingenuity in the designing and building of these replicas, but it shows, once again, how simple toy bricks can be transformed into an amazing array of things.
LEGO Heavy Weapons has a lot of great things going for it. Even being the LEGO fan I am, I often find that I abhor their assembly direction booklets. The colors are never quite a match (especially for grays, and darker colors), and a lot of times you can miss small pieces that were added in a step because there is not always something to tell you Hey! Make sure you add this piece! See! This little tiny one right here around the back you can barely see because of this angle! LEGO Heavy Weapons succeeds where LEGO fails in this aspect because of how each step is shaded to reflect new pieces against those assemble in previous steps. And since the majority of the bricks are grey or black anyway no color is actually needed in the instructions. See some excerpts from build pages below:
Finally, and perhaps most useful, before you even begin Streat has included a “Bill of Materials” (BOM). LEGO builders will find it looks remarkably similar to the listing found at the front of ever directions booklet. Not only will this be helpful is setting everything out before you begin, but it also will let you know which pieces you need to go hunting around for to buy or dig out of your giant bucket of miscellaneous pieces.
The last thing worth mentioning is at the beginning of the “chapter” for each individual gun, Streat gives you a bit of history on two fronts: the history of the gun in real-life, and the history of the iterations of his builds. During the later, Streat goes through detailed diagrams and descriptions on how the functioning mechanisms within the guns work. I admire and love this inclusion.
While this is not the kind of book that will appeal to every LEGO lover out there, those in this particular niche will find this book providing hours upon hours of [useful] entertainment. The directions are straight to follow, and easy to manage. I commend young Mr. Streat on his ingenuity and dedication in building such incredible replicas. I’ll leave you with a video advertisement for the book from Streat’s YouTube channel that shows all four models in action. Watch it. Buy it. Build it. Stun some squirrels.