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Arms and men

Wil Willis, a weapons expert, tells Aabhas Sharma about his TV show on the evolution of weapons

Aabhas Sharma  |  New Delhi 

For two decades now, has spent most of his time dealing with weapons. Be it submachine guns, rifles, artillery weapons or pistols, Willis is an expert on most kinds of weapons. As host of the show Triggers: Weapons That Changed The World on Discovery Science, Willis tests new weapons and looks at the evolution of war machinery. “In every episode, we talk about one particular weapon,” he says in a telephonic chat.

Every episode of the show tells the story of a weapon that has changed modern warfare. In the first episode aired on May 7, Willis talked about the which is still carried by servicemen. The weapon has seen multiple innovations and Willis compares the current M1911 with its predecessors. In another episode, Willis gets into the trenches with an arsenal of historic rifles to see how the lowly musket evolved into a weapon that changed the world. This includes the M1 Garand, which was invented in 1924 — by John C Garand, who worked at the Springfield Armory in the US — but came in use in 1936.

Every weapon has a fascinating story behind it and Willis knows most of them. After all, he was an instructor in the course on “Weapons, Tactics and Air Operations” at in Ohio. Willis claims that he’s always been interested in arms but the first time he picked up a weapon was at the age of seven. Thirty-six-year old Willis joined the US Army in 1993, serving in various capacities over the years. “Testing new weapons and learning about them is a great experience. I get to learn so much about these fascinating objects,” he says. The objective of the show, says Willis, is to make the audience aware of the history and technology of weapons used in modern warfare. For example, talking about the pistol, Willis recounts how a US Army corporal killed six charging soldiers with the pistol in World War I. The Colt is still a favourite with many soldiers.

Ask him about the deadliest weapon he has come across and Willis says there are many. The SMG Thomson, he says, is quite deadly and a game changer in the history of weapons, and the M777 Howitzer, which is one of the most potent artillery today. The AK-47 assault rifle has, perhaps, the highest body count of any firearm in history. The show reveals facts such as how the assault rifle played a key role in the US Army operation that killed Osama Bin Laden; all the commandos on the Six carried them.

Willis fires the weapons first before offering his analysis, but, thankfully, there have been no mishaps on the show. Willis, however, stresses on the importance of safety when using any kind of firearm.  

This isn’t Willis’s first time in front of the camera; he’s hosted a TV show in the past. He did have a bout of nerves but overall “it was a great learning experience” he says.

(The show airs on Discovery Science every Monday at 10:30 pm)

First Published: Sat, May 19 2012. 00:15 IST