Townsend Whelen, Warren Page, Ned Roberts, Jack O’Connor, and Elmer Keith are just some of the old-time gun writers who without question guided not only consumers but the gun/hunting industry. It used to be you could not have a conversation across a gun shop counter without one of these guy’s names being mentioned. Sure, there are others, like Cooper, Jordan, Skelton, and one of my favorites, Gary Sitton. But those days are as gone as rotary telephones and glass pop bottles.
What happened? We evolved. We moved into an age where we no longer get five cents for a Pepsi bottle and we carry our computer’s in our pocket. Just look at what you’re reading. Chances are, you’re enjoying this newsletter on a device that’ll fit in your pocket. If that’s not enough proof, both of the videos contained in this newsletter were filmed—exclusively—on a bloody iPhone.
The written word is becoming a thing of the past. When I first got started in police work and began writing for gun magazines I was told, “If it’s not written down, it did not happen.” Today that phrase has evolved in to, if it’s not on video, it did not happen.
Firearm and even hunting trends can be directly linked to video inspiration, and it’s been going on a long time. Remember in 1990 when everyone began talking about the Glock? Yeah, well, credit its “porcelain” description in Die Hard 2. 19 years before that Clint Eastwood made the 44 Magnum a household word. Jerimiah Johnson made the Hawken rifle famous, and the Hunger Games unquestionably inspired a renewed interest in traditional archery.
The most popular current trend with regards to firearms and hunting is that of long-range shooting. We again have to give Clint Eastwood credit; his movie American Sniper not only began the infatuation with shooting at distance, it was directly responsible for the popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor. No, there was no Creedmoor in that movie, but shooters adopted it because it lets them comfortably be, sniper-like.
And then there’s the lever action. These rifles had become almost as extinct as great gun writers, at least until the 2017 movie Wind River depicted a Marlin 1895 outfitted with an intermediate eye relief scope on an XS Sights Lever Rail. That lever gun configuration has become one of the best-selling rifles in the last few years. You also have to recognize how cool Jeremy Renner’s character made predator hunting look.
The point of all this is to simply highlight that when it comes to hunting and shooting, what’s hot is no longer driven by print. Video drives the market. The Meat Eater series has inspired a new look at hunting, driven by food as opposed to antlers and horns. It did this with reality, by breaking out of the commercialized mold that has driven hunting shows for decades.
I’ve argued for years that the best way for hunting magazines to reach readers is through real life stories as opposed to straight up gun reviews. This was of course the inspiration for the Amazon Prime WILDCraft series I started. However, most publishers feel this will negatively impact their advertising dollars. But, as Hollywood has shown, hunters and shooters are primary influenced by guns being used in real-world settings, even if they are imaginary. This is of course the same reason those old-time great gun writers were so influential; they wrote about guns being used in the real world, not about testing them. The days of the great hunting and gun writers are gone. It will never come back. Video—video that emulates real life and not a commercial—is the future.