Thursday, March 11, 2004

A recent topic on a forum got me to thinking (always a dangerous thing). The following is a partial result.

30+ years ago there weren't many good gun magazines. As a kid I was happy to get anything to read. Often I didn't know about a magazine until I might run across it in a book store while traveling. Just wasn't the money available then as there is now to spend on this. You know this is true because of the huge number (compared to 1965) of such magazines available.

Unfortunately, that means that the best writing is now diluted. If they are lucky, a magazine editor will get a single good writer. A couple of magazines will manage to get two published in a single issue. I know there are several writers hanging out here now and then and I mean no disrespect (I've done some technical writing and know how it goes) but fellows, I've got very few favorite writers. It doesn't help that I've got 30+ years of experience and can sharpshoot the articles.

#1 are the old and now sadly departed writers: Elmer Keith, Charles Askins, Jack O'Connor, Francis Sell, Bill Jordan and Skeeter Skelton. Not quite departed, you can include Ken Waters in that list.

#2 and of the current crop is probably a tie between Ross Seyfried, John Taffin and Brian Pearce. I think Ross Seyfried's articles on the old guns and making them bark is one of the great joys of my life. Because of him, I keep my eyes open for my opportunity to own such guns and he writes well enough that I can actually get some vicarious pleasure from his experiments. I don't like every article Taffin and Pearce write but like them enough that I'll at least give it a look regardless of the subject. They are both capable of writing complete technical articles that are easy to follow and understand.

#3 might be Sam Fadala. His style is a little choppy but he writes about guns that interest me. He is also a bit of the rebel and will try things that others would not. You can also tell that he's done it and not read about it.

#4 is everybody else. Most write about things that seldom interest me. This doesn't mean that I have a personal grudge against any of them. They are trying to make a living doing something they have an interest in. How many here can say the same thing? There are quite a few writers who are simply grinding out articles. Craig Boddington, Phil Shoemaker, Mike Venturino, and John Barsness often write articles that interest me. I do understand what's said about an inability to properly frame a story in particular the articles mentioned. I read both of them and agree. They won't get clipped and saved.

Subject matter (i.e. editorial content) is another issue. That is a matter of who the magazine has as a target audience and who is editing. Editing also affects the articles. I've seen some perfectly good articles edited to an unrecognizable state by those who don't understand the subject. Good editors are as hard to find as good writers.

I take American Rifleman because I'm a member of the NRA). I subscribe to Rifle, Handloader , Successful Hunting (mostly for Ross's articles), Muzzleloader, Muzzleblasts (again, I'm a member of the NMLRA), Blackpowder Hunting (more Seyfried articles), Traditional Bowhunter, Primitive Archer and my wife subscribed me to Peterson's Hunting (no, I never express disappointment in a gift ;)). I sometimes buy other magazines (yeah, I get sucked in now and then) but lately it is the odd Shotgun News or Shooting Illustrated. This for specific reasons such as a particularly interesting article.

There are lots of other magazines out there. Most of us aren't aware of all of them. This is far better coverage than existed 35 years ago and probably a good thing. It is also more mainstream. A lot of the simplicity of the articles is directly related to all the new shooters coming into the sport and their need for info they understand and can use. Now having new shooters is a very GOOD thing indeed. If I have to look a bit harder for good magazine articles because of it, well I'll put up with that.

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