Gun Magazines You'd Read


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Confederate
January 25, 2012, 08:01 PM
I've always been a critic of gun magazines in general. I'd like to ask you what you like and dislike about them and what you would do to improve them and make them something you'd read.

Here are some points of my own.


This month's issue always looks like last month's issue. It's not that the guns are the same, but it's that the types of guns are the same.
Gun reviews are heavily, almost shamefully, influenced by gun manufacturers. There are no serious criticisms of any advertised gun. How many times have you read that a gun is inaccurate, unreliable, or that the actions are terrible?
Articles are only about guns that are in production. But what about second-hand guns? Would you like to read a gun magazine with an article about original Colt 1911s, Colt Gold Cup, S&W 66 or Ruger Security-Six?
Gun writers write dry, dry, dry. The gun can be photographed in color and stretched across two pages. Yet the writer will describe it in painstaking detail! Gone are the days where writers spin yarns like Bill Jordan (http://www.darkcanyon.net/BillJordan_TopGun.htm) and Skeeter Skelton.
No consistent methods are used to discern accuracy. Some writers shoot off hand at 25 yards, some shoot at other distances, while still others use a Ransom Rest. (I'd be for the latter.) They also use different brands of ammo, making it impossible to gauge a gun's accuracy across the board.
Most magazines need better photos, and not necessarily in color. Black & white photos often show more detail and are more interesting than color photos.


Many articles are written in template style (and being a writer, myself, I can spot template writing a mile off). Gone are personal stories and asides. It's just fill in the blanks.

These are just some of the things I can think of, and it's one reason I keep stacks of old magazines downstairs and spend a good amount of time reading them. I wouldn't go so far as to tell magazines not to use any advertising--that's too extreme and it jacks up the price. I've also noticed that many computer magazines will publish a large ad by a computer manufacturer and then proceed to trash it in print. If they can do it, why can't gun magazines?

For those poor unfortunate souls out there who are too young to remember Skeeter Skelton, check out this website (http://www.darkcanyon.net/skeeter_skelton.htm). This is how articles used to be written. One article by Skelton on the .357 magnum starts out:

YOU CAN MAKE remarks about the ancestry of my dog. Have your doubts about the gas mileage toted up by my family sedan. Spread the story, if you wish, that my backyard barbecues could be best digested by a brood of Arkansas razorbacks. But if you cast aspersions on my .357 Magnum sixgun, get somebody to hold your coat. We'll continue the discussion in the alley. For the rest of the article, check it out (http://www.darkcanyon.net/MyFriend_The357.htm).

That's great writing because it makes you want to read on. I just don't see that in today's gun articles, alas!

What would make YOU subscribe to a gun magazine? And if you already do, what would you like to see?


http://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh198/jriler/RugerSingle-Six_17a.jpg

http://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh198/jriler/AAAGunMag_2.jpg

What's wrong with B&W? This was a low-budget magazine first
published in the 1980s. It attempted to tell it like it is and rejected
all advertising. The price was a bit high, but it was entertaining
despite terrible grammar and numerous typos! I still like reading
them to this day.

.

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rcmodel
January 25, 2012, 08:10 PM
I'd read anything they ever published, if there were still more then just a very few gun writers still alive that knew what they were even talking about.

But there isn't.

Right now, I buy every issue of Handloader & Rifle.
I get the American Rifleman every month from the NRA.

I pick up Man at Arms & Shotgun News occasionally to keep abreast of current collector & mil-sup stuff..

But that's about it.

I started going through old issues of Guns & Ammo last week on the way to recycling.
Boy! You could see the decline in quality content every time somebody like Nonte, Milek, Keith, Skelton, Cooper, Jordan, Spaulding, etc. died.

I see no one on the current horizan to replace any of them either, with the exception of Brian Pierce.
I always kinda liked Jim Wilson too, but he must have ruffled somebodys feathers cause you don't see much from him anymore..

rc

Peter M. Eick
January 25, 2012, 08:10 PM
Frankly, as a reloader mostly, I buy Reloader and Rifle.

With that said, the thing I hate the most is folks that put in those personal stories, the "me and joe went hunting" type stories that totally drag away from the technical nature of the copy.

To me, the items you seem to lament, like the yarns are the part of current gun writing a find that I find most irritating.

Why can't folks write like say Ken Waters and tell us exactly which power worked which way and how it worked with different bullets. Why can't they talk about the details of the loads and not go into stories how the bullet worked. Focus on teaching me something I did not know and not telling a story I really did not want to pay for.

Why can't writers focus on facts and details and skip all of the fluff that in my opinion adds little to the piece?

This is why I only buy a few magazines. Too much fluff and other stuff that detracts from the primary goal (to me) of the magazine. Transfer information and educate me. If I wanted fiction, there is tons of it available.

So, looking over your comments and mine, I see we are diametrically opposed in most cases. Such is life and why probably neither one of us will ever be happy with magazines. They can never please both of us at once.

22-rimfire
January 25, 2012, 08:39 PM
I read American Hunter, (wish I got American Rifleman too), Shooting Times, and sometimes Guns if there is an article that I think might be interesting. I also get Field & Stream, and I'm considering responding to a low price subscription offers for Guns, and Guns & Ammo. I subscribe to other magazines as well. I have more than I can usually get to in a month along with recreational book reading, and reading publications for business.

These magazines could be improved by having more writers, more about collector guns, more about shooting rimfires, honest product reviews, and more Me & Joe stories.

Bobson
January 25, 2012, 08:43 PM
American Hunter (NRA pub) and American Cop are pretty much the only magazines I read currently. TBH, I would read any gun magazine (I have no problem skipping over bad articles) - but I don't want to pay for them. Field and Stream would be number three on my list, as I subscribed a number of years ago, and really enjoyed it.

Seven High
January 25, 2012, 08:54 PM
I've read most of the magazines that Phil Engledrum used to publish. I really liked Pistolero. I would buy them again if they were published. Very amusing and informational.

rcmodel
January 25, 2012, 08:58 PM
Hmmmm! Phil Engeldrum.

http://www.atomiclabrat.com/Handgun%20Tests%20Magazine.htm

http://www.thegunzone.com/people/engeldrum.html

rc

Dr Dave
January 25, 2012, 09:25 PM
I love Gun Tests. All they do is review firearms, there are no cool Skeeter Skelton type articles, but they never accept any advertising and always buy the guns at retail from the store.

They fail LOTS of guns, and lots get a C grade and some get an A or a Best Buy. Not having any ads in the magazine is great. You can check them out at their website here: http://www.gun-tests.com/

Note the magazine is a proper paper one, but if you're a subscriber, you can also read the magazine online. $24 for 12 issues and 5 buying guides. You know which room they'll end up in :)

Confederate
January 25, 2012, 09:37 PM
I loved the "Me And Joe" stories! And I recall one of Skelton's stories about running down south of the border to get good deals on guns. He found one he'd been looking for for ages, and it was in beautiful condition. It was a .44 Russian Model P Colt with 5-inch barrel, and the finish was impeccable...til he turned it over. "Deep, rude scratches, looking like they had been made with a horseshoe nail, sprawled across the entire length of the right side of the frame, proudly emblazoning the owner’s name, 'FRANCISCO BUSTAMONTE.'" Skelton chronicled the event in a story titled, Bustimonte, I Hate You! (http://www.shootingtimes.com/2011/01/03/handgun_reviews_st_bustamontehate_200903/) And I've never forgotten it.

How can you not like that??

Anyway, I loved those stories. I don't feel that these magazines should only be technical in nature. How boring! Still, to each his own.

.

Strykervet
January 25, 2012, 09:53 PM
Net killed the mag for me. No wonder there are no writers --save the manufacturer's lines. Hence, no reason to bother with them. I can get better REAL reviews on here just by asking. I like the old mags too, but then again I grew up in the '80's and '90's when magazines were more popular. I get the NRA rag and thumb through it but that is about all.

I'm a geek for technical manuals though. I want more indepth information than a magazine can provide. What we NEED is a peer reviewed arms journal. Are there any? Besides Jane's?

Having a father that designed guidance systems for ICBM's, Jane's was a common rag around. Nothing like comparisons between ICBM's, '80's arms bazaars, and the latest ground warfare gear in review.

Confederate
January 25, 2012, 09:55 PM
I love Gun Tests. All they do is review firearms, there are no cool Skeeter Skelton type articles, but they never accept any advertising and always buy the guns at retail from the store. They fail LOTS of guns, and lots get a C grade and some get an A or a Best Buy. Not having any ads in the magazine is great.
Gun Tests is very good, but I wish they would take advertising. It doesn't have to be gun ads, but could be knife ads, tool ads, motor oil ads, whatever...anything to get the cost down. If it goes completely digital, fine, but print is expensive as are photos.

It's interesting to hear the different views though. It seems we all are looking for things that are a little different.

When I'm looking at handgun tests, I want a uniform methodology to be used. People have different shooting capabilities and that's why I'm a big fan of the Ransom Rest. The same ammo should be used and I like the idea of guns off the shelf being used. When I worked for the NRA years ago I remember that one rifle blew up during the tests. Not one word appeared in the American Rifleman. A call was made, the gun returned and a new one shipped in before the old one was half way back to the factory. A friend of mine at Beretta told me that, "If you think we'd ship a gun off for testing without us thoroughly checking it over first, you're crazy." So no, Virginia, the gun you get at the store isn't the same that writers get. It's what you could call "sanitized."

.

DPris
January 25, 2012, 10:09 PM
Dave,
Gun Tests does not obtain EVERY gun they use from retail sources, and their reasons for flunking a particular gun are often idiotic.

I subscribed twice years ago & finally gave up on 'em.
Their results & conclusions weren't matching what I was seeing, and I often disagreed with their evaluation criteria.

Confed,
Over the years I've gotten enough junkers as writers' samples to allow me to also disagree with your statement. There may be one or two companies that hand pick, but it's not a universal practice.
Speaking of Beretta, I got a writers' sample Uberti Trapdoor to work with a while back (under Beretta ownership), it shot about four inches sideways at 100 yards, as I recall.

I've returned guns & cancelled articles several times over the years because they were not worth writing up.

Denis

Jim K
January 25, 2012, 10:13 PM
Pet peeves: Mistakes. The Luger is a blowback pistol. The M1 "Grand" rifle got its users killed when the clip pinged. The Ruger SBH is so strong it can't be blown up with any load. The K.98k was in 7mm Mauser. The Pedersen device converted the Springfield rifle to a sub-machinegun. The U.S. adopted the M1898 Mauser and used it in World War I so we had to pay the Germans. The M1903 Springfield was a direct copy of the Model 1898 Mauser, so we had to pay the Germans. The Winchester Model 70 was a direct copy of the Mauser and the parts are the same. Etc.

The endless praise: The xxxxx (latest plastic gun) is perfection and the best yet. The yyyyy (latest cartridge) is perfection and the best yet.

And then the same old same old. 9mm vs .45 ACP! Is .25 ACP enough gun? What rifle for deer? My elephant hunt with a .25 ACP.

It might not be template writing, but it sure is close.

Jim

wlewisiii
January 25, 2012, 10:15 PM
I subscribe to Double Gun Journal. I buy Gray's Sporting Journal, Handloader and Rifle.

I occasionally buy one of the rags Massad Ayoob writes for and SGN when there is a good gunsmithing article.

I refuse to buy Guns and Ammo or any of the other mass market wastes of paper

Winchester101
January 25, 2012, 10:22 PM
Rifle and Handloader are the only 2 I read anymore. I don't like some of their writers, but most of them are ok, especially big Mike Venturino. I used to enjoy articles by Ross Seyfried, but he has long since quit writing for either mag. Years ago my favorite writers were Finn Aggard and Bob Milek, but they're both shooting on another range now. The current crop of writers just don't seem to have the personality of the old hands I read as a kid.

W101

Dr Dave
January 25, 2012, 11:03 PM
DPris, you're right, Gun Tests does not buy EVERY gun retail; my bad. The reason I like them is because they know so much more than me, I don't know when their conclusions of why a particular gun are idiotic :)

DPris
January 26, 2012, 12:31 AM
:)
Denis

mgmorden
January 26, 2012, 12:42 PM
Magazines to me are a dead format. Heck even if you disregard the paper aspect and gave me a PDF digital copy - the paginated columned article format where a writer is droning on and on just isn't how I consume information. These days I can't see myself reading any of them.

My only use of printed gun media these days is reloading data - and I'd be happy to go digital on that (I do use digital info from manufacturer's websites, but I like the broader amount of data a full manual provides).

Confederate
January 26, 2012, 01:00 PM
There may be one or two companies that hand pick, but it's not a universal practice. Speaking of Beretta, I got a writers' sample Uberti Trapdoor to work with a while back (under Beretta ownership), it shot about four inches sideways at 100 yards, as I recall.
Did you report that in your review? And was that gun an exception? My friend at Beretta said they didn't shoot the guns, merely that they checked the guns over making sure they functioned well and that the firing pins and hammers didn't break. I know that this doesn't completely insure that these parts wouldn't fail, but it wasn't like it was off the shelf. As I said above, one gun sent for testing at the NRA literally exploded.

I've returned guns & cancelled articles several times over the years because they were not worth writing up.

Why would you cancel articles over the years, or return guns before they had been adequately tested? I recall buying an Interarms Virginia Dragoon (stainless) years ago. I dry fired it a few times, then took it out for shooting. Before loading it, I sighted it downrange just to see if I'd need to blacken the bright stainless sights. I cocked it and squeezed off on the trigger only to have the hammer shatter like glass! I determined this was most likely the result of poor heat treat on an investment cast piece. I lived near Interarms at the time and drove it down. While I looked around at a nearby gun store, they fitted a new hammer to the gun. I tried it a few times, thanked the guy and promptly sold the gun. After all, I just didn't trust a high pressure firearm to a company that wasn't watching their heat treat processes.

I'd also had problems with an Interarms Astra .44 mag. When I had spec'd out the gun, I found that the headspace was excessive and the cylinder slop also was excessive. I took it to the same guy, knowing this time that it would take longer to fix. To my amazement, though, instead in taking the gun and sending me home, he went to a closet in his office and pulled out several Astra .44s and showed me how they, too, had the same amount of slop. He also offered to test fire my gun, which was new. I didn't care whether the gun fired or not, I knew the specs were off! He finally took the gun and said he'd see what he could do.

Several weeks later, I picked up the gun. It was in a box and sealed, so I took it home, hoping my problems would be resolved. To my utter amazement, one of Interarms' smiths had backed the cylinder out to fix the headspace problem. While that fixed the problem, my cylinder gap had grown to about .014. As for the slop, it was still there.

Now if I were reviewing these pistols, I would have been delighted! I would have written up my tests and published them in a heartbeat. So when you say, "I've returned guns & cancelled articles several times over the years because they were not worth writing up," I'm getting the uneasy feeling that they became not worth writing up because the guns were so bad you, for one reason or the other, weren't able to write an honest review. Just because guns malfunctioned, blew up, parts disintegrated, etc., shouldn't make it not worth writing up. On the contrary, they should be highly worthwhile. I'd go so far as to say that people would enjoy reading those reviews more than the reviews where the test guns were perfect.

.

Nushif
January 26, 2012, 01:52 PM
Literature! I know something about that! And yes, Magazines are literature in the modern sense. Interesting list, let's go through it.

"This month's issue always looks like last month's issue. It's not that the guns are the same, but it's that the types of guns are the same."
On this one I will agree and disagree! This year it seems every magazine I see is crammed with 1911s. Last year, I saw more of a mixture in guns, but this year I can heartily agree, that I am just about done reading about the 1911 in a magazine. Not to mention niches. The "Concealed Carry Rag Daily" doesn't cover battle rifles for good reason.

"Gun reviews are heavily, almost shamefully, influenced by gun manufacturers. There are no serious criticisms of any advertised gun. How many times have you read that a gun is inaccurate, unreliable, or that the actions are terrible?"
Interesting you should point that out, whether this is writers liking to be paid for their writing or not I can't tell, but let me introduce another idea to you:
Maybe the examples they get really do shoot well, have great actions, etc.
Let's face it, a company is a fairly sociopathic entity, it cares not about the wellbeing of people, and has no real law binding it to honesty, especially in marketing! I would not be half surprised if the examples gunwriters get are highly tuned on the inside, polished up and made to work great before being shipped out. I highly doubt they get the random sample from the manufacturing line. Believe me I got fired from marketing for being vocal about unethical marketing.

"Articles are only about guns that are in production. But what about second-hand guns? Would you like to read a gun magazine with an article about original Colt 1911s, Colt Gold Cup, S&W 66 or Ruger Security-Six?"
Good question, and anything I can say about this is a pure conjecture. But let's assume such a magazine existed, and they bought a used Security Six, didn't know that the previous owner abused it, it locked up, it didn't shoot to POA .... bad gun. But a review, or a write-up about pistol performance on a second hand gun can only tell you anything about that particular gun. Because the next example someone might pick up had maybe three rounds through it and is basically new. The problem here comes in with factuality and well, verifiability. They can't talk about "the security Six" by nature of second hand guns .... you can only ever talk about "this Security Six."

"Gun writers write dry, dry, dry. The gun can be photographed in color and stretched across two pages. Yet the writer will describe it in painstaking detail! Gone are the days where writers spin yarns like Bill Jordan and Skeeter Skelton."
Agreed 100% Although what bugs me most is not the description but the fact that it reads like some sort of scientific article as done by layman scientist.
"The author shot <yaddayadda>" and phrases like that baffle me every time. There is no shame in using the correct form of address for oneself. Me or I. Not "The Author." I believe, again with only my own notion to back this up this came from the police writers.
You have people who have made quite the splash in the firearms industry raised on government report writing, if you will. And government report writing is bad, bad, bad writing. Why? Because by its very nature it needs to cater to someone who can barely read, in case they have to. Writing an Army, Police or whatever report is written in a way to confer a series of events in the most simple and observably manner. Not to sound engaging or paint a particularly lively picture. So you have some very influential writers, of which I can sadly name only one, but he is huge, who write like this and well ... people emulate him. I love some of your stuff, Mas ... but man, I wouldn't buy one of your novels. >.O
Not to mention that a lot of people seem to think shooting is more a science than an art, where I hold the belief (who says I don't have faith?) that it's about equal in parts. And we all know you can't spin a yarn in science and be taken seriously. Not to mention with the common acceptance of guns these days, a lot of a yarn is offputting. Good yarn tellers will cater their yarn to an audience, but that's hard to do in a magazine anyone might buy. Don't talk to me, for instance about the "greatest generation" ... it's a great yarn, but I don't like reading self aggrandizing stories from people claiming to tell "da troof" to us who came after. So a yarn may backfire, depending on who reads it.

"No consistent methods are used to discern accuracy. Some writers shoot off hand at 25 yards, some shoot at other distances, while still others use a Ransom Rest. (I'd be for the latter.) They also use different brands of ammo, making it impossible to gauge a gun's accuracy across the board."
I'd lean towards that, myself. But remember, not every gun writer has a chrono, ransom rest etc ... some pretty influential figures in my shooting "career" actually only have a videocamera (also literature!) and a channel on youtube. And I'm not talking about nutnfancy. So I'd say what we have here is some people just don't you know ... have the resources for that kind of testing. Though they should indicate that, tbh.

"Most magazines need better photos, and not necessarily in color. Black & white photos often show more detail and are more interesting than color photos."
Eh, I'm kinda ambivalent on this one. I do think some more photos of the internals would be nice, and definitely like a good B&W spread, but eh ... I haven't been particularly swayed either way by photos. Maybe that's why I do modern literacy, instead of photography and film, right?

Very nice points you have there. On a sidenote, I do like Handloader. Good info on a specific topic, with enough fluff to keep me reading.

Sheepdog1968
January 26, 2012, 02:18 PM
I once talked to a gun magazine writer. He didn't have anything nice to say about it at all. How many bad reviews to you see? As for me, I've ready many different ones over the years. The two that I get now are SWAT and American Rifleman. There is a third one that I subscribe to from time to time and that is Gun Tests (they try to be like a consumer reports on gun testing). If I must read, I'd rather read a book about guns or hunting. I usually find that more enjoyable.

DPris
January 26, 2012, 03:54 PM
Con,
This bash-the-gunmags topic comes up regularly at least three times a year. :)

I'm not going to explain or defend every aspect of the gunmag biz.
I will say two things as general statements: First, don't buy the things if you don't like 'em & feel you can get reliable in-depth coverage on the Internet, and Second, unless you're involved in the biz, you have no idea what goes on or how it operates & therefor repeating the same old tired untrue & inaccurate statements about it don't do anybody any good.

From there-
Yes, I reported that in the review.

No idea if it was an exception. As with anything else statistically, a sample of one is a sample of one. It provides info on that sample only.
If I get a gun in that's too badly done to cover, it's cancelled & I move on to the next. I'm perpetually juggling at least five articles at any given moment & I rarely have the time to ask for another sample or re-schedule one. There are occasional exceptions, but they're rare.

One such was a new revolver model that interested me personally & was generating a lot of gun forum buzz. First sample had multiple issues, but the consumer interest in it was high & I requested a second sample. Which was every bit as bad as the first. Game over. Guns returned unfired, article cancelled.

Another was a high-end 1911 .45 ACP that was so badly built that my gunsmith/dealer & I were both appalled at the level of professional ignorance shown by the maker when we were checking it out thoroughly while I was there to pick it up.

A mistake in a certain hole location in the frame was one major issue. Rather than junking a bad frame, whoever'd built the gun then had to do some obvious "catchup" in the way parts dependent on that hole were mated, and there were other problems that rendered the pistol un-coverable.

The gunsmith was curious to see if it'd function & wanted me to try it out at the range, but quality was so poor & I knew I couldn't do anything with it even if it did function, so I saw no point in wasting time & ammo on it. Gun returned. Since that one had gone out the door so poorly done, I had no reason to believe a second sample would be any better.

And, this involved a company that many have had good experiences with. If I'd gone ahead & done the T&E, written it up as found with all faults & flaws, it would have generated a flood of "You obviously don't know what you're talking about, MY Brand X pistol is FINE!" responses. Many, many more of those than any "Gee, thanks for telling me what NOT to buy" responses. :)


Many companies will do a quick hammer-trigger-cycle & visual check to see if it functions dry & seems to have the required parts present before shipping out, that's far from "cherry-picking" as the myth commonly holds.
And, I've gotten guns with quite obvious flaws that would have been clearly visible if anybody at the factory had laid an eyeball on them before shipping.

Why cancel articles before full testing?
Because you have no idea how valuable printed space is, or how many other articles on good quality functional products are waiting in the wings to make the page.
A junker simply isn't worth taking space to cover.

My own time is also valuable. If I determine that I can't honestly look a reader in the eye & say "It worked for me, you'll probably be good if you want to bet your life on it or lay your money down", I won't waste that time, risk your life, or bet your money on coverage.
I've cancelled guns halfway through testing, I've cancelled guns before starting testing.
It's just the way the system operates. The editor doesn't have room to cover a clunker, I don't have the time to waste on it knowing it won't run on paper or I can't in good conscience indicate the product's buyable.

If there are a couple glitches, those are included, if the gun overall has too many problems, it's just a no-go.

You may not like it, but that's the way the biz operates.
One editor mentioned a while back in response to the issue of not running an in-depth piece on a total POS that he'd actually put one in print some time before & got so much more negative feedback on it from readers that it merely confirmed you guys AT LARGE really don't like such coverage as much as you may think people would.
Something else to keep in mind there is that we are not here to make your choices for you, we're not Consumer Digest, and you still need to do your own research before buying.

Again, it's space, time & money. With so many good products waiting in line, just not feasible to waste those on the bad.
Denis

DPris
January 26, 2012, 04:01 PM
Nush,
Part of your complaints are the result of changing times.

Many of the adventures Jordan & Skelton wrote about simply can't happen today.
One other name from that era would be doing serious jail time today.
Editors also, by & large, do NOT want those types of stories.

The gunmags today are more product driven than reader driven.
"NEW!" is what sells, for the most part.

An occasional retro piece can & does run, but NEW is what's in & what editors primarily want.
I've mentioned before that when I started writing professionally in the early '90s, the Guns & Ammo Writers' Guide specifically said- "We don't want Me & Joe stories".

I miss those writers as much as you do, but those times are long gone.
Denis

Damon555
January 26, 2012, 06:00 PM
The only gun magazine I get right now is Handloader. Obviously it caters to the handloading crowd but the articles are in depth and well written in my opinion. There is plenty of good reading about older, out of production guns.....that's really not my thing but I enjoy reading about them none the less. I will probably continue getting this publication for some time.

I got sick of reading gun rags that touted $5000 guns and going on safaris that I could never dream of affording. The same old worn out stories from the same old worn out writers. It was fine at first but grew old over time. The NRA mags are getting really bad about this.....I don't care to read about the politics either. At least they carry the "armed citizen" section, other than a cursory glace at that section the NRA rag finds the garbage can in short order.

Edit: I just noticed that many others spoke of Handloader....maybe that is a good example of the type of context that we care to see...I might have to look into their other publications as well. If they are like Handloader I'll be happy to send them a few bucks for some good reading while things are slow at work.

DPris
January 26, 2012, 06:40 PM
See?
Right here in this thread there are those who want stories, those who want hard data without story "fluff", those who want old, those who want new, and them what wants less of the expensive gun coverage. :)

There's no way one mag or one editor can please everybody, but they try to do a mix of what they feel the best trends are.

The last time I wrote for G&A in '07, the editorial policy had switched to avoiding the high-dollar guns in favor of the more "affordable" products, totally as a response to similar reader feedback to what Damon mentions.
Denis

The Lone Haranguer
January 26, 2012, 07:20 PM
I read them for occasional entertainment (usually at the rack in the store), but don't take their reviews seriously. No magazine ever tests a faulty gun.

Damon555
January 26, 2012, 08:07 PM
See?
Right here in this thread there are those who want stories, those who want hard data without story "fluff", those who want old, those who want new, and them what wants less of the expensive gun coverage. :)

There's no way one mag or one editor can please everybody, but they try to do a mix of what they feel the best trends are.

The last time I wrote for G&A in '07, the editorial policy had switched to avoiding the high-dollar guns in favor of the more "affordable" products, totally as a response to similar reader feedback to what Damon mentions.
Denis
First off let me say this....I think it's great that we actually get an insiders view on how the business of writing for a gun magazine works. In just a few paragraphs I have been greatly enlightened.

I do wonder though....From my point of view a bad review is a lot more informative than one that extolls every virtue of a particular product....In fact when I'm looking at purchasing any product I will seek out reviews to get an idea of how others view that item. I almost always skip the good reviews and read the bad ones first. If there are 1000 good reviews and 2 or 3 bad ones I pretty much always err on the side of the good ones. That strategy has served me very well over the years.

Maybe I'm just different but why not do the bad reviews? Specific examples of problems that one might encounter could really help someone know what to look for if they are considering that product. Not that it would stop them from buying it but it would just give a good starting point.

I really don't care if someone bashes a product that I own. I don't take it personally. If it works for me then their words are a moot point.

And let me finish with this....I am by no means a well educated man but it's refreshing to read well written posts that actually make sense! Thank you!

Confederate
January 26, 2012, 09:46 PM
See? Right here in this thread there are those who want stories, those who want hard data without story "fluff", those who want old, those who want new, and them what wants less of the expensive gun coverage. There's no way one mag or one editor can please everybody, but they try to do a mix of what they feel the best trends are.
Yes, but the magazine editors all choose the same criteria and none of them are respected or even very much liked.

If people don't like high priced guns, what's wrong with doing a review of a number of guns...say, 9mm. Sort of a grab bag. I recall an AMERICAN RIFLEMAN article on .357s. C.E. Harris wrote an outstanding article without describing what one of the guns looked like! The guns spanned the gamut from the Colt Python to the S&W 19 to the Ruger Security-Six to a Taurus. Ed didn't mince words in saying that his personal preference was the Security-Six, which was a good choice for a technical person (or anyone else); but people have different needs. I'd love to have a Python and I think the S&W 66 is a wonderful gun. But if you want to have a gun that will go through 30,000 hot magnum rounds, the Security-Six (at the time) was the way to go.

The only problem with the article was that one page was a color photo of all the guns on a cardboard backing...not fancy by any means...and the other was his write up. Regardless of how much money you had for investing in a .357, there was a gun he covered that was for you.

If I were starting a magazine, I'd sure try to find out what you, the shooter wanted, and I'd start out by assuming honesty would be one of them. Again, you don't have to do without advertising. You can advertise scopes, ammunition, knives, mags, third-party sights, grips and...well, you get the point. You don't have to charge $9.95 for a magazine without advertising to get honesty. And chances are, if you run a few reviews deep-sixing a gun, you'll get a reputation for honesty. On the other hand, you have to be reasonable about it. You can't flunk a gun because of its grips or a magazine safety. These are things that should be determined by the readers. Accuracy and reliability are areas that can't be compromised, though.

Finally, I realize that many of these magazines lack money. Some of our early writers when they weren't writing were drinking, and it was a problem. One well-known writer had to be isolated from coming to town because he couldn't stop using the "N-word." He was a great guy, and told colorful stories, but he just couldn't help himself from the way he talked. We're in a different era now, but we can take the good points from how gun articles used to be written and combine them with high-tech devices and personal asides to make great articles. And writers have to get away from template writing. Editors don't want articles good, they want them Tuesday, and some writers purposely try to pack their articles with words because that's how they're paid (or at least that's how they were paid years ago).

Instead of editors giving people what they think they want, they should try to find out what their readers want and give it to them.

.

DPris
January 26, 2012, 10:26 PM
Damon,
You are very welcome.

Con,
If you don't respect or like the way the gunmags run, don't buy 'em. :)

Not real sure what you're trying to illustrate with your AR analogy.

Try to find out what readers want & give it to them?
Well, to repeat, just this little microcosm here has shown several things that readers want. Not all readers agree on what they want.

A good editor will try to do a balance, and it truly is a balancing act. :)

Packing articles with words because that's how they're paid?
I sell to exactly one magazine currently that pays by the word, and there are still limits set.
All of the rest, in the past 22 years, have been at set fees.
I can write a 1500-word piece or a 2500-word piece & still get paid exactly the same.
Another example of an old statement being made without a clue on how the business currently operates. :)

Something else you might want to consider is that, for those who find articles repetitious, we're not just writing for you guys who already "know it all", you forget there are constantly new people coming along who know nothing about guns. Younger people growing up, people newly discovering guns, and so on.
Those readers may quite possibly be getting something new out of what you consider old.

I learned a very good foundation base on firearms from reading the gunmags 35 years ago, and while I no longer read 'em as avidly as I used to, I still buy & read other peoples' work myself. I still learn new things.
You may have graduated from "firearms grade school", but that's no reason to abolish it for everybody else. :)

Denis

JTQ
January 27, 2012, 01:33 PM
I always read American Rifleman that comes with my NRA membership, and try to read American Hangunner when I remember to look for it on the news stands.

I do like reading the gun mags. I understand they are seldom going to write a critical story about a new gun, but I know that going in. I don't have a problem with different writers using different means to determine accuracy. They can use their experience to tell me if the firearm is more or less accurate than what they typically find in that category of arm. That's all I really want to know anyway. Unless we are bullseye or long range target shooters, most of us aren't capable of using up the accuracy potential of most firearms anyway, so splitting hairs doesn't make much sense.

One thing I don't care for is reading the same article in sister publications months apart. One that comes to mind is an early SR9 article by John Taffin. It was well written and informative. However, several months later, after the recall for the SR9 was implemented for the firing pin safety/trigger mod, the same article appeared in one of the publishing groups sister magazines without mention of the recall. It was essentially the same article published months earlier. I found that annoying. At least they could have put a side bar detailing the recall information.

There are some errors in magazines and some writers may not be the be all, end all authorities, but as a group, I'm confident they are more knowledgeable than the average poster on internet forums, myself included. I understand there are some true firearm geniuses on many forums, this one included, but there is so much you have to sort through from those of us that truly don't know what we are talking about.

Roy Hunnigton seems like a reasonable man and he writes well. Clint Smith and Massad Ayoob always write something that will make you re-think your present "plan". Charles Petty and Mike Venturino usually have some worthwhile information and they both can give you that information with a good sense of humor.

I agree some magazines I used to read often like Guns & Ammo and Shooting Times (my personal favorite years ago) are not what they used to be, but I don't usually feel like I got ripped off when I pick up a gun magazine at the news stand.

Mike OTDP
January 27, 2012, 02:07 PM
I have to agree with some of Confederate's comments. I've pretty well dropped all my magazine subscriptions except for those that come with organization memberships.

What I find frustrating is the sameness. Pick up a copy of American Handgunner. You have the Custom 1911 Article, the Custom Knife Photo Spread, and a rotation of Wrist Breaking Maaaaagnum Revolver, Cowboy Action Photos, and IPSC Match Photos. Every single issue. And they aren't alone. Muzzle Blasts is the same way...you can tell exactly what articles will be done every month, years in advance.

I think the Internet is slowly replacing the magazines. It's too easy for someone who is a competent writer to go out, pick up a gun that interests them, put an article together, and publish it on a Web site. There's probably a business opportunity, though...put together an online magazine, solicit articles.

mljdeckard
January 27, 2012, 02:15 PM
I agree completely with the OP, in that pretty much all gun articles are written by shills for the manufacturers. I like American Handgunner better, mostly for the Ayoob articles, but I don't think I've read one in a couple of years.

KodiakBeer
January 27, 2012, 02:38 PM
When I'm looking at handgun tests, I want a uniform methodology to be used. People have different shooting capabilities and that's why I'm a big fan of the Ransom Rest.

The problem with a Ransom Rest is that the gun may have an awful trigger and poor ergonomics and thus be a poor shooter, but shoot good when locked in a rest. Just because you can lock a Nagant revolver in a rest to eliminate the problem of a 16 pound trigger, doesn't mean it shoots well in somebodies hand.

It's the same with rifles. Nobody should give a damn what a hunting rifle does off a bench. What matters is how it shoots standing up on your hind legs.

.

DPris
January 27, 2012, 03:09 PM
ML finally brings up the shill word.
That's another oldie but goodie. :)

Shill-wise, I've cancelled articles on S&Ws (two), Remingtons (two), ArmaLites (two), a $2800 custom concept pistol from an outfit that subsequently pulled ads from the publishing company in question, Chaparral, Hi-Point, and so on.
Mas Ayoob's commentary in AH some time ago so annoyed Glock that they pulled ads for a while.

Ruger & I very nearly came to a professional parting of the ways over commentary I was making over a defect in the then new LCP pistol. Had it gone about an inch farther, I would never have covered the company again, at MY discretion, not theirs. (Relations since have become much more cordial.)
If that sounds like shilling to you, our definitions differ greatly. :)

Like any other source of info, you can judge the value of an article or writer by the content. If what you read contains anything useful, run with it. If not, don't.

I put out a challenge a couple years back on one forum. For those who thought they could get better (free) info on particular firearms from the gun forums, I proposed they obtain a copy of a particular magazine then out with a piece I'd written in it.

Then, show me posts on any gun forum anywhere that included the same amount of information including:

Clear photos illustrating key features of the gun in question.
Actual shooting results at a measured distance with between 5 & 10 different ammunition types.
In-depth commentary (beyond "Geeze, I surely do LIKE mine!") on how the gun stacked up, on features, gun/shooter interface, applicability to the purpose or intended market for the gun, specifics on what the writer liked or disliked, character peculiarities of the gun, possibly past history or development of the gun, possibly info on it quoted or obtained from inside-the-company sources not available to the general public, and so on.
And, professional (as in qualified) impressions of the gun, by SOMEBODY WHO PUT THEIR REAL NAME & FACE to it, instead of an anonymous armchair commando who may or may not be qualified to comment at all.

(I am not insulting forum posters at large, or individually, in saying that. There certainly are very knowledgeable people here, and you can figure out who those are, just like the gunmag writers, by noting the CONTENT of what they post.)

I find the typical gun forum "Yup, Gun XYZ's a good'n!" to be useless.
I try to write & provide info the way I'd want to read it myself, most gunwriters do.
Tell & SHOW me why Gun XYZ's a good'n.

Not one single person took me up on my challenge.
There are a couple sites, like Jeff Quinn's, where you can get much of that, but those who say they can get all the info they need or want off a gun forum usually either don't need or don't want much.
The paper mags package up info, photos, impressions, and results by people who put it all together for you in one spot. There remains at least SOME value in that.

We can also keep you more broadly up to date on new products that go beyond the guns themselves.

Buy or don't, but if you guys think mags are repetitious, think about how it looks from the other side when these tiresome, inaccurate, uninformed, and often idiotic old fallacies are continually trotted out each & every year whenever somebody asks about a good gunmag to read. :)

Kod,
I'd disagree with you strenuously on that. People SHOULD give a damn what a hunting rifle does off a bench, if you don't know that one load shoots 8-inch groups at 100 yards while another shoots 1.5-inches, you're not doing your homework & you quite possibly won't fill your tag. :)

For me, at least, it makes a LOT of difference. I have no interest in a gun that can't maintain certain baseline accuracy standards off the bench, and if you don't know what it does with your load there, how are you going to be able to begin to analyze whether your misses are you or the gun while standing?

Denis

Confederate
January 27, 2012, 05:35 PM
If you don't respect or like the way the gunmags run, don't buy 'em.
I don't. I haven't for a long time. I asked here to see if any sort of agreement could be reached. The answer, apparently, is no. Or perhaps a better way would be to have focus groups or questionnaires to establish what's wanted. The magazine I showed was expensive, had b&w photos, poor grammar and typos, but they were always out of stock in bookstores. There were many I didn't get, but I wanted them despite their shortcomings.

Not real sure what you're trying to illustrate with your AR analogy.
Analogy? It wasn't an analogy at all. It was showing a type of article that seems to have vanished in magazines. I think you need to go back and read my posts as I was trying to illustrate the types of articles I liked. It covers guns from all price ranges and capabilities.

Try to find out what readers want & give it to them? Well, to repeat, just this little microcosm here has shown several things that readers want. Not all readers agree on what they want.
That's why there should be different types of magazines. No editor has even bothered to find out what we, the readers, want. I want lots of photos, better writing, more latitude and let's not just write articles on production guns. If I were on a paid writing position on a gun magazine, I'd like to do an article on .357 revolvers, old and new. Or an article comparing the Security-Six with the GP-100. Or the 686 with the Colt Python. Ask revolver aficionados if they'd like such articles. I can think of many more. What's the relevance? Second hand guns! They don't have to be in production! And lose the template reviews. We don't need to know what a gun looks like if we can see the photos. Finally, find new formats for cover photos. They all look alike these days.

What's wrong with formats like this? (Well, without my Ruger Mark II on top.) A cover with multiple guns being reviewed makes a great cover.

http://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh198/jriler/RugerMarkII_7-1.jpg

A good editor will try to do a balance, and it truly is a balancing act.
Give me a magazine and some writers and I'll show you how easy it can be. I've had layout and design training and I've been a writer and editor. Plus I know what many people like and are looking for. And I know that most magazines aren't respected. They're shills for the manufacturers. Even the American Rifleman sent a gun back when it exploded and didn't bother to report it to the readers. Why was that?

I sell to exactly one magazine currently that pays by the word, and there are still limits set.
I'd pack articles, too, if I were a writer. And if I were an editor, I'd pay you by the story and the photographs, not the number of words. I'd also value your experience enough to get your real opinion on guns. And I wouldn't give you the option of buying test guns at a reduced price. I'm sorry, but that's payola! But I'm for flat fees, so we're in agreement.

Something else you might want to consider is that, for those who find articles repetitious, we're not just writing for you guys who already "know it all", you forget there are constantly new people coming along who know nothing about guns. Younger people growing up, people newly discovering guns, and so on.
Why not write for both? If reviews could just be honest, giving writers a wide latitude, everything would take care of itself. I remember writers differing on autoloaders and revolvers doing pro and con articles. I liked those. Again, remember that you're dealing with not only new shooters, but the baby boomers. As a member of the latter group, I'd like to see some of the old guns featured. Not possible with today's magazine setup, but it could happen.

I learned a very good foundation base on firearms from reading the gunmags 35 years ago, and while I no longer read 'em as avidly as I used to, I still buy & read other peoples' work myself. I still learn new things.
But do you read your old gun magazines? If yes, there's a market for you and me. If not, why not? Don't you ever get the urge and read about the guns you love and which are no longer written about? Read about them or write about them, I think there's a market.

.

Peter M. Eick
January 27, 2012, 06:56 PM
This is a fascinating thread and Dpris makes some very good points. It would be very hard on the web to find a really good in depth single analysis of a gun by posts.

What you can find is say 100 different posts on say 20 different web sites and if you read them all and collect them you can actually develop a reasonable understanding of the failure distribution and problems with a gun. Take the 238 for example. Lots of the early ones had issues prior to the spring change and the heavier slide. If you read the threads as I did, I knew I was taking a calculated risk when I bought mine. I did not get that information from a magazine article because it was great in the magazine! The problems showed up quickly (soft slide, bad springs) and after 3 trips to Sig it is great now and what I can tell they have the 238 fixed.

Thus it is not the single posting that sways my thoughts, its the 100th or even 1000'th posting pointing out the same issues over and over again that helps on the web. This just doesn't happen in a magazine because maybe their sample does not have the issue.

I pretty much dropped all magazines but Handloader and Rifle and I buy them on disk every year so I can have a full digital copy of them. I also save every post or thread that even remotely interests me on the web and then sort them out so I can access the information. My last backup of the web posts was 65 gigs of data and over a 2 million files now. This gives me a database where I have for example over 6000 threads on the contender and they are all sorted by topic under contender. If I have an issue with my contender, a few quick searches of my database can get me the solution or how others have solved the problem. Can do that with a magazine.

Now jump to say my 40 odd years of handloader. I am loading 38/44's so I first search my database because I am going to use SR4756 and 158 SWC's. A bunch of threads pop up and I can then see what folks where doing and how it worked out for them. Extraneous entrys are obvious when you have say 300 threads on SR4756 and the 38/44 or 38+p. I then go to handloader and a few more searches I can read all of their data.

With all of this information, I can then go to the bench and build some good loads with the comfort and confidence of knowing what others have provided in terms of cross reference data.

So, back to magazines. How can a magazine provide that type of technical detail and content that allows it to compete in today's digital age? It really can't. It can compete by either providing more technical detail and knowledge that could not be obtained easily on the web or by going for the newbies that have not built the knowledge yet.

As someone pointed out above. Certain magazines are almost month to month duplicates of the previous issues. They provide the same basic information every month and with minor variation to make it interesting at first blush. If you study the magazine though you see the same thing over and over so it is easier to pick up one or two issues a year and see if anything new is out there that interests you.

Long winded counter point answer here....

PS, I just saved this thread for future sorting. Yes I even have a directory for threads about magazine articles.

DPris
January 27, 2012, 07:20 PM
Con,
Focus groups. Come on.... :)

The type of article you like? One article covering multiple handguns in apparently little detail & with one photo? I must be missing something.
There ARE different types of magazines. Go look. If you can't find 'em, you're vision-challenged.

No editor has ever bothered to find out what "we" like?
You think they live in a vacuum? You think they don't read letters readers send 'em? You think they're totally clueless?
As I clearly said above, two issues there: There's a very wide spread among what readers want, and it's a balancing act.

What's wrong with your illustrated format?
Con, do you have even the remotest idea of the logistics involved in producing that photo?

Each gun has to be sourced.
Each gun, if not already in possession, has to be obtained through borrowing, either from friends or from makers.
Each gun from a maker has to be returned or bought at the end.
That all takes a bunch of time, which means money.
That goes for the photographer who does the cover art as well as for the writer who does a roundup.

I've done roundup articles involving six or eight guns, and I generally dislike 'em simply because of the additional time & effort required.
Also done covers, and the more guns you have on one, the less detail's visible, with a corresponding decrease in visual appeal.

Give you a magazine & some writers and you'll show me how easy it can be?
I'm sorry, Con, but that's just too much of a reality disconnect to even address any further.

Packing articles & payola?
Geeze, guy.
As I said, every other magazine I've ever sold to, aside from that one, has a set pay rate for freelancers. Are you even reading what I've written here?
I can put 40 hours into one single article, as an example with one company, submit a 4000-word piece, and get paid less than $500. Same if I invest 15 hours & submit 2000 words. (That one, incidentally, I do more for the friendship than anything else.)

The one that pays by the word sets limits. Typically 1500 words or less.
My regular market pays a set fee and restricts submissions now to roughly 1700 words.
I can't pad, that's just not how it works. Just the opposite, I frequently have to whittle some at the end.

Payola? Think about this (and when MLJ comes back later to bring up the hoary old "free guns" thing we'll address that one): A gunmaker is not a retailer of used guns. They don't have storefronts where they can dispose of returned test samples. They don't sell directly to the public and their distributors don't handle used guns.
When a maker offers a writer a writer's discount as a purchase option, the maker typically gets its normal distributor cost (or close) out of the gun, so it loses no money, and if the writer buys the sample it's one less used gun the maker has to handle coming back.
The writer gets a good price.

Everybody's happy but those who feel envious that somebody's getting a better deal than they are.
Your bro-in-law never got you a deal on something where he works? Your buddy never got you a good deal where HE works? A lower price than the regular public gets? You never got a discount on something where you work?

It's the equivalent of a trade discount, and you can call it whatever you like, but it ain't payola.
And, when I write, you do get my "real" opinion on the products.

(MLJ, let's do it now & get it outa the way. :) I just sent off a check two days ago for two sample guns I wanted to keep after the T&E was done. Let's let that do for the "free guns", OK? :) )

Why not write for both, old hands & new people?
We do. You're not looking.

And again, NEW is largely what sells.
There's the occasional retro or "classic" piece, but look at the progression of time.
When Skelton & Jordan were writing 35 years ago, gun production was probably about 30% of what it is now. Accessories probably about 20%.
There just wasn't a constant "NEW" to be writing about.
Today somebody's putting out a new model almost weekly.
Back then, it was more "folksy" because the times were more folksy.
With fewer new products to cover, there was room for Me & Joes.
Today, you'll see a few, but NEW simply crowds them out for the most part from competition for space.

Those border stories we all read & loved? Totally different border today, and a totally different Border Patrol.
Times have moved on, and quite seriously today's gun buyers & mag readers have a high enough percentage of new & younger demographics that stories of the old days just will not sell mags on their own.
Today there's more to do, more to buy, and a much more sophisticated audience that doesn't find policing along the border in the 1960s, or safari tales in Africa of the 1950s, to be interesting, novel or relevant.

Balance, with the beam tilting heavily toward NEW, and trying to cover hunting, defense, general sporting, and recreational uses.

Denis

DPris
January 27, 2012, 07:34 PM
Peter,
My point there was that a goodly percentage of the typical article's info can be found on the forums, but you have to sift through a BUNCH of posts over a period of time to get it, and it still probably won't show good photos or give much useful accuracy info to get a sense of what the gun can do. :)

The more technically oriented sub-forums will go into more specific details, but then so do the more technically oriented gun mags.

And, nothing I've said above should be taken as totally dismissing the forums as a source of legitimate information.
Why do you think I'm here? :)
I use the forums as user feedback on what's going on in the hands of actual owners, and along the way I try to give bits & pieces of my own knowledge & experiences back.
Also enjoy interacting. (For the most part, anyway. :) )

Denis

KodiakBeer
January 27, 2012, 08:37 PM
Kod,
I'd disagree with you strenuously on that. People SHOULD give a damn what a hunting rifle does off a bench, if you don't know that one load shoots 8-inch groups at 100 yards while another shoots 1.5-inches, you're not doing your homework & you quite possibly won't fill your tag.

On the other hand, if the rifle shoots good groups from the bench, but is too long or short or has poor eye relief in the standing position (or a hundred other things), then you still won't fill your tag. I've never seen a new sporting rifle that wasn't accurate enough for hunting, but I've seen plenty of people unable to shoot their rifle accurately enough for hunting. A rifle needs to fit you and "hang" just right (balance). You need a good trigger and proper eye relief while standing. You can't test any of that at the bench.

I'd be in the minority here, but I think inherent accuracy is one of the least important aspects of a hunting rifle. It's nice to have but you don't need sub-MOA accuracy to punch a deer in the chest at 200 or 300 yards. You do need a rifle that isn't awkward to shoot in the standing position, without that you'll be missing deer at 75 yards and your half inch bragging groups at the bench won't count for anything.

If you're shooting prairie dogs or pronghorns of something, then accuracy begins to weigh a bit more in the equation.

DPris
January 27, 2012, 08:57 PM
Bench results are far from the only important aspect in selecting a gun or load, but- if the gun & load can't produce inherent accuracy, it doesn't matter how pretty it is or how comfortable it is.
For me, it has to shoot acceptably FIRST, off the bench, all else follows after.
Denis

Peter M. Eick
January 27, 2012, 09:51 PM
You are definitely correct about having to sift on the forums. There is a ton of chaff for the kernels of wheat. The problem I have found is that some of the chaff is easy to figure out, but the wheat, well some time it is more elusive and you have to accumulate enough data to determine what it is.

I think the forums are a great place to accumulate information, but just because you have the information it does not mean it is correct. It must be sorted, culled and considered in context of other information.

This is where I would like to get more of second tier of forum where more experienced and knowledgeable folks could go and discuss things. The problem is how do you make it work and in the forums where this exists, there is a critical mass issue of keeping folks engaged.

This is why the Highroad is one of my primary focus points for posts. Lots of traffic. Good folks and lots of skill.

Now back to magazines. You (Dpris) are making great points and have over the years strongly defended writers and magazines. I recognize some of your pieces and in my mind based upon your work, you are a straight shooter (bad pun) and very reliable. The problem is your peer group and what I call the "shiny new play toy" mentality. Every shiny new play toy that comes by has to be the greatest thing since sliced bread even though the last shiny new play toy was it last month.

There are a place for magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of technical journals where we get refereed and reviewed articles that give technical detail and of course some conclusions and opinions. Some of my journals have press runs that are under 1000 units from their yearly reports. This is where a magazine can provide really detailed reviews and help educate and enlighten folks.

Unfortunately for me, very few other folks like this type of technical detail and want the "me and joe went hunting" articles that drive me up the wall. Hence the reason I am on the net, avoiding "me and joe" and getting the technical details through analysis of gigabytes of posts.

DPris
January 27, 2012, 10:04 PM
:)
Denis

Nushif
January 28, 2012, 02:43 AM
This is where I would like to get more of second tier of forum where more experienced and knowledgeable folks could go and discuss things.

I've done this thing in a lot of online gaming communities and it is rarely a good thing.

Usually it ends up polarizing people into two camps. Those with rights and those without. Not to mention the method of determining who gets to post in this "top tier" forum .... invite only (read: People who agree with those already posting)? Anyone? A certain post count (proves what exactly?) Some sort of "street cred" ... so like ... someone who can already have his stuff published or some rating system that's easily abused?

May be offtopic, but I love forums, been doing them for years and man ... the "top tier" idea gets kicked around an awful lot. And I've never seen it lead to anything good.

twofifty
January 28, 2012, 03:38 AM
Glad that Handloader has been positively mentioned in this thread.
The buddy who schooled me on reloading introduced me to it.

I find that most of Handloader's content is useful and consistently well written and laid out. By well written I mean finely crafted sentences, good grammar and usage, smart paragraph usage, good storyline progression, good coverage of theory and practice.

This truely useful magazine focuses maybe 35% of its space to product advertising. The rest deals with the how's, what, why's and when of reloading all kinds of cartridges: new and old, smokeless and BP, jacketed-plated-lead, rifle & HG - some SG.

I particularly like Mike Venturino's stories - he does a nice mix of yarn spinning and technical work. Brian Pearce, John Barsness and David Thomas are strong performers too. Handloader's stable of writers really do know how to work a load from the ground up, how to extrapolate and adapt, how to cast, and how to troubleshoot a misbehaving firearm be it NIB or antique.

Handloader's publisher also puts out Rifle magazine, both from Prescott AZ.

The Old Redneck
January 28, 2012, 05:50 AM
This has been interesting to say the least. I enjoy reading about guns and reloading. Enjoy a good story sometimes and reread articles from some of the old writers. I read a lot of different forums and agree that the amount of BS is a problem. Some data is way over the line, as well as things people do. I have been very lucky over the years because I have been guilty of trying some dumb things. I still buy a gun mag if it has an article I'm interested in. There are a few publications I do not look at because they lost me as a reader years ago. I miss the writers that made you look forward to next months edition. Some were funny,gave great information, made you want to go where they had just been,etc. The ones I buy now are usually about something I was interested in and want the added info. Sad in a way that as much as we have progressed in some areas this is not one of them.

Peter M. Eick
January 29, 2012, 02:29 PM
towfifty,

Want a ton of useful data? Get Handloader and rifle on DVD. I was just using the search function to check on corrosive primers. Neat to be able to hop over the handloader and search up the data on my hobby in seconds. That is the type of technical data source we need, not more "me and joe go hunting" articles.

Shadow 7D
January 29, 2012, 02:45 PM
I don't read them, too many 5 page advertisements
if something is really cool, it'll show up here or one of the other board's I read long before it comes in print most times.

FreddyKruger
January 29, 2012, 10:31 PM
Australia has a couple of gun magazines. im subscribed to Australian Shooter because its compulsory to the SSAA membership. (reason for owning, insurance etc). Its only good for the ads tho since all the major gun shops advertise in it since ever SSAA member gets it delivered to their door.

The other mags mainly mirror it, same guns reviewed etc...

Theres one australian handgun mag, but it an annual and its only about the same amount of pages as a regular magazine.

I do really hate some of the articles in Aust magazines. Going on about a review of a semi auto rifle or an old antique, one of a kind thing. Something the 99% of Aust shooters cant own or want to own. I remember hanging out for a whole month for a whole thing on rimfire pistols only to get shafted on a story about a discontinued walther and how rimfires are cheap to shoot. yes mad.

golden
January 30, 2012, 12:54 PM
I have stopped reading the bigger gun magazines, though I still get a copy of GUNS and GUNWORLD every month. I like some of the columnists in GUNS. AYOOB, SMITH and TAFFIN and the occasional (though really biased) comparisons of historic guns by VENTURINO. I forgive him that now that he is covering World War II guns, but please Mike, NO MORE ON THE 1903 SPRINGFILED. It was a second rate rip-off compared to the MAUSER and MAUSER received the royalty payments to prove it.

I also enjoy GUNWORLD and some of the monthly writers like PRISBREY, THOMPSON, TOPPER and WORKMAN. Most of these articles are full of both information and opinions which makes it more interesting to me. These writers will also talk about firsthand knowledge they have and tell you why they feel the way they do.
They also gave more coverage to semi-auto pistols and rifles before it became the NEW BIG THING.

I have been reading some those old black and white mainline gun magazines which might have ONE article per issue on handguns, almost never on self defense or combat usage. I had to read specialized magazines like COMBAT HANDGUNS to find what I was interested in.

You still see someone complaining now that they only want to see hunting guns covered and cancel their subscription to a gun magazine, but the gun magazines have now come around to covering the NEW SHOOTING GENERATION.
These people, including me WANT INFO ON COMBAT HANDGUNS, RIFLES AND CONCEALED CARRY. THEY ARE NOT HUNTERS. That is not a knock on hunters or hunting, just pointing out a fact.

I think most people on this forum would agree that the new symbol of American shooters is the AR15 or the GLOCK, not the WINCHESTER 94 or 70. Readers want to read about the MOSSBERG 590A1 combat shotgun in the GUNWORLD magazine open on my desk as I write this, not the PARKER double for upland hunting.
I like the new stuff, but also enjoy reading about old guns. I want to find out about their history and usage. I also want to know how they are mechanically unique, but I do not want to hear silly stuff like the GARAND PINGING DEFECT.
Instead I would like to see a comparison on a realistic combat course of the M1 GARAND, a JOHNSON RIFLE, A K98 MAUSER and #1-Mark III SMLE. That would be interesting.
Even better, a side by side shoot out of the COLT 1903, BROWNING 1910, SAVAGE 1917 and REMINGTON model 51 pistols. Old guns can be very entertaining if you write about them, warts and all.

I did find the one complaint about testing of ammo a little amusing. What would you standardize on? I have a WINCHESTER model 70 in.6.5x55 Swede. It loves WINCHESTER ammo and hates REMINGTON. Now another gun might like REMINGTON. So what would you use for a standard?
I have found the same thing true in handguns. Most of my 9m.m. pistols like HYDRO SHOK ammo which shoots very well. However, the old SIG 225 my wife used jams on it. Different guns, different ammo.

I gave up on the other mainline magazines as just too much advertising and not enough real world substance. Your complaint is more an acceptance that some of the mainline magazines need to do a better job if they want to survive. If not, they could end up being the gun equivalent of NEWSWEEK!

I really miss Skeeter SKELTON!

Just my two cents worth.

Jim

DPris
January 30, 2012, 02:09 PM
Golden,
You point out quite well what direction the current market demographics are taking.

But- I'd view that Mossberg 590A1 piece with great skepticism.
The guy who wrote it obviously is nothing but a shill for Mossberg & has no idea what he's talking about.
You can do much better getting your info here in a gun forum.
Denis
( :D )

larryh1108
January 30, 2012, 06:14 PM
How can a writer in a gun rag win? He writes a favorable write up and he was "bought". He writes a bad write up and he has "an attitude against company z". We assume the writer gets his test gun more or less like the same way we do.... by chance.

If the writer gets a lemon, and we know they exist, does he then trash what may be a very good line of guns? Does he ask the company to provide another gun to test? Does he, like we do, ask for it to be fixed and returned and then the review is done?

Would it be responsible journalism to trash a line of guns because he got that "1 in 100" lemon or is it his responsibility to test 99 more to see if that was the norm or if that was a fluke? If a prominent and respected writer does get a "1 in 100" lemon is it fair to say that millions of dollars in R&D and production are now wasted or does a responsible writer allow the company "to make it right"?

I don't see how a writer can ever win. I have no doubt he gives his honest evaluation of a particular pistol but is that particular pistol indicative of the entire line? Did he get the "good one" or did he get that odd ball lemon? Like the forums here, the vocal minority are the few who get the bad ones. I don't blame them for venting but by reading these very forums you would think most guns are jam-o-matic pieces of anchors.

I do believe that the gun companies use us as their beta testers and anyone who is wise knows to wait a year or so before they buy the newest, latest best gun ever designed. The gun makers do seem to fix the bad ones that made it out and they also seem to correct the problems with the next batch they put out. I personally believe that those who say they should leave the factory 100% in a new line of guns don't realize how much that would cost us when we want to buy them. The only way to work out the bugs is to shoot multiple guns multiple times. They can shoot the test sample all they want but to really get the kinks out they need to have thousands used as samples who shoot thousands of rounds. That, unfortunately, is us. We are the real writers. Not the guy who gets paid for his wisdom but the guy who buys the guns and then shoots them. Writer A or QC B may probably get the good ones because if 1 in 100 fail, the odds of them getting that one is... well, 1 in 100. It would be foolish to use a gun for self defense unless you've put hundreds of rounds thru it without it failing. In that testing period, we are testing the guns for the gun makers and giving our feedback on forums like this. Gun writers don't have an enviable job, IMO. They can never win.

DPris
January 30, 2012, 06:44 PM
Larry,
Is this really you, Mom????? :)
Denis

larryh1108
January 30, 2012, 07:47 PM
Personally, I like a mixture of the new and the old. I like seeing what the latest guns are. I like to see the options available and what makes these new gems special. The new wonder 9s are hot right now and I like to read how they made them so small, light and accurate. When the LCP came out I did volunteer to be a beta tester and I got one of the very first issues. It's been flawless almost 2000 rounds later. Yes, it was a KT with improvements but it was all the rage. Now we see the Kimber Solo making noises and hitting the boards as the growing pains show up. I like watching the copy cats come out a year later with improvements over the original. I like watching the newer guns come out with options, refinements and accessories. I like to see the aftermarket gadgets come out for the newest, greatest guns on the market. It's what makes buying and owning guns fun.

I also like to read about the 1911 line and how far we've come without changing a thing. A tweak here, a new fire control group there. Different loads and spring weights to get the most out of it. New and newer sights, guide rods, grips and lasers. Smooth grips, aggressive grips, laser grips, etc. Taller sights, night sights, sights with lasers, etc. It's all fun reading. We dream of options we can't afford and wait for the prices to come down.

Reading the magazines are what we wish to get out of them. If we read to dream, if we read to learn or if we read because we want to kill time, there are as many reasons to read them as there are different guns. How can everybody get the same thing out of a specific magazine? You can't. The same thing applies to how we choose our firearms. Everybody buys a specific gun for their own reason. What works for one may not work for another. I don't see how a gun magazine can cater to all types of readers.

Confederate
January 30, 2012, 10:14 PM
If the writer gets a lemon, and we know they exist, does he then trash what may be a very good line of guns? Does he ask the company to provide another gun to test? Does he, like we do, ask for it to be fixed and returned and then the review is done?
A gun writer can "win" by telling the truth. If he gets a lemon, he should say that. Then if the second gun works well, he should say that. What's the problem? If the first gun misfires and the second gun can't hit the broad side of a barn, that indicates a serious quality control problem. I recall buying a stainless Sterling .22LR pocket pistol years ago based on a magazine article I'd read. I bought three different pistols and none worked. I bought two .25 autos and they didn't work. Then I bought this self published magazine run by a bunch of California rednecks and they said the gun was junk and recommended not buying it. At least they were honest. Either that or their "production" gun was a ringer supplied by the manufacturer. Whichever was true, that was my first lesson in not trusting any magazine review that didn't also contain reviews trashing products.

Just tell the truth. Report. That's what it's all about. The self published magazine made me laugh when it stated that the magazine industry were "two whores short of Babylon." As the cowardly lion said, "Ain't it the truth! Ain't it the truth!"
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wlewisiii
January 30, 2012, 10:28 PM
Meh, all I know is I'd rather read another article about Parker or the like than yet another bit extolling the latest and greatest plastic fantastic boomtoy. Yes, my CCW is a Glock 19, but that's a tool nothing more. I prefer to read about more :cool: As a result I read things like Double Gun Journal and Gray's Sporting Journal and ignore drek like Guns, Guns & Ammo & the rest.

langenc
January 30, 2012, 10:41 PM
The thing that is buggun me is the reviewing of guns that wont be available for 6-9 months and making it sound like you can just run out and get one..

Specifically--Browning 1911-22.

First saw it written up way back in April or so-still not available.

I realize that the writers dont make em, but come on. Maybe they could include a line in the box that gives the specs/prices--ie when available. And then NOT write something up that wont be out any more than 3 or 4 months, max.

Confederate
January 31, 2012, 12:25 AM
Focus groups. Come on....
Focus groups can be easily formed at ranges and via the Internet. Even this post has brought out many good ideas. I'm not a focus group kind of person, but y'know, you can't beat honesty.

The type of article you like? One article covering multiple handguns in apparently little detail & with one photo? I must be missing something. There ARE different types of magazines. Go look. If you can't find 'em, you're vision-challenged.
Actually I'd like to see articles on multiple handguns with several pages. Ed only had one page, so he did what he could with it. If I'd been the editor, I would have given him three. That's not the only reviews I'd have, but how much room to you need to have for comment on 1) fit and finish; 2) reliability; 3) accuracy (with chart); and 4) realistic cost? And a few paragraphs with personal notes on grips, comfort, etc. Articles are too long these days. And dry as Texas tumbleweeds! I can go to the store and look for such a magazine, but you know as well as I do that it's an establishment...like bad television. Everyone with any intelligence knows TV is bad, but they run in to people saying, "If you don't like it, don't watch it." *Sigh!*

No editor has ever bothered to find out what "we" like? You think they live in a vacuum? You think they don't read letters readers send 'em? You think they're totally clueless?
Clueless? No, but they do live in a vacuum. Like I said, they don't want it good, they want it Tuesday. If I were doing a magazine (for example), I'd fire the expensive layout and design people and hire someone who could do designs like:

http://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh198/jriler/GunMag.jpg

You may not like it, but it would cause me to pick it up and read it. Most of the snazzy color and two-page layout leaves me cold. They all look alike. I used to like Combat Handguns, but I got to the point where I found Massad Ayoob to be dull and repetitive, and then there's his shameless knife recommendations. He recommends knives that are clearly nothing but thinly disguised ads.

Con, do you have even the remotest idea of the logistics involved in producing that photo?
I do, sir. It's not how the gun is obtained, but what happens to it once it's produced. And yes, roundups are tough. (Ed used his own Security-Six, which he'd altered to take rounded Pachmayr grips. He also inserted a red plastic front sight. But who cares?) But if doing reviews, that's part of the job. Many editors will have a stock file of gun photos, and many gun manufacturers will have a historian who also can provide stock photos of their own. When I worked for and edited some very fine Navy publications, I found ways of getting the photos I needed. The thing is, you don't need to have flashy color photos with a zillion dpi resolution.

I've done roundup articles involving six or eight guns, and I generally dislike 'em simply because of the additional time & effort required. Also done covers, and the more guns you have on one, the less detail's visible, with a corresponding decrease in visual appeal.
One of the things I liked about the gun publication above is that it had a full-size photo of the handgun on one page and the review on the facing page, as well as a chart of ammo tests. It was great layout!

Give you a magazine & some writers and you'll show me how easy it can be? I'm sorry, Con, but that's just too much of a reality disconnect to even address any further.
I knew you'd say that!

I can put 40 hours into one single article, as an example with one company, submit a 4000-word piece, and get paid less than $500. Same if I invest 15 hours & submit 2000 words. (That one, incidentally, I do more for the friendship than anything else.)
I believe that, and that's too many words. Since I'm a handgun guy, what I want to know can be put into an article of about two pages with photos? I don't want to know what the gun looks like and frankly, on most articles in most magazines, I stop reading once the pertinent information stops. If, like me, you have a friend who dusted a cougar with a Dan Wesson .357 with 4-inch barrel when it dropped from a tree and rushed him, that would be great. If you discuss whether a .357 can be used in hunting, that would be something you could address from just your experience.

Payola? Think about this (and when MLJ comes back later to bring up the hoary old "free guns" thing we'll address that one): A gunmaker is not a retailer of used guns. They don't have storefronts where they can dispose of returned test samples. They don't sell directly to the public and their distributors don't handle used guns.
But don't you see that if you're able to buy the gun at a greatly reduced price, that that could look like payola? People want honesty and people like me are puzzled when they read only positive reviews. No gun ever has to be returned. No gun is just plain junk. I know of gun writers who do sell their sample guns, and they make money too. They find storefronts, pawn shops, etc. Won't push this one too far, but it just looks bad, even if things are completely ethical. Many, many people feel, though, that what they're reading is not entirely honest or representative of what they'll get if they buy the gun.

Everybody's happy but those who feel envious that somebody's getting a better deal than they are.
Oh, c'mon. I don't think you could get that reading what I wrote.

Your bro-in-law never got you a deal on something where he works? Your buddy never got you a good deal where HE works? A lower price than the regular public gets? You never got a discount on something where you work?
No, but my Congressmen and Assemblymen do. Seriously, I think the problem comes from a higher level than the writer. I think the editors are the ones at fault. They pay writers so little than no one, not even me, could begrudge them the gun they're testing. I'd guess most writers buy the guns (unless the guns are crap), but most readers, as I've said, just want honesty. Despite all the varying opinions here, most agree that they can't trust gun magazines.

Why not write for both, old hands & new people? We do. You're not looking.
Hmmm...must have missed all those articles about the Security-Six, S&W 66 and other vintage guns. And I never saw one writer who thought the Security-Six was better than the GP-100 and said so. Maybe that's because all the gun writers think the GP-100 is a better gun than the Security-Six. And the Ruger Mark III is better than the Mark II. Or than recessed chambers are better than chambers that are not recessed.

And again, NEW is largely what sells.
True, but there's a huge second hand market, too. And then there are guys like me, who don't buy a lot of guns but enjoy reading about them. We make up a huge market...for magazines. I like looking at photos of older model 66s and I'd like to see a 1956 S&W 39 featured (with photos), replete with the dirty laundry that for the most part they didn't work. Or a 1953 Ruger Standard Auto. I never see any articles on these. Sure, I like to see articles about Ruger's LCR/LCP, the Rhino .357 with *shudder!* photos, but I like keeping one foot in nostalgia. Everyone does.

When Skelton & Jordan were writing 35 years ago, gun production was probably about 30% of what it is now. Accessories probably about 20%. There just wasn't a constant "NEW" to be writing about. Today somebody's putting out a new model almost weekly. Back then, it was more "folksy" because the times were more folksy. With fewer new products to cover, there was room for Me & Joes. Today, you'll see a few, but NEW simply crowds them out for the most part from competition for space.
Excellent points...outstanding, actually. But I'm in the South and we're still pretty folksy. I'd like to see a magazine or two try to be more folksy, but even if they don't like the rustic stuff, most guys like you have stories to tell. Elmer Keith had some great stories from his day, but anyone who spends anytime outdoors most likely has some stories to tell, even if it's about how fast blued surfaces take to rust in the pouring rain!

Things have indeed changed, and I'm not urging a return to retired border patrol agents who write. Just what I've said.
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DPris
January 31, 2012, 12:31 AM
Con,
I think I've already explained why we don't cover lemons.
No room.

Why don't we mention it when a gun has to be returned & cancelled?
No room.
If a gun blows up, it's not mentioned because there's no room, and no real point.
Can't just toss in a blurb somewhere & say "Breaking News. We Blew Up A Gun."
Readers would want more details. Then if we expand, we're back into the no room again.
Added to which is the single sample issue already mentioned.
You're just asking for things that can't & won't happen.

Why don't we cover Gun #2 when Gun #1 goes bad?
In many cases, if not most, there isn't time for Gun #2.
You gotta remember most gunwriters are not in it for ego, groupies, or free beer. It's a job. I do it for money. Concurrent with that concept is the fact that I expect to end up making money, not losing it, at the end when the dust settles.

Most of the year I juggle 5 or so articles at any given point in time. When I'm shooting I may be shooting guns for three different articles, with other guns and/or accessories on the way. The following day I may be doing the photography on two other articles.
If I'm working a specific deadline, that gets priority. If I'm not, whichever article comes together first with product, photos, and shooting all being finished together gets done next.

Right now, a week after coming home from the SHOT Show in Vegas, I'm looking at 18 different articles between two publishing companies and five editors, covering guns, knives, and other outdoor products.
I have products requested, products arriving, I spent the day today doing the photography on four guns, tomorrow it'll be two more, the day after that I'll be shooting three.

I do not normally have the time to nurse an article along on a gun that doesn't work out. If it's a clunker on arrival, I rarely have time to bother asking for a second sample. If the gun fails halfway through a shoot, I may or may not have sufficient ammunition left to give a second gun a try. Yes, I do get "free" ammo from the makers & I won't apologize for it. I could not possibly do any kind of in-depth shooting evaluations if I didn't. But, even there, it's not an endless flow. I have to allocate what companies send and spread it out.
If I've used up the ammo allotted to a particular gun, it'd have to be a pretty special circumstance to go for Gun #2 & burn up more ammo on it. That does occasionally happen, but not often.

A magazine article is a produced item. As such, there are production costs involved.
Resources, including ammunition and time, have to be parceled out.
I will do an occasional article where I lose my shirt, because (believe it or not) I think readers would enjoy it, but I can't make that a regular occurrance.
Otherwise, the more time I spend in producing a given article, the less I get paid in terms of dollar-per-hour return.

Freelance writers do not get rich writing for gunmags. I expect to be paid a decent wage for my time & efforts, like any other job, and taking the case of a $500 article, if I put 10 hours into it I make $50 per hour. If I put 20 hours into it, I make $25 per hour. You can see how the progression goes downhill, and that's not even counting other expenses like long distance calls arranging for product, gas to & from the range, office supplies, paper targets, staples, tape, target backers, and so on.

If I have to do essentially two shoots (two guns) for the same article, that can substantially increase the time needed to produce the end result. Remember, on a fixed fee piece, the more time I have to put into it the less I make per hour when I get paid for it.
I expect a certain pay level for my efforts, if I get down to $5 an hour I might as well be working at McDonald's.

For me, if I can see a gun isn't going to make it up front, better to cancel, return, and move on to the next one waiting in line. No guarrantee Gun #2 would be much better. If a gun bogs down halfway through a shoot, I've already wasted time & resources on it, it won't make the page anywhere, the editor will not run either a two-liner saying "By The Way, We Busted A Gun...." or a 2000-word description of a busted gun session, so I cut my losses, cancel the piece, and return the gun.

Staff writers on salary have more leeway in waiting for a second gun, and freelancers who do it more as a hobby than a business do too, but a product normally gets one chance with me, and if it doesn't hold up, it's over.

Worked with an AR-15 pistol last summer, wasted several hours in photography first, another hour & a bunch of ammo giving it every possible chance to function at the range, then gave up & cancelled. That happened to be the second time over the years I've tried that company's products, they didn't work either time, I saw no point in wasting more time & ammo asking for a second sample.
It's a well-known name, though, and others seem to like ARs made by them. My results just didn't agree, and I won't be going back to them again.

I won't speak for anybody else, but I'll tell you most of us DO speak the truth, and in my case you can run with the idea that if you see it in print under my byline, it's worth writing about.
I've said before that I don't need the money bad enough to risk your cash or your life gold-plating a POS, and I meant it.Most of us feel the same way.


Otherwise, I refer you to an earlier statement about YOUR duty to do your own homework, and that we're NOT here to tell you what to buy or not to buy.
We can tell you what we find with a sample of one, the next one off the assembly line may be better, and very well could be worse. :)
Denis

DPris
January 31, 2012, 01:59 AM
Con,
Looks like we were typing at the same time.

Focus groups, not a chance. Not feasible.

If you fired the layout & design people in favor of somebody who'd put together a front like the one you show, you'd be out the door long before it ever had a chance to hit the newsstand. :)
You don't know how the process works in this commercial setting, and trust me- no publisher (who pays the editor's salary) would go for a boring cover like that one. Aside from Gun Tests, anyway. :)
Editors are responsible to people above them, and it can be a complicated inter-relationship between the top guy, ad people, layout people, and the editor.

You're also wrong on the photography. Stock shots from companies are often boring catalog-type images that are either incomplete, low resolution, or don't show the right background context.
Not knocking your Navy experiences, but yes- today you do need to have at least a certain percentage of "flashy color photos" and all in high resolution.
There are certain visual requirements imposed by the editor & others in the chain, and certain technical requirements imposed by the printing process itself.

Yes, 4000 words is too long, you've misunderstood me again. That was just to illustrate that no matter how much time & how many words I put into a piece, it's a set payment rate.

You don't want to know what the gun looks like? Well, that's become sorta obvious, but most readers kinda do. I don't think you're quite as much in the majority there as you may think you are. :)

Let's give the payola thing a rest, OK? I've explained the process.
If you insist on thinking it's rife with corruption, that's just something we'll have to disagree on.
Really if you believe the entire gunwriting biz is so corrupt and so useless, DON'T BUY 'EM! I'd fully support your decision, since reason & explanations can't do anything for you with your mind made up. :)

Yes, you've missed two articles I've done on the Security-Six. I don't happen to believe it's a better gun than the GP, though. You got your opinion, I got mine. :)
I've done articles on older Smiths and older Colts, your not seeing them (or those by other writers) hardly means that they're never covered. Just means you're not getting around much.

Stories? Already addressed that issue. By & large, editors don't want 'em.
We get in a couple shorter ones, as part of an intro or a foundation, but there just isn't room for much of it in most of today's gun mags.

Denis

Mike OTDP
January 31, 2012, 10:47 AM
Allow me to point out that high-resolution digital photography is pathetically cheap these days. Photo composition is an art form, but the cameras are cheap...and electrons cheaper.

As I've said, my big gripe is simply the sameness of the subjects.

DPris
January 31, 2012, 02:06 PM
Mike,
What kind of un-sameness would you like to see?
Denis

Confederate
January 31, 2012, 02:20 PM
I think I've already explained why we don't cover lemons. No room. Why don't we mention it when a gun has to be returned & cancelled? No room. If a gun blows up, it's not mentioned because there's no room, and no real point.
There would be room if some of the other articles and especially reviews were cut down. Not only could the text be cut, but the huge overblown color photos could be reduced to allow more photos of general interest. It's obvious that you and I have different opinions of this, so we'll have to agree to disagree. I just become bored with all the gaping color studio photographs stretched across the page. Couple that with all the similar color photos in the full page ads throughout the magazines and I suspect that most readers, when given the chance for smaller color and B&W photos, would take them in a heartbeat!

I just flipped through some recent Combat Handguns and Guns & Ammo magazines, and the huge, looming color photos throughout them just overwhelmed me. I wouldn't even want it for guns I liked.

Can't just toss in a blurb somewhere & say "Breaking News. We Blew Up A Gun." Readers would want more details. Then if we expand, we're back into the no room again. Added to which is the single sample issue already mentioned. You're just asking for things that can't & won't happen.
I've already addressed space issues. I don't see why, in just a paragraph or two, you couldn't mention that the first gun you had had issues and had to be returned, and explain what the issues were. You could even put it in a photo caption. Readers know that these things happen and would appreciate the honesty. (If I had someone write me an email about a gun I had just purchased, and if that gun had a catastrophic failure, say a forcing cone cracked in the first hundred rounds I fired and had to be sent back, I would feel obliged to mention it. If the second gun worked without a hitch, so much the better.)

Why don't we cover Gun #2 when Gun #1 goes bad? In many cases, if not most, there isn't time for Gun #2. You gotta remember most gunwriters are not in it for ego, groupies, or free beer. It's a job. I do it for money. Concurrent with that concept is the fact that I expect to end up making money, not losing it, at the end when the dust settles.
Yep, it's a job, and I realize that. So what do you do if you have a revolver you're reviewing, and in the first twenty-five rounds you get a crack in the forcing cone? Or, if you're firing an automatic, the gun begins malfunctioning. When you take the gun apart and clean up the frame, you find a hairline crack? That's Gun #1. Are you saying you don't get a Gun #2? Doesn't your editor assign you guns to cover?

I do not normally have the time to nurse an article along on a gun that doesn't work out. If it's a clunker on arrival, I rarely have time to bother asking for a second sample.
Okay, that question's answered. So what happens if it's a major gun like a Ruger LCR/LCP? Does that just go to another writer?


For me, if I can see a gun isn't going to make it up front, better to cancel, return, and move on to the next one waiting in line. No guarrantee Gun #2 would be much better. If a gun bogs down halfway through a shoot, I've already wasted time & resources on it, it won't make the page anywhere, the editor will not run either a two-liner saying "By The Way, We Busted A Gun...." or a 2000-word description of a busted gun session, so I cut my losses, cancel the piece, and return the gun.
I understand that and I see your point; however, some guns just cannot be ignored. The manufacturers that buy up all those pretty pages in advertising want their products reviewed. And they want the reviews done in such a way that readers will want to buy them. And some readers will balk if they read that your first gun had a cracked forcing cone. When you invariably have to get a replacement, I suspect that first gun will not be mentioned. Not because no one wants to hear about it (I assure you they most certainly would like to hear about it), but because of payola! The advertising gods would not like to hear about it.

Staff writers on salary have more leeway in waiting for a second gun, and freelancers who do it more as a hobby than a business do too, but a product normally gets one chance with me, and if it doesn't hold up, it's over.
And that precludes a totally honest report. Based on your own descriptions here, you do get faulty products. When you do, you pass it off back to the editor who then assigns it to another writer who never mentions the previous failure. That's why gun mags don't have credibility. Unlike computer magazines, the articles are advertiser driven. The computer magazine articles I've read many times will trash a product that has full page ads. I just say, why can't gun magazines do the same? I don't mean write a 2,000 page article on a defective gun, but a touch of honesty would help gun mags gain credibility.

Worked with an AR-15 pistol last summer, wasted several hours in photography first, another hour & a bunch of ammo giving it every possible chance to function at the range, then gave up & cancelled. That happened to be the second time over the years I've tried that company's products, they didn't work either time, I saw no point in wasting more time & ammo asking for a second sample.
And you don't think that would rate a small write up in, say, a "Clunker's Corner" done maybe once or twice a year? I think it would be of great interest to readers and I would publish it in a heartbeat!

I won't speak for anybody else, but I'll tell you most of us DO speak the truth, and in my case you can run with the idea that if you see it in print under my byline, it's worth writing about.
Yes, but most writers couch their criticisms very carefully. I realize that it's our duty to do our own homework and that your articles are not there to tell us what to buy. But you can help us in what NOT to buy; otherwise, what's the point? If a handgun malfunctions in a test, it's something that should be emphasized to new shooters looking for a reliable means of self protection. I recall reading a review of a Sterling pocket pistol when I was new to handguns. It was a pretty little gun and based on the review, I picked up three .22LRs. Of course none of them worked because they were junk. They should have been featured in a "Clunker's Corner." Not all cheap guns were junk, though. I still have a Jennings J-22 that works flawlessly. Some, however, were junk and couldn't be counted on. So they could be added to a "Conditionally Acceptable" column.

http://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh198/jriler/Sterling22LR.jpg

The Sterling, in both .22 and .25 calibers, were totally junk. But they
got favorable reviews, probably because the reviewers got ringers
from the factory.


http://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh198/jriler/Jennings1.jpg

The Jennings J-22, in the same price range, works like a charm,
at least for me.

.
.

Confederate
January 31, 2012, 02:46 PM
Focus groups, not a chance. Not feasible.
Getting a small group of shooters together and seeing what they want in a gun magazine is not feasible? Then it becomes a situation where the product becomes a take it or leave it proposition.

If you fired the layout & design people in favor of somebody who'd put together a front like the one you show, you'd be out the door long before it ever had a chance to hit the newsstand.
If I had the money to put together a magazine with a front cover like that, people would leave the other magazines in droves. Unfortunately, I can't prove it to you. All I can say is that if I were at a book store and saw a magazine with a cover like that, I'd pick it up in a snap! Yes, it has B&W photos inside. So what? To me, B&W is far more appealing than all the color I'm hit with inside a gun magazine.

http://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh198/jriler/GunMag2.jpg

You don't know how the process works in this commercial setting, and trust me- no publisher (who pays the editor's salary) would go for a boring cover like that one. ... Editors are responsible to people above them, and it can be a complicated inter-relationship between the top guy, ad people, layout people, and the editor.
And that's why they're doomed to mediocrity. You find the cover of Handgun Tests boring. I find it fresh and invigorating. It stands out, and many people who are new to guns and who are experienced shooters would see a cover like the one above and go for it. It's so different from the same stale covers done in professional studios. Perhaps we can get some views if people are still reading this! :D

You're also wrong on the photography. ...today you do need to have at least a certain percentage of "flashy color photos" and all in high resolution. There are certain visual requirements imposed by the editor & others in the chain, and certain technical requirements imposed by the printing process itself.
Ah, but if I were the editor and publisher, the technical requirements would be much different. You apparently think that if you don't have the flashy studio color photos, the full page color ads and so forth, that you can't make it in this publishing industry. I disagree. I think these magazines need a vast toning down. We're hit with too much color and too many photos. Maybe I'm wrong, but unless we sit some shooters down and get their opinions, we'll never know.

.
.

DPris
January 31, 2012, 03:00 PM
Con,
I think this'll have to finish it up between you & I.
I don't mean to be offensive, but your ideas are just not realistic.

I'll wrap it up.
The way I work, 95% of what I cover is self-generated, in other words I propose it, I'm not assigned it.
I do get an occasional assignment, and if the gun is something I'm interested in, I'll take the assignment. If not, as in the case of a certain .454 Casul /.410 revolver I was offered a few months back (one of the silliest guns around, in my estimation), I'll say no thanks.

If I take an assignment, as with the $2800 custom concept 1911 I mentioned earlier, if it turns out to be a no go, I cancel. In that case, where the company involved is more interested in ego than addressing the issue and jerks their ads, the gun's dead. In other cases, if the gun doesn't work, it can be dropped entirely or offered to somebody else. It varies.

Nobody forces me to write about anything, assignment or otherwise, and anything you see my byline over was either of some personal interest or curiosity to me, or if not, at least something I didn't mind writing up regardless of whether it appealed to me or not.
I've cancelled several, as mentioned, and turned down a few.

Regarding your Gun #2 question, I'm saying what I already said- in most cases no, and for the reasons I mentioned.
Again, there are exceptions, such as the LCP. I got an early sample, worked with it, told Ruger what I found, discussed it on a couple forums, Ruger corrected the problem, and since there was so much interest in that pistol, I did wait for #2, and covered the results of testing both pistols.
More often, just no time.

Payola fixation aside, you're just not getting it & I doubt you will. :)
You'd publish a "Clunker's Corner" in a heartbeat?
Do it.

The Sterling?
A buddy of mine had one in .22 LR. Functioned perfectly, and he later couldn't understand the big flap over them being "junk". Probably still has it.

Con, that's about the best I'm gonna be able to do for you.
I've tried to give you the reasons behind the way the biz works, but it's obviously getting us nowhere. :)
Denis

Confederate
January 31, 2012, 08:54 PM
No offense taken, Denis. We all have our views and druthers on what we'd like to see and read. I also wish you luck in your work. If nothing else, you've shed a lot of light on the life of a gun writer. All I can say is that some folks want to get rid of the sameness in gun magazines and just get down to business. I throw away most of the gun magazines I subscribe to today, but I kept the ones you don't think would sell today. Why? Because of the boring lackluster covers and cool B&W photos inside.

Magazines today lean towards autos and I can't complain about that. I even have some of those autos. But I and many others don't like big flashy photos in articles and ads. It's overwhelming. One gun magazine I have is a 1981 Shooting Times article entitled, simply, Handguns, and "The Only Handgun Guide You Need!" It's got a big, beautiful color photo of an old-styled S&W 686 and three cartridges. Inside all the photos are B&W and it was worth every cent of the $3.95 I paid for it. And I've read it over and over throughout the years because it was just what I like in a gun magazine. One article was a roundup of .44 magnum pistols of varying types by Dick Metcalf. It also included a couple of pages of information on gun manufacturers, including their addresses and history. The modern plague of sameness hit when cheap color and professional layout became available.

I don't know, maybe people like it. But maybe they don't. We'll never know as long as no one asks them. I don't think they'll bother to write "lettitors," but I think you'll see progressive drop-offs in readership. And it's not just guns. It's knife magazines and car magazines. You go to a book store and you're hit with the same styles of flashy color photos inside and out. If I told an editor to hold back on them and to use smaller photos as well as a wide range of B&Ws, he'd show me the door, as you said.

.
.
.

azgunner
February 1, 2012, 09:09 AM
Gun magazines are the thing of the past. Guns & Ammo , Shooting Times, Petersens Hunting. All these were great gun magazines at one time. Now they aren't worth the ink that is used to print them. Most are filled will advertisments. And there is no substance to what is left. All the good/great gun writers are gone. Or don't really write anymore. I have all issues of Guns & Ammo from 1973 thru 1987 and 1979 thru 1986 of Shooting Times. I also have Petersens Hunting from 1974 thru 1978. If I want to read anything on guns or hunting, I read them. And re-read them. I wouldn't give a plug nickle for writers today.

murf
February 1, 2012, 10:36 AM
you would think a laptop is perfect to wile away the time during the time spent sitting in the bathroom. that is not why they are called laptops.

the only gun rag that accompanies me into the bathroom is handloader. it's the only subscription i have.

murf

Sam1911
February 1, 2012, 10:37 AM
Con,
I think I've already explained why we don't cover lemons.
No room.

Why don't we mention it when a gun has to be returned & cancelled?
No room.
If a gun blows up, it's not mentioned because there's no room, and no real point.
Can't just toss in a blurb somewhere & say "Breaking News. We Blew Up A Gun."
Readers would want more details. Then if we expand, we're back into the no room again.
Added to which is the single sample issue already mentioned.
You're just asking for things that can't & won't happen.

I think there could be something here that many magazines are missing out on. Denis, I know you're saying "can't and won't happen" due to space constraints and such, but the magazine that found a way to SOMEHOW cover these things in some small degree of brief detail would instantly place itself a full step above its competition.

I know it can't be a full article on the gun that didn't work after 10 shots. And I understand why you can't make a living on selling this non-article to the magazine. But were I a magazine editor, I might very well consider a monthly, bi-monthly, or even annual "goofs corner." Just a spot somewhere that features a roundup of problems that the contributing reporters have reported. Very brief. Very factual. Yes, it would be painful, but let the chips fall where they may. Something like this:

Gun Boom's Goofs Corner
Hi folks, Jim the editor here. We know you love reading about all the pretty guns and how well they work, but you know, and we know, that things don't always go as planned. Not every gun we get for testing is a winner, and some examples turn out to be not worth writing about. So, in the interest of full disclosure, here is a list of what DIDN'T work out this month...

1) One writer received a Ruger Super Redhawk for testing but after 4 rounds of .45 Colt ammo, it seized up and we couldn't finish the test.

2) One writer received an Anschutz target rifle that had a badly gouged crown. Accuracy was very poor, and this rifle was returned and the review cancelled as this is beleived to be not a representitive sample of the company's products.

3) One writer received a S&W 686 revolver with an unsafe condition due to the improper number of flutes being cut into the cylinder. The revolver was returned and the review cancelled as this quality-control issue made it unsafe to fire the weapon.

4) One writer received a Les Baer 1911 for review that had a poorly fit grip safety which did not allow the gun to fire reliably. That pistol was returned and a replacement was delivered. That replacement demonstrated the same problem, and was also returned. This review has been cancelled.

etc...

The editors of Gun Boom Magazine present this information without further comment and with no intent beyond honesty and transparancy in reporting. If time allows and replacement test guns are provided, we may repeat these reviews and repost our findings at a later time.

Take care, and shoot well,

-Jim

Maybe that's just half-a-page every other month. Which ever publication figured out how to do this would elevate themselves to a level of legitimacy that very many of us perceive to be lacking.

Something perhaps to share with any editor you feel has the insight and the guts to do so.

KodiakBeer
February 1, 2012, 01:29 PM
I guess it's a balance between pleasing your readers and pleasing your advertisers. Obviously the advertisers win...

The readers would be pleased to know that gun "X" is unreliable or dangerous.

MtnSpur
February 1, 2012, 01:40 PM
Gun magazines are the thing of the past. Guns & Ammo , Shooting Times, Petersens Hunting. All these were great gun magazines at one time. Now they aren't worth the ink that is used to print them. Most are filled will advertisments. And there is no substance to what is left. All the good/great gun writers are gone. Or don't really write anymore. I have all issues of Guns & Ammo from 1973 thru 1987 and 1979 thru 1986 of Shooting Times. I also have Petersens Hunting from 1974 thru 1978. If I want to read anything on guns or hunting, I read them. And re-read them. I wouldn't give a plug nickle for writers today.

Exactly !!!!! All the gun rags are good for is to promote the advertiser with the biggest wallet. They are a worthless expense and one can garner 100 times the information from the internet.

Samari Jack
February 1, 2012, 04:28 PM
The free magazine/catalog that comes from Dillon. They have a few articles in each edition and ogling the pictures is worth the price.:D

Confederate
February 1, 2012, 05:21 PM
Gun magazine editors won't learn until it's too late. Photos are so oversized and Photoshopped that people are just sick of it. If they want to know what will sell, go back to the 1980s and see what the magazines looked like and then go back to it. Also go back to black and white photos and if you're going to use color, get rid of the snazz and instead of using a full page to show a photo of a woman with a gun, like the magazine I have here, put it on two columns upper right under the headline. That frees up an entire page to use for text and photos. It's not rocket science. There are too many full page photos of guns and people. Geez, are we blind?

Even with ads we're hit with huge guns and products. And feature gun ads...er, reviews often take up a facing page with a huge color photo of a gun with a light down the barrel (when will THAT get old?). All that wasted space makes me wonder why I fool with it. Indeed, when I get a Guns & Ammo, it takes me about seven minutes to go through it. But no one wants or cares what readers want. Again, go back to the eighties!

.

Sam1911
February 1, 2012, 06:08 PM
If they want to know what will sell, go back to the 1980s and see what the magazines looked like and then go back to itUh, strictly speaking, that would be the right path if they wanted to know what sold in the 1980s. Markets develop and change. Evolve and devolve. Mature and also grow more superficial. Sell the same periodical in 2012 that you did 32 years ago, and folks will flock to the stores to NOT buy it in droves.

A black and white newsprint magazine with a jumbled, pointless photo of 37 unrelated firearms on the cover does not look current, relevant, or INTREST-GRABBING as anything other than a nostalgia trip. Do you have to put on bell bottoms and a sportcoat with suede elbow patches to read it? ;)

You keep saying that the editors aren't listening to what the readers want. I can't imagine why you would think that, except that they don't print what YOU, personally, want. But you're content to read back issues of magazines, some of which are out of print, about guns that have been out of production for decades. Hey, that would be fun sometimes. But good grief -- not every month!

I know you really like B&W photos. But that just isn't going to happen. There's no need and the target market will look at you like you're the Ford dealer who just rolled out a whole lot full of brand new Edsels. There's no market for that (besides you).

Every editor and publisher will do anything at all to sell a few more copies. YES, they ask folks what they want. YES, they listen to all the conflicting input and make very carefully calculated changes to their format and content. They have to to stay current and relevant. Because they want to sell as many magazines as they can.

But you AREN'T their target market. Really, nothing you've described seems to fit with the magazine buyer they're aiming at. Folks like big color photos that show the details. They like to see it big and up-close and then they want a little bit of text to basically tell them, "Yes guys, it's really all that cool!"

If the magazines can work hard to prepare a tech-head journal filled with great information, a few stripped-down photos, and the good, the bad, and the ugly -- and they can sell 5,000 copies --- OR --- they can work hard to prepare a glossy batch of "gun porn" long on drool-factor, lite on data, but they can sell 50,000 copies ... guess which they're going to print?

You want your 1980 version? Fine. Put your money into printing it. Or convince a publisher that you'll get 50,000 pals to buy it if they print it.

Look, it's just like why Ruger doesn't sell the Deerfield carbine any more. Or Marlin won't make the Camp-9 or the Model 99, Remington doesn't make the 788, and so on. They were neat. They developed niche followings, or were even very popular for a while. But times and tastes changed and those offerings don't support their own costs when in the market any more, so they are not made. No one is in business for the good of the world, or to make sure there are cool things folks like. If it doesn't sell -- a LOT, at a good price -- it's gone. If the competitor comes out with a more glamorous, full-color splashy version, you adapt to match or beat them at that game, or you close the doors and retire.

The old guys and the nostalgists and a few "in the know" will be sad and grumpy about it, but their dollars weren't going to keep the lights on, so you have to sell to the customers whos dollars WILL.

And there are a WHOLE lot of guys who really really like looking at the pictures. As a famous character once said, "I can read when I'm DEAD!"

DPris
February 2, 2012, 12:07 AM
Sam,
I know there's a widespread wish that the gunmags would cover a clunker as thoroughly as a non-clunker.
Your suggestion is a modification, and a more realistic one, of that wish, but still not worth the space.

Single-sample cancellations would be quickly denounced as being... single samples, the mag would get mail from brand-fans pointing that out, from others who'd demand more detail, and it'd be more of an all-round negative than a positive.
Double-samples are probably infrequent enough not to bother with, and I'll tell you that concurrent with the two unwritable Smiths I had there were other writers talking about how happy they were with their samples at the same time. With the two ArmaLite .30-calibers I cancelled, people were still buying & shooting them (or trying to shoot), despite feeding issues that were far from new. With the two Rock River products that did not work for me, those products were selling & there are many Rock River fans right now that'd say both were just a fluke, the writer didn't know what he was doing, the magazine hates RR, and so on.

In those three cases, how truly useful do you think it'd be to the reading public to see a couple samples from each company were unusable?
People get products that work fine, people get some that work "OK" enough, and some people get some that don't work well at all.
That's pretty much the nature of the game. :)
It's deemed not worth taking up space because it has insufficient benefit to justify it.

How many times do you see in a gun forum "I sent my Smith alloy J-Frame back to Smith & Wesson (not picking on S&W, just using an illustration) and they replaced it. The second gun has problems too & I'm returning it."
Does that mean all Smith alloy J-Frames are bad? Nope. Does it really make much difference to S&W fans? Nope. Does it slow down sales to prospective buyers much? No.
No sarcasm intended, but what would make that same information more valuable in a gunmag?

I still read 'em, as I've said.
If I saw a half-page Monthly Clunker section I'd glance through it quickly, if at all, think "Yeah, OK, stuff happens & lemons get out", shake my head sorrowfully twice, and I'd be on to the next page. As I do when I see a post to that effect on a forum.
And, it'd open up the gates to "Tell us MORE", or "Mine's fine, you just got a bad one, so what?"

I can't emphasize enough how space is hotly competed for. And that allocation isn't up to the writer, isn't even entirely controlled by the editor.

And, fully agree with your comments to Con.
I was thinking exactly the same stuck-in-the-80s thoughts myself. :)

Kod,
I see nobody anywhere saying how happy they are at the current prices of today's gunmags. I see occasional gripes about how much they do cost.
Re advertizers, they are a necessary part & parcel of the magazine industry.
Without them, the mags could not exist without jacking up the per-issue price to considerably more than it is now.

That's one aspect of the balancing act that the management has to do in each & every issue. Gotta have enough content to sell a copy to a reader, gotta have enough ad space sold so the reader doesn't have to pay $100 per magazine.

The mags could not exist without the advertizer, they also could not exist without the reader.
The mags sell info to the reader & ad space to the advertizer.
Fewer ads mean fewer pages, not more article room. Trust me on that. :)

Denis

wlewisiii
February 2, 2012, 12:15 AM
I think what gets confused is that there are two markets for gun rags. One is dying - that's the Guns & Ammo model. What's new, what's hot, let's get out there even before the ads. That kind of thing is getting it's lunch eaten by the internet and given the lies of 99% of those rags? Good riddance.

The flipside of that is the hyper specialized and/or collectors rag. My preference is "The Double Gun And Single Shot Journal" Expensive by modern standards (even with advertising) and only 4 issues a year. But it gives info and photos that you don't want to trust to the transient nature of the web. Reference material should always be dead tree and these magazines are reference materials.

Somewhere in between are the literary journals. Gray's Sporting Journal is the only one I know that is still around. (Good sweet lord, please give me more rags willing to print poetry about upland game hunting in every issue that goes to press. Amen) Once upon a time Field and Stream and the rest were like that, I've been told. But that was long before this old fart was born, alas.

So there it is. Free advice worth every penny you paid for it. :what:7

Confederate
February 2, 2012, 02:21 AM
Sam, you have some valid points. It's always dangerous to go back too far in the past without good reason. It used to be that color photos were just too expensive to print, for example. So publishers early on had to set up their contracts in one of two ways. First, they could set up their publications to have no color or, two, they could opt for some color--and some publishers decided on one or the other. If a publication had color options, they could opt for so many photos in any given month being in color. Black and white pubs generally had one color page, front and back, as the cover. This would give you a front and back and front inside and back inside, folded down the middle. This would be stapled over the rest of the publication, where the rear outside and inside would generally be ads and the front outside would be the magazine cover. The front inside was usually negotiable. Those with the color option could opt for some inside photos and they would generally have to commit to having a certain amount of color photos per issue.

Now I'm not advocating black and white photos because they're inexpensive, but because they look good and add diversity to the publication. But even if people love color all the time, present mags still use it too much. There's also too much of a waste of space, as I said. Instead of monster photos, I'd rather see smaller photos. Most good magazines use anywhere from 2-4 columns, and can juggle between them when certain rules are followed. For maximum photo utilization, three columns works well for horizontal or vertical photos. Two columns work better with vertical photos. Four columns work better with horizontal photos. Horizontals can stretch across all columns regardless of column number, but verticals are sometimes hard to fit because of proportion. Thus, regardless of photos in a story, they can usually be fitted to the story conveniently and large enough for readers to see clearly what they're looking for. So why do we have entire color pages when they're clearly not needed? Getting back to black and white photos, I think they break up the monotony of all color and, like b&w movies, they actually make magazines look better in places. (If some of you people who take videos outdoors of your family and kids, try to use the b&w feature sometimes.) As someone who has one foot in b&w TV and the other in color TV, I appreciate the strengths of both. Even so, I'll completely give up b&w if magazines would give me smaller photos and make photos on the covering pages of reviews smaller and please, no more lights down the barrels.

By freeing up pages, more text and more (smaller) photos can be used.

Like I said, too much space is being wasted by color Photoshopped photos. Less flash and more sizzle will make for a better steak!

Steel Talon
February 2, 2012, 03:04 AM
Hardly ever anymore for the past 10 plus years. Use to be an avid reader when the mags were informative, not too heavily biased and shared useful how to projects.

My last hold out was Shooting times, but when Jamerson left it declined rapidly for me. Now once in a blue moon I'll grab a shotgun news.

I purchased my XD when they first came out based on information I gathered from the magazines.

Off the NET from the forums is where I get my gun reading now. Raw real time thoughts. However I tire of the you tube reviews its all the same. When it comes from the "In The Know Fella" that get watched regularly, and have internet cred....

It's still all the same. There's the one guy that people like allot, and he's quite knowledgeable His narrative about the Rifle,pistol,shotgun,ammo (all sent to him) is the same basic mix. Ability to drive the "firearm" Comfort / reliability. Ammo seems to work fine. Great people at Green Rocket Bullet Works for sending me these fine cartridges.

Then he goes about shooting the same steel targets, gong, swingers, plastic bottles,watermelons. It doesn't change. That gets boring to me so I choose not to watch to many you tube videos from these people.

Sam1911
February 2, 2012, 07:22 AM
In those three cases, how truly useful do you think it'd be to the reading public to see a couple samples from each company were unusable?

...

It's deemed not worth taking up space because it has insufficient benefit to justify it.

...

No sarcasm intended, but what would make that same information more valuable in a gunmag?


Denis, my point with it would be to increase the credibility of the magazine. Some readers understand that life is not all a bed of roses, and clunkers get through. But the gun press has a well-earned reputation for turning a completely blind eye to that reality and that causes a disconnect between the magazine (and its writers) and the reader.

Now I understand that you're saying that none of this comes from a desire to deceive or to sugar-coat the facts to the benefit of the advertiser, but due to very practical realities of how writing and reviewing work. However, surely you've heard it often enough that you must understand -- this is just how such reporting is seen. How could it not be? When you go on a gun forum you will see in any discussion of the merits of a gun, that 20 people were perfectly happy, one is utterly miserable, and five had some issue that the manufacturer had to fix. Or some variation on that theme.

But when you read the gun press every article is presented as though NONE of those six malcontents' experiences were part of the picture. We know that is a false view of the industry but (for perfectly innocuous reasons) the press is FAILING here.

I understand that you got two Amalites that didn't work, but other guys got guns that ran fine. No worries. Let them write their glowing articles. Let your publisher put his note in the "Oh Crap" corner -- not as a long article about what went wrong, but just a note that, yeah...we got two that didn't work. That's not perfectly balanced reporting, but it's closer.

...

Having said all that -- perhaps the real (and valid) answer is, if the magazines are selling, who cares about credibility? It's not like the most discerning, knowledgeable shooters and gun buyers are getting their info from print these days anyway. Consumer item periodicals -- especially gun, car, truck, boat, and similar magazines -- are mostly about selling the fantasy. Show me lots of hot close-up photos and give me a little basic get-to-know-ya text.

"I like long walks on the beach, the color green, the smell of Hoppes No. 9, a good tight sling, and my major turn-ons are Varget and a 168 gr. match boat-tail..."

Nobody really want to find out Miss September snores, has a rocky relationship with her mother, has an irritating laugh, and suffers occasional bouts with irritable bowel syndrome.

bassdogs
February 2, 2012, 09:33 AM
Just scanned the last couple of pages of posts, so I hope I'm not repeating points already made. I don't read or buy magazines of any kind. For decades now they are nothing but platforms for advertizers and promos for new products. Gun mags are no different than travel, womens fashion, DYI Home Improvement, or parenting mags. One or two articles or an interview with an expert of sorts, and a hundred pages of ads and promos.

When I want to find out about a subject, new product offering, or help in making a decision I come to a forum like this and read what people have to say. I did exactly that when I prepared for an RV trip to Alaska last Fall. Thanks to KodiacBeers and others for their feedback. A gun magazine would have directed me to the latest or biggest weapon to answer my inquiry about a SD weapon in big bear country. Instead I got down to earth suggestions from people who have been there and experienced [some way to closely] the threat that I was anxious about. In the end, my wife and I had a wonderful fall trip to the wilds of Ak and never had to draw a weapon in SD. I am now the proud owner of a short barrel 870 12guage and am already planning my next adventure that will take us across Canada as we drive to Ak and deliver a new RV to a rental company in Anchorage.

DPris
February 2, 2012, 01:26 PM
I do understand that people want to see the "other side of the coin". :)
Maybe, in addition to understanding the space limitations, it could help if you consider some additional thoughts.

Possibly first & foremost is that the gunmags are based (primarily) on the idea of illustrating a particular gun or product & what it did for the author. Not on widely reporting the goods, the bads, the mediocres, and the failures of the firearms industry at large.

Readers read to gain information on what the gun is & what they can reasonably expect it to do.
Most readers understand lemons get out, why waste space saying "We got a lemon this time, back to our regularly scheduled show."?

We write about products that do work, editors & publishers see more value in such uses of space than in covering, even in a limited fashion, clunkers.
We simply can't cover everthing out there, good AND bad, so we go with what works.
You could view it from the perspective of understanding that, accept that the gunmag can't be truly complete, and just use what's there to get as much as you can out of it, realizing it's only one source of information, and can't realistically be expected to do it all.

We are not here to tell you what gun not to buy.

We are not Consumer Reports, testing multiple samples side by side in a lab setting to declare a best buy.
We are not here to regale with hunting stories.
We are no longer living in the 1960s when travel was not as common, audiences were not as sophisticated, African safaris were still exciting & novel, and fun border stories were do-able.

We are no longer living in earlier times where the focus was more directed toward articles such as "Making The $15 Surplus Mauser Into A First Class Deer Rifle", or "Making Your Own Gunpowder Out Of Used Innertubes And Nitric Acid".

Today's audience is much more sophisticated, has much more money to spend, is (in noticeable trending) shifting away from traditional hunting uses & hunting stories, and wants to know about the latest & greatest in higher numbers than those who ARE still in hunting mode. (Yes, I know- still a lot of hunters, and still a lot of older readers who like the older stuff. :) )
But, the numbers are with NEW. The numbers are with a younger demographic. The numbers are with tactical & self-defense.
The numbers cannot be ignored.

I recall when I was first starting to do the SHOT Show back in the mid-90s. LE & "tactical" took up one relatively small corner of the exhibit floor. Since then, it's expanded exponentially & spread out all over the floors. What used to be maybe 5% of the show space is easily up to 40% (probably higher), and if you knew how big the SHOT Show is, you'd understand that's a huge market indicator.
That also came with a progressive reduction in general outdoors & hunting space.

While there is still a market for those who like to do it themselves, the general interest mags have to throw in a mix that leans away from the do-it-yourselfer. You may see a hunting piece or two, a shotgun piece, a couple handgun pieces, a reloader's column, and so on, with a general approach to a general audience.
If you have a more specialized interest, you go to more specialized mags, and today there more of those than there were 40 years ago, to satisfy that specialized interest.

No single general-format magazine can satisfy everybody.

As for the "Same Factor", just what would you expect? There are only so many things to shoot at, so many ways to describe a gun, so many terms to use, and so many ways to convey impressions.

Remember when you hated doing a term paper for a highschool or college class?
Consider we do the equivalent up to three or four times a month.
Just not possible to come up with fresh & exciting prose after doing that for 20+ years.
Or new & exciting testing protocols.
Template? Repetitive? See the three lines above this one. :)

It's not a perfect system. Neither, by FAR, is gaining info from gun forums.
You use whatever sources you can find, realizing there are drawbacks to each & that each is incomplete to some degree.

Credibility is important, but the gunmags are far from the only source of firearms info that struggles with that issue. :)
Denis

Steel Talon
February 3, 2012, 09:05 PM
There are only so many things to shoot at, so many ways to describe a gun, so many terms to use, and so many ways to convey impressions.

Exactly.. It gets boring reading the same old stuff.

I understand for a business to stay solvent you must appeal to your demographic, specifically you need to be cultivating the younger group. I'm guessing that even the younger group seems to quickly bore of the material presented?

And to make money in this media, A publisher needs $pon$or$ (advertisers),so a symbiotic relationship grows between writer and sponsor. If sponsor A is paying XXX worth of the rag$ income and providing product. Then that publisher is going to focus XXX attention in pro articles and space. If sponsor B is only giving X they will receive according treatment. I might be wrong but I doubt it.

Dogguy
February 6, 2012, 04:21 PM
Gun writers like Skeeter were more than just good gun writers. They were good writers. Skeeter would spin a story that got you involved and then by the end of it you might realize the subject of the gun was only a minor point in the whole tale. Wish there was more of that around today. Most gun magazine articles today are little more than ad copy.

I haven't bought a gun magazine in years. Every month I get an email from a couple of magazines that link me to their electronic issue. I always check them out but seldom read the articles anymore. When I do read an article, I figure it could have been written by a soulless computer using plug-in phrases. Really, how many times in your lifetime can you look at an article and photos about a 1911 pistol without just getting that thousand-yard stare?

Mike OTDP
February 7, 2012, 09:36 AM
As I mentioned before, it's the sameness that is the most annoying. You could subscribe to a magazine for about three years...then start realizing that the stories were being reworked and recycled, like the old guy telling the same sea story over and over.

The most frustrating part is that it doesn't have to be that way. There are five Olympic pistol events - yet the last time I saw an article on an Olympic-grade pistol was in the mid-1990s. Instead, we get Gunsmith Xs custom 1911 - which happens to be pretty much identical to Gunsmith A through W's custom 1911s.

The material is out there, you just have to be willing to print it.

Steel Horse Rider
February 7, 2012, 11:28 AM
I have read these same comments about motorcycle magazines today. Humanity is the same across the spectrum.

DPris
February 7, 2012, 01:44 PM
An Olympic pistol is a limited-interest item few would buy.
The 1911, on the other hand, is extremely popular.
You should be able to see which one gets the coverage & why. :)
Denis

JohnBT
February 7, 2012, 02:53 PM
"Most readers understand lemons get out, why waste space saying "We got a lemon this time, back to our regularly scheduled show."?"

Precisely.

All the gun reviewers do is write a brief overview of the model and show you what you can probably expect to see if you get one. Anybody who expects promises that everything will work out perfectly if they buy one needs to call mom for a hug and quit reading gun mags. ;)

I believe it to be completely unrealistic for a gun mag to buy 50 copies of one model and torture test them and accuracy test them and go over them all with a fine toothed comb and report the percentages of this, that and the other. It's just a little show and tell is all it is.

I still have a subscription to Precision Shooting and frequently buy Shotgun Journal and some of the specialty mags. They have interesting articles, many of them in depth and written by people with a specific interest.

John

hAkron
February 7, 2012, 04:53 PM
I read just read them for the articles...oh, who am I kidding, I like to drool over the pictures.

Honestly though, I don't put a whole lot of stock in the reviews, I like the factual info (this gun holds 15 rounds, this gun comes in 2 finishes, etc) and I like the ads, especially the ones for companies I may not have otherwise heard of. I recently started reading Shotgun news and I think it's a worthwhile publication.

JohnBT
February 7, 2012, 06:08 PM
Seriously, the pictures in the magazines are easier for me to see than looking at the same gun in the gun store with the bad lights and my dirty glasses.

John

jhco50
February 8, 2012, 02:14 AM
None. I got tired of all of the articles being about semi-auto handguns and black rifles. To top it off, all of it is tactical and I don't have much tact. :D

Rexster
February 8, 2012, 03:50 AM
I do miss the writings of Bill Jordan, Charlie Askins, Skeeter Skelton, Tom Ferguson, and others of that era! Jim Wilson wrote good stuff, too, more recently, but his writing has faded away, too. To answer the title question, I used to read many, but today, only pick up the occasional "American Handgunner" with any regularity, and it is not nearly what it used to be. The propaganda from the NRA that pretends to be journalism usually goes straight into the recycle bin. I really should check to see if I can request "none of the
above" as my magazine choice.

It is not just the firearms press that has gone downhill in the USA. To really learn anything from a bicycling or photography magazine nowadays, I usually pick up something published in the UK. The Brits still know how to write and inform. Of course, there is not much new the Brits can say about most firearms, as their firearms culture is nearly extinct.

Sam1911
February 8, 2012, 08:01 AM
It is not just the firearms press that has gone downhill in the USA.
What sells, and what is good, valuable, cherish-able, and worthwhile, are now -- and probably always have been -- somewhat at odds.

Go back much over 200 years ago and only the intelligentsia and various educated classes could read and/or could afford printed materials, therefore more printed material was important, weighty stuff. Today we have a very high literacy rate. Most residents of the world's developed countries can read and can afford printed material of some sort. But the ability to recognize words does not inherently connote the education, cognizance, and attention span required to appreciate good, informative, and well-crafted writing of any form.

So we find the world of popular print media has developed to sell the largest possible units of low-cost periodicals, by giving the broadest market something that matches their simplest wants. Lots of pictures, short, light, bare-bones articles not running more than a page and a half, and only on subjects that are flash and sizzle and exciting. Mental junk food.

For most purchasers of a gun rag out of the magazine rack at the local supermarket, finding inside a 4,000 word essay on the development of the S&W Triple Lock, or the mechanics of bullet stabilization, or the technical reasons behind the problems encountered during the early fielding of the M-16 rifle in Vietnam would be like biting into a big chunk of carrot in their piece of chocolate cake, or finding the can of Coke is really full of skim milk.

JohnBT
February 8, 2012, 03:28 PM
"finding inside a 4,000 word essay on the development of "

That's why I like Precision Shooting and Double Gun Journal. Of course, they don't publish lengthy pieces on the finer points of difference between, say, a 2nd generation and 3rd generation Glock or how to use a Judge for 1000-yard benchrest and Olympic trap. :cool:

kb58
February 8, 2012, 04:42 PM
...One such was a new revolver model that interested me personally & was generating a lot of gun forum buzz. First sample had multiple issues, but the consumer interest in it was high & I requested a second sample. Which was every bit as bad as the first. Game over. Guns returned unfired, article cancelled...
To me, this is news in itself. I understand that without a product to review, there can't be a review. However, when you order two units and neither worked - that is worthy of reporting. It certainly won't make points with the manufacturer, but it would be helpful to potential buyers to know that the product has issues.

This thread is rather timely because I happen to be writing an article about how human nature and random chance affect perceptions, and this is a good case in point. The data you were supplied (two defective units) was not passed on to readers, and by doing so, biases the data and gives a slanted view of the product to readers - simply by not publishing anything. In a way, it's a "complement by omission" where since nothing positive could be said, nothing is said, but it results in an uneven playing field because the bad news is left out. I'm not saying you personally, all of us do the same thing in both directions. A product is either "wonderful" or "it sucks", neither view really results in true objective data.

Regarding the comment, "A writer just can't win", I have to agree. If he prints good news, he's a "shil", and if he prints bad news, he gets black-listed. And if he gets a defective product, does he print the bad news, or assume he got that 1 out of 100 failure and not print anything, biasing the results. Once money is brought into the equation it becomes much more difficult to balance real data against writing an article that exists simply to pay the bills.

I think that the problem is we live in a litigious society, that the fear of lawsuits has scared everyone into printing only feel-good stories. Far and few are articles that say, "this product is very bad." It just doesn't happen. Look at American car TV shows versus British car TV shows, and there's a huge difference. On "Top Gear", if a car sucks, they say, "This car sucks." Here, it's so watered down as to say very little at all, ending up as some video, some words, and little else.

I haven't read magazine in years because of all the comments about - the utter "sameness" of the reviews which result in a uniform color of gray as far as real information goes. I find it much more useful to read forums and actual user comments - good and bad. Sure, the outspoken few who are pissed at a particular manufacturer make a disproportionate amount of noise, but it's still a far more (perceived) sense of objectivity I see in the forums versus print media.

I think the reason why forums tend to win out is because there's a perception that because no one's getting paid, the objectivity is better, rightly or wrongly deserved.

DPris
February 8, 2012, 09:42 PM
KB58,
Didn't I mention that both samples I got were received at the same time other writers were reviewing the same model & liking them? Thought I did.

Tell me how useful it'd be to the reading public to see Writers A,B & C wrote up samples they liked while Writer D returned two bad guns, and cancelled his piece.

OK, D got two bad ones & decided to let the article go.
The other three guys got good ones & wrote 'em up that way.

Conclusion? Stuff happens. Some days you get a good one, some days you get a bad one. Some days you get two bad ones.
Happens to writers, happens to readers.
Would it have changed the world as we know it if I'd tried to "report it"? Nope.
Would it have caused anybody to not buy that gun if I had? Seriously doubt it.

You see forum posts all the time about purchasers having to return new guns because of malfunctions or QC issues. You'll also see some "Now, that just ain't right" responses, after which everybody who wanted one of the guns in question still buys it, the company involved still makes it, and the world goes on.

One cancellation I did about 15 years ago involved a particular very cheap semi-auto carbine I thought was poorly designed & shoddily built. I wouldn't own one as a gift, I wouldn't recommend anybody bet their life or their money on it. I saw nothing to write about.

That one's still in production today, and it has a certain following among people who don't care how it's built because it's cheap & it has "a GREAT warrantee".
It's occasionally mentioned on the forums, followed by immediate accusations of Gun Snobbery directed at anybody who dares to make a derogatory comment about it.

My opinion, had I "reported" what I disliked about the thing, would have generated the same responses, would not have swayed knowledgeable buyers out of acquiring one when they were perfectly capable of coming to the same conclusions I did & talking themselves out of buying it, and those who saw only "cheap" and "warrantee" would have gone right on buying them.

Show me the benefit of wasting print space in these instances? :)
Denis

Confederate
February 8, 2012, 11:42 PM
I'm not surprised by any of the criticisms here. But what did surprise me was that Denis did not think that going backwards would work. Many of us old farts here remember when color TV was first introduced. BATMAN, GET SMART, I DREAM OF JEANIE and other programs gave us vivid colors even if the writing was pretty much the same. Then color came to gun magazines and suddenly everything was high gloss and huge! It wasn't just that the writers we loved were gone. It's that everything changed for the worst! I just got my recent GUNS & AMMO and it was, lie the previous issue, awful. Talk about wasted space!

Now my suggestion was to step backward. Make articles more substantive and shoot photos in black & white. Denis, of course, doesn't think this will work. It's not that I have nostalgic feelings about black & white; it's that black & white actually produces superior tones and more detail in dark areas. It also would detract from all the glaring color! I also would drop the facing pages photos with type over the dark areas. In short, Denis doesn't think stepping back in time and focusing more on content and less on gloss is the answer. But I invite readers to check out any monthly magazine and check out how little content there is. (One article in G&A was about a gun manufacturer that produced two identical autos, one several ounces lighter than the other. The photo showed one gun, with a stainless finish, next to its plastic twin--only the latter was covered by two stainless clips that totally eclipsed it!) I was hardly flabbergasted as this is what I've come to expect. But I still think going back and doing it the way it used to be done is a major step in fixing the problem. Denis, however, thinks shooting photos in black & white would be rejected by readers. I have one article, a roundup of .44 magnums from a 1980s magazine, where the B&W photo of the revolvers takes up one half of one page. The facing page has no photos, but the next page does. But they're fairly small. The article, by Dick Metcalf, is excellent and (I think I mentioned this), and the article is followed by a short write-up of each of the gun manufacturers featured in the article. It's a magazine I've kept and it's well worn from reading. I doubt anyone saves any gun magazines now, and if they do, I'd be stunned if they go back and reread them.

Some anti-gun people liken the modern gun magazine to pornography, but they miss the fact that car magazines, knife magazines and others have followed the same sad format. These editors could learn a thing or two by looking at computer magazines or, better, going back to the 80s and doing it the way it used to be done. Of course no one will listen to an old, half-dead fossil like myself. We'll just keep going down the same sad path.


http://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh198/jriler/AAAGunMag_2.jpg

Color? Who needs it? Go back to B&W!

.
.

DPris
February 9, 2012, 12:08 AM
Con,
It's not that Denis THINKS going back to the 80s wouldn't work, it's Denis KNOWS going back to the 80s wouldn't work.

I started writing professionally 22 years ago, submitting B&W photos. I saw the color creep in. I saw B&W reduced greatly.
I also saw an increase in sales as color became more prominent.
I was the first guy to go digital with my editors in the late 90s.
I've been here, on the inside, watching trends develop, watching the gun market change, watching the publishing process itself evolve, and evolving along with that in terms of both editorial and technical requirements, for quite a while now.

Digging in & refusing to move beyond 1985 is a recipe for a publisher to go bankrupt, and in a big hurry.

Going retro just ain't in the cards, and it'd lose sales to just about everybody but you.
And you, unfortunately, don't spend enough to keep the mags afloat. :)

You might want to give it a rest. Your vision isn't going to happen.
Denis

twofifty
February 9, 2012, 01:21 AM
A very enjoyable discussion worthy of J-school.
Thanks for the insights into an industry that is under siege from all sides.

DPris
February 9, 2012, 01:49 AM
Happy to oblige.
Denis

kb58
February 9, 2012, 09:37 AM
My opinion, had I "reported" what I disliked about the thing, would have generated the same responses, would not have swayed knowledgeable buyers out of acquiring one when they were perfectly capable of coming to the same conclusions I did ...
But how do these knowledgable buyers acquire this knowledge? From personal experience, talking to others, and reading. By omitting negative data, the only data in the public domain ends up artificially positive. What we end up with is a if-you-can't-say-something-nice-don't-say-anything-at-all style of journalism and indeed, that's what most magazines contain these days. I still say the root cause of this is the threat of lawsuits...

To get back on-topic, that's why I don't read magazines, due to suspecting that they're a poor choice for objective and balanced reporting.

Sam1911
February 9, 2012, 09:46 AM
I think the take-home messages here, both from Denis and from the other posters, are these:

1) The gun press is continuing to evolve in a direction that sells magazines,
2) Those evolutionary steps are not very appealing to the more advanced or knowlegible enthusiast, falling short in both quality of information and credibility of the periodical as a resource,
3) The disappointment of the knowlegable few cannot be a compelling force on the publishers to change because the huge majority of magazine buyers don't know or care about point 2, as evidenced by point 1.

In other words, making the magazines better would not sell more magazines. So don't expect them to get better.

Mike OTDP
February 9, 2012, 10:09 AM
What kind of un-sameness would you like to see?

Let's see...

Coverage of the Olympic shooting events. Including some tests of the guns used. A shoulder-to-shoulder shootoff of the Olympic Rapid Fire pistols would be nice...or of the Free Pistols. The last article on an Olympic-grade firearm I can recollect reading was published ten years ago.

Coverage of the World Muzzle-Loading Championships. You get ~400 competitors from 30 nations at one of those - shooting everything from Japanese matchlocks (an article in itself), through Civil War revolvers, to percussion target rifles. (I've written articles in the past, but a wider audience would be most welcome) Throw in some tests of some of the guns used - preferably written by someone reasonably knowledgable.

An article on Pocket Pistols - Then and Now. Compare the old Colts, Walthers, and Remingtons with the new Seecamps and Rohrbaughs. Are the old guns better? Worse? Was Grand-dad really as underarmed with his .32 as we think...or was he cunning like a fox, carrying a gun that he could shoot straight and fast?

An article on duelling pistols. Actually, just an opening - I'll be happy to write that one.

We're in the middle of the Civil War sesquicentennial - that's a whole series of articles.

Start with a feature article on the North-South Skirmish Association. Photos of their massive 500-position range, filled with shooters. Artillery competition. Color photos.

Then follow up with a piece on the smoothbore musket, which may not have been as obsolete as people made out. Try buck-and-ball loads against cardboard cutouts representing a body of enemy soldiers, and you might find that those old gaspipes weren't as useless as people think.

That should be a good start... :-)

DPris
February 9, 2012, 11:55 AM
Limited interest & too ambitious. :)
Denis

sugarmaker
February 9, 2012, 12:25 PM
I like investigations with a good story, test plan, pictures, and most of all, some data. It takes effort and expense. Examples of ideas: Accuracy comparison between WFN, LFN, and Keith. Similar bullet weights, three different guns, 10 shot groups, finding the best load, and at ranges from 50 to 200Y. Accuracy of match ammo made with Lee collet neck size dies. Performance of VLD bullets on ballistic gel, maybe some plywood in there, different calibers, twists, impact velocities. It can be the same stuff someone else has done, just as long as its original material. Too much "conventional wisdom" out there, opinion, and theory passed as fact. Does a product perform as claimed, in a well designed test? Which progressive loading machine jams least out of the box? how to get accurate ammo from a progressive? Some clever reloading tricks tested...that kind of stuff interests me. Best long range 1st shot hit shooters - how far is too far to hunt?

bannockburn
February 9, 2012, 01:14 PM
I think what I have learned from this thread, thanks to the insider knowledge that Denis has passed along is that mainstream gun magazines are trying to sell mostly the sizzle and not so much the steak; and this to the greatest number of people. Show the gun, write a brief descriptive article about it, along with a test-fire/range report, and then move on to the next article for next months magazine. Nothing personal; strictly business. No negative tell-all reporting, just the facts because that's what the editors and the publishers want. Sort of like when we did Show-and-Tell when we kids in school, only now it's done for us as adults. Nothing wrong with that because once you realize the format, then it's up to you as comsumers to either buy the magazine or put it back in the rack.

This approach in turn means publishers have to appeal to the lowest common denominator possible; people out there with a general interest in guns. Not necessarily to the nostalgia buff, the historical reenactor, the dedicated specialist, or to the technology driven statistician. Simple informative articles with lots of nice well staged color photos of the latest and greatest firearm or related product, designed to serve the general interests of the general public.

I started out many years ago reading Guns and Ammo, Shooting Times, Guns, Gun World, Combat Handguns, SWAT, American Rifleman, and American Handgunner; just about anything out there that had something to do with guns. But as I grew older, and maybe a little wiser, I found that the repetitive nature of those magazines covering the same guns at the same time became rather boring and unsatisfying; the mainstream articles no longer appealed to me. So I stopped reading them. Nowadays I occasionally pick up Shotgun News, more for the ads than anything else; and Small Arms Review, a very informative and well written magazine which deals primarily with full-auto firearms, both in todays world and from an historical perspective. For just about everything else related to guns I come here to THR.

DPris
February 9, 2012, 01:44 PM
Sugar,
Much too ambitious & specialized for a general-interest gun mag.

Look at the time & expense involved in those.
An on-staff writer (salaried employee, in other words) makes the same salary all year long whether he writes 12 articles or 20. His expenses in doing a given project/article are paid by the publisher. He has sufficient time, within that salaried context, to take enough of it to do what the editor & publisher are willing to let him do (as in pay for). The expenses are typically agreed on up front.

The editor & the writer know what the approximate cost will be in terms of time & expenses, and if the editor thinks the end result, the article, will fit the overall magazine "theme" & be of sufficient interest to a segment of its readership to be worth the cost, the article's green-lighted.
AND- such expenses have to fall within the budget for the issue that article will appear in. Editors do not have unlimited funds to spend on content for any given issue.

If it takes a week, two weeks, or three weeks, the writer's drawing a paycheck all along, and his expenses are covered, so he can do that.

Contrast that with the freelancer (which the majority of us are).
As mentioned before, I get the same set fee for a one week, two week, or three week article. I can usually do a standard piece in a week. If I do a three week article, I lose out on the revenue from two other articles I could have been producing in that same time-frame.

If I do a long & involved piece, when the eventual check for it that may take anywhere from one month to six months to arrive is divided by the hours put into it, I can average out to four or five dollars an hour for my efforts, and that just doesn't pay the bills at my house. And, that'd be on top of the revenue loss caused by tying up all that time on one article when I could be doing three instead.

My expenses are typically not paid by the editor who buys the piece, and have to come out of the set fee check.
On occasion, I can get reimbursed for minor expenses, with emphasis on the "minor".
Only once in 22 years has a publisher covered travel expenses for an out-of-state event for me. It does happen for freelancers, but rarely.
The prevaling attitude is that we're on our own for such things.

Between those two factors, the set fees & the non-covered expenses, most freelancers simply can't afford to travel to faraway events. Travel, hotel, and eating expenses add up quick, and eat up any projected return revenue even quicker. Some events require their own costs to attend, further killing off any profit.

In many cases, if not most, where you see a freelancer covering a specialized event, or doing a long & involved article, it's only because he has a deep personal interest in the event or subject, and he's willing to take the loss on the subsequent article.
I used to cover one particular out of state CAS regional event for one specialized interest magazine. I enjoyed it, I felt the readers did too, and the overall expenses involved were at least double what I got paid for covering it.
A freelancer doing the magazines as a job & not as a hobby can't do too many of those.

Even for a staffer, money is not endless & an editor has to believe that sending him out to cover something that involves quite a bit of expense is worth it, within context, space, and budgetary juggling.

Olympic guns, long & involved reloading projects, multiple gun comparisons, in-depth equipment comparisons, and extended coverage of ANY event are both limited interest propositions and money drains that are not recoupable for the average freelancer.
I've done extensive handloading development articles, mostly for a single gun, and lost my shirt on 'em. I did one extensive project involving working up a load that worked well in a revolver & a levergun. Lost TWO shirts on that one in time spent & other-article revenue lost alone, not to mention the cost of materials used, but I thought readers might be interested.
I don't do many of those anymore, not cost effective, as you can imagine.

The things you're asking for fall more within the province of the special interest titles, and you should be able to find a good part of it among them.
There are very competent & knowledgeable guys who are willing to do such articles simply because they enjoy the processes & do so as either a hobby or figuring "might as well get paid a little for something I'm gonna do anyway".

In my case, crass & mercenary as it may sound to you, it's a job, and even there, in an average 30-submission year, it only makes up about half my income. If I didn't have other income sources, I couldn't afford to do it just for fun.
Freelancers do not get rich writing for the gunmags.

I've said repeatedly that the mainstream gun magazines are a total balancing act, and that's in several different areas.
They don't have unlimited funds to spend on what they perceive as fringe interests (although you may see an occasional fringe piece), they don't have unlimited funds to spend on any one single magazine issue, and writers who aren't just in it for the free beer & groupies are very much subject to space and money restrictions in producing a given article.

I see the occasional gun forum post asking "Why can't you take Brand X AR-15 and Brand Y AR-15 to a two-week carbine class six states over & compare how they do?" Well....That can be quite expensive. Even if the guns are loaners (that evil "free gun" thing again :) ) and the ammo's provided by the makers (yep- free), and the class is comped for the article (free again), there's still the travel expenses in getting there, plus lodging & eating expenses. And, those two weeks are tied up solely in on-site activities, not counting the write-up time once back home.
(This is, by the way, a clear example of the necessity of "free" stuff. Buying the two ARs, buying the ammo, and paying for the class would be so upside down in the time/expense/paycheck equation it'd be scary.)

Same basic idea applies to any Alaskan or African hunting article, although some lodging is comped and sometimes travel expenses may be covered by a particular gun company.
(We also know how that offends some people, we see enough of the "biased" & "canned hunt" comments. :) )

You DO see this type of article here & there. But, again- an editor has to decide if it's worth it for a staffer or not, and a freelancer generally can't expect to make any money on it, so it becomes a matter of the freelancer doing it for the experience or the enjoyment, and as a not-for-profit endeavor.
And, as stated above, if it's a job, just can't do too many of those.

As far as any coverage of Olympic events goes, much expense for a very limited interest result. :)
Denis

wally
February 9, 2012, 07:32 PM
I'd read any and all of them if they were in front of me. Not really worth buying any of them, but I do take advantage of $10/yr subscriptions from time to time.

Confederate
February 9, 2012, 08:56 PM
Well, I suppose we'll never reach a consensus on what it'll take to fix modern gun magazines (if indeed they need fixing). Many people here criticize them, but few have offered suggestions on what they'd like to see. Since my main interest is handguns, gun magazines featuring high capacity combat rifles don't do a lot for me. So I gravitate towards magazines like COMBAT HANDGUNS. I'm also not overly enamored by semi-auto pistols, but I know there's never going to be a magazine on revolvers. I would, however, like to see more articles about the dinosaurs (like the S&W 60s, 19/66s, Ruger "Six" series and the venerable Colt Pythons).

One article I'd like to see is whether the GP-100s are really superior to the Security-, Service-, and Speed-Sixes. Instead, the magazines did articles about how much better the GP-100s were than the predecessors. Well, I know a lot of people who don't agree that packing more steel onto the medium frame .357s and still calling them "medium" was the right way to go. I wonder what Bill Jordan would have thought about replacing the guns. After all, Ruger's Security-Six wasn't exactly anemic! Just because the 19/66 didn't hold up to sustained hot magnum loads didn't mean the Rugers wouldn't either.

There's an enormous second hand gun market in this country and it's likely to increase as the prices of guns go up. People like me would like to see their oldies but goodies featured occasionally but prominently. And though I'm afraid Denis is right in saying that black & white photos are a thing of the past, I think readers would favorably respond to reduced photo sizes and more room dedicated to articles.

But what would YOU like to see more or, less of or instead of? And what could increase a magazine's credibility?

.
.

larryh1108
February 9, 2012, 09:08 PM
I have to agree. The magazines are marketed towards that all important 18-25 year old market. They want bling, color and plastic. Magazines are now infomercials and this new generation accepts that as news. Old dinosaurs like us are not important any more. They already got the majority of our money and no longer have a use for us.... kind of like an ex-wife.

Sam1911
February 10, 2012, 07:40 AM
Maybe the answer (which Con. and DPris I think have both hinted at) is increasing specialization. Stop caring what the "mainstream" gun magazines do or say in much the same way as a connoisseur of good beer doesn't buy Bud or Coors.

Look to a rise in specialist journals (perhaps modeled on Shotgun Journal, Double Gun Journal, Gray's Sporting Journal and the like?) that are relatively very expensive, and have a very modest subscriber base of folks who want much more depth, perhaps only quarterly issues, maybe even black and white. Don't know if that's a model that could possibly work (there are many things in life which "should" be done but for which the economics and business plan simply don't add up) but it could be a way to try and answer the need.

The large-distribution gun mags just aren't going to do the things a serious enthusiast wants.

Mike OTDP
February 10, 2012, 09:43 AM
I think there's a lot to be said for that.

DPris
February 10, 2012, 01:01 PM
You got it, Sam.
Well put.
Denis

Dnaltrop
February 10, 2012, 04:06 PM
THR is my gun magazine. :D

wlewisiii
February 11, 2012, 12:55 PM
I think Sam has it about specialization. I love Double Gun Journal & Gray's & would happily buy similarly focused and well written quarterly/bi-monthly magazines on gun topics.

I will say that as far as I am concerned the new "Recoil" magazine is not the way to do it. Enough fluff and advertisements masquerading as articles to make Guns and Ammo look like hard hitting investigative journalism. Trying for that old "Men's Magazine" thing for gunnies. Hideous layout (like early Wired but worse) though at least the main font is normal. Everything is Ultimate or Best or Other Superlative! 100% advertising copy for overpriced and over hyped crud. The two articles I hoped would have decent info (on the FN SCAR17S & on .300AAC) were very nearly perfectly content free fluff.

In the end, I'll enjoy shredding the "FREE FULLSIZE CUSTOM TARGET" with my C96 but I will not waste money on the magazine again

kb58
February 11, 2012, 01:23 PM
...fluff and advertisements masquerading as articles...
Well said. In general, the intellectual worth of a publication can be measured by its lack of exclamation points; the more there are, the less it contains.

Checkman
April 17, 2012, 11:26 AM
larryh1108

I have to agree. The magazines are marketed towards that all important 18-25 year old market. They want bling, color and plastic. Magazines are now infomercials and this new generation accepts that as news. Old dinosaurs like us are not important any more. They already got the majority of our money and no longer have a use for us.... kind of like an ex-wife.

Well I'm still married, but now in my forties and I guess I've become one of those dinosaurs. Several months ago my wife went to an estate auction and returned home with several boxes. One of the boxes was packed with four years of Guns & Ammo from 1967-1971, American Rifleman from 1958-1959, and many issues of Guns from 1962 and 1963. There were also copies of Gun Digest from 1965, 1966, 1971, 1972, and 1973.

There are several things that stands out from these older issues. First of all American Rifleman is a better magazine now. The magazine in the late fifties was boring. Every month there are numerous articles about some shooting competitions at places like Camp Perry - yawn. There are also numerous article about how one can fire form a part using a camp stove and a solder iron but very little about ammo or how to improve one's shooting technique or articles about firearms - either use or history. However if you want to know how to make your own rifle stock or to re-finish the stock then the 1950's era American Rifleman is the magazine for you.

Now the back issues of Guns & Ammo and Guns are interesting. In addition to articles about the newest firearms there are articles about recoil control, African Safaris, converting Winchester 1892 rifles to .357 magnum, many articles by Jeff Cooper and Elmer Keith in G&A about many things having to do with handguns, rifles and ammo. Heck in one of the 1969 G&A magazines there is an article about Teddy Roosevelt. The article is basically a short biography, but it covers the many different firearms that he owned and took with him on his famous 1909-1910 African Safari and his expedition into the Amazon in 1913-1914. A historical article in a gun magazine! There are also numerous articles about older handguns, leather gear, gun repair, how to bed a rifle barrel and articles on how to improve one's shooting, training tips etc.

Yes there are advertisements and yes there are articles about new products, but they don't dominate like they do now. The older issues were more general and therefore more interesting. They weren't all about the bling.

Some of the writing is also a real kick to read. Politically incorrect for certain, but not malicious or mean.

I was surprised by how dry the American Rifleman magazine was back then. So at least in one case there has been real improvement.

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