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Gun Magazines You'd Read

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Confederate, Jan 25, 2012.

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  1. Confederate

    Confederate Member

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    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 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. This is how articles used to be written. One article by Skelton on the .357 magnum starts out:

    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?


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    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.


    .
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2012
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    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
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2012
  3. Peter M. Eick

    Peter M. Eick Member

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    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.
     
  4. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Member

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    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.
     
  5. Bobson

    Bobson Member

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    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.
     
  6. Seven High

    Seven High Member

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    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.
     
  7. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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  8. Dr Dave

    Dr Dave Member

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    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 :)
     
  9. Confederate

    Confederate Member

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    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 5½-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! 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.

    .
     
  10. Strykervet

    Strykervet member

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    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.
     
  11. Confederate

    Confederate Member

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    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."

    .
     
  12. DPris

    DPris Member

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    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
     
  13. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    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
     
  14. wlewisiii

    wlewisiii Member

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    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
     
  15. Winchester101

    Winchester101 Member

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    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
     
  16. Dr Dave

    Dr Dave Member

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    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 :)
     
  17. DPris

    DPris Member

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    :)
    Denis
     
  18. mgmorden

    mgmorden Member

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    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).
     
  19. Confederate

    Confederate Member

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    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.

    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.

    .
     
  20. Nushif

    Nushif Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2012
  21. Sheepdog1968

    Sheepdog1968 Member

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    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.
     
  22. DPris

    DPris Member

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    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
     
  23. DPris

    DPris Member

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    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
     
  24. Damon555

    Damon555 Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2012
  25. DPris

    DPris Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2007
    Messages:
    4,604
    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
     
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