This magazine is serious. Dead serious.
The subject is guns--which, like sex and politics, can set off a firestorm of protest. Whichever side of the aisle you support, one thing is not in dispute: guns are big business. So it's not surprising that niche competition is fierce, including Guns, Guns & Weapons, Rifle Shooter and Combat Arms. They're like the Us and In Touch of the gun world. In fact, the cover lines sometimes resemble those tabloids--Guns & Ammo clearly took a page out of Bonnie Fuller's book with "7 Brands for Your Pistol That Won't Break the Bank." Personally, I'd hate to witness an editorial dispute. Are the words "just shoot me" taken literally?
Guns & Ammo is a user-friendly guide, written in a breezy, matter-of-fact way. It carries gun news, first-person accounts of firearms, and reviews of particular rifles and accessories chockful of practical information for the gun enthusiast or hunter.
There is also a heartfelt lament that, due to a plant closing, the Winchester Model 94 has been discontinued, ending a 112-year reign: "you just kind of figure it would have been permanently exempted from Darwinian marketing decisions." Apparently, in the evolution of manufacturers, Intelligent Design has pistol-whipped Winchester.
Speaking of owning guns, I know there is fierce debate about the Second Amendment, but the layout on "How to Get Top Accuracy From Your Revolver" sealed the deal for me. The author points a gun at the reader, which sent me straight to my checkbook for a donation to the handgun control lobby. Isn't this what is meant by armed and dangerous?
I also read, with aesthetic alarm, that designers are using firearm imagery in the home. Pistol designs stitched on pillows, gun-shaped soaps and lamps built on a fake AK-47. Cozy it's not. What rational person considers this appropriate interior décor? The place, as Michael Corleone so neatly put it in "Godfather II, "where my wife sleeps, where my children play with their toys."
Now, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but a gun is a deadly weapon--for man and beast--and no one who lives above the Mason-Dixon line or has a passing acquaintance with Freud can dismiss--or disguise--that reality. In 2002 alone, according to the BradyCenter to Prevent Gun Violence, more than 30,000 people were killed by guns. Waxing rhapsodic about the most influential handguns--the Miss Americas of the gun world--or the 10 best gun movies--fools no one. Consider this review of "The Last Hunt," a 1956 film that made the cut. In those halcyon days, the author notes, you could watch bison being shot: "You can really see the bullets smack those suckers." Today, he sneers, political correctness prevents such fun. Take heart: I'll bet gun magazines in the '50s didn't run ads for Viagra, either.
Reality check: guns are not trinkets or the new craze in shoes; these are weapons of mini-destruction. (I'm guessing the Smith & Wesson .460 XVR Compensated Hunter on page 32 can wipe out a small neighborhood or a large brownstone.) I know, I know. Guns don't kill, people do. But for the sake of argument, let's test that theory: shoot a water pistol and see if you get the same result.
Still, I can imagine Bush and Cheney reading Guns & Ammo--which I consider high man camp--with unbridled glee. Then again, we've seen the folly of entrusting the Veep with firearms--just ask Harry Whittington, the Texas lawyer whose next purchase is probably a top plastic surgeon. Maybe, since he was shot in the face, Harry's been privately thinking that those crazy liberals are onto something after all.