The Gunist


Wife Suzi and I were chatting the other day about someone in the industry who got a new job. She said, “Nah, he won’t make it, he’s not a Gunist.” I paused, thinking, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard that word, but it’s a good one.”

“So,” I said, “what’s a Gunist?” Suzi has been around our industry for quite some time. I was curious to know what insight she had on the matter.

“Oh, you know, someone like you. Somebody who’s lived it, breathed it, grew up with it, reads those boring books you read about old English guns, proof marks, all that reloading stuff, works on guns in the garage for hours at a time, you know — gun stuff. If I need to know something about guns, I ask you and you just about always know at least something about it. He’s not like that and doesn’t understand who we are, or how we think. Just because he can sell refrigerators, doesn’t mean he can work in our industry selling gun stuff.”

And it dawned on me, she was right.

In the “old” days, say, 20 or 30 years ago, the vast majority of executive level types in the biz were gun guys, or as Suzi says, “Gunists.” They had grown up shooting, hunting, collecting and more than likely, working in our industry. They understood their customers — because they were their customers. Fast-forward 20 or 30 years and in today’s “corporatized” companies, there is a tendency to think, “Well, if they can sell widgets, or tractors or used cars, they can sell guns.” But almost always it ends up not to be the case at all. There are exceptions, but not many.

The really bad thing is some of those who get brought into our industry have tended to bounce from company to company, wrecking havoc, getting fired, getting golden handshakes, only to turn up again in some executive position. It’s like, once you get a union card, you can get a job no matter what. “Hey, he was the VP of marketing there, so he could be the VP of marketing here,” sort of thinking. Not.

If you’re a “Gunist” and reading this now, you are probably aware of some pretty silly new products that have been introduced over the past 10 years or so. After a jaunt to SHOT Show, I have often come away thinking, “Did anyone who was an actual shooter even look at that product before they introduced it?” And the scary thing, is sometimes I find out that actually, no … nobody who was an actual shooter had looked at it before the VP of Sales (formerly a VP of sales at Enron or something and a definite non-shooter) simply ordered it launched and their Madison Ave. marketing firm did it. Then we usually witness what we call “the big silence” as people don’t buy whatever “it” is.

Of course, then that VP ends up at some other unsuspecting company and does the same thing. Repeat ad-nauseam. All of which is fine if all I’m going to do is complain about it. So let’s not just complain and wring our hands and repeat woe-is-me chants. What can we do about it?

Actually, it’s easy. Make yourself known. If (fill in the blank here) company announces, introduces or tries to sell you on a product that’s stupid — tell them. Pick up the phone, drop them an e-mail, fill out the survey, whatever it takes. Just say, “Hey, I don’t mean to be ugly, but that new digital/hi-tech/battery-powered/operator-based/polymer/CR123/lavender-laser/Kydex-wrapped widget, is … um … stupid. Don’t waste your money on it, because I won’t waste my money on it either. And besides, you shoulda’ asked a Gunist before you did it in the first place.”

Of course, some of those marketing disasters have served to make our industry interesting at times. I’ve still never actually seen a magazine for a Bren Ten 10mm auto. Can you say “Rogak P-18” auto pistol? Even the term “Short Magnum” may go the way of the Do-Do bird. And just because you can make it out of polymer, doesn’t mean you actually should. Well, at least then it could be recycled into those little booze bottles you get on airplanes.

So let’s cross our Gunist fingers and hope the industry looks harder for executives who know the difference between a .22 Hornet and a .22 LR, have some 1950s Gun Digests laying around that are well-thumbed, and are really sorry they can’t make the meeting on Wednesday because it’s dove season opener. Please?