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How to publish your own gun magazine.

Nothing fires the American imagination as does the well turned tale of success wrested fromthe miseries of desperation and poverty. No one told the tale better than Horatio Alger, who wrote the greatest rags-to-riches stories that would ever stir the American spirit. Yet fiction pales beside the true-life stories. Stories we have all heard of men with vision and industry who sat down at a kitchen table with a cranky old Royal Portable and planted the seed that grew into a publishing empire. It is a dream we have all shared while wishing for our own spark that would set the flame flickering.

How do we begin? That is the question. We begin with the certainty that whatever our endeavor, it must reflect something we are vitally interested in, as the quality of our product will depend on our level of interest in the subject. Is this not the reason for the success of Playboy Magazine? And can there be any doubt as to what interests Playboy's rival publisher, Larry Flynt? Now I, like you, am interested in firearms, and aside from shooting them I like to read about them and stay abreast of the latest developments. So why not publish our own gun magazine? A popular or general interest gun magazine that will reach the greatest number of readers.

Before we begin, we must examine some of the requirements for a successful popular gun magazine, for like all human institutions there is a tradition that dictates our format. Our first requirement is a title. What are we to call our magazine? Some magazines have ambiguous titles such as Saturday Review, which has nothing to do with rating the relative merits of succeeding Saturdays. Yet the most successful magazines have titles that are succinct; both Playboy and Hustler let you know exactly what is going on under their covers. And the same is true of Guns & Ammo and all the other gun magazines. Now Americans have always had a fascination for things French--from fine wines and cheeses to exotic latex appliances--so how about calling our magazine Fusillade (the French word for the discharge of a number of firearms at once). As you can see, the French adds a touch of class and will appeal even to that segment of Canadians who require subtitles on everything from cans of peas to airline tickets, bolstering our international appeal. Besides, all the good titles are already being used.

Having settled on a title, we are faced with the monumental task of providing content. Content that will appeal to both the novice and the advanced firearms aficionado. Novice or not, today's reader is sophisticated and requires accurate information. This is why every successful gun magazine is divided into columns or departments written and edited by recognized experts. The most popular of these columns deal directly with the readership and provide them either access to that expertise or serve as a forum. To be a success you will have to obtain such experts.

The first (and perhaps the most popular) of these columns is the "Gunsmith," devoted to answering questions from the readers. Choosing a qualified gunsmith can be either laborious or simple. Let's choose the simple route, as we must start with limited funds. First, place an ad in the gun newspaper and describe your position and salary. Next, send each qualified applicant a Japanese Arisaka rifle that has been in ocean storage for the past 40 years, and ask that it be disassembled and returned. Choose any one of the applicants that return it with unbuggered screwheads, for they are master gunsmiths.

Having chosen your 'smith, you must now exercise your judgment as editor and carefully select the questions to be answered. They must be of a general nature, but always informative and stimulating. For example:

Q: My uncle died and left me a shotgun. At least I think it's a shotgun. A 12-gauge shell fits it and the barrel is marked, "Areomotor-Chicago, Ill." The stock is broken and every time I hold it to my shoulder I sneeze. What do I have and what's it worth?

Al Downs, Wichita, KS

A: You have a cold, which is worth about $35.00 to any M.D. depending on your condition, and another $7.50 for the prescription. Good luck.

P.O. Boxley, Gunsmith

Never publish a question that is too technical or you run the risk of losing the interest of the general reader. For example:

Q: My new Ruger .357 Maximum has been eroded on the top strap and forcing cone by the blast from the cylinder gap. Is the cylinder too short to handle the combustion harmonics and flame temperature of this high pressure cartridge? Is there a cure for these problems?

Jake Slugbetters, San Diego, CA

A: I wouldn't shoot it with smokeless powder loads until I had it checked over by a qualified gunsmith.

P.O. Boxley, Gunsmith

Now that you have the basic idea for the gunsmith column, let's move on to what is usually the next most popular column in a gun magazine, "Letters to the Editor."

From his mailbag the editor can judge his performance and that of his staff. By publishing selected letters he can demonstrate how his magazine is serving the needs of the readership. For that reason, it is important to select letters that are upbeat and positive about Fusillade: Dear Fusillade,

For the past two years I had been unemployed and my wife had left me and taken our two lovely children. The finance company repossessed my car and I was facing eviction, I couldn't take it anymore and decided to end it all. Just as I was lying down to swallow a handful of sleeping pills my eye caught the April issue of Fusillade on the nightstand. I read Art Knowles' article, "Getting Started in Competitive Shooting," and it changed my life. I won the National Matches, shooting into the President's 100, took the gold at the Olympics and Pan American Games. I was sought after to make endorsements and noew have been hired as a field representative for a national manufacturer. Thanks to Fusillade, I am a success again.

Bob Brink, Knife Edge, WY

Now there is a positive statement that even Horatio Alger could be proud of. On the other side of the coin, you must avoid publishing the negative letters: Dear Fusillade,

I tried the loads you recommended for the 7mm Remington Magnum and the starting load welded my bolt closed. Just what the hell do you clowns think you are doing? You reloading editor must have Bullseye for brains!

Tony Brasso, Idaho Falls, ID

You are going to have to answer this missive, but don't publish it in the letters column. Here's how you should handle it: Dear Mr. Brasso,

Thank you for your comments on Fusillade's reloading clinic. We are sorry to learn of your misfortune. Unfortunately, the printer inadvertently switched the data for the 7mm Remington Magnum with that for the .378 Weatherby. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you. Again thanks for the interest in Fusillade.


As a rule of thumb, always blame such errors on the printer. The louts make far too much money anyway and don't even use linotype anymore, causing you to have to buy it to cast bullets. Make sure you publish a correction of the loading data in the next issue.

Now that you have some fundamental understanding of how columns work you can turn you attention to the staff writers. Staff writers are very important, as your magazine will take on their personality, so the selection must be made carefully. Your senior staff writer will set the pace for others to follow. He will report on all the latest firearm developments and noteworthy big game hunts. He must have an easily recognized name, or nom de plume. Always select a name with an unmistakable masculine sound to it, and add a nickname somewhere in the middle. Fusillade chose as its star writer Mr. William "Buck" Laniere of Steelhead, Idaho. Like all senior staff writers, Buck has a long and honorable history of outdoor living. As a lad Buck guided tenderfeet on mule rides in the Grand Canyon, and during the fall guided deer hunts for wealthy Southern Californians. Buck is a consummate horseman; his thighs haven't been able to rub together since his sixth birthday. He wears an original 5X silver beaver Stetson, which has accumulated enough body minerals to be used for a salt lick. By the way, all your columnists and editors will have to have western hats and no cheapies, either, at least a 5X Resistol and no brim smaller than 4 inches. This hat must be worn for photographs that appear in the magazine, but let's get back to Buck.

What sets Buck Laniere apart from other living mortals is his prowess with firearms. Buck once killed a wounded trophy mule deer at half a mile with a .45 Colt Single Action Army, while being bucked off a green theree-year-old filly. He landed on his feet and never lost his hat, or his temper. The dude he was guiding said it was a miracle and booked a hunt for the following season right on the spot. That dude turned out to be a Hollywood producer with connections in the publishing business, and Buck was on his way.

It is your responsibility, as editor and publisher, to be the guardian of the Laniere image, and you must realize that there are some things that Buck must never do. Buck only hunts big game, especially the dangerous species. Cape buffalo, rhino, brown bear, moose and even large mule deer are okay for Buck to hunt, but he never hunts cottontails or other small game. Leave the bucktoothed small game to some unknown freelancer with a ten-year-old child for the photo spread. The only ten-year-old Buck is interested in was distilled in Kentucky. Buck never hunts with a rifle smaller than .30 caliber, or uses a rubber recoil pad, or a stock graced with a Monte Carlo. He never shoots a magnum handgun with gloves on, unless he is riding a horse and the gloves are thin buckskin.

Yes, ol' Buck Laniere is the epitome of the American Dream. He is what most of your male readers would like to be, if they didn't have to work for a living.

Well, there you have it, the bare bones for starting a gun magazine. Now you need to add some flesh to the bones--flesh in the form of articles. There are some articles and features that never fail to arouse the interest or curiosity, or even better, the hackles of your readers. Some of these articles are like spring wildflowers; they are annuals that you can depend on to add color and fill space when things are slow. Of course, there are new shooters coming along each year that can benefit from the warmed-over subjects. Let's look at some of the more standard titles:

Revolvers vs. Semi-Auto--Which is Better?

On the Trail With Buck Laniere--Montana Mulies.

Is the .270 Winchester Obsolete?

Choosing the Best All-Around Cartridge.

Buck Laniere Tests Remington's New Four-Wheel-Drive-Bullet Knife Chambered for the .350 Remington Magnum.

Favorite Loads for the .30-06.

Bolt Action vs. Semi-Auto--the Old and the New.

Buck Laniere Safari Special--Part One: Buck Tests the .45-70 Revolver in Rhino.

Scope That Rifle!

The .22 Rimfire: The World's Most Successful Cartridge.

Buck Laniere Safari Special--Part Two: African Emergency Medical Services.

.30-30 Winchester--Too Week to Work?

Buck Laniere Safari Special--Part Three: Big-Bore Rifles Reconsidered.

As you can see, these titles are guaranteed to make stimulating reading, but the printed word is only half the flesh. Photographs are as important as the text.

Photographs are used to either illustrate text that is difficult to visualize or to convey information and cut the verbiage. However, the photographs have to be first-class, professional-quality pictures. Not only do they have to be properly set and exposed, they have to be properly cut into the magazine. Let one detail of a photo escape, and you may be in for trouble, like our poor editor: Dear Fusillade,

Where can I get one of the left-handed Ruger Model 77s that I saw in your April issue on page 32? I looked through Ruger's latest catalog and it wasn't listed. My dealer said he never saw one. I even called the factory and talked to Bill Ruger. He said he never made a left-handed action. Mr. Ruger suggested that it may be a custom rework. Who did the conversion? I would really like to have one!

Lefty Collins, Portland, OR Dear Mr. Collins, Thank you for your interest in Fusillade. We appreciate you comments. The left-handed Ruger Model 77 you inquired about is the standard right-handed action. The photo negative was inadvertently reversed by the engraver, which made it appear to be a left-handed action. We are sorry if this confused you. Again thanks for the interest in Fusillade.


The engraver is just as good as the printer to blame things on, but remember this type of error loses subscribers faster than having your picture taken with Ted Kennedy, so pay attention to your photographs.

What it all boils down to is this: publishing your own gun magazine takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It takes sacrifice and terrible risk, without any guarantee of success. Yet it's not all work and no fun, for there is an unwritten tradition that provides you, as editor, with hours of fun. Make a game out of breaking up articles as much as possible and scattering the text through the magazine, and not necessarily on the pages listed. Can you hear the cries of anguish as the readers try to find the second half of the feature article? And be sure your advertising department sells as many ads as possible that require stiff insert cards and between the pages. That way, no one can flip through the pages in a casual manner without first removing the insert and tearing out half the article with it. Just think of all those cards lying on outhouse floors throughout the country, to be picked up by curious youngsters. Who knows, perhaps one of those youngsters may decide to send for the correspondence school course and become a famous gunsmith? And won't that make you feel good?
COPYRIGHT 1985 InterMedia Outdoors, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Le Compte, Jean
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jul 1, 1985
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