Because most analyses of gun advertising are impressionistic (and politically motivated), I get quite a few calls from the media about it. Although I welcome the opportunity to correct misunderstandings about the content and effect of gun ads (e.g., Bushmaster’s “Man Card” campaign), I welcome even more a recent “call for papers” I received from a marketing professor, Terrence Witkowski.
Witkowski is guest editing a special issue of the Journal of Macromarketing on “Firearm Markets, Marketing, and Society.” See the full call for papers. The submission deadline is 28 February 2023.
TLDR: I just posted a publicly-accessible pre-print of a book chapter, “A Woman’s Place in Gun Advertisements: The American Rifleman, 1920-2019,” co-authored with recent Wake Forest University graduate (and current George Washington University Law School 1L) Riley Satterwhite and my son Paul Yamane (Wake Forest ’16). The chapter is scheduled to appear in the forthcoming Second Edition of the book, Understanding American Gun Culture.
For longer than I care to remember, I have been working on an analysis of the portrayal of women in gun advertising. I have posted some elementary thoughts about this along the way, including on Crimson’s Trace’s interesting banner at the 2016 NRA annual meeting and a pair of ads they ran in The American Rifleman in 2009, as well as a TV ad for the M&P Shield placed on Sportsman’s Channel by Smith & Wesson.
Although gun culture is typically characterized as embodying hegemonic masculinity, looking at advertisements over a 100 year time period complicates the gender story. To wit: As soon as I embarked on my study of the rise of self-defense (Gun Culture 2.0) using ads in The American Rifleman (and later Guns), I noticed some surprising appearances of women in those magazines. One example I first posted about in 2015 (did I mention I have been at this for a while?) was an ad for Peters Cartridges featuring a Lady Champion shooter which ran in January 1937.
In this report they, like many, allege that the militarization of the firearms market is recent and is an intentional strategy of companies needing to sell products in a shrinking marketplace:
In spite of the gauzy imagery of its advertising, the gun industry’s militarization is simply a business strategy aimed at survival: boosting sales and improving the bottom line. The hard commercial fact is that military-style weapons sell in an increasingly narrowly focused civilian gun market. True sporting guns do not.
Among the evidence they present is an advertisement for the FNH USA FN Five-Seven pistol (reproduced in their report and below).
Violence Policy Center, “The Militarization of the U.S. Civilian Firearms Market” (2011), p. 3.
UPDATE: Thanks to a reader “OK S.” I now have the source of Colt’s “Safety of the Highways” ad. It was published in 1926 in The Lucky Bag, the Annual of the Regiment of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The annual is available at https://archive.org/details/luckybag1926unse/page/566. Consider donating to the Internet Archive!
P.S., If you have any idea where the Colt’s “Safety of the Highways” ad was first published, I am still looking for the source of that. Thanks!
I realized recently that I never posted the published version of my work analyzing gun advertisements in The American Rifleman. It documents the decline of “Gun Culture 1.0” themes of hunting and recreational/sport shooting and rise of “Gun Culture 2.0” themes of personal protection and concealed carry.
I am currently writing up a replication study using advertisements in Guns magazine from 1955-2019, which I presented at the American Society of Criminology annual meetings in San Francisco this month. I will post a link to that paper when it is ready.