Last night I watched the premiere of a new television series on the Outdoor Channel, Midway USA’s Gun Stories, hosted by Joe Mantegna. All in all, I enjoyed the show a lot.
Episode 1 focused on the Government Model 1911 pistol, designed by John Moses Browning. It went through the history of the gun, from the Army decision to abandon its .38 pistol, to the competition with the Savage pistol, to acceptance and distribution. Along the way, through interviews with a cross section of gun authorities, historians, competitors, and famous personalities, the depth of the 1911’s enduring legacy was firmly established.
Now, I have to admit, I had gone into the program expecting something else. Other programs produced by Michael Bane on the Outdoor Channel focus more on the firearm itself – how it operates, how to run it, how to fix it. After watching the whole show, I realize that there are probably a lot of people who are like me, who have focused our gun attention on the mechanics of guns and how they work, but not so much on how we got there. Gun Stories tells that story, and on this it delivers.
Far from being a bunch of timelines and historical footage, Gun Stories lets people do the telling. I especially enjoyed hearing Ted Nugent tell about how his father carried a 1911 in World War II and Korea. Buzz Mills, president and CEO of Gunsite Academy, told how his grandfather was issued a 1911 as part of the New Mexico National Guard, and carried one while fighting Pancho Villa, during the Banana Wars, World War II, and Korea. He also told of buying a 50th anniversary 1911 from the NRA in 1961, by mail order, for $15. And he still owns that pistol.
Given the 30 minute time frame, the show covered all it could cover. There were interviews with competitors like Gene “Evil Roy” Pearcy who told of its adaptation to improve accuracy so it could be effective in competition. Granted, no one went into how to improve the accuracy, but again, that isn’t the focus of the show – you can find that out on another show, or on Youtube.
I felt the same about the transition from the 1911 as the US Army sidearm to the Beretta 92F. There was a little discussion of the 9mm versus the .45ACP, but that was more from the political perspective of coordination with NATO, not on the ballistic compromises involved. Again, since the show isn’t so much about the 1911 as a weapon, but about the history of the 1911, that was okay with me. If you want that discussion, go on any gun forum and ask. (I dare you.)
Now, there was one area where I thought the show excelled – the slow motion footage of the 1911 in action was some of the best slow motion video I have ever seen. You could see the bullet leave the barrel, the working of the action, the ejection of the spent shell, down to the engagement with the extractor. Then, the stripping and feeding of the next round, all before the gun came back down to firing position. I have always imagined that this is how Rob Leatham sees his gun operate. Very impressive.
Joe Mantegna was a great host. The show style was him commenting and introducing segments, and the people being interviewed just told their stories, with no interviewer.
I look forward to future episodes, and to deepening my admiration of these guns by knowing more about their history.