The best job, people say, is doing what you love. A similar saying goes, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
For decades, ﬁrearms aﬁcionados have successfully found ways to combine their passions with proﬁt. Some became manufacturers or gunsmiths, or opened retail gun shops. Some sought work as trail and hunting guides so they could spend the maximum amount of time armed and outdoors. Others turned to sharing their knowledge and experience for a variety of print publications, and still later, radio and television programs. For those who sought to expand their hobbies into full-time employment, it was nice work if they could get it.
That same time-honored tradition of “working at what you love” continued as the 20th century became the 21st, but in some diﬀerent ways. Today, a new generation of ﬁrearm fans seeking knowledge or information is as likely to access a computer search engine as they are to tune in a broadcast program or pick up a print magazine [Editor’s note: We think magazines are still pretty awesome], so it’s logical that many of the current outdoor industry’s most popular “media” personalities got their start online.
Like those who came before them, these social media mavens began as ﬁrearm fans before ever posting a blog or uploading a video. Far from killing the romance, this transition enabled them to do more of what they love and to bring their passions to the world. And while outsiders often erroneously perceive members of the traditional gun culture as stodgy and standoﬃsh, these new ambassadors are welcoming and engaging to wide and diverse audiences.
IAN MCCULLUM, the author of Forgotten Weapons blog and channel, started shooting while in school and continued recreationally afterward, often hanging out with collectors, where he learned by listening and reading. In 2010, a French friend who had some unique manuals and drawings of Pedersen devices – not just for M1903 Springﬁeld but also for M1917, Mosin, and Lebel – died. All of his info, including these unique and irreplaceable documents, were discarded by his family. That event prompted Ian and his friend Karl to begin to archive historic information about arms for the education of future enthusiasts, and his Forgotten Weapons blog was born. A supporting video channel launched in 2011.
Forgotten Weapons deals with historic and mechanical information in an academic format, rather than rely on ﬂashy Tannerite or exploding watermelons. The appeal to viewers worldwide, in turn, gives access to more gear. As the blog and channel’s reputation grew, museums and private collections became more readily available for perusal. Rock Island Auctions and the James D. Julia Auction Company gave Ian access to numerous unique arms all at once. The rise in viewership to 445,000 subscribers, and the promotional value of work done with auction companies turned a labor of love into a self-supporting enterprise. In addition to his own blog and video channel, Ian writes an “Exploded
view” column for American Riﬂeman. On the extra-serious side, he is a technical forensic adviser to the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE.org).
TIM HARMSEN was taught to shoot by his uncle in the early 1980s, and he became a regular reader of Guns & Ammo, Combat Arms and several other print publications. Tim began collecting ﬁrearms in 1985 with a Ruger 10/22 bought by his mother. A Colt AR-15 Sporter and a Government Model 1911 came the following year, and more have shown up regularly since then.
He launched the Military Arms Channel (MAC) in 2008, originally making short videos about new guns he had purchased or to illustrate points made on one of the many discussion forums of the era. Thanks to the breadth of his own collection and to substantial industry support, he has been able to feature many weapons that otherwise we would have only been able to see in video games.
At the time of his launch, he was very active on the forums, posting reviews of personally owned guns and accessories. Slowly, he switched to making videos and posting links instead of writing the posts. More and more people liked the videos, asked for more and started subscribing. Tim increased the frequency of his videos, while maintaining independence from manufacturers. He does not accept money for favorable videos or product placements; he only reports on things he owns and shoots. Unlike other “traditional” reviews, MAC videos often delve into minutia down to the level of “this screw turns left and this one turns right.” In a nutshell, Tim records range sessions using items of personal interest, and brings viewers along through the camera.
For 20 years Tim worked as an advertising executive at Omnicom companies and Hearst, both prominent international companies. Then he traded that career for doing
what he loves, shooting and ﬁrearms, and hasn’t looked back. The big pay cut was compensated by his passion being fed, and being happy to wake up and go to work every morning. The Military Arms Channel – which currently has 545,000 subscribers and many more occasional viewers – Copper Custom Armament and the Full30.com ﬁrearm video hosting site have comprised Tim’s full time work for the last two years.
DAVID NASH, better known to the social media universe as 22plinkster, has been shooting since age 5. His video production experience goes back to December 2011, when he rose to a dare by a friend about hitting a golf ball with a bullet at 100 yards and documenting the process on video. He hadn’t planned for fame, but 300-plus videos and 380,000 subscribers later, fame has clearly found him. Fifteen months ago he was able to turn “pro,” working mainly with Henry Repeating Arms, Vista Outdoors and the Sonoran Desert Institute.
The 22plinkster channel features mainly trick shots, gun reviews and “redneck” science (for example, how many balloons or silly string cans in a row would a .22 bullet penetrate?). He also does new product announcements, often getting to see preproduction samples long before anyone else in the industry. As with the other creators, David gets to have fun for a living, a nice gig indeed! Being able to lean over the porch railing with a lever action, make steel ring in the distance and call it the day’s work sounds pretty good to me.
While David possesses the technical skills required for much more sophisticated video productions, he has deliberately maintained the look of a backyard hobbyist on all of his pieces. Often shot with a single camera, the simple, accessible look and feel of his stories invites and encourages viewers to get into the game as well. Like many people in the outdoor industry, 22plinkster is supportive and cooperative rather than competitive, subscribing to “the more, the merrier” view. His goals include expanding the shooting sports, the attendant culture and the supporting industry, and most other members of the gun-themed new media hold the same values.
THE MAN KNOWN AS HICKOK45 may be the most reclusive of the currently popular online video personalities. His desire for privacy is easy to understand when you consider that a few of the 2.5 million subscribers occasionally turn up on his doorstep to worship the celebrity in person. That kind of attention, while ﬂattering, can creep out the family. Plus, at 6 foot 8 inches tall, he’s pretty distinctive, so we’ll use his screen name here as well.
A retired gentleman of leisure now, Hickok45 has shot guns all his life. He’s also always enjoyed photography, and was an early adopter of digital. When decent-quality pocket digital cameras became available, he always carried one. It was with the humble pocket camera that his ﬁrst video, now at a million views, was made. All it showed were ﬁve shots taken at a steel buﬀalo target with the .45 Colt SAA – but the viewers loved it. He made several silly videos back in 2006 – including ﬁlming himself shooting metal targets through the open doors of his car – mostly just fooling around. That was one of ﬁrst things he posted on YouTube, thinking that was just for “silly stuﬀ.”
Later, when teaching the novel Shane at a school where he taught for 23 years, he decided to ﬁlm “cowboy” guns in action and show the video in class so his students could see what arms the title character carried and used. That piece and a couple of Glock videos produced an unexpectedly high volume of positive feedback, encouraging him to make more content.
Neither he nor his son knew how to edit video at the time, so they just turned on the camera and let it run. They soon realized, just like 22plinkster did, that the simplicity and realism were a key part of his appeal to the viewers. Hickok45 had no idea that YouTube paid anybody, and so had no intention of making money from his channel. But a year into it, YouTube oﬀered to monetize his channel and share ad revenue. After some hesitation, they accepted the oﬀer, and the rest is history. As with the others above, his fame was largely accidental. Unlike some others today, he had no plan to create a big YouTube channel or to make money with it. His goal of simply ﬁlming for fun and sharing information kept expanding until it became a viable business. Hickok45’s most popular video has had over 15 million views, and ten more are currently at over 5 million views. Those are respectable viewer numbers for a large TV station, much less a father-and-son team having fun on their backyard range. While some of the guns featured are the latest and greatest high-tech models available, many videos show much simpler and inexpensive ﬁrearms. These, however, are often presented in a new light, such as smoothbore shotguns being successfully used with slugs against 200yard steel targets.
IT’S NO SURPRISE THAT people who have risen from humble hobbyist beginnings remain very friendly to other enthusiasts, including beginners. Recently, 22plinkster provided his personal range for a Midwestern gathering centered on a visit by California gun rights activist and writer Yih-Chau Cheng and his niece Dora (not her real name). At 14, she has not had an opportunity to shoot guns, nor had access to the NFA class of weapons brought for the occasion by Kris Paulson of DTV Tactical Innovations. Hickok45 was able to show up as well. Having several ﬁrearm instructors and two of the most popular online personalities all supporting the learning experience enabled her skill set to go from zero to competent with pistol, submachine gun and belt-feds in one day. It also underscored the diﬀerence between the cultures of Middle America and those found in those “less than gun-friendly” states such as California.
Each of these four – Ian, Tim, David and Hickok45 – possess a staggering amount of knowledge. But unlike museums that merely hold that knowledge for the occasional visitor, the quartet broadcasts what they know for the world to learn. What they don’t know, they investigate and then share.
The massive numbers of viewers indicate that the knowledge they spread is of substantial interest to American and foreign audiences alike. More recently, similar channels have sprung up in countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, presenting the best side of the gun culture to wider audiences. Hopefully, this positive trend will help reverse much of the oﬃcial anti-gun rhetoric inﬂicted on the European and American populations alike over the past century. ASJ
Editor’s note: On the day this article was completed, YouTube pulled all advertising from ﬁrearms-related pages. The decision seemed to be driven by their parent company, and may likely push much of the technical and right to keep and bear arms (RKBA) content to other sites. By the time this issue is in print, we will all know more.
In the aftermath of World War II, the United States spent 12 years looking for a successor to the M1 Garand rifle. The new standard infantry arm was expected to be select-fire, lightweight, accurate, controllable, and fire a heavy .30-caliber projectile. It would replace not just the M1, but also the BAR and perhaps the M1 Carbine as well – a true universal weapon. Of course, these requirements were complete fantasy, unachievable in the real world – but that did not prevent Remington, Springfield Arsenal, and Winchester from trying to meet them.
Winchester produced a proto M14 with select fire weapon complete with a removable bipod. It was extremely light and made from an ordinary Winchester M1 Garand Rifle with many modifications.
This rifle is a Winchester prototype, which has been substantially lightened from the M1 it began life as. A pistol grip has been added, along with a fire selector lever and a box magazine system. A detachable lightweight bipod allows it to be used for supporting fire.
It is chambered for the T65 or 7.62 NATO cartridge, which dates it as definitely post-WWII.
The mighty M14 rifle is a battle rifle that refuses to be shelved. It has been dusted off and implemented in the war against terror in current times.
Hey guys, thanks for tuning in, another video on forgottenweapons.com, I’m Ian, I’m here today at the Cody Firearms Museum, part of the Buffalo Bill Cody Center of the West, and I am taking a look at a very interesting prototype Winchester Select-fire Magazine-fed version of an M1-Garrand. Now, this was obviously part of the development program process for the M14 rifle, where exactly it fits in that process, I really don’t know. There doesn’t appear to be much documentation on this. Unfortunately, while there are good references out there on the Springfield and the Remington corporate versions of the different rifles that ended up as part of the M14 project, there doesn’t seem to be much reference material out there on the Winchester guns, and this is one of those. The Cody museum has the Winchester firearms collection, which includes a lot of prototypes; some which we have looked at, some which we’ll look at in the future, and some like this one.
So, I can’t really tell you the where and the when and how this did under trials, but we will take a close look at it, and I can point out a whole bunch of very interesting features of this particular prototype example. Now the first thing I want to mention is that this gun is really light. You look at this and you expect it to weigh something like twelve or fourteen pounds, right? Because it’s got the big ‘ol bipod on the front, presumably it’s maybe heavy barrel, it has a selector switch -which you can’t see because it’s on this side of the gun-, magazine fed– in reality, this thing is at least two pounds lighter than an M1. I bet this is between seven and eight pounds; I don’t have a scale to weigh it on, but, what’s actually going on here, there’s a lot cut away on the inside that you’ll see. The bulk of this flash-hider bipod assembly is made of aluminum, the butt-plate is made of aluminum, there might be some magnesium parts in there somewhere, they’ve cut every ounce possible out of this gun. And it’s really an impressive gun to handle as the result! Now, let’s just go ahead and take a closer look at it, let me take the stock off and I’ll show you some of the internals.
Alright, so the first– the most obvious difference, is that a pistol grip has been added. This didn’t involve any actual modification to the trigger group, this is actually kind of like the Baretta BM59 Garand modifications where they’ve added a pistol grip to the stock. So, pretty simple there, we’ll take it apart in a moment. A magazine has been added, they put a magazine catch at the front, which is not a bad idea, this keeps it out of the way of all the trigger assembly stuff that’s already in there. This is a custom proprietary magazine, it’s designed for 308, this is a 308 NATO gun, which suggests that it was definitely post-WW2. Now what’s interesting here is they have actually used an M1 receiver. So this is a Winchester M1, it’s a 1.6,000,000 serial number gun, but you can see when I open it, there’s a block here in the back of the receiver, because it’s a 306-length receiver with a 308-length magazine.
That was an easy way to not have to re-do a whole bunch of tooling to make 308-caliber receivers for experimental guns. No, instead we just use a 306 receiver. The extra space actually kind of helps, The bolt has a little bit farther that it can travel, and during that time, the magazine has more time to feed a cartridge up into position.
The handguard here has been beefed up a little bit, we’ll take a look at that from the inside, but first let’s take a look at the bipod.
Alright, so the main body here is this big aluminum flash-hider conical deal, the legs are spring-loaded, so I can pull the leg down, snap it into place up here like that. This does– this rotates, but it has a limited arc of rotation. Now, to take this off, all I have to do is flip this latch down like that. This whole assembly is actually locked onto the bayonet lug, very much like one of the world-war-two grenade launchers. So with that undone, this whole assembly comes off. There you can see the inside of the flash-hider, just a big cone. It locks onto the back, there’s our locking tab, pretty simple. There we go. Bipod assembley, removes quickly and easily. Now I think I mentioned, this is -I think- thin hollow-tube steel and aluminum, this whole assembley is quite lightweight by itself.
Start by taking out the magazine, set that aside, then just like a regular M1, the trigger guard opens up, the trigger assembley comes out; because of magazine conversion this has the floor plate, magazine catch, the mag catch is built right into this, it’s pretty simple, just a spring and a catch. That catch locks in this notch in the front of the magazine.
Now, we can pull the stock off just like a typical M1 again. You can see the opening in the heavier wood down here on the front handguard. Obviously, it’s been cut away a bit for the detachable magazine, that’s about it. This is also a very light piece of wood. I’ve also mentioned the Aluminum buttplate, checkered back here, so it will stick to your shoulder a bit.
Now inside here is where we’ve got a lot of interesting stuff going on. So, first off, you’ll notice, the OP-rod is completely straight, it doesn’t have a dogleg in it. That’s one of the potential weakpoints on a standard M1, that OP-rod can bend at that dogleg end, and it was a somewhat complex manufacturing step, to get the tooling set up to bend just the right dogleg into those OP-rods. Well, they got rid of that on this winchester prototype, so it runs straight backwards. The recoil spring here has been reprofiled a bit to match.
Now, this is our selector lever, and it moves this guy just a little bit up and down. It does that through this pin, which obviously has a cam surface inside here. So, that’s going to engage or disengage an auto-sear in the fire-control group. What I’m more interested in, is there’s very little ‘stuff’ back here. The front arms that you would normally have on a standard clip-fed M1 are gone, we’ve taken a look at another magazine-fed M1 that had a box added to it here to support the magazine, that’s not there. Pretty dramatic change, the bottom of the barrel has been milled flat, that gives room for this straight OP-rod, and that cuts a significant amount of weight out of the gun. Presumably they found that that didn’t have a deleterious effect on the gun being able to withstand firing, but obviously by using a box magazine, they’ve been able to get rid of all of the mechanism in here that Garrond designed for the clip-feeding and ejecting process, that’s all gone. In fact, the cutout for the clip-release is also gone, there is no clip-release on the gun.
The upper hand-guard was widened to match the lower. Over here you can see it’s a very thin piece, you can see a bit of it’s cracked off, that’s probably too thin right there, but it is a prototype rifle, so.
The action, however, is still basic all-M1 Garrond.
Well thanks for watching, guys. I hope you enjoyed the video, I wish I knew more about exactly the backstory to this rifle and how it actually performed –I don’t, unfortunately– but who knows? Maybe with some video out there, someone will be able to find some of the records, and even if they don’t, it’s a really interesting look at some of the things that could be done and -were- done to the M1 Garrond in the attempt to make it into a light machine gun. Thanks for watching, I’d like to thank the Cody Firearms Museum for letting me take a look at this, and of course, tune in again to ForgottenWeapons.com.
Sources: Forgotten Weapons Youtube, Eric Nestor, Cody Firearms Museum, Wikipedia