Story by Danielle Breteau • Photographs by John Johnston
When I first heard about something called Ballistic Radio, which doesn’t sound like two words that go together, I did what anyone would do: I Googled it! One of the first websites I landed on was for the Ballistic Radio Youtube Channel. The description? “A channel that is dedicated to making the Internet cry by destroying popular gun and shooting myths.” I immediately needed to know more.
“I don’t want there to be any stupid gun owners.”
John M. Johnston is the owner and host of Ballistic Radio. Johnston may not be what you would think when you visualize a guy in a radio station, sitting behind a DJ’s microphone. Johnston is a 6-foot, 2-inch, 250-pound man, with lots of tattoos and a shaggy beard that conjure up images of a cave man crossed with an ornate Aztec warrior. Maybe that is what he is going for, but my interview with him proved to be something more than a discussion with only grunts and sign language. Johnston is actually quite brilliant and has a diverse background in psychology, real estate office management and fashion photography, to name a few. Ballistic Radio seems to allow Johnston to express his deep-seated passion for bringing gun-industry news, tactics and concepts to the world in a very intelligent and sometimes humorous manner.
Ballistic Radio is a syndicated weekly radio show that covers topics about self-defense, firearms and training without politicizing it. “Stereotypes of gun owners have nothing to do with politics, and how you feel about guns is not a point to be made when someone is kicking down your door,” Johnston threw out during our conversation, making a very poignant point. After listening to multiple podcasts of the show to get a feel of the conversations, subject matter and demeanor, I found that they refreshingly incorporate industry experts with intelligent conversation and a good dose of humor to top off the content. I think this is great, since the average age of his audience is younger than you might expect, around 32 years old. It seems to be doing well so far, and as of this issue’s press deadline, they are on their 101st episode, with plenty more content yet to cover.
I asked Johnston what he was trying to do with his radio show. He said, “I don’t want there to be any stupid gun owners. I would like to see people understand that there is more to self defense than just having the gun. It is not a magic talisman that wards off evil just by existing. You’ve got to have the knowledge of how, when and why to use it, as well as familiarity with local laws, which can make a huge difference in how a gun owner can react in a bad situation. I feel like there are lots of different sides to this vast topic, and I am able to help breach the language barrier between them. I love being able to talk to people from all walks of life, and have even received an email from a couple who fall into at least six minority/specialty groups combined and are professed liberals. They own guns and said they felt like I wasn’t alienating them by talking about things outside of the self-defense topic, and that is why they love the show.” Johnston went on to say that he felt that we as a community are fighting against the Dunning-Kruger effect, a psychological phenomenon where people without knowledge, experience or expertise pass along bad information as fact, while ignoring and arguing against accurate information. He feels he runs into this quite often, and almost seemed defeated when he said it.
“I do product torture tests, not dumb ones like shoving a ham sandwich into the action and seeing if it will fire, but realistic ones”
The start of this radio show was a combination of luck and good timing. After a rough divorce, Johnston found himself working in a gun store. Johnston said he often heard gun store clerks say things around him that he simply couldn’t believe. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a clerk at a store suggest something like a Smith and Wesson J-frame .357 magnum (subcompact revolver) as the perfect self-defense gun for a woman because it’s small. The problem, of course, being that they’re incredibly uncomfortable to shoot and almost impossible for a new shooter to shoot well. Can you imagine trying to train with that if you have never shot before?” Johnston went on to explain that there are everyday questions that inspire him to want to help the industry. “I’m probably strange for enjoying this, but I like having conversations with people who say things like, ‘I don’t need to have a flashlight handy because I have night sights on my gun.’ Having to explain the importance of knowing what you are shooting at before you shoot pushes me to try and help educate gun owners.”
The gun store where Johnston was working was given an opportunity to have a radio show on a local station. He ended up running it and tailored it with his personal ideas and topics. That show subsequently became very popular locally and online, according to Johnston. “After some time I offered to buy the show from my boss and he agreed to sell it,” Johnston said, and that is how Ballistic Radio started.
Among Johnston’s hobbies, and much to the entertainment of many, he spends a great deal of time destroying guns through hard use, then documents his efforts. “I do product torture tests, not dumb ones like shoving a ham sandwich into the action and seeing if it will fire, but realistic ones,” he emphatically states. As an example of what he calls a test, he took a Salient Arms International MK25 Tier 1 Prototype and shot 25,000 rounds through it in 18 days in the middle of winter, a test which he himself barely survived physically.
Another of Johnston’s gun-torture tests involved practically submerging a Wilson Combat 9mm 1911 in the mud, and immediately after rescuing
it, demonstrating a successful firing sequence. You can see videos of some of his torture tests like this at ballisticradio.com. His next victim will be the LWRC Tricon MK6 with a SilencerCo suppressor. Johnston says this will be the first public high-roundcount test of a suppressor ever done.
You can find Ballistic Radio on multiple radio stations to include: 1100 KFNX in Phoenix, 55KRC in Cincinnati, 820 WWBA in Tampa, among several others, with 20 to 30 more on the way. If you are more of a podcast person or mobile-app type, there is a Ballistic Radio podcast and you can listen via iTunes, or you can catch the live stream Sundays at 7 p.m. EST on iHeart Radio (55KRC channel). You can also check out Ballistic Radio at ballisticradio.com to keep up with all the latest action in the gun industry, as well as gun and shooting experiments, AKA “torture tests,” that are quite entertaining. ASJ
Editor’s note: When I explained to Ballistic Radio show host John Johnston that I would need some photos to share with our readers, even though he is a former fashion photographer, he couldn’t imagine what I wanted. I flippantly suggested a photo of him geared up in camouflage, covered in mud, holding a gun and radio microphone would be a good start. Well, you get what you asked for, and this is just another glimpse into Johnston’s level of effort and humor, which we applaud.