David Petzal doesn’t seem to like change very much

For a guy that calls himself a “gun nut,” David Petzal sure didn’t seem to enjoy the largest gun show on planet earth very much. If you dig into his recent column on SHOT Show there are multiple interesting threads that could be followed. His column could have been a great launching point to discuss how the firearms market has changed; we could look at the influences of 15 years of war on guns and gear, we could examine the relentless PC war on hunting, but no. Instead we can just complain about how “everything is tactical now.”


Unfortunately, any good point David could have made just kind of got lost in the sauce, as the article comes off like “old man yells at clouds.” See, it gets hard to take his column seriously when he runs lines like this: “[SHOT Show] has now become so heavily militarized that you have to look fairly hard for something designed to kill animals instead of people.” Really? I mean it’s not like Thompson/Center introduced a new hunting rifle this year…oh wait they did. Ruger also introduced a new model of the American Rifle, and Kimber dropped new rifles as well. So yes, while tactical/ccw guns and gear still rule the roost, there’s certainly no lack of hunting specific gear.

But that sort of brings me around to another point about that line in specific, because the phrase “designed to kill animals instead of people” is pretty dumb. I’ve never used an AR15 to kill people. I have used them to kill animals, and I know a lot of other people who’ve used them for the same thing. Just because it doesn’t look like what Petzal would imagine a hunting rifle should look like shouldn’t mean it’s not a hunting rifle.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot in David’s article that I could address. His apparent bemoaning of the lack of booth babes, for instance; complaining about the number of dogs there (seriously? Who doesn’t like dogs?), but what I ultimately want to pound on is the fact that what we’re seeing here is the result of a hugely successful expansion of the gun culture. Even in my lifetime alone, I’ve seen the gun culture change tremendously, and so for someone like David, I can’t even imagine how different things look now than when he was my age. We’ve been at various levels of war for the last 15 years, the firearms industry employs a disproportionate number of veterans compared to other industries, available lands for hunting have been shrinking at the same time as the government and media wages a relentless war on hunting, and more often than note, people are getting their first exposure to firearms via video games and media instead of their family members.

Those factors have driven real change in the industry, the products are more focused on shooting enthusiasts and concealed carry than on hunting. People who are new to guns are far more likely to go to their local range and rent an AR15 and shoot that; they’re going to buy a Glock 19 for concealed carry or home defense. That’s what the industry is, and it’s where David misses the mark. You see, if it wasn’t for my passion for shooting, I never would have gone hunting. I’m not from a family that hunts, so it wasn’t part of my childhood. But as an adult, as someone who’s been shooting most of my life, I’ve been introduced to hunting via people in the industry who are passionate about it.

That’s what people like David Petzal and others who are passionate about hunting should be doing. Looking at this new culture of gun enthusiasts with their AR15s and tactical gear and introducing them to hunting. A .300 Blackout makes a pretty bitchin’ deer rifle, and a regular old 16 inch vanilla AR is a great gun for prairie dogs, coyotes, and all kinds of other game. There is tremendous value in hunting, in shooting at something that moves and thinks and has a mind of its own, even if it’s just for the inherent marksmanship challenge of hitting a moving target. Lifelong hunters like Petzal should be reaching out to tactical enthusiasts and trying to bridge the culture gap.

Instead, we get lines like this: “Everyone who makes guns is selling everything they can produce, which stifles the need for innovation and takes the emphasis off firearms that would not be useful during the Latter Days.” I wanted to be mad about his article, I really did. I wanted to get riled up about how the Fudds are this and that and blah blah, but ultimately I’m not. What I am, and what I feel while I’m writing this is disappointment. David Petzal has a great voice and a huge platform that he could use to preserve the future of hunting by reaching out to the newest members of gun culture. It’s a pity he doesn’t see fit to do that.


  1. David always struck me as a died in the wool hunter and that was the only reason to have a gun. Indeed his television spots from Gun Nuts TV seem to entirely focus on bolt-action rifles and hunting rifle accuracy. Thus it is no surprise to me that he expressed his frustration.

    BTW, good picture of Shelley Rae. I can just see here open carrying a pair of Taurus Judges in a drop loop double holster. Look out world!!

  2. Growing up I read Field and Stream religiously, and David’s column was ALWAYS what I turned to first. But 15-20 years ago I became self aware that I enjoyed shooting more than hunting. As I evolved it became apparent that David was a hunting nut that preferred the use of a firearm, more than he was a gun nut that liked to hunt.

    David is unequivocally tied to those in his demographic; those that grew up with gun safety in schools, wore their Stormy Kromer’s afield and only cared about using a long gun to take game. Home defense was the double barrel in the hall closet and at night your doors were unlocked and your windows open. He may be pandering to his demographic intentionally, but it is more likely his belief system is so ingrained that he can’t comprehend the change.

    Petzal’s advice in bolt guns, lever guns and hunting scopes has always been, and continues to be, sound, quality, and proven through field experience. I agree that he is missing a golden opportunity to bring new shooters into the hunting fold. But his article shocks me none.

    Oddly enough, his contemporary at Outdoor Life, John B. Snow, seems to be a modern gun nut who enjoys hunting as equally as competition and self defense.

    1. Related note, I’ve actually known John for years. He gave me my first print writing gig in the industry, and we’ve remained friendly ever since. I actually thought long and hard before I wrote this article specifically because John is a friend and I didn’t want to appear to be shitting on one of his writers.

  3. I have no idea who Mr. Petzal is. Manufacturers have followed the market, big surprise there. Heck, most pure hunters I know buy very little in the way of ammo or rifles. I grew up hunting (40 years of it now), and I hunt with what I shoot most: AR pattern. Yep, hunted with an FAL, AR-10, and an AR-15, plus the occasional Black Powder rifle. My father, an avid hunter his entire life has not purchased a new rifle or shotgun since the 1960’s! He still bird hunts with a Remington Model 25 he purchased the second year they came out. My only bolt rifle for hunting is a 1938 K98 Mauser (killed a deer this year just for the giggles too).

    For more fun I am building a new hunting rifle: AR-15 pattern in 6.5 Grendel. Why? I should be FUN!

  4. Honestly the most innovative product I saw I SHOT was on a bolt gun. Namely the mag catch on the Ruger Precision Rifle that works with both SR-25 and AICS magazines. Granted it wasn’t exactly new, but it was the first time I got hands on with one.

    But probably because it doesn’t look like how he believes a bolt gun should look like he didn’t spend much time playing with one.

    And then you had the Long Action version of the Magpul Remington 700 stock, specifically marketed at hunters.

    Those are just products that I remember, as I was more interested using what little time I had to wander the show floor looking at PDWs.

  5. I know he is entitled to his opinion but he wrote it coming across like a dick. I apparently saw more at SHOT than he did because I saw a lot of hunting oriented products. The new Browning X Bolt is beautiful. CZ and Kimber have some beautiful hunting rifles. S&W has a full line of revolvers geared towards hunters. Even SIG has a new 10mm pistol called the Hunter and designed just for that purpose. They also have a new AR style rifle called the Predator, again for hunting. There were numerous new loadings and bullets for hunting.

    As PPGMD mentioned, the Ruger PR caught my eye not for tactical use, but for long range hunting. As did the Barrett in 300 WM, one of my favorite hunting cartridges. And the mentioned Magpul Remington stock is on order for my M700 AAC-SD. Another deer slayer of mine, I might add. Although 6 of the last 7 whitetails I have taken were with my DPMS .308 that I use for 3 Gun competition. I bet David considers that sacrilegious. .
    He probably needs to quit going to SHOT since it obviously traumatized him. There are numerous other shows around the country aimed directly at hunters. He would probably feel more at home there and most likely would write a more positive, less crybaby article.

  6. I own 3 AR’s, 2 AK’s, and a Sterling smg. I generally consider traditional sporting weapons more interesting and am a bit tired of constant articles about the endless very minor variations of a few MSR’s. You might note that Petzal just bought an AR himself. He’s on our side, lets find other more appropriate targets of criticism.

    1. So we’re not allowed to criticize people we disagree with inside our community anymore? That’s rubbish. A healthy community thrives on criticism and debate. I wasn’t unkind or unprofessional towards David in any of my remarks.

  7. Lest we not forget, this is a guy who wrote endlessly about how the army should go back to issuing 1911’s instead of selecting a handgun from the last century. If that doesn’t get you street cred as a crotchety old man, I don’t know what does.

  8. Caleb, I disagree on both points. I found your article both unkind and unprofessional.
    Unkind- David Petzal is an old man yelling at clouds. Nothing unkind about that distillation of his career.
    Unprofessional- As a longtime reader and fan of Mr. Petzal’s writing, I knew immediately you did as much research as TTAG did about 10-8. Any cursory review of the last six months of articles, all right there on the blog, would plainly show Mr. Petzal is no Fudd. He has several ARs, loves them, competes in long range rifle, bought a .308 SiG AR (the latest I think), loves nightforce scopes, and lots of other newfangled non Fudd things. Big supporter of 2A rights without any “fuddification. Lots of other stuff there but you’d have to, you know, go poke around the blog. Mr. Petzal also, especially on the blog, writes to his readers and writes a lot of tongue in cheek stuff, especially a it things like SHOT. I figured he’d have written more about the booth babes. Anyway, he’s earned the title of venerable, is a staunch ally, and I don’t think he deserved the drive by treatment for one article. Phil of El Paso

  9. “[SHOT Show] has now become so heavily militarized that you have to look fairly hard for something designed to kill animals instead of people.” – Petzal

    Somebody should break it to him that every type of firearm (and especially the bolt action) was designed first as a military arm.

  10. After reading all the comments in his article, those guys sound like they type of gun owners who would be fine with a ban on all guns not designed for hunting. Its that fragmentation amongst gun owners that scares me.

  11. so getting bored of all the tactical crap is now Fuddish and ridicule worthy?

    Hell, I’m fond of shooting my ARs but I’m bored to tears when that’s what’s 1/2 of every rifle at a gun store (and they’re damn near all 16.5 barrels with a pinned flash suppressor and adjustable carbine length buttstock too, chambered in 556). It’s *boring*.

    I think drum mags are stupid and have said so before. Does that make me a Fudd or anti, even if I don’t actually think they should be illegal? This reads a lot like you’re upset about an opinion that doesn’t dovetail with your own, same as the TTAG piece (and that type of crap has really driving me away fromthat site).

  12. I read this the other day and wondered if I should add my two cents worth of opinion which might not even be worth that. I am an old guy who shoots nice over/under at birds and blued bolt action guns with wood stocks at critters. My two pistols are a 1911 and a High Power. I own one AR type and seem to enjoy old WWI military bolt actions and I support every right to own any gun a person can afford to own with any size magazine they want to hang on it.

    My son and sons-in-law love to shoot all sorts of black guns in lots of configurations and while I don’t much care what the gun is I enjoy shooting the newest stuff and promptly forget if it is a H&K or which kind of new improvement has been installed on which AR. We share a passion for firearms but mine is more historical, I used to drive the old Brit sports cars and like to read about them and I don’t much care about the new wonderful performance cars at all. My Ford F-150 does a good job of getting me where I need to go.

    So, like some of your readers have pointed out, we are different in our preferences of firearms but that does not put us in a conflict situation and you might want to view us as part of a coalition always moving in the same direction working to protect all of our gun rights. Petzal has been one of my favorite writers and his honesty and humor in pointing out things like use enough gun but don’t over do it I find enjoyable. Please don’t throw him away because he does not share your same gun interests.

    I also put a fountain pen in my pocket every day filled with ink out of a bottle and don’t expect half of you youngsters to read cursive. Most all of the music I like was written before 1970 and I can’t think of a decent song written in the last 20 years, that being said I don’t care what music you listen to and hope you enjoy it as long as you leave me alone and get off my lawn.

  13. Caleb, thank you for your criticism, it’s both polite and direct.

    In many ways, I was born into Gun Culture 1.0 and grew into Gun Culture 2.0. It took joining a range in high school to teach me that I preferred shooting to hunting, as much as I love wandering through the woods with a .22, looking for squirrels. I was in middle school when the AWB came out, and in college when it finally went away.

    I got a work colleague in his late 20s/early 30s interested in guns, and he went out and bought an AR, a Mossberg 590 and a Glock 19. As you have so frequently and precisely said, most people are going out and buying the guns that they first learned about in First Person Shooters. I owned a HK USP before I played my first Counterstrike LAN party, but those events are red-meat recruiting centers for future Gun Nuts. The more we engage with “Counterstrike Kiddies”, the stronger we will become.

    Which is not to say that we shouldn’t also focus on developing new shooters in rural areas who are mainly interested in hunting. For decades, women were not a significant part of this group, *but we can all see that changing now*. And we need to keep it up and do better at it.

    Our hobby won’t stay stagnant. And it is influenced by the fact that our country has been at war for over a decade. A soldier, sailor, airman, coastie or Marine can buy guns very similar to the ones that they’ve used and trained with, so there’s that level of awareness and exposure right there. Going to the range consumes much more ammunition than hunting. CCW and armed home defense have exploded since I’ve been a part of this community, and all those factors will manifest themselves at places like SHOT. There’s fascinating market data out there, and I’d love to see more of it.

    I appreciate that the market is as diverse as it is. There are parts of it that don’t hold my interest. I’m sure that’s true for most all the people who participate in our sport. The magazines that first introduced me to Gun Culture were Field & Stream and American Hunter. I’m not surprised or offended that Mr. Petzal had the opinions he did of the Show. I do think, however, that he missed an opportunity, which considering his talents as a writer, is unfortunate.

    Want more hunting coverage, hunting rifle gear and animal-killing goodness? Great. We’re not going to get it by complaining about a profusion of ARs and Multicam. It’ll happen by talking in positive terms about the hunting stuff, and why it’s fun.

    Finally, I have to disagree about production stifling innovation. I’d really like a 9mm 1911, and the choices that are out there are vastly superior to what would have been available back in 2000, when I got my first centerfire pistol.

    This is an awesome industry, and it deserves an awesome media. This website and Gun Nuts Media as a whole is a great and engaging example of that, and I think it’s worth working to improve the state of gun-related media. I think that means calling out and discussing Mr. Petzal’s article, and I don’t think that it means we have to be insulting or rude, so I very much appreciate your message, Caleb.

    I learned more about the new gear around hunting by reading the comments of this post than by Mr. Petzal’s article,, and I think that’s the real point here.


  14. Well said Caleb. At 56 I’m old enough to have experienced many of the highs and lows of gun ownership. I started hunting with a 16 gauge single. When I got out of the Army I swore off all things tactical and military. Traded a Mini 14 for a snubby Model 66. By the time I retired from the police department I’d stopped hunting and was fully immersed in the AR15 and accouterments culture. Now I’ve started hunting again. I also shoot USPSA, 3 Gun and Sporting Clays. I own everything from a high end AR to a Winchester 94. A Glock 35 to a Blackhawk in 45 LC. A Stoeger with a +6 tube to the sweetest little 28 gauge double you ever saw. It isn’t about what’s in your gun safe. It’s about what’s between your ears. Either you’re pro guns or you aren’t.

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