I am not above admitting I am wrong. Such admissions are exclusively born out of conclusive evidence proving my error, but if that data is there, it is there, and it would be intellectually dishonest of me to ignore it.
As such, I was mostly wrong – “American Guns” is a demonstrably “better” firearm-related show than “Sons of Guns“, but that does not necessarily make it good television, or good publicity for the firearm-owning community.
How did I make that determination? One thing that has always annoyed me about “Sons of Guns” was their now-non-existent tagline of “If you dream it, we can build it.” Well, that is great and all, except we never once saw the folks at Red Jacket actually building firearms. Oh, sure, they reconstructed a few demilled kits, and they sure as hell know how to bolt all manner of whatnots, gadgets, and accessories onto pre-existing receivers for various firearms, but when it comes to taking a blank piece of metal and turning it into a shape that would have to be registered with the BATFE as an actual “firearm”, they fell squarely on their faces.
On the other hand, “American Guns” has done that almost every other episode now. Want a “knuckle duster” that has not been produced in over a century and for which there are no plans? They did that, and milled all of the big pieces of out of solid hunks of metal. Want The Gun That Won The West customized to your specific competitive shooting style, and dressed up how you like it? They did that, again, starting from blank metal. Want an original, Mark 1 Mod 0 hand-cannon? They did that, and broke out the blacksmithing tools to make sure it looked right. Sure, the preponderance of their business seems to be basic customization and modification (like the hunting rifle for the wounded veteran, or Shotgun Willie’s side-by-side) – things that just about any competent gunsmithing shop could accomplish – but every once in a while Mr. Wyatt theatrically slams that block of iron/brass/aluminum on the table, and they go at it with the CNC/drills/files/etc.
“Sons of Guns”? Yeah… they bought a multi-tens/hundreds?-of-thousands dollar CNC mill and have no idea what to do with it. Like “caveman” quality cluelessness. There are these great things called “schools”…
So, yeah, when given the choice between watching a show where the meat-and-potatoes is bolting accessories onto pre-existing frames, or a show where they literally mill functional devices out of featureless blocks of metals, being an engineer, it is no wonder I will automatically gravitate towards the latter.
Moving beyond that single point, however, “American Guns” features significantly less swearing (As in none? After my time in the Navy, I do not really pay attention to such things…), very little of “Sons of Guns”‘ idiotically poor management (i.e. no “we can get this done in a week, even if it means I have to verbally assault my shop workers every five minutes”), a fair bit more discussion (in my opinion) of the ins-and-outs of gunsmithing (like how to get a 1911 perfectly smooth, or how to “antique” metal, etc.), and an actually open shop (though I feel certain the customers featured in the show are still staged in some fashion). Sure, Mrs. and Paige Wyatt tend towards the pink guns, low-cut tops, and short-shorts, but as Better Half herself said, I think they just are that way, rather than it being an act for the camera – they may be accentuating that, but no one could accept the travesty of a 1911 with as much enthusiasm as Renee did if she did not actually like it to some degree.
So does that mean “American Guns” makes for good television? Eh, almost. The Wyatts almost come off as caricatures, the “massive stacks o’money” negotiating technique is a bit cheesy (and arguably effective, thought it may just be Mr. Wyatt’s schtick), the female members of the family do nothing to break away from the stereotypes perpetrated by certain folks (see above), and some of their notions of “safety” give me a raging case of the heebie-jeebies (but on a smaller magnitude than Sons of Guns); however, all of that aside, it makes for entertaining television, which is more than I can say any more for “Sons of Guns” -being an Industrial Engineer by education, I can only take a manager yelling at his employees for his poor (and reportedly artificially constrained) planning so many times before I get royally annoyed.
So, yeah, if you have an hour to kill, give “American Guns” a chance – they are nowhere near what I would consider to be “ideal”, but they are probably about as good as we are going to get these days.
On a somewhat related note, I am interested to see how this goes; I understand the Wyatts (or, at least, their handlers) sounded very interested in the idea of a modern LeMat resurrection using modern cartridge calibers. While I still really want a fully-operational Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B, I could live with Jayne’s sidearm.
Update: And just to add icing to this all-too-entertaining cake, it would appear as though Will and Stephanie Hayden have lost their FFL and Red Jacket is currently run by Vince – you know, the gunsmith Will routinely verbally abuses, even though Will routinely turns out to be wrong. *snicker*
Update 2: And just to keep the dramallama running, the FFL flag has moved to Joe (the explosives guy at RJ), and, more interestingly to me, Vince has left Red Jacket. Good for him. Given the verbal abuse he has received and the skills he has, were I him, I would have left years ago.
(Note: The Discovery Channel provided me absolutely nothing to write this post, and it would not have mattered if they did. Piss off, FTC.)