Right now, Guns and Ammo is running a March Madness themed ad campaign on its website.
Here’s how it works. Like the NCAA tournament, there are four divisions: Handguns, Rifles, Modern Sporting Rifles, and Shotguns. Within each division, there are 16 types of guns listed that face off against one another. They are seeded. For instance, in the first round, the “Smith & Wesson M&P 10” is a 1-seed, facing off against the 16th seeded “Salient Arms Tier 1.” (Presumably, the seeds are based on how they did in the regular season?) Fans vote on their favorite and the winner moves on to the next round until we get to the final and can finally learn the answer to the question we’ve all been waiting for… most popular gun.
I want to mention first that I’ve never seen so many advertisements on one website. The contest is brought to you Galco Gunleather. The rifles are brought to you by Burris; handguns by Laserlyte, and so on. There’s a banner for Smith & Wesson at the top (maybe that’s why they’re a 1-seed), another banner for a thermosight at the bottom, and ads for various magazines on both sides. It’s almost as though advertisers have found the perfect place to target an overly-devoted and obsessive group of consumers.
Aside from wandering into an advertising nightmare, the entire contest is weird as hell. Guns are tools. This is a contest where people go vote for their favorite tool. I’m pretty sure Bosch isn’t sponsoring a March Madness-themed contest where people vote for their favorite power-drill or sander. I did go check, though, just to be sure and, no, they’re not. And if they were, I’m pretty sure no one would go vote because there are very few power-drill enthusiasts out there.
Here’s the thing, though. It would be less weird for people to go vote on their favorite power tools. Power tools are not designed with the explicit purpose of killing people like many of these guns. The Smith & Wesson M&P 10 is designed for “multiple uses” but at least two of those uses, tactical and defensive, include killing people. I can’t find as much information about the Salient Arms Tier 1 (I’m beginning to understand why it was a 16-seed) but it would appear to have a similar purpose. What qualities are people voting on?
On top of all that, though, there’s strangeness in the fiery passion with which people are trying to defend their choices. On Facebook, where the campaign is being advertised, people are taking to the comments to defend their choice and sway others. Respondents are angry over how few people appreciate their preferred gun. Some are indignant over even being asked which they prefer, as though they are being forced to decide which child they love most. How dare you even ask? These guns are each special in their own way!
I’m not trying to make light of it. I’ve often found the culture of gun-enthusiasm a bit haunting. I remember once listening to two kids in the bookstore of an airport arguing over which assault rifle was better, the same way two kids might talk about whether or not Michigan State had a chance to win the east as a 4-seed. Unlike basketball, though, this isn’t a game. It simply can’t be healthy to think about guns this way yet, right now, there are tens of thousands of people doing just that and several massive companies making millions by promoting it.
By Ryan C. Martin