“Start Them Young” – Junior Shooters: “For Kids By Kids”

Perhaps the most honest and unvarnished look into the ongoing effort to create a youth gun culture can be found in Junior Shooters, available online and in print format.

Based in Boise, Idaho, the magazine “strives to be the first of its kind to promote juniors involved in all shooting disciplines…” and is “dedicated to juniors of all ages and their parents.” The publication adds, “We care about kids and their parents and want you to have a place to go to find what is needed to get started in many different shooting venues.”40

Visitors to the website are greeted by ads for AR-15 assault rifles. Clicking on the Rock River Arms ad for its LAR Coyote Carbine, the viewer is taken to a full description of the weapon on the company’s website, and the ability to explore the full site. An ad for Stag Arms shows an AR-15 assault rifle and in a series of panels asks the questions “LEFT HANDED?” “RIGHT HANDED?” “WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED!” Clicking on the ad brings you to the company’s website.41

Junior Shooters Web Stag Rock River
The home page for Junior Shooters features ads for assault rifle manufacturers Rock River Arms and Stag Arms

Table of Contents JS Summer 13 Vol 15
Junior Shooters Table of Contents, Summer 2013

Additional gun manufacturers listed as sponsors on the website are: companies that manufacture only assault weapons, such as Bushmaster (manufacturer of the AR-15 assault rifle used in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that left 20 students and six educators dead) as well as the aforementioned Rock River Arms and Stag Arms; companies that manufacture assault weapons and high-capacity pistols, such as FNHUSA, Remington, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, and Sturm, Ruger & Company; and, companies that manufacture solely pistols, such as Glock.42 Each issue of Junior Shooters contains an Advertiser’s Index at the back of the magazine. Among the associations listed as sponsors of the publication is the gun industry trade association the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and National Rifle Association Youth Programs.

Little known outside of pro-gun circles, the magazine frequently presents a blunt view of the financial and political benefits that recruitment of children offers the pro-gun movement.

In discussing the benefits of “junior shooters” to the gun industry and gun lobby, Editor-In-Chief Andy Fink explains, “Juniors start shooting, and become interested, in related sports at a young age, as young as six, seven, or eight” and can continue as “junior” shooters until the age of 18 or 21, adding, “They may also have the build of a young youth or an adult.”43

Fink makes the case that literally every firearms product can be marketed to “juniors,” including concealed carry pistols (with the goal of the youth eventually obtaining a concealed carry permit when old enough) and assault rifles, writing:

What market isn’t tied to juniors? I really can’t think of any. Military and law enforcement firearms have civilian versions which are applicable. The Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) market has firearms which hold 10-rounds which is the limit for IDPA [International Defensive Pistol Association] competition.44 When the junior turns 21 they can get a CCW permit. What do they buy? It is usually a gun from a manufacturer they are familiar with.45

Promising content “For Kids By Kids,” articles in the magazine, with headlines such as “Why I Love Bushmaster AR-15s…You Should, Too”46 commonly promote high-capacity semiautomatic pistols and assault rifles, often referred to by the industry-promoted euphemism “Modern Sporting Rifles” (MSR). At the same time, advertisements for assault weapons, high-capacity semiautomatic pistols, and firearm accessories are ubiquitous. Examples of the types of weapons and accessories promoted for children and youth in editorial content and advertisements are offered below.

  • A 2014 press release from gun manufacturer Mossberg included with online articles on the Junior Shooters website boasts that the company has “45 Firearms Developed Specifically for Smaller-Statured or Younger Shooters.” The self-proclaimed “leader in the development and design of firearms for younger and small-statured shooters,” the company touts its “recently-launched Mossberg 2014 Youth Catalog” and lists among its “industry-partners” the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Rifle Association.47
  • A profile of an AR-15 assault rifle upper receiver states that the “Adams Arms 14.5” Evo Ultralite Piston AR-15 upper is a great upper for a junior shooter; it’s light, it’s short, and it’s accurate.”48

“One advantage to having such a short, light upper is maneuverability and ease of use by younger, smaller shooters. At one local 3-Gun match [see the later section, The Industry Finds Its “’Reality’ Video Game” in 3-Gun Competition], there was a long hallway with four doorways that you had to shoot through. The targets were set up so you had to move into the doorway. The short barrel really helped me move in and out of the doorways quickly. It was a real advantage.”49

  • In a 2009 article that comes across more as a promotional piece, “The Mosquito: A Cool .22 With A Sting,” Editor-in-Chief Andy Fink writes, “The .22 Mosquito is a real stinger.” Spread across the top of the page is manufacturer Sig Sauer’s logo. At the bottom is a picture of the pistol in pink, with the caption “The pink Mosquito – For the ladies!” Promising that the pistol’s “slide is easy to operate even for youngsters,” in the article Fink tests the gun, as do children ages 11, 12, 14, and 16. Fink reports, “Each of them liked the feel of the gun and operation. They had to get used to the first shot cocking the hammer being double-action with a heavy trigger pull of 12.1 pounds.”50

Sig Mosquito Pages from JS Summer 2009 Part 2_Page_1
Junior Shooters, Summer 2009

Four years later, Fink revisited the gun, this time with three co-authors, two age 13 and one 18 years old:

“This pistol is sweet! It looks cool. It fits in your hand well, even the small hands of juniors and smaller women. It’s a double/single-action semi-auto and is great for plinking and practice…51 Sig Sauer’s Mosquito has an ergonomic design to provide an enjoyable shooting experience. It is based on the design of the Sig Sauer P226 but is 10% smaller in size and chambered for the .22 long rifle cartridge.”52

In the article, endorsements for the pistol are offered by two 13-year-old boys:

“Hayden Lierman (13): My .22 Mosquito pistol is the Desert Digital Camo model manufactured by Sig Sauer…The pistol looks cool and feels like a Beretta, which I think is awesome. It’s a desert camouflage color.”53

“Wyatt Irish (13): At first I thought that it was way too small to be reliable…However, one thing was for sure: I loved how the grip felt in my hand. For a person with small, bony-fingered, 13-year-old hands, the grip almost felt custom fit.”54

  • In “Glocks are for Girls,” the magazine reviews “a small, compact pistol” that is “generally used for conceal carry.” The reviewer notes that “because of its small frame, I was able to shoot and operate it easily despite having small hands.”55

Junior Shooters Summer 2009 Glocks are for Girls p 22
Junior Shooters, Summer 2009

  • Under “Kids’ Gear” the magazine promotes online shooting sports accessories marketer Brownells (headed by NRA Board Member Pete Brownell) and features an assault rifle with a 100-round ammunition magazine:

“WOW! Do you need shooting accessories to go with your firearm? What about optics, mounting equipment, slings, magazines, cleaning materials, and parts? Brownells carries just about anything you can imagine…Junior Shooters has been working with Brownells since it started publication. We have found them to [sic] very supportive of promoting juniors and the shooting sports, and their customer service is excellent! We seriously recommend you check them out at www.brownells.com.”56

Junior Shooters Summer 2010 Kids Gear Page 58
Junior Shooters, Summer 2010

  • “FIREFIELD SALUTES YOU, JUNIOR SHOOTERS!” is the headline atop a full-page ad from parts and accessories manufacturer Firefield. Below two males dressed in camo, one holding a shotgun and the other brandishing a pistol, the text reads:

“We know that you are tomorrow’s leaders of the industry, the ones who continue to value and support the outdoors through shooting. The one’s [sic] who will continue to uphold the values of our country. The one’s [sic] who will introduce the value of the great outdoors to the next generation and instill in them the love and respect that comes with being a shooter. Firefield isn’t all about winning. We know the real victory lies in getting out there, smelling the fresh air and holding freedom in your hands. Let’s keep that victory for the next junior shooters.”

The ad ends with “Firefield – Victory Justifies Everything!”57

P 68 Firefield Ad Industry Angle Winter 2011 Volume 10
Junior Shooters, Winter 2011

In addition to the implicit advertising benefits Junior Shooters’ articles “For Kids By Kids” offer the gun industry, the magazine regularly features full-page ads from gun companies, many featuring assault rifles and high-capacity pistols:

  • A full-page ad from Next Generation Arms for its X7 AR-15-style assault rifle states: “The Gray Rifle – an indistinct, shadowy weapon carried by an unseen, unstoppable foe.” The ad continues: “Who is the X7 for? Visit us at www.nextgenerationarms.com and look at some of our featured users. They train many thousands a year in the tactical use of the AR-15. They protect and serve. They defend their homes and their homeland. The X7 continues our tradition of tactical performance and better-than-needed accuracy in a military grade small shoulder arm that works in all climates with little care.”58

P 84 Next Generation Arms assault rifle JS March 2011 SE
Junior Shooters, March 2011

  • An ad for a 22 caliber 1911 pistol has the headline “Make Dad Jealous” with a smiling young girl holding a target as the centerpiece. The text reads, “For less than $300, you can own an authentic 1911 reproduction in .22 LR and spend the day shooting and improving your skills – without emptying dad’s wallet. Available through your local gun shop.”59

P 23 Make Dad Jealous 45 pistol ad JS Winter 2011 Volume 10
Junior Shooters, Winter 2011

  • A full-page ad from Stag Arms features an AR-15-style assault rifle with a high-capacity ammunition magazine and promises that the gun is “Adaptable To Any Application.”60

P 68 Stag Arms AW Rifle Ad JS Spring  2013 P 3 46-68
Junior Shooters, Spring 2013

  • A full-page ad for Glock pistols shows two black males, a youth and an adult, at an outdoor range, with the headline “Confidence to Live Your Life.” The ad, in which the youth is holding an ammunition magazine in one hand and a round in the other, states, “Shooting the best pistol means you can hone your skills and rise to any challenge. Backed by proven reliability, superior engineering and used by approximately 65% of law enforcement, GLOCK is a partner you can trust.”61

P 22 Glock Ad Black Youth JS Spring 2013 P 1-23
Junior Shooters, Spring 2013

  • An ad for Rock River Arms’ LAR Series of assault rifles (which come in Varmint and Predator models) states, “From varmints to vermin, predators to prey, RRA LAR-8 Series Rifles.“62
  • A full-page ad for Sig Sauer’s SP2022 pistol features the handgun, notes that it comes in 9mm, .357, and 40 caliber and adds, “No wonder it’s becoming the standard choice among elite military and LE [law enforcement] forces worldwide.”63 A second full-page ad from the company for its “microcompact” P290RS concealed carry pistol states, “Get 9mm performance in a palm-sized, easy-to-carry polymer package.” The tag line for the ad states, “Sig Sauer, when it counts.”64

P 15 Sig Pistol Ad JS Spring 2012 Vol 11
Junior Shooters, Spring 2012

P 25 SIG AD CCW JS Spring 2013 P 2 24-45
Junior Shooters, Spring 2013

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