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Assault Weapons and Accessories in America


The growing fascination with assault weapons has been accompanied by a growth in the number of publications dedicated to the non-sporting use of firearms.

Firepower, published by Everett Moore out of Cornville, Arizona, is the only magazine in America dedicated to full-auto and high-capacity firearms and has a circulation of 90-95,000. (Prior to the 1986 machine gun ban, the magazine had been devoted exclusively to full-auto.) Each issue of the magazine is filled with weapon, ammunition, and accessory reviews. Virtually all of the weapons reviewed are assault weapons.

According to Moore, "We jokingly refer to them as black and wicked-looking types of guns. They fill a need in the consumer market for people...who cannot afford the automatic version of the same weapon." Moore acknowledges that violence involving these weapons is "a legitimate concern. It's a reality and you can't deny that." He adds, though, that "it seems like any time we go to disarm the criminal, we end up disarming the legitimate, honest civilian."[52]

American Survival Guide is "the magazine for safer living." Published by McMullen Publishing in Anaheim, California, articles are listed under headings that include "Survival Weapons," "Survival Gear," and "Survival How To."[53] It also contains the "Survivalist Directory," a post-apocalypse personals column that offers a "confidential listing of survivalists who wish to become known to others of like mind." Personal ads in the August issue include:

  • "Melbourne, Florida. Teenage military organization that does U.F.O. research would like to recruit members. Also would like to set-up [sic] information exchange and meet others in this area for training. All races and sexes are welcome. Ages 12 and over only. No racists or religious fanatics need apply."

  • "Northern Arkansas. Young, conservative male seeks correspondence with other survivalists in area. Special interest is nuclear survival. No liberals, atheists, druggies, or alcoholics. Females welcome. All ages reply."

  • "Baltimore, Maryland. Urban group which meets biweekly is looking for interested local survivalists wishing to exchange information. We are not Rambos, racists, or extremists, but family-oriented and interested in workable, realistic solutions to short and long term survival scenarios."[54]

Published since 1979, Survival Guide has a circulation of between 30,000 and 70,000.[55]

In addition to his mainstay, the monthly Combat Handguns, New York-based Stanley Harris also publishes such annuals as Guns & Survival and Special Weapons. Another Harris publication, Eagle, which had promised its readers "violent combat action," has ceased publication. An October 1983 issue of the magazine featured an article entitled, "The Amazing Soft Drink Silencer—I'm a Pepper, You're a Dead Man." The article outlined the ease with which a two-liter plastic soft-drink container could be used as a silencer for a MAC-10. Eagle found it to be "the best suppressor found in today's supermarkets. It's cheap, effective, and mixes well at parties. What more could you want?"[56]

The Special Weapons annual offers "The Newest Ideas in Guns and Equipment as Well as Combat-Proven Tactics." [57] Articles in Special Weapons include: "Colt Delta HBAR—Boasting sniper rifle accuracy we compare this new Colt to the combat-proven Galil"; "The Search for Compact Firepower—We compare submachine guns to short assault rifles"; "The Offensive Handgun—It's the tool of the assassin"; "How to Buy Automatic Weapons—Latest prices and availability of Class III firearms"; and the "Assault Rifle Buyer's Guide."[58]

"The Offensive Handgun" is a how-to piece on assassination. The article advises that "single shots are preferred. The head, neck, and spine are the best targets."[59] Recognizing that sometimes "an unsuppressed pistol may be the only one available," the article advises that, "the sound can be muffled by shooting through...a potato or pillow. If the muzzle is held against the target, this also may muffle the sound, but it can also cause him to react in unexpected ways, besides presenting the possibility of the pistol jamming from bits of clothing or flesh caught in the muzzle or chambers."[60] The article notes that the speed and capacity of a modern machine pistol are "important when shooting a number of people at once."[61]

Soldier of Fortune, published out of Boulder, Colorado, describes itself as "The Journal of Professional Adventurers." In a disclaimer on its title page (a trait many of these magazines share), it warns readers that the magazine "does not verify validity of every advertisement and/or the legality of every product contained herein. Soldier of Fortune magazine does not intend for any product or service to be used in any illegal manner."[62] The magazine has been published since 1975 by National Rifle Association board member Robert K. Brown.

In addition to various "you are there" articles such as "Sandinista Staredown" and "Bum Trip in Bolivia,"[63] the magazine contains weapon reviews and combat tactics. Soldier of Fortune has also carried classified ads for mercenaries for hire. This practice has since been discontinued as the result of a lawsuit filed by the family of a victim whose murderer was hired as the result of an ad placed in the September 1984 issue of the magazine. The ad read: "Ex-marines. 67-69 Nam Vets. Ex-DI, weapons specialist—jungle warfare. Pilot. ME. High risk assignments. US or overseas."

In 1984 Robert Black hired John Wayne Hearn to kill his wife. Hearn did so in February 1985. It had been Hearn's third murder in 19 days. As the result of this, the victim's parents and son sued Soldier of Fortune for $21 million, arguing that the magazine was aware of the implication contained in the ad.[64] In March 1988, a Colorado jury found that the magazine should have known that the ad was offering the services of a hired killer and ordered it to pay $9.4 million. The decision is currently being appealed.[65] (Soldier of Fortune refused to answer any questions for this report, including circulation and initial date of publication, on advice of their legal counsel pending outcome of the suit.)

New Breed, "the magazine for military adventure,"[66] is published by Harry S. Belil, out of Nanuet, New York. Though the magazine focuses more on military action, it does contain articles on assault weaponry and tactics. The August 1988 issue also contains a review of the 1988 SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) show, the annual trade show of the firearms industry, held last January. In the piece, the author notes that "there were plenty of assault rifles at the show."[67]

Shotgun News describes itself as "The Trading Post for anything that shoots." Published three times a month out of Hastings, Nebraska, the 200-page, tabloid-style magazine has a circulation of nearly 190,000.[68] The magazine is crammed with classified and display ads for firearms and accessories, most of which are geared to firearms dealers.

In addition to a cavalcade of gun ads, Shotgun News carries ads for a variety of accessories (including Nazi memorabilia such as coffee mugs with swastikas), firearms, and publications, including The Turner Diaries, the "bible of right-wing extremists." In the book, "Earl Tuner and his fellow patriots...are forced underground when the U.S. government bans the private possession of firearms and stages the mass Gun Raids to round up suspected gun owners. An all-out race war occurs and the struggle escalates. Turner and his comrades suffer terribly, but their ingenuity and boldness in devising and executing new methods of guerrilla warfare lead to a victory of cataclysmic intensity and worldwide scope. If the government had the power to ban books, The Turner Diaries would be at the top of their list. Order your copy today." The $5.95 book is offered by the neo-Nazi National Vanguard located in Arlington, Virginia.[70]

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