Media Firearms Failures that Will Give You Fits

Media Firearms Failures that Will Give You Fits

firearm-failure-leadIt’s a matter of being human that we all mess up from time to time. After all, you can’t break every clay or put every round into the 10 ring. However, when it comes to firearms and screw ups there seems to be one group that goes out of its way to step in it again and again — the news media.

Even the lightest lifting when it comes to proper firearms terminology or knowledge makes their knees buckle. In turn, their audience is left with a palm full of face, lungs full of sighs, and a burning sensation at the base of the skull induced by the derp.

Oh yes, the world of journalism is rife with examples of its practitioners butchering the basics of firearms that gallons of digital ink could be spilled over. Here are four that caught our eyes — then made us want to gouge them out.

Nesting Behavior

Firearms Failure
Sniper Rifle?

Fox 32’s alerted the good folks of Chicago of a potentially deadly situation with this well measured and thoughtful headline: Snipers Nest discovered near Kennedy-King College. They go on to describe the marksman’s potential perch of death:

Officials say they found a high-powered semi-automatic weapon about a block from the campus of Kennedy King college, near 64th and Lowe last Thursday. Officers say the nest was found on top of a garage across from a soccer field on campus.

Wow a snipers nest, with a high-powered semi-automatic weapon in it! What was the weapon? It had to be an M110 right? Ooh, ooh, was it a Vietnam era M21? So Fox 32, what exactly was the long-range implement of doom?:

At the scene, officers recovered a fully loaded Mac-10.

Ah yes, the Mac 10 — wasn’t that Chris Kyle’s weapons system of choice when part of the Navy SEALs? The pure carnival barking of this headline, however, ends up being worth it, if for no other reason it elicits an all-star comment:

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 11.46.33 AM

Well done sir! Well done!

Unable to Get the Point

This next example comes from the New York Times and not only draws into question its journalists’ grasp of firearms. It also makes one wonder how good they are using this new-fangled invention called the Internet.

Really, for a firearms novice, it would not have taken an inordinate amount of time to have discovered the proper use of a decimal point in regards to caliber and gauge notation. Case in point:

A picture caption on Thursday for a special report about Americans’ relationship with guns referred incorrectly to the gun that an 8-year-old boy used to kill his first turkey. It was a 20-gauge shotgun, not a .20-gauge.

Try throwing .20-gauge into a search engine and see how many false positives turn up. Dang near zero, well outside of maybe a Times' article. It gets worse when these scribes grapple with metric calibers and decimal points:

A photo caption for an article on June 9 about innovations in the design of bullets misstated the caliber of the Speer Gold Dot hollow-point round. It is 9 millimeter, not .9 millimeter.

There are four articles documented in the blog of the misuse of decimal points in caliber identification, along with one admission the times identified a shotgun as a rifle. In surveying these mistakes the blog's author does have a moment of clarity as to the gravity of these mistakes:

In one sense, it’s a tiny lapse — an unnecessary decimal point. But it’s the type of error that might leave some skeptical readers wondering whether we know what we’re talking about on this subject.

I don't know about it being a tiny lapse, given it's dang near akin to a sports reporter talking about basketball bats or football diamonds. But he hit the nail on the head regarding one point, readers wondering if the Times has any idea what they're talking about.

Calling Shotgun

Why do I get the feeling the word “perky” appears more than “research” in Chicago NBC 5 News’ job descriptions? Call it a hunch:


To be fair, there are handguns designed to fire shotshells. But color me skeptical this newsreader had the Taurus Judge or Smith & Wesson Governor in mind in referring to a shotgun in the report. Of course, as was correctly reported in other outlets, the Uber driver had a concealed handgun he used to put a halt to this potentially deadly situation earlier this year.

Plug Ugly Reporting

Finally perhaps the most famous firearms media flub of recent times emanated from that beacon of enlightenment the Huffington Post. Submitted without comment (just a chuckle):


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Elwood Shelton is the Digital Editor for Gun Digest. He lives in Colorado and has provided coverage on a vast spectrum of topics for GD for more than a decade. Before that, he was an award-winning sports and outdoors reporter for a number of newspapers across the Rocky Mountains. His experience has consisted of covering the spread of chronic wasting disease into the Western Slope of Colorado to the state’s ranching for wildlife programs. His passion for shooting began at a young age, fostered on pheasant hunts with his father. Since then, he has become an accomplished handloader, long-range shooter and avid hunter—particularly mule deer and any low-down, dirty varmint that comes into his crosshairs. He is a regular contributor to Gun Digest Magazine and has contributed to various books on guns and shooting, most recently Lever-Actions: A Tribute to the All-American Rifle.


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