Gun Digest: Is It a Book or a Magazine??


Gun Digest: The World's Greatest Gun BookThose who have been reading Gun Digest for some time may be familiar with both the book and the magazine, but for our newer readers, here's a quick primer.

“Gun Digest the Magazine” is your ultimate source for firearms news, in-depth editorial, gun prices, new products and classifieds. A one-year subscription gets you two issues each month that will keep you current on what's happening in firearms throughout the year.

The Gun Digest book, published annually (well, almost) since 1944, has come to be known as “The World's Greatest Gun Book.” The book features firearms content from the greatest gun writers of the past – like Elmer Keith, Maj. Charles Askins and Jack O’Connor – all the way to today’s leading authorities. There is virtually no gun that hasn’t been written about over the years. You’ll read thousands of articles covering test fire gun reviews, shooting, collecting, gunsmithing, concealed carry, rifles, shotguns, handguns, optics and more.

(Be sure to scroll to the end if you'd like to order both at a special price for IGDB blog readers. The promo code below gets you the book and the magazine – a retail value of $72.97 – for only $49.99!)

A Quick History of Gun Digest

Perhaps no one could tell it better than the late Dan Shideler, my friend and colleague, when he introduced himself as the new editor of Gun Digest back in 2009:

For only the fifth time in its 65-year history, Gun Digest – the world’s oldest and best selling firearms annual – has a new editor. Me.

To – how shall I put this? – many of our more seasoned readers, Gun Digest literally needs no introduction. In the long-gone Indiana of the 1960s, my brother and I eagerly awaited the day when our father would bring home the new edition of Gun Digest. When it came, we read it for weeks on end, eventually reducing it to coverless tatters. Dad called it “the greatest bathroom book of all time.” My brother and I called it pure gold.

Renowned gun writer Jack O'Connor, from his article “Choosing the Big Game Rifle” in the 1944 “Gun Digest”

Think of it – where else could you find articles on virtually any firearms-related topic, all written by the greatest gunwriters who ever put pen to paper? Even now,  forty-some years after I read my first Gun Digest, the names of these writers are still as much a part of me as my own fingerprints: Elmer Keith. Jack O’Connor. Francis Sell. Maj. Charles Askins. Lucian Cary. Hank Stebbins. Warren Page. Dean Grennell. J. B. Wood. Larry Sterett. And maybe a hundred more.

For a book that was to become a monument of firearms literature, Gun Digest had a humble beginning. As Ken Ramage explains, “During the years preceding World War II, Milton Klein owned a chain of sporting goods stores in the Chicago area. He also had a thriving national mail order business through which he sold many sporting items, including

“After the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941, production of sporting firearms was stopped as factories shifted their efforts to military arms. Klein’s mail order business suffered. “In 1943, believing that if shooters couldn’t buy guns, they just might buy a book about guns, he advertised the first edition of Gun Digest in his catalog for $1.00. He had no idea if or when a book would be produced, so he offered a free calendar as part of the deal, with the promise of a book to come later. He received tens of thousands of orders – all accompanied by dollar bills – and Gun Digest was born.”

The first Gun Digest, published in 1944, was a skinny little thing that bore scant resemblance to the annual we all know and love. It included a mere handful of articles (but featured O’Connor and Askins, among others), and its “catalog section” was a photostat of a separately-printed price list, unillustrated, that was slipped into the front pages.

There was no 1945 edition of Gun Digest. Sales of the new book were good enough, however, that subsequent editions appeared in 1946 (basically a reprint of the 1945 edition), 1947, and 1949. In 1948, a fellow named John T. Amber, a salesman for Marshall Field and Company’s Chicago gun shop, contacted Klein and suggested that the book could be more, a lot more, than it was. So it happened that in 1949 John Amber began work on an all-new Gun Digest, which finally appeared as the 1951 edition.

It is one of the greatest regrets of my life that I never got to meet John Amber, who died in 1986. Although he’s been described as a cranky, crusty old curmudgeon, I’m thoroughly prepared to like anyone who kept a genuine Gatling Gun (an 1877 Police Model) on his desk. But, more than that, it was Amber’s style, his old-school way of doing things, that could make a 10-year-old kid from Indiana want to grow up to be just like him.

So here we are in 2009. I’m the first Gun Digest editor who is mostly like you, if you are who I think you are. I’ve never been employed by a gun company, never founded a gun magazine, but I’ve been buying, selling and trading guns of all types for more than 30 years.

A week doesn’t go by when I haven’t fired something: a Mauser C96, a Krag, A Remington 673, a S&W .38-44 Outdoorsman, something. My taste in firearms ranges from wheelocks to flinters to cannons to caplocks to Dardicks and Thompsons and drillings and vierlings and nearly everything in between. In a former life I worked in higher (?) education and the defense industry, but guns and the people who shoot them are my lifelong passion. I’m a gun guy.

And it’s the gun guy in me that has dictated the contents of the upcoming 2010 Gun Digest. I have adhered to John Amber’s time-tested formula of presenting the latest in firearms development, combined with solid research and entertaining pieces you just won’t find anywhere else. Ever wondered what it’s like to shoot a 2-bore rifle? Ever heard of the .19 Calhoon Badger wildcat? Want to know what’s new with scopes and optics and rifles and shotguns and gunsmithing supplies and reloading components and rifles and tactical gear? If so, the 2010 Gun Digest has been developed with you in mind. It’s got more content, more writers, and more information for your dollar than any other firearms annual and any previous edition of Gun Digest itself.

So, for gun enthusiasts of all ages, the Gun Digest annual book and “Gun Digest the Magazine” provide all the firearms information and entertainment that you could want – all year long.

If you'd like to experience both, visit the Gun Digest Store to order. Use promo code IGDB1012 to get this $72.97 retail value for only $49.99 (valid through November 9, 2012):

– Get Gun Digest 2013 (product code W7133) and
– A one-year subscription to “Gun Digest the Magazine” (product code GD1SU) and
– Free shipping

Thanks for visiting, and for reading the IGDB blog!

Own Them All!

Click here to get the entire Gun Digest archive collection – every annual edition since 1944! – on three discs for only $99.99.

Dan Shideler sacrificed his private collection so we could cut them up to create a digital archive of the books and make them available to fellow gun enthusiasts and collectors. You won't be disappointed, and Dan would be glad to know his efforts were not in vain. As Dan would say, Cheers!

~ Corrina


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.