9 Gunwriters That Everyone Should Know
Gunwriters are a special breed, as they write the gun blogs, magazine columns, books and so on that are about some of our favorite topics, such as general shooting, hunting, concealed carry and self defense and so on. Just as with any trade, the cream rises to the top.
Who are the best gunwriters that anyone and everyone should at least be aware of?
While nearly everyone has their favorite, some established themselves as an authority in the field, someone whose word should be heeded or at least considered when it comes to a particular niche. This list isn’t ranked; each one of the people on this list has specific competencies that others on the list may not have. That said, here are the top 10 gunwriters you should be aware of.
While he may not be necessarily the household name in the gun community today that he once was, Bill Jordan made a considerable impact. Jordan served for decades in the US Border Patrol, along with a number of other gunwriters of his day such as Skeeter Skelton, Charles Askins, Jr. and others, and also served in the US Marine Corps in World War II and Korea.
Jordan was masterfully proficient with almost any firearm, but few could match his skill with a handgun and specifically with a double-action revolver. He was a master of point shooting, being able to score accurate hits by “feel” that are impossible for anyone else. He was also lightning fast, being able to draw, fire and hit a target accurately in a timed .28 seconds.
His columns in various magazines were very well regarded, but his claim to fame was his book “No Second Place Winner.” The book is clearly intended for law enforcement, but still contains valuable lessons for the concealed carrier or citizen interested in their own defense. He was also heavily involved in the creation of the .41 Magnum cartridge and personally talked Smith and Wesson into making the Model 19 .357 Magnum revolver.
Jordan’s prose was never up for a Pulitzer, but his folksy charm – which was said to be ample in-person – comes through in print and makes for a good read.
David E. Petzal
Currently the Rifles editor for “Field and Stream,” Petzal is arguably one of the greatest authorities on rifles and of shooting them that’s currently working. His knowledge of rifles, cartridges and all points in between is stunning to read in print. His prose is matter-of-fact, but with a sprinkling of a fantastic wit, which makes for good reading. Granted, concealed carry and handguns are not his forte as much as rifles and hunting are…but for those concerned with rifles and hunting, he’s as good as it gets.
Among writing riflemen, Petzal successfully straddles the old school and the new. He favors both the classics (.308, .30-06, .300 and .338 Winchester Magnums) and today’s favored cartridges like the 5.56mm and 6.5mm Creedmoor. He has kind words about plenty of bolt guns and AR-platform rifles alike.
If rifles are your thing, or at least something you find yourself interested in, gunwriters don’t get much better.
Elmer Keith is a legend in the firearms community, and for many reasons. Keith was an outdoorsman and hunter without parallel in the Western states. He was also a savant with both revolvers and rifles.
Keith was a tinkerer, and was known for wildcatting and tinkering with pistol and rifle cartridges to come up with something he liked. In those days, ammunition wasn’t quite what it is today, and in his experience, a big, dense bullet at high velocity trumped all others. He hunted game everywhere he could, including on a couple safaris.
He had help, but Keith was responsible for creating the .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum and .44 Magnum handgun cartridges, and indirectly responsible for the .338 Winchester Magnum. He also developed the Keith semi-wadcutter bullet. In short, the reason why handgun hunting is a thing could almost single-handedly be credited to him.
He was also a prolific writer, authoring 10 books – “Sixguns” and his autobiography, “Hell, I Was There!” are particularly well-regarded – and appearing in “American Rifleman” and “Guns and Ammo” magazines for decades. His prose would never win awards (Keith had only a partial education and his editors had to do more heavy lifting than most others) but his folksy wisdom and body of knowledge made him an authority on handgunning, hunting, ammunition and shooting bar none.
When it comes to concealed carry, Massad Ayoob wrote the book. Literally. His book “In The Gravest Extreme” was arguably the first of its kind, a monograph about the legal use of deadly force by the armed citizen. His writings in various magazines and in other books such as “The Gun Digest Book Of Concealed Carry” have further cemented Ayoob as perhaps the foremost authority on concealed carry and self-defense.
Ayoob served as a police officer in New Hampshire, but also served as an expert witness in self-defense trials across the country. He’s also educated thousands of citizen carriers through the Lethal Force Institute and later through the Ayoob Group, and so much more.
In matters of the average citizen arming themselves for their own defense, it all pretty much starts with him.
Gunwriters are usually gun guys that can write well enough to be readable, or writers that eventually learned enough about guns to get into magazines. O’Connor was both. A lifelong hunter and shooter, his first career was as a professor of English and journalism at Sul Ross State University.
While not busy professing or hunting, O’Connor published two novels and sold articles on the side to “Outdoor Life,” “Field and Stream” and others – including short pieces of romantic fiction to “Esquire,” “Redbook,” “Reader’s Digest” and other magazines – until he was able to make a full-time living as the Shooting Editor for “Outdoor Life,” a post he held for 31 years, during which he published a further dozen non-fiction books about guns and hunting.
A master hunter whose preferred quarry was sheep in the high desert and mountains of the West, Jack O’Connor championed placement over all else and preferred fast, flat-shooting smaller calibers over the high sectional density .30 calibers that his peers preferred. To this day, mentioning his name practically conjures images of a Winchester Model 70 in .270 Winchester, his favorite rifle and caliber.
In terms of writing ability, his leaves almost all others behind, though some of his passages were as dry as the Arizona deserts he pursued Coues deer, high country sheep and quail through. That said, O’Connor still looms larger over gun writing and writing about hunting than almost anyone else.
In terms of overall impact, Jeff Cooper looms largest on this list. Cooper was an officer in the Marine Corps and saw action in World War II and Korea. When he returned, he started the first modern competitive shooting events in his “Big Bear Slaps” at his ranch in California.
By experience in competitive shooting and through gaining insights from others, Cooper developed the Modern Technique of handgun shooting, widely considered THE method for combat use of a handgun. He also wrote down the 4 Laws Of Gun Safety and came up with the color-coded Carry Conditions, both of which are still used widely in concealed carry courses and gun safety courses to this day.
No one before or since has done as much to create as good a systematic approach to teaching the fighting use of a handgun.
A writer for “Guns and Ammo” and so many other publications, Craig Boddington is rifleman and hunter without parallel. Besides his service in the Marine Corps, Boddington found time to publish more than 4,000 articles and 25 books on hunting and shooting. He has been around the world in the latter capacity, having hunted pretty much everything that is hunted on the planet.
His work centers more on the outdoors rather than the realm of concealed carry and gunfighting, but he still ranks easily as one of the best currently operating. His knowledge of rifles and calibers is astounding, as his breadth of knowledge about the pursuit of game.
Charles Askins, Jr
There were actually two gunwriters by the name of Charles Askins, one being Askins Sr. and the other Askins Jr. The elder was one of the foremost authorities on shotguns and wingshooting, as well as a Major in the US Army and eventually the shooting editor of “Outdoor Life.” The younger Askins…had a much more colorful career.
Charles Askins, Jr. started his career with a 10-year stint in the US Border Patrol, stationed on the US-Mexico border, at the same time as Bill Jordan. The border in the 1930s was a lively place, and he had some lively times; agents were involved in a gunfight every ten days on average. Askins Jr. was also quite the competitive shooter, winning a national championship and later being the chief instructor for the USBP in pistol shooting.
He also went on to have a long career in the US Army, seeing action in World War II, the Korean war and also as a military advisor in the early days of the Vietnam conflict. He was also an avid hunter, having hunted on nearly every continent…though he insisted to the end of his days that his favorite quarry was bobwhite quail.
Like Jordan, his experience and skill with a handgun in a combat setting were second to none, though he preferred something akin to Cooper’s front sight press rather than point shooting. His articles in various magazines, including “American Rifleman” and others, were full of folksy wisdom, bits of Tejano slang and more than a little good advice on matters of concealed carry for citizens and officers alike, as well as on shooting and fighting guns.
Askins is a controversial figure, and his autobiography “Unrepentant Sinner” reveals deeds that would almost certainly lead to a prison sentence today. He was, however, a man of a different time and like him or not, the man knew how to keep alive in a firefight.
Col. Rex Applegate
Rex Applegate wasn’t a gun writer the way Jack O’Connor, Elmer Keith or indeed almost anyone else on this list was or is. In 1941, Applegate was commissioned by “Wild” Bill Donovan – head of intelligence for the Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency – to develop a close-quarter combat system for OSS agents for use behind enemy lines. Drawing on the lessons he could, including heavy influence from William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes, the British officers that trained the UK’s SAS of the period, the techniques and training that Applegate developed were taught to US troops for decades.
Applegate, based on Fairbairn and Sykes’ experience with the Shanghai Police, included fighting handgun techniques based on point shooting. Fairbairn and Sykes found through real-world experience that instinctive point shooting worked better than aiming, and since most gunfights with handguns occurred at close distance, was a better choice for shooting in close quarters. Applegate likewise included these shooting techniques in his 1943 manual “Kill Or Be Killed,” which was a supplementary text for the US Marine Corps into the 1970s.
Again, not a traditional gun writer in any sense. However, when it comes to the combat use of a pistol, Applegate’s techniques (and by extension, Fairbairn and Sykes) were proven again and again on the battlefield and on the streets. For the person concerned with the defensive use of a pistol, it’s worth reading.
About The Author
Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.