SPOTLIGHT 

Shooting magazines

Don’t know your ‘flash hole deburring’ from your ‘NV optics’? Never fear, the shooting magazines have it all covered, as Alan Geere discovers.

By Alan Geere

Shooting magazines
Photograph: Paul Einerhand on Unsplash.

Gundog Journal

What’s it about: ‘Britain’s only dedicated publication for anyone working, owning or with an interest in gundogs’ – explainer on Facebook page.

Vital statistics: Undated ‘Volume 111. Issue V’, bought in January 2022: 132 pages of 275mm x 230mm. Heavyweight matt paper, card cover, perfect bound. £9.95 cover price. Published quarterly by Fieldsports Press.

Cover: Huge headshot of a springer spaniel beneath the equally generously proportioned masthead. The words Training, Advice, Comment plus furniture, including the £9.95 price tag. Even room for an inscrutable message on the spine: Whatever the weather.

Content: A contents spread divided into Instruction & Advice, Interviews & Profiles plus General Interest and Competitions (reports, not to win something). Also, two pages detailing the credentials of 16 expert contributors. The content comes thick and fast: Gundogs in the prison service, puppy’s progress, rough shooting with German longhaired pointers, several informative Q&As, vet’s corner and an investigation into the contentious issue of tail docking among all the generous delights.

Digital: Lavishly illustrated website at gundog-journal.com linking to Facebook, with 54.2k likes, and 30.4k followers on Instagram. Tons of expert content on the website including a full list of all 37 pedigree gundog breeds as recognised by The Kennel Club.

What they say: “Give more to this group than you take. Save self-promotion, spam and irrelevant links for your own page” – ‘rules is rules’ on the private Facebook group, The Pack.

Verdict: When the history of magazines comes to be written, there will hopefully be a small corner for Gundog Journal. Ok, so at nearly £10, it is one of the most expensive titles money can buy, but with heavyweight paper that holds the colour of the simply stunning photography so well and a design that oozes gundog love on every page, it’s worth every one of the 995 pennies.

Gun Mart

What’s it about: ‘41 years as the UK’s biggest and best shooting magazine’ – strapline under masthead.

Vital statistics: January 2022 issue: 164 pages of 297mm x 230mm. Matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, perfect bound. £4.75 cover price. Published monthly by Aceville in Colchester, Essex.

Cover: Full-bleed picture of a gun (a CZ 600 Ergo), two other gun images, one with a man. Nine coverlines packed onto the page, plus a promo to the 20-page Shooting Sports insert.

Content: Two pages of contents divided into News, Airguns, Firearms, Country & Shotgun and Antiques & Militaria. Sorry, don’t forget ‘Field Cutlery’, looking at ‘cutting-edge tools of the trade’. News includes a comprehensive test section, while the wide-ranging main features are also a test-drive of that particular piece of kit. Shooting Sports has gun, ammo and scope tests plus a detailed three-page how-to on reloading. A nostalgic spread on legendary aeroplanes in movies provides a change of pace at the back.

Digital: Promo from folio line to lively website at gunmart.net. Click through to Facebook with 3,250 likes and 1,450 followers on Instagram. A Twitter account is lurking with 756 followers, but no posts since August 2020.

What they say: “Old & ugly elves, Pete Moore & Mark Camoccio select Santa’s top five airguns and firearms from 2021” – familiar names from the magazines give themselves the big build-up on Gun Mart TV, which has 20,000 subscribers.

Verdict: A dizzying array of advertising – around 100 customers are listed in the advertisers index – is the perfect complement to the expert editorial, which is all engagingly displayed with plenty of box-outs, pictures and captions plus the all-important technical specifications, contacts and prices. Everything exudes confidence and competency across all areas of the shooting range.

Shooting and Conservation

What’s it about: ‘The BASC magazine’ – incorporated in masthead.

Vital statistics: November / December 2021 issue: 100 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. £4.75 cover price, although all the ABC audited copies are free to BASC members. ABC of 134,339 (Jan-Dec 2020). Published bi-monthly by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation in Wrexham.

Cover: Full-bleed picture of a dog carrying a bird in its mouth (taken by the editor). Big masthead incorporating BASC logo, date and price.

Content: Page five given over to Contents, working neatly through from page 3 to page 98, with two pictures of people shooting, a montage of ammunition and an illustration of a ‘young shot’. An admirable seven pages of news. Not afraid to tackle some of the bigger issues like the impact of shooting on climate change, the future for lead ammunition and the place of Crufts for the gundog community. The expected BASC promotion, including ‘Five minutes with…’ the head of wild food. Antique firearms, letters, books, experts Q&A and a round-up from the regions complete the package along with plenty of on-message advertising.

Digital: A page within the main BASC website with an archive going back to 2017. Go to @BASCnews for 29k twitter followers and 50.5k likes on Facebook. Also listen to a podcast.

What they say: ‘This account is monitored between 9-5 Monday to Friday’ – forget that ‘always on’ nonsense about social media. Upfront disclaimer on Twitter.

Verdict: A full-service member publication that looks and feels like a newsstand offering. Plenty of ads for guns and kit complement the well-designed editorial pages and attractive photography. Promotion of the BASC is obviously there, but does not feel over-done or obtrusive.

Shooting Times & Country Magazine

What’s it about: ‘The UK’s leading weekly shooting magazine – the clear first choice for shooting sportsmen and women’ – introduction on website.

Vital statistics: January 12, 2022 issue: 76 pages of 282mm x 195mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. £2.99 cover price. No longer registered at ABC since 2019. Published weekly by Future in London.

Cover: Full-bleed picture by gamekeeping photographer John MacTavish of a pheasant taking flight in a field, which has a retro colourised feel, plus accompanying headline. Six cross-refs with clear red headings and that distinctive masthead proudly displaying ‘Since 1882’.

Content: Directions to the contents from an understated 8cm deep single column panel on page four underneath the editor’s musings. Four pages of news, a spread of letters before some insight into gamekeeping and stalking. Features such as wild bird shooting, stalking sika deer and driven shooting have space to tell the story plus excellent photography. Pigeons, squirrels and wildfowl all come into the sights plus sections of gundogs, cars, recipes and a ‘vintage times’ spread from 1972, penned by that great countryman Denys Watkins-Pitchford, ‘BB’ to his many admirers.

Digital: Has its own section on shootinguk.co.uk – ‘The umbrella site for Shooting Times and Sporting Gun’ – with a range of newsy content. Links to Twitter with 14k followers, 19k likes on Facebook, 30.1k followers on Instagram and 17.7k subscribers to a YouTube video channel.

What they say: “Pigeon breast on carrot purée with a little crab apple jelly – we’d run out of Birds Eye fish fingers” – editor Patrick Galbraith shares his culinary secrets on Twitter.

Verdict: For anyone wanting a weekly fix of shooting and country matters, this no-nonsense expertly constructed publication fits the bill. Now on issue number 6,380, there’s not much that has happened in the shooting arena that has not been covered here.

Sporting Shooter

What’s it about: ‘By shooters, for shooters’ – tagline incorporated in the masthead.

Vital statistics: January 2022 issue: 92 pages of 295mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. £4.99 cover price. Shows circulation of 9,400 in the media pack. Published monthly by Archant in Winnersh Triangle, Berkshire.

Cover: Full-bleed picture of a man with a gun, heavily laden with pheasants (rip). One small picture of a gun on test, a promo for the free calendar inside and six newsy cross-refs.

Content: A page of contents, after the guest editor’s ‘First Words’ on page three, has a neat section detailing where to find the cover stories plus a range of headings including Game Shooting, Wildfowling and Gundogs. News followed by a feature on deer stalking (spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well for the ‘healthy-looking pricket buck’) then onto a full array of articles from shooting technique and getting started, through birds, foxes and dogs to restoration, recipes, letters and even a comic strip.

Digital: Follow the folio line link to a busy website at sportingshooter.co.uk. Click through to join 6,250 followers on Twitter and 10.3k likes on Facebook. Also, a ‘Shooting & Country TV’ channel on YouTube with 10.1k subscribers.

What they say: “Please note that if you have not been invited in for an interview within two weeks of your application, then you can assume on this occasion that you have been unsuccessful.” – Oh well, who wants a rejection, anyway. From a job ad for ‘Account Executive, Shooting Magazines’.

Verdict: Gets closer to the action than some of the titles in this genre, bringing the reader nose to nose with the sporting quarry. Engagingly put together with a decent array of complementary advertising, this is an approachable no-nonsense companion for its target market – the sporting shooter.

The Field

What’s it about: ‘The world's oldest country magazine and continues to provide the best fieldsports coverage for discerning readers’ – descriptor on Facebook.

Vital statistics: January 2022 issue: 132 pages of 293mm x 220mm. Quality matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, perfect bound. £5.75 cover price. ABC (January to December 2020) of 22,424. Published monthly by Future in that publishing metropolis of Winnersh.

Cover: Dramatic full-bleed picture of a silhouetted shooter beneath a big headline. Six carefully placed cross-refs and an enigmatic homage to The Proclaimers on the spine – ‘I would walk 500 miles’ – which doesn’t appear to be referenced inside.

Content: Sophisticated contents page using a range of country related pictures plus a reclining James Bond with Tatiana Romanova to illustrate ‘From Scotland with love’. Opening Shots has news and comment, ‘kit to covert’, letters, property. The cover story about shooting on ‘walked up days’ has beautiful country photography followed by a month-by-month guide to sporting firsts to accomplish. Country Estate at the back is guns, dogs, books, art, wine and food.

Digital: Promo for website – thefield.co.uk – on the folio line, which is as packed as the magazine and has clickthroughs to Facebook with 29k likes, 17.6k followers on Twitter, and a healthy 55k followers on Instagram.

What they say: “Whether you have inherited a pair that need some TLC or simply want to stay at home in style, follow our top tips on how to clean velvet slippers” – must-have wardrobe advice from The Field team on Facebook.

Verdict: Advertising for expensive watches, guns, property and fine art speak volumes for this unashamedly upmarket publication. It’s been serving the outdoor sporting community since 1853 so knows what the market wants to read about and look at. Another venerable publication that shows no sign of its age.


This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.