OSD 250: A very particular set of skills
Influencers get more specialized over time.
Last week in “OSD 249: The Eras Tour” we talked about the eras of gun influencer culture in the past 150 years or so. To recap, they were:
Gun Culture 1.0: David Yamane identifies this as starting in the mid 19th century and focusing on hunting and recreation, with self-defense being part of gun education but not central. It ran through the mid 20th century, and Jack O’Connor and Elmer Keith were the top influencers of the era.
Gun Culture 2.0: this era brought self-defense to the fore, starting in the 1960s. Jeff Cooper is the godfather here, and this era ran through the early 21st century.
YouTube launched in 2005, and starting in the late ‘00s, you can observe the ebb and flow of five different trends:
Military-based training: this kicked off in earnest with the Magpul Dynamics DVDs from Travis Haley and Chris Costa, and today looks like CQB lessons and night-vision tactics on YouTube.
Technical gear reviews: there was a time when your best shot at seeing in-depth details on your favorite gun was to wait for its Future Weapons episode to come on TV. Today you can see essentially any gun you want at any time, field-stripped in 4K.
Commentary on gun politics and court cases: it used to be hard to find content that had any level of technical depth here. Now there are channels like Fuddbusters which actually assume quite a bit of legal knowledge and are deep wells of professional-level legal analysis.
Fun: the innovation here has been in production value and in, well, fun. The first video on Demolition Ranch is a 45-second clip of Matt shooting an old computer monitor with a shotgun. From there, things … progressed.
Practical advice: this has been the category with the most original, groundbreaking content in the past few years. Some of the best content here comes from people incentivized to make it — people who are selling gear and have a lot of firsthand experience helping newbies navigate everyday questions. PHLster, T.Rex Arms, and Lucky Gunner are great examples.
A quick aside: you know how occasionally you hear about a store in New York City that sells, say, only rice pudding or only bone broth? The reason that can happen is that a big city’s density provides the critical mass of customers to make a hyperspecialized business viable.
Looking back over the history of gun influencers, you can see them getting more specialized over time. The term “gun influencer” made sense to describe Elmer Keith. You could follow him to learn about guns, hunting, cartridge development, safaris, the whole bit. Today the content space is much more specialized. Not only are hunting content and gun content no longer synonymous, but even those categories are too broad. If you’re into western spot-and-stalk hunting, you’d follow Steven Rinella. If you’re into whitetails, you’d follow Mark Kenyon. For guns, it fragments even more. Into silencers? Check out Pew Science. Into night vision? Nocturnality. And so on. There are of course the influencers that everyone follows, but the trend is that specialization goes up over time.
Why is that?
The internet is as dense with ideas as New York City is dense with people. So the critical mass problem disappeared — if an audience exists for a content niche, there’s no structural reason they can’t find it. And the minimum viable audience size only gets smaller over time, as the costs of producing and distributing content continue to plummet. Say it takes 100 true fans to make a business viable. Back in 1911, there were at least 100 people interested in hypertechnical silencer data. But Pew Science would have failed if it launched back then, because it would have been impossible to find and reach those first 100 true fans. Today that’s a non-issue. Distribution is free and content is king.
That’s good news for building up a culture, because it means that increasingly, everybody can build their niche within that culture. The more specialized the better, because the fans will be all the more passionate.
Next week we’ll talk about the downsides of specialization.
This week’s links
We finally heard back from the Contra Costa Sheriff as to their unique quirk of not allowing red dots, lasers, and light attachments to carry handguns (night sights are allowed).
Unfortunately, the Sheriff won't budge on this policy. He writes that he has a Firearms Committee he consults on these questions, made up of employees who are firearms instructors. The committee recommended against changing the policy.
The reasons are (I summarize, these are not quotes):
Permittees could use inferior accessories that are not subject to vetting and could hinder the performance of the firearm.
Without proper training, the attachments can make a smooth weapon draw difficult, endangering the individual in a deadly force encounter.
The attachments make carried handguns harder to conceal.
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