As our man Johannes reported, survivors of the Sandy Hook massacre have been trying — unsuccessfully — to sue Bushmaster for its military-style advertising for the weapon used in the attack. So far, no dice. And if you thought the marketing-related legal assault would slow down the operator operating operationally come-on for firearms and firearms-related gear, think again.

Our friends at 5.11 are sponsoring the release of the mega-military Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon® Wildlands Tactics video game. Whose characters are kitted-out in 5.11 gear. Head-to-toe.

A quick scan of manufacturers’ websites and print ads indicates that operator-focused ads are still out there, somewhere. (Bushmaster? Not so much.) Why would gun companies keep promoting the military heritage/inspiration for their products? Money. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Until and unless a lawsuit successfully “liberates” millions for a company’s military-style marketing, it will live on. That is all.

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46 Responses to Is the Firearms Industry Backing Away from Military-Style Ads?

  1. The market is going to shift, after all the hype due to the assault weapons ban expiration concealed carry guns were the big sellers. Until the Obama election, that started the uptick of rifle sales. Now with gun rights being relatively safe I think we will see it got back to concealed carry guns being the big seller again.

    • If we get the Hearing Protection Act passed (not likely in the near term, but possible over the next 4 years) we’ll see a huge swing back to modern sporting rifles, especially since pinned suppressors will effectively allow sportsmen to own suppressed SBR’s without any NFA paperwork. Suppressing a pistol is fun, but not necessarily practical, while a suppressed SBR, especially a pistol caliber carbine, is practical, fun, and relatively inexpensive to run. With IDPA embracing PCC’s, they’ll only continue to rise in popularity.

      • I think USPSA embracing PCCs will result in more PCC sales than IDPA. After all who wants to shoot a PCC and be limited to 10 rounds, when you can shoot USPSA and use 40+ round magazines?

        I am not so sure that HPA will significantly revitalize the sporting rifle market. More people are going to want to put cans on existing rifles, rather than build new ones. One thing I think HPA will do is democratize the silencer market. If you look at other countries that more or less freely allow the sale of silencers few of those countries have the high end brands that we do. Because it was a hard to get item, with the tax it pushed our market into the high end. If HPA passes we will see more smaller value brands of silencers.

        I don’t think the high end silencer companies are going away, they just will no longer be the driving forces of the market.

  2. Being retired USAF, I’m always leery of the military-grade/military-spec/military anything. I have military type firearms because I am somewhat familiar with the platforms. Contract goes to the lowest bidder and all that.

    I find it very interesting that Springfield has created the “Defend your legacy”. I think that is more effective in the long run. We’re a bit more likely to run into run of the mill thugs, than ISIS terrorists.

    • You’re quite right about Springfield, that was a very effective and completely inoffensive ad campaign.
      Since the majority of customers coming into my shop are chiefly concerned with personal security, it would behoove manufacturers to play to that angle.
      Any of you reading this who work for a gun company – pay attention:
      New gun buyers are already scared or they wouldn’t be in my store. Don’t scare them more – do what I do, assure them that they can help themselves and survive a criminal attack, first they need the right tool and the training to use it. Emphasize that your product is that right tool and watch your sales soar.

  3. The militia is the original entity entrusted with the defense of country. All members should have access to modern arms. There is nothing wrong with companies marketing their products to the populace, as they are the members.

    The only real issue is that due to various federal laws, most militiamen are unable to procure truly modern arms in select fire weapons. This other “issue” is merely a red herring conceived to further demonize the militia, much as was done publicly by the media back in the 1980s & 1990s.

    • We haven’t fought on our own soil since the Aleutian Islands campaign ended in August of 1943. That’s 72 years of Americans only killing other Americans on American soil. Not an opinion, just a fact. The whole ‘militia’ thing is far removed from the American consciousness because we’re about 100 years removed from ever actually needing them. The only people who join militias now are the people you try to avoid interacting with.

      • “We haven’t fought on our own soil since the Aleutian Islands campaign ended in August of 1943.”

        There are fellow countrymen near the southern border that might disagree with that statement. While the cartels may not seem to be an invading foreign force, not all foes fly the banner of an enemy state.

        “That’s 72 years of Americans only killing other Americans on American soil. Not an opinion, just a fact.”

        It could be debated that a traitorous entity is not truly comprised of our fellow countrymen. Even if so, the 2nd is intended to provide a bastion against tyranny from enemies both foreign and domestic. The ephemeral battle of Athens Tennessee comes to mind.

        “The whole ‘militia’ thing is far removed from the American consciousness because we’re about 100 years removed from ever actually needing them.”

        A counter argument could be made that after the civil war, whereby the federal government consolidated unprecedented power over the states, it was in the former’s interests to stigmatize the militias. This was done in an attempt to guarantee that the newly reunified nation would remain stable and unable to oppose the evergrowing power of the federal government over the states.

        Eventually this attitude towards militias became somewhat of a societal norm, as evidenced by this statement:

        “The only people who join militias now are the people you try to avoid interacting with.”

        In closing, one man’s pariah may be another man’s patriot. Of course, this is all merely conjecture originating from Esoteric Inanity.

        The dialogue, however, is most appreciated.

      • So what you’re saying is, we never have to worry about needing a militia ever again.
        Or if we do, we’ll see it coming long enough in advance for Americans to tool up before disaster strikes.

      • You might be onto something there. I mean – I didn’t need my spare tire in ten years and hundreds of thousands of miles driven with zero flats. It just sits there taking up space and weighing my truck down. Who needs spare tires and jacks?
        Also my house didn’t catch on fire lately and these fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are such an eyesore!
        There was not a single intruder trying to break in my home like ever. I don’t know why I still keep that old gun loaded. According to some weird statistics I’m more likely to use it on myself or on members of my family.

        Away with all that unnecessary junk!

    • Now Verendus isn’t* completely* wrong… or at least he’s kinda right for the wrong reason: as we understand that a member of the militia is any able-bodied armed citizen (used to be men-only, but we’ve progressed!) thus most all of us here are the militia, whether we believe it or not.
      Problem is, most folks who own or wish to own a gun (or twenty) don’t consider themselves to be “militia” and thus do not wish to equip themselves for that eventuality.
      Most of the folks walking into my shop are first-timers looking for a noob’s choice of handgun or rifle. How ironic that one of the most effective home-defense firearms, the ubiquitous AR15, is also ideal for the militia!

  4. I sincerely doubt military-style marketing is effective to the market they likely need to reach most – women, LGBT, and those who didn’t serve in the military. Probably effective to the hardcore paintball crowd though.

  5. Marketing is what it is and like any other company out there they’d be foolish to hammer away at one consumer and ignore another.

    Ignoring everyone who isn’t a tacti-cool wannabe is like Colt ignoring the citizens to cater to the .gov. How’d that work out for them?

  6. The point of the Second Amendment was that the government could not prevent “the people” from keeping and bearing arms so that if necessary those same people could pick up those arms and join up with the/a militia in order to protect the country, or overthrow a government run amok.

    How then is advertising the military capabilities of a weapon somehow inappropriate? Rather an ad should carry a disclaimer if the weapon advertised is NOT suitable for military operations.

    • Precisely, the people being synonymous with the militia, should have access to the same armaments that are issued to the military.

    • Personally, I like military/LEO oriented marketing. To me it’s evidence of a well made product intended for serious users that you can bet your life on.

  7. To be fair, 5.11 stuff makes up some of the choices for your outfit in the new TC game, it’s not the only option and it’s all appearance gear that doesn’t really change anything other than how you look to yourself and other players.

    It’s not really surprising since The Division has Mechanix gloves in it as well as various name brand silencers and weapons. The Ghost Recon series is going for realism these days as if Farcry, The Division, Arma 3 and Splinter Cell had some sort of hybrid offspring but without the annoying ultra realism that’s often part of Arma 3. The game type is known as a “cover shooter” and they’ve become wildly popular with people bored with the unrealistic nature of CoD and BF.

    It also makes sense. Lots of younger people get into actual firearms by playing games as teens. So, why wouldn’t tangentially related brands try to put themselves in the same position? If someone falls in love with a Vector outfitted with an Osprey due to the game, they might want some of the other accessories that they see in game.

    • Really the biggest surprise is how few gun makers have sponsored video games. All I can think of is SWAT 4 (Colt and Bernelli), Homefront (Some company’s AR15 is one the many product placements in it. People who played it tell me the game is awful and product placed gun is OP), and newer James Bond games (Where the P99 and WA-2000 get to keep their real name, and that’s just Walther’s placement extending beyond the movies).

      All I can think of is gun makers not wanting their guns to be used for “bad” killing in some vain hope the media won’t hate them (SWAT 4 makes a big deal out of following proper rules of engagement for gun use).

      • I played Homefront and I assure you, it’s completely terrible.

        What I note is that gun company product placement has become more common, and I’d argue it started with the CS series giving you name brand handguns and a few rifles with proper military designations. That’s moved out to specific names for rifles and subguns (the HK416 comes to mind). I think gun manufacturers probably used to look at this a a niche market that needed to pay royalties to the gun companies.

        In recent years however BF, CoD and a bunch of Ubisoft games have really gone mainstream based on realism and part of that realism is having stuff that exists in the real world and has the same name as it has in the real world. Splinter Cell started that trend in my estimation and God only knows what it cost Ubisoft to do it. Now gun and accessory companies are realizing that there’s a serious market here and are using it to advertise. The root of that is probably back in the mid 2000’s when DICE realized they could incorporate billboards into their games that would change based on what players did on the internet and would, with minimal intrusion into game play, insert advertisements for real world products.

        Hell, my friend was already a gun guy but he got into collecting WWII weapons based solely on having played BF1942.

        These days every company would love to say, “Hey, remember that game you played where our product was OP as fuck? Yeah, well here’s a real one that’s civvie compliant and you can OWN it.” and they’re starting to realize that’s an actual market when a game like The Division sells more than 4 million copies in it’s first week alone. Gaming is BIG business and that comes with a whole bunch of facets people didn’t think about 10 years ago.

        Now, if we could just get companies to stop releasing games on three platforms at once and doing none of them very well…

  8. IMO, military/operator style marketing may decrease but it’s never going away. They appeal to too many of us Green-suiters and former Green-suiters with that to ever kill it off. That said though, there’s plenty of 3gun/competition/athletic marksmanship ad space available that looks operator-ish or operator-enough- just look at what Colion Noir and Lasorte do on their show all the time. They shoot while running around doing pt and wearing semi-tactical athletic clothing provided by 5.11. Lots of ads are taking a similar vein of course, and they’re also expanding their market to include other groups while trying not to ignore or exclude their existing base.

  9. Gun manufacturers publish military style advertisements? Huh.

    To be fair, I don’t much pay attention to any advertising, gun related or not. I have never purchased a gun based on a manufacturer’s advertising, although it may lead me to investigate. I am much more likely to be tempted by gun reviews than anything else, plus reviews of specs at manufacturers’ web sites. And I could care less if a rifle or pistol has “military” characteristics.

    • The only reviews that can be somewhat trusted are the ones by “certified” buyers of a product and the ones written by a few trusted gun journalists. All other reviews are suspect because they are probably generated by fanboys, competitors, highly opinionated “experts” and other “noise”.
      You are right about advertising

  10. Speaking of military-style advertising, does anyone remember those goofy ads from Blackhawk! and Extreme Shock(?) ammo that you’d see in “Guns for Law Enforcement” and ” Combat Handguns” in the late 2000’s. They had three swat guys rappeling through a window with quad railed ARs, explosions and lightning behind them, and diamond plate around the edge of the ad. Super embarrassing.

  11. Well I’ve never seriously thought I’d get an AR15. Now I do. Better to have it and not need it…no military/militia ads have any impact on me(an oldguy in his 60’s).

    • I’m another old codger that will be 70 in September and I didn’t have a desire for military weapons because I remembered the old heavy military surplus rifles with hugh bullets of my youth. I had no desire for the big old 1911 until a couple of years ago when I got one. I am amazed that a 100+ year old design works so well with very little modification. I had no desire for a AR15 until my gun enthusiast 14 year old grandson talked about them. Then, last week, my gun enthusiast barber was talking about his new Ruger AR15 he had just bought. That got me to look more closely at them. I bought a S&W AR15 on Monday which is something I never throught I would do. Advertising had nothing to do with what I bought. The only thing I don’t like about my AR15 is that I am not allowed to go deer hunting with it because it is under 23 caliber.

    • I like their pants. Pockets in the right places, incredibly durable, comfortable enough for everyday wear.

  12. In this case it doesn’t matter; Wild Lands is Online-only. If anything it’s game companies that need to knock their shit off with all this online-only crap. I deal with annoying shit all day. I don’t want to come home, turn on my PS4 and listen to 12-year-olds praddle on while a play a game. Seriously guys, knock it off and bring back single player.

  13. I think you guys are forgetting one thing; fun. It seems like sometimes the gun community forgets that it’s ok to relax and it’s ok for firearm’s ownership to be fun; it’s doesn’t always have to be training and preparing to face down tyrannical governments and rampaging hordes of lawless left wing thugs. Although it would be stupid to not prepare for either or both of those possibilities, after all, the Second Amendment exist so that the common man can have a defense against tyrannical government, it is also ok to lighten up and have fun occasionally, and sometimes indulging in your inner Rambo, bad ass operator, tacti-cool fantasy self, can be fun. I also think that training for and competing in IPSC, IDPA, and USPSA matches satisfies both those aspects of firearms ownership.
    I think it is that aspect of being a shooter that the operator style ads are meant to appeal to.

  14. Speaking of militias, the government’s security clearance information form (SF86) specifically asks whether or not the applicant has ever participated in any “militias.” This is presumably an immediate disqualifier, especially in today’s environment of political correctness. The form does not ask if the applicant has ever participated in the Black Panthers, Black Lives Matter, Earth First, or anything else besides a “militia.’

  15. The slack-jawed guy in the Daniel Defense ads that is lost in a daydream about taking his AR into battle always makes me cringe. It plays in to the anti’s stereotypes of black rifle buyers.

  16. Military-style advertising? So what does that prove? Our military does not train soldiers to massacre kids in a school, so how would “military imagery” in rifle advertisements have contributed to Sandy Hook?

  17. Here’s a crazy thought:

    Maybe the ads are militaristic because….

    The military, individual service members, and retired/separated service members are the majority of their clients?

    They sell 5.11 in every PX/BX now. Blackhawk holsters are standard issue. SOF units buy gear from Crye, 5.11 and other firms instead of using military issue equipment. Dudes see SF and SEALS rolling around in kit, and then they go around and buy the same stuff.

    Civilians see the same thing, and buy it.

    They’re not advertising this stuff as military , when its not. They’re advertising the gear as military, because thats exactly what it is for: The military and everyone pretending to be in the military

  18. As an aside…am I the only one who thinks Tom Clancy becomes boring when he and his post-mortem work-made-for-hire writers put out content about the War on Drugs?

    Tom Clancy’s greatest work (and probably the only thing I would re-read at this point) was RED STORM RISING. The last “must-read” thing he put out was THE CARDINAL OF THE KREMLIN, before Jack Ryan became too much of a Mary Sue. The last book of his I didn’t regret reading was WITHOUT REMORSE (but even then he had slipped into the ‘desperately needs an editor who will hold his feet to the fire’ zone.) After that…the silly Axis of India-China-Japan series and the Rainbow stuff was just fluff.

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