Question Of The Day: Do Depressing Gun Ads Actually Sell Guns?

High-concept, high production value video ads aren’t new. Hornady had their silly Zombie Max ammo videos a few years ago, and Ka-Bar recently joined them in undead-themed video amusement. The wordless video shown here is in a whole different category, though: the scenery is straight from the nihilistic The Road and the soundtrack is straight from Fallout 3.

In addition to their recent Rastafarian Zombie Under Siege parody, Ka-Bar also ventured into this grim Primary Weapons’ vision of the post-Collapse world (complete with mystery meat) in their No Ammo Required video.

These videos can pack some gripping entertainment into just a few minutes of wordless cinema. I don’t know about you, but they’re just too dark for me to get very excited about the products they depict. No matter how good a product is, the idea of bleeding/freezing/starving to death with it in my hands just doesn’t make me reach for my credit card. You?


  1. avatar silverwarloc says:

    Nope. Not me. I viewed it at least twice. There’s nothing there that really grabs my attention, or, for that matter, wants me to grab my wallet and go buy it.

    1. avatar BDub says:

      My only thought was, “I can’t wait to ambush that idiot and take his sweet rifle.” Who walks around Post-Apoc no round chambered, and into an urban setting their rifle slung?

      1. avatar Kevin R. Mussack says:

        In daylight?

      2. avatar tfunk says:

        The video was stupid as hell.

        And the dude should have spent some money on training classes pre-apocalypse vs spending $2700 or so on a rifle. Or just thought to himself “How would a total dumbass approach these maybe deserted buildings?”…and then done the OPPOSITE.

        However, PWS’ “Tactical Forearm Lengthener” video actually DOES make me want their stuff…shows they have a good sense of humor.

        1. avatar Mark N. says:

          I have no military training at all and don’t play video games, yet even I had to say “WTF?~” as he slung his rifle when he was most at risk from a sniper or ambush.

  2. avatar Tom says:

    He probably wishes he hadn’t wasted that round on the fire he put out.

    1. avatar AlphaGeek says:

      That was my thought as well.

      But that, at least, distracted me from “where’s the rest of his gear? Surely he’s not walking the wasteland with only a rifle and a single magazine! Not even a blanket or bedroll? Really?”

    2. avatar Barstow Cowboy says:

      Think of how many bic lighters he could’ve bought as a back up to his zippo, if only he’d not wasted it all on that rifle.

  3. avatar Unknown Prosecutor says:

    I enjoyed it as entertainment, but they won’t be getting my sixteen digits…

  4. avatar Kevin A says:

    I dunno. I get what it was trying to do, but I don’t think it actually accomplished it.

  5. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Tactics. Good grief.
    He slings the rifle to approach the structures?
    Then we find out the bang stick wasn’t even loaded?
    Then he does a tactical retreat INTO a hole?

    Come on!

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      In the YouTube comments, someone called them on that: “enters unknown structure with weapon slung and a cold chamber..”

      Their response: “Duly noted, however sometimes there are certain ‘facilities’ restrictions when we want a cool location and well, it ain’t the apocalypse yet!”

      1. avatar JustLeaveLawfulGunOwnersAlone says:

        and I am still left with: “OK?”

        1. avatar Todd says:

          so, its a commercial, you have the guy do a check check of the chamber with a half pull on the CH. That looks a lot better than an empty chamber.

          kinda like all those grade b action flicks where the bad guys go to rob the 7-11 and pump the shotgun to chamber a round when they get inside

  6. avatar Matt in FL says:

    PWS makes some neat and funny videos, and I previewed this one a week or so ago, but ultimately decided not to Digest it, because I just didn’t get it. Like… if it was a promo for a TV show, I’m sorta curious to know more, but as a way to get me to buy a gun? I just don’t see it. I basically ended it with, “OK?”

    Also, I realize this is a dystopic hellscape, but if he fires that gun while backed into that funnel, he’s not going to hear anything for quite a while, which would play havoc with his ability to hear the next threat coming.

    1. avatar Jim Jones says:

      Considering that PWS has created the best firearm ad (scratch that – it might be the best ad period) I’ve ever seen, I’ll give them a pass:

      Self-depricating tactical humour, slow-mo automatic fire, swearing, mood lighting. It has it all.

      1. avatar Matt in FL says:

        Oh, I’m fine with that.

      2. avatar Rokurota says:

        That truly is a boss “ad.”

  7. avatar DisThunder says:

    It’s all context. He just likes to go for walks in questionable neighborhoods. You know, the ones you wouldn’t want to park your Abrams in. What’s depressing about that?

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Come back and find your Abrams on blocks, tracks missing, and Smoky the crack head living in your ammo bins.

  8. avatar Leadbelly says:

    I never even look at advertising. I read spec sheets, I read reviews (from sources I trust), I ask friends who have experience with the same or similar products, I try things out in stores (rent, in the case of guns), only then do I spend anything more than pocket change. Being retired means not much money, but plenty of time for research.

  9. avatar A-Rod says:

    I love the Fall Out series and the fan made Nuka Cola videos. Still cannot afford to buy a PWS. So sad…

  10. avatar Gabriel says:

    Rifle looked too spotless and his hygiene and clothes looked too well for wandering the wasteland at some undeterminable point long after a major civilized breakdown. Would have been funny if they had showed him with a scraped-up, battered rifle, yellow teeth, a louse-infested beard and wearing rags as he stalked an emaciated squirrel on the outskirts of some former city. Video could have used more morlocks, as well, or least tomahawk-wielding bandits in dune buggies.

    1. avatar ShaunL. says:

      I think it needs Israeli models.

  11. avatar Taylor Tx says:

    Fallout 3 but no pip boy or laser rifles? NO TY

    This made me want to shoot a .308 AR, that is all. The overly abstract commercial is kind of losing its steam for me lately, getting overplayed.

    Besides, these PWS guys have GREAT videos other than this one, (See Tactical 360 Blindfire), but I can see where this is more of an advertisement for a rifle instead of a “gud fer teh lulz” video.

    “No matter how good a product is, the idea of bleeding/freezing/starving to death with it in my hands just doesn’t make me reach for my credit card”

    The idea of it performing flawlessly on the off chance that I had to get bleeding/freezing/starving is a big buying point for me, but rarely do I see an actual torture test not done by a manufacturer (of course why would people buy shit to blow it up, cough Rated RR cough ).

    In the spirit of TTAG’s no frills all thrills gun reviews, I would like to see some TTAG torture tests 🙂

    1. avatar JR says:

      Not gun related, but here’s one torture test that’s pretty amazing to watch:

    2. avatar Sixpack70 says:

      I’ll take the Gatling Laser!

    3. avatar tfunk says:

      “Tactical Application of Blind Fire” is Dynamic Pie Concepts, not PWS

      Dynamic Pie has some seriously funny stuff…”Sweep the Leg Drill” and “Reduced Size Target Systems” nearly brought me to tears laughing the first time I watched them

      1. avatar Taylor Tx says:

        Damn totally got my funny gun videos mixed up. Maybe it was the tactical forearm extender thing, been watching a lot more video links lately.

  12. avatar Marcus says:

    I LIKE these two minute spots, but no. They don’t nudge me toward the gun store by any means. I’m more of a sucker for the home security ads – something goes bump in the night. Alarmed fellow rolls out of bed and checks his sleeping wife before reaching for his Glock. Camera moves down the hall to a bedroom with a sprawled and sleeping child. Another troubling thump downstairs. Dad clutches his pistol a little tighter and heads for the stairway. I think those ads have a bigger punch because most of us are worried about the late night drug fiend coming through the door than we are about the apocalypse. I think.

    1. avatar Nine says:

      What about a drug fiend after the Apocalypse?

      1. avatar jwm says:

        No DA. No cops. No courts. No lawsuits. Sounds to me like the best time to encounter a drug fiend.

  13. avatar Guy says:

    Why doesn’t he just leave Detroit and go somewhere civilized?!

    1. avatar silverwarloc says:

      Thanks for making me spit out my coke zero. Now I have to clean my screen.

    2. avatar tdiinva says:

      I was thinking the same thing but what it really looks like is the a guy on a nostalgia tour of Afghanistan a couple of years after we get out.

      1. avatar Guy says:

        There may not be any Christians with heads attached to their bodies by this time next year, but there’ll be plenty of action in that part of the world for the next thousand years or so. He’d be dodging rocket fire and machetes if it were Afghanistan.

        1. avatar tdiinva says:

          It did look and sound that the Taliban was coming for him.

  14. avatar Shire-man says:

    Pretty corny and unfortunately plays into the anti’s beloved stereotype of gun owners being Mad Max wannabes.

  15. avatar 505markf says:

    I tend to enjoy them, but they don’t elicit a buy. What they do well is draw attention. That works for me. I’m more likely to drop by a manufacturers website after seeing a vid like this one. Unfortunately for them, that rarely results in a buy. I’m cheap and I don’t like to buy something I haven’t touched, and I don’t live in a big market for most of the rifles people in more populated areas take for granted being in stock at their LGS or big-box outdoor store. Sigh. I would really like to have a Cabela’s in town.

  16. avatar DrVino says:

    So much for checking his 6….

  17. avatar SAS 2008 says:

    Depressing gun ads cause me to not condsider their product. Give me facts about the weapon and I’ll look at it.

  18. avatar ThomasR says:

    These kind of ads might appeal to the Doomer crowd; but then they go and blow it with really stupid tactics and lack of survival knowledge. He slings his rifle going into an unknown set of ruins? He has a rifle that doesn’t have a round chambered? He wastes a cartridge that would be incredibly hard to replace on a fire? Use a bow drill or just suck it up. He backs into a hole that he doesn’t know where it goes; it could be a dead end?

    It might be the best rifle out there but I think to myself; “Yuk!, only stupid people or wanna be Rambo’s that don’t know squat about tactics or survival would buy one of THOSE rifles”.

  19. avatar Pulatso says:

    I remember a GLOCK commercial from a year or so ago, where a guy tries to stick up a diner, only to discover there’s a police convention in town and everyone in the restaurant is law enforcement. It was a bit of a chuckle, but then I was wondering, why not a gun rights group or people in town for a large gun show? I think it would have reasonated a little better with me in that scenario.

  20. avatar Fudgesicle says:

    With the popularity of games like Fallout and shows like The Walking Dead, I can see the strategy behind the ads. It’s a vision of a future that none of us want to see, but many of us feel is very possible.

    You know what kind of ad I’d like to see? I’d like to see everyday men and women using a gun for ordinary purposes. Take the fringe element out of it completely.

    Start with a man waking up his son early in the morning, still dark out. He then safety-checks two shotguns and loads them into the SUV as they head out duck hunting. Now the two of them sitting in a blind, wearing proper eye and ear protection, the father points something out to his son who raises his gun and fires. We can see the look of excitement on the boy’s face, and the look of pride on his father’s. Fade to black. Remington.

    A man and his girlfriend are out at the local gun range, both wearing proper eye and ear protection, she is holding a sub-compact semiautomatic handgun and looking a bit apprehensive. He gently walks her through the process. “Align the sites with the target and slowly squeeze the trigger.” She finally fires and we hear the distinctive plink of a steel plate. A huge smile spreads across her face and she looks to him and says “Did you see that? I hit it!”

    Transition to another range where a competitive shooter is lighting up a course with her performance tuned 1911. She finishes her run, and holsters her weapon. She looks toward the time keeper, who calls out her time. She celebrates as those around her applaud.

    Move to a night time scene on the side of a busy city street. A sedan is parked, with a couple of police patrol cars behind it. Two or three officers are there having a discussion, semiautomatic handguns displayed prominently on their hips.

    Finally, a couple lie sleeping in their bedroom, when a large crash is heard. The man looks to his wife, fear apparent on her face. He reaches into his bedside stand and produces a revolver. Fade to black. Smith & Wesson.

  21. avatar Sam Spade says:

    Well, Soldier Systems linked to a knife gun attachment video yesterday that must not have worked out–it’s gone today. But SoSys has some photos.

    I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It – Manly Innovations MBX – Magazine Base Interchange System

  22. avatar Kirk says:

    Aside from the noted bad form of the would-be, post-acopalypse hero — who would be dead as dead can be if it were real — the video speaks to the mindset of many Americans: “Get ready for something that looks like this.”

    There are some love shots of the rifle that show off workmanship, sure. But that this type of marketing is embraced is distinguished from the “Have fun hunting with Dad!” advertisements of yesteryear.

    “Lost and by the wind grieved…”

  23. avatar Matt in Idaho says:

    This as would sell guns to newcomers who want their first long gun, want to be able to build a fire out in the middle of nowhere etc. pws is doing an AWESOME job at being in the firearm business as well as the entertainment business simultaneously. It might not sell pws weapons specifically but it’s definitely selling ar’s to people who wouldn’t have bought one otherwise.

    It’s like if the call of duty folks had an ffl storefront.

  24. avatar John Sager says:

    I think all of us are looking at this ad from the wrong perspective. I can see how maybe if you don’t have an AR or any kind of tactical carbine that this ad might make you consider going to pick one up.

    But since most of us reading an article like this on TTAG probably have at least one AR, the effects of this ad are largely mitagated.

  25. avatar ropingdown says:

    Agree with this, and with Tom in Oregon above. An ad should at least lead the potential purchaser to think the typical user is skilled. And who in such apocalyptic circumstances is going to walk anywhere without a backpack containing first-aid, some food, space blanket, water, and such?

    Personally I find all “The Road” type imaginings nothing but piles of denial, dreamland: Realistically the landscape will be covered with surviving federal and state employees who had shelter access getting their regular ration of MRE’s and ammo, and with non-employees being ordered to perform clean-up detail.

    1. avatar Michael B. says:

      Like in Last of Us.

    2. avatar ropingdown says:

      Yes. Like in post-war Germany and Russia.

  26. It is a stupid ad and an enormous waste of money.

  27. avatar juliesa says:

    I really relate to the Taurus print ads that show a woman carrying while hiking or running.

    “I CARRY.
    It’s my choice.
    It’s my right.
    It’s my Taurus.

    CARRY ON.”

    Says it all.
    A wonderful young woman in my city was stabbed to death while jogging the other day. It angers me that the running clubs won’t advocate for carrying guns when these things happen.

    1. avatar Sixpack70 says:

      It’s that false moral high ground or the “it won’t happen to me” mentality. I will never understand why people think it is normal to not defend themselves. If humans had that mentality from the beginning we would have gone extinct very quickly.

  28. avatar Ross says:

    PWS makes a great product, that being said videos like this I enjoy but, I’m not about to run out and purchase one of each model they sell.

  29. avatar Coloradan says:

    Sounded like Batman.

  30. avatar Slowburn says:

    Hard to say till someone does it, but maybe all that’s needed to give the current Gun Salesman of the Century some serious competition is to make an ad with a Blunderbuss in a skirt wagging her wrinkly old finger at the camera and telling Americans to “turn them all in”.
    ( Timing might be just about right too, given that a whole bunch of Americans just got a right-real rude awakening with the fallout from the unaffordable wealthcare redistribution tax.)

  31. avatar Matt in Idaho says:

    Since when was advertising about realistic situations.

    How many vachume cleaners have been sold by an ad realistically showing a person in sweat pants without makeup and no smile and not having fun?

    I realize a lot of gun guys don’t go for traditional advertising but you’re the exception and there’s a ton of money to be made from the folks who don’t already have several ar’s and know what to look for in just a list of specs.

  32. avatar Jonathan -- Houston says:

    I do like ads that tell a story, and dark and forboding are alluring to me (don’t ask); but I also like practical ads that detail as many of the product’s differentiating features as possible.

    Ultimately, though, I buy guns for specific purposes and with an eye toward years, even generations, ahead. Reviews and test drives, so to speak, matter most. So any given ad’s impact on me, beyond mere product awareness, is very limited to begin with.

  33. avatar Tokamak says:

    Oh, it was a gun ad? I thought maybe it was an ammo ad. Like, our powder will ignite and start a fire even on a gloomy day, after the apocalypse. Like maybe it was Varget or 8208 xbr.

  34. I just kept wondering why he was running such a huge scope on it.

  35. avatar Ralph says:

    Why does any manufacturer need marketing nitwits or commercials when they have the schmucks in Washington pushing sales through the roof?

  36. avatar Matt says:

    Man, I hope I’m that well dressed come the apocalypse.

  37. avatar Joe Grine says:

    Well, Chris, it did entice you to write a story about it… which, in turn caused me to spend almost 2 minutes of my life watching the video. I now know that a company called “Primary Weapons” apparently makes ARs, which I may or may not have already known. So, I’m not grabbing for my credit card just yet, but it does help with name recognition.

  38. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    These type of ads don’t do much for me. I really enjoy games like Fallout and some other post apocalyptic type games and movies. There are probably a few people the romanticise about it and think it would be cool to live in that reality. I am sure they would grow quickly tired of it as every day is a search for food and clean water. In essence, a return to human existence prior to society and communities. I would much rather live like I do now with plentiful food at the supermarket, easy energy, cars, and the internet.
    It seems like the ad is riding the post apocalyptic coattails of the zombie apocalypse craze. Although maybe their message is if the SHTF then you will want one of our rifles in your hands?

  39. avatar William Burke says:

    Can you say “bleakness”? I knew you could….

  40. avatar Anonymous says:

    I liked the video. But I also like zombie and post apocalyptic books and movies. It doesn’t mean I’m going to buy it. It does mean that I got a look at the gun – and that is what the manufacturer wanted.

  41. avatar USAFMech says:

    Found the press release title:

    “Post-Apocalypse Commercial Defined By Bombed Out Buildings and Tight-ass Girl Jeans, but Mostly Tight-ass Girl Jeans”

    1. avatar StPatrick_TN says:

      Somebody reads Ace of Spades on the regular – nice. I like the PWS funny stuff, but don’t quite get this ad. I don’t think POTG are the target audience for this one.

  42. avatar Rich Grise says:

    Without the heads-up, I wouldn’t even have known it was a gun ad. As far as nitpicks, the first thing I noticed is the background noise of the whistling wind while the snowflakes are gently drifting down around him. On the fire, yes, I’d have gone for the rub-two-sticks-together rather than wasting a whole round – he used about ten times as much powder as he’d have needed to ignite tinder; he could have used a few grains and reassembled the thing. On the tactical side, I didn’t really notice all his screwups, (no backpack, slung rifle, backing into the cubby, etc.) but I’m aware now, thanks everybody!

    It kind of moved me in a “A Boy and his Dog” kind of way, but it certainly didn’t induce me to want to buy their gun.

  43. avatar Basil Walls says:

    I don’t think the market audience is for those that are already owners of sporter rifles. As a current owner, it doesn’t make me want to buy their product, but it does offer entertainment to me in a way. I’ve also always used these videos as a kind of, “Well, what would I have done?” Who knows how these adds hit the people who aren’t as involved as we are, or who don’t own a firearm at all. I think that’s the target audience, and it probably works, or they wouldn’t spend so much money on it.

  44. avatar rlc2 says:

    Not me but entertaining and sometimes ads are not for “buy now” but to establish a brand and “edgy” might be the goal to set up PWS to be remembered later.

    This is a bit dark and I think humor works best but the zombie thing is SO done maybe they thought lets give this a try…nice production anyway.

  45. avatar rlc2 says:

    I also do more homework on facts now than flash value having learned the hard way…cars wimmen booze… in younger days of course!

  46. avatar Mick says:

    “Man takes on post-apocalyptic world with .308 battle rifle and multitool”

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