Celebrity endorsements are commonly used to sell everything from wristwatches to coffee pots, but for a variety of reasons (which I’ll discuss in a moment) famous faces rarely appear in promotional roles in the gun industry. A notable exception is R. Lee Ermey, the hard-bitten drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket better known to all of us as "The Gunny."
The Gunny was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor for that 1987 role. He wrote his own dialog, ad libbing as he fell into character, which was easy enough as he had been a drill instructor from 1965 to 1967 in San Diego. He was brilliant.
The Gunny first appeared in a promotional role for Glock several years ago at the SHOT Show. I distinctly remember the hullaballoo that surrounded the Glock booth. Correction: It was not so much hullaballoo as it was a massive traffic jam. Hundreds of fans eager for an autographed photo blocked the aisles around Glock’s booth. I’m not sure they could have drawn a bigger crowd If they had been giving away free pistols.
The Gunny is technically not an E-7 Gunnery Sergeant. He left as an E-6 Staff Sergeant after serving 11 years in his “beloved Corps” including a 14 month tour in Vietnam. In 2002, he was given an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant by Marine Corps Commandant James L. Jones, becoming the first non-active marine to be promoted in the history of the Marine Corps. I dare say The Gunny is personally responsible for more enlistments than a battalion of recruiters.
The Gunny appears in ads for SOG knives and Glock handguns. According to my insider sources, his endorsements are genuine. He won’t lend his name to a product he doesn’t personally believe in.
I mentioned in the opening paragraph that celebrity endorsements in the shooting industry are rare—why is that? The Insider has several theories.
First, an actor’s career is more endangered than a banana in a roomful of chimps if he or she dares to promote an evil gun. Charlton Heston was a rare exception. His service to NRA remains a brave example of selfless dedication, putting principle above personal ambition.
Second, celebrities who publicly avow their love of the shooting sports—Ted Nugent, Karl Malone, Robert Stack, Tom Selleck—have simply never taken jobs as spokespersons or product endorsers, other than as an NRA directors or to promote their own books. Why I can’t say. Possibly their fee is too high. Maybe no one’s bothered to ask them.
It hasn’t always been this way. Back in the day, the biggest celebrities proudly participated in the shooting sports. Clark Gable loved quail hunting. John Wayne owned a gun collection. Ernest Hemingway went on African safaris.
Today, loving guns is worse than loving evil dictators. I bet you that the Gunny would having something colorful to say about this state of affairs. I bet your ears will be ringing afterwards!