Temperatures are cooling, fall’s rapidly approaching and television shows are returning from their summer hiatus. In case you haven’t been paying attention, American Rifleman TV is still airing on Wednesday nights over on the Outdoor Channel.
Effectively an on-screen version of our flagship American Rifleman magazine, ARTV is a pre-eminent source for accurate, compelling and authoritative information on firearms, the shooting sports and the Second Amendment.
So, what’s holding it back? Well, right now ARTV is airing opposite a program that happens to be quite popular: A&E’s Duck Dynasty.
I’ve taken it upon myself to defend ARTV’s honor against those quack-obsessed Robertson’s-so here are my top six reasons you should be settling down in front of American Rifleman TV each Wednesday night, rather than heading off to Robertsonland.
Guns, Guns, Guns
The Robertson’s bring plenty to the table but, particularly of late, fans are getting a lot more zany antics and lot less hunting and guns. A recent episode involved a trip to the batting cage, which is all well and good-but if you’re looking for guns, American Rifleman TV is what you want. From the “Rifleman Review” to “I Have This Old Gun,” the team covers the whole gamut. Want an expert’s opinion on the latest release from Smith & Wesson? You’ve got it. Want to see what happens at the SIG Academy? Yeah, our guys have been there a few times. I mean, we’ve got the Rough Riders’ Potato Digger! As in the Teddy Roosevelt Rough Riders! Now that’s a gun. Save the batting cages and go-kart races for kids’ birthday parties. When you settle into your favorite spot on the couch come Wednesday evening, you need to be watching ARTV.
It’s Better to Fall Asleep To
Look, both shows air at 10 p.m. on Wednesday night-so it’s safe to say that a fair share of each audience is snoozing before the credits roll. When push comes to shove, would you rather gently doze off to the sound of another Robertson scheme gone badly, or the soothing tones of Managing Editor Aaron Carter’s voice? To top it off, some folks have a habit of retaining the things they hear in their sleep. So, when you wake up in the morning, which would you have rather committed to memory: The twist rate of the latest Glock, or the sweet talk that Phil used to get Miss Kay to fulfill her half of their “marital duties?” Yeah, I think I’ll take the gun talk.
Brian Sheetz > Uncle Si
Uncle Si’s famous for being the zaniest of the Robertson clan, and rightfully so. But he’s got nothing on our own Brian Sheetz. The network folks wanted to keep things prim and proper for ARTV, so Brian tones things down-but don’t let his professional exterior fool you. This guy’s a real hardware geek and outdoor nut. Put a few candid cameras on him, and he’d put Si to shame. We’re talking about a guy who left last year’s office Christmas party with an emergency solar panel-and was excited about it. A guy who spends most weekends scouring flea markets for obscure gun parts. In the rare instances he does come back inside, he’s got more dirt on his nose than a mischievous Labrador retriever. Last week one of our range guys threw out a rusty old bucket and Brian mumbled something about “wasting an emergency latrine.” Trust us: Television isn’t ready for the real Brian Sheetz.
Our Staff Hasn’t Lost Their Razors
Look, we know the beards have become some of a brand for the Robertson family, but enough is enough. Their unkempt style has led to a nationwide surge in unwise facial hair decisions, and something needs to be done about it. Not everyone can pull off the “something’s living on my face” look. That’s why our editors still tend to stay clean-shaven-it sets a better example for the kids in the audience, who won’t grow up with delusions of beard grandeur. And, as Mark Keefe notes, the Robertson’s look could provide real problems with a shotgun action if they're not careful with where that hair gets to. Plus, isn’t there just something a little more trustworthy about Associate Editor Joe Kurtenbach’s old-fashioned, clean-cut look? The 1940s never go out of style. Editor’s Note: Upon further review, we're not even sure that Mark CAN grow a beard. If he ever does, though, we're confident that it would be both stylish and well-groomed.
Less Drama, More Know-How
A lot of Duck Dynasty revolves around the “drama” the Robertson family faces as it goes about its daily business. Whether the central story in a given week is about Jase slacking off (which encompasses about 85 percent of the show’s episodes), or Willie’s descent into yuppiedom, it tends to be driven by the often-exaggerated drama that a network like A&E will look for in a show. ARTV, meanwhile, delivers a lot more know-how. We deliver reviews and insight from the finest minds in the firearms industry, and nothing else. Certainly no looks into our hosts’ personal lives. OK, so maybe Mark Keefe is often a nervous wreck lamenting his son’s lacrosse team, and maybe he does spend countless hours muttering to himself as he stares at the over-sized team depth chart on his wall. And maybe Joe Kurtenbach and Aaron Carter do have a particularly vicious off-camera rivalry that dates back to an ownership dispute over the recipe that won last year’s inter-departmental chili contest. But we can’t just… Wait a minute-why aren’t we showing you folks this stuff? I apologize: This one’s on us, and I’m going to go ahead and take this entire bullet point back.
One of ARTV’s biggest draws is-or at least should be-its venerable host, Mark Keefe (or, as he demands to be called by his subordinates at NRA Headquarters, Mark IV). This is a man that eats, sleeps and breathes firearms. Companies call him for insight on new products. Friends call him for ammo. The ladies call him for dates (as a married man, he graciously declines). And, much like Robertson patriarch Phil, Mark has a nigh-legendary athletic background. You’re looking at a bonafied former Bocce ball prodigy right here. Sure, Phil “had NFL offers,” but Mark was the man that was going to take Bocce to the next level in the United States. He was going to do for Bocce ball what Bobby Fischer did for chess-and only walked away from it so he could bring the industry’s finest firearms coverage to you, his dedicated fans. This guy’s a real gamer, too-he once nearly died of smoke inhalation during a World War I reenactment. That’s dedication to realism, right there. Oh, and above all, Mark’s a snappy dresser: The last time this guy was spotted without a collar on his shirt, Jimmy Carter was still shilling peanuts out of the White House.
If you aren’t already frantically searching for re-runs of American Rifleman TV, I’ve failed. If that’s the case, I apologize. Seriously, though-the Rifleman folks do a fantastic job putting the show together, and we think that any firearms enthusiast would enjoy what the program has to offer.
Oh, and, just as a declaimer: The jokes in this piece were largely tongue in cheek (except the bit about Mark Keefe; that guy’s a boss). We love the Robertson crew, and Duck Dynasty is a fantastic show. We’d never fault anyone for watching it.
You know you could save it to the DVR and watch ARTV in real-time, though. And that’s a fact, jack…