Muzzle Blasts: Some Thoughts on the Magazine

Christian Oerter Letter
18th-C Apprenticeships
Curly Wood
Fantasy Rifle?
Scratch Built???
Iron & Steel
Muzzle Blasts
Hunting Stories
What's a Virginia Rifle?
Why Straight Rifling
I have been on the NMLRA Publications Committee since about 1992. The role of the Publications Committee is to advise the editor or editors—not to actually select content. I wrote this in response to board postings complaining about the topics of articles in Muzzle Blasts.


Since the magazine is the only real benefit many members get, the Pub. Com. has been concerned with matching the article’s content mix with the member’s interests. In the early 1990s the NMLRA started sending a short questionnaire to members who did not renew their membership.

Many responded that Muzzle Blasts was a problem for them. Too many articles on this or that, and too few on this or that. What we learned from these questionnaires was that the readership/membership had extremely diverse interests and nearly all felt that theirs were being short changed. Of course we realized that the sample was biased by being limited to those who had already decided not to renew.

In 1994 Jon Uithol sent out a five page “Member Survey” to random sample of 10% of the 25000 members. He got about 1200 responses. Two of the five pages were specifically about the magazine. The main questions asked were: 1. Which of the existing departments (sections) were always, usually, occasionally, rarely or never read. 2. A list of which article subjects were always, usually, occasionally, rarely or never read were likewise rated. Then we asked the members to tell us their 1st, 2nd, & 3rd choice of subjects they would like to see more of and their 1st, 2nd, & 3rd choice of subjects they would like to see less of.

The top ranked “see more of” were: how to articles on gunsmithing, historical accounts from the colonial period, historical accounts from the fur trade era, and how to articles on offhand rifle shooting. The two lowest in “see more of” were: stories about people in the shooting sports and reports on the results of national or local shoots.

The subjects getting the most “see less of” votes were: how to articles on bench shooting, results of national or local shoots, and how to articles on military re-enacting.

We also asked about other publications. 470 of the 1200 who replied reported that they also always read Muzzleloader magazine but only 100 always read Blackpowder Hunting. (Over 500 respondents had not read any of the NMLRA Journal of Historical Armsmaking Technology volumes.)

The advice the Publication Committee took from this survey was to try and get more how to gunsmithing articles and more historical accounts from the colonial and fur trade eras. We also voted to drop the shoot results from the magazine and to distribute them only to registered shooters and others who requested them. The Board voted down the latter decision.

For 1995 the editor proposed an experiment of focusing each one of the twelve monthly issues on a particular theme. January (Historical Features), February (Gun Makers and Gun Building), March (Big Game Hunting), April (Shotguns), etc. That idea never worked because it was felt that every issues should contain a mix of articles.

And that is were the editors are today. They have to try and make every issue have something that will interest everybody. One heck of a challenge considering that the supply of articles is very hit or miss and the low tolerance many readers appear to have for the interests of the other members.

A new readership survey is being considered to see if the current membership has the same mix of interests as folks did 12 years ago. The magazine has evolved quit a bit in the last decade with more articles on antique rifles in feature articles by Gusler and Whisker.