In a regular series, Land of Dope and Tories is reviewing publications from the weird and wonderful world of specialist magazines. This week: Shooting Gazette.
Tagline: ‘Driven Shooting’s Finest Journal’
Who is this magazine for? Now, if that lovely Peter Wilson chap who won a gold medal for GB taught us anything, it’s that shooting is a sport. Not something where animals or people get hurt. Just a nice sport. Like fencing. Or horse dancing. Peter shot clays, which have the heft and taste of a three-day old Greggs steak bake. What they most definitely didn’t have was a central nervous system.
Shooting Gazette is pitched towards a different type of gun enthusiast. To be clear – this not pitched at the Danny Dyer ‘ere, geez…’eez got a shooter!’ end of the market. No, this is a magazine for gentlemen. Gentlemen who enjoy blasting birds out of the sky.
What did you get for your £4.10? As you’d expect for a mag that is aimed at people who either own a country estate or are good mates with someone who does, production values are high. The 122 pages of January’s edition are glossy. The full-colour group photos of white men wearing identical green wax jackets and stout boots are plentiful.
The writing is solid. The correspondents are called Will, Giles, Ben, James and Barney. This is a toilet read of substance.
The mag comes in four sections: gazetteer (regulars, news-in-briefs, and The Great Debate, of which more in a second), features (eight this month), reviews and a ten page supplement on gun dogs. Rather disappointingly, gun dogs are not guns shaped like dogs. Or dogs shaped like guns.
The tone and content of magazine is summed up perfectly by The Great Debate page. This is Shooting Gazette‘s take on a classic magazine trick, where you get two columnists to write diametrically opposing views about some trifle. Usually these are titled in emphatic capitals: ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ or ‘FOR’ and ‘AGAINST’. In Shooting Gazette the battle lines are ‘Yes please’ and ‘Rather not’. (This raging debate was on the acceptability or otherwise of woodcock shooting. The case against largely boils down to the fact that they’re a bit shit to eat.)
My favourite section is the reviews. Now I know review sections are usually for expensive, over-aspirational stuff that PR friends have lent to the mag’s staff for a jolly. But the fact that a 230 grand Ferrari, houses for a snip at under £2.8m and B&Bs kicking off at £145 per person per night might pique the readers’ interest is…well, I was going to say revealing, but what you actually feel is simply ball-aching resentment at these stonkingly rich bastards.
Features: There were two reasons I picked up Shooting Gazette for this week’s Toilet Reading. The first is that there was only one copy in my local newsagent, and I took great pleasure in denying N4′s only resident pheasant-potter his monthly periodical. The second was the cover promising an article on ‘Classic shoot day gaffes’.
It turns out that there are social faux pas lurking in every shoot. Some of the errors I had expected (shooting the host’s wife, forgetting your gun, tramping fresh dog shit through the gun room), but there were plenty I hadn’t even considered (having your dog gather up someone else’s shot birds, forgetting to thank the ‘beaters’, not taking any pheasants home with you at the end of the day because your pantry is already too stuffed with delicious, cold money). This piece was not quite the You’ve Been Maimed comedy feast I hoped for, but at least I now know what to do if I ever get invited to a shoot. Not turn up.
The other features were less amusing and comprised of travel brochure shots of verdant, frigid British countryside full of tweedy men pointing guns at the sky.
Adverts: Guns are sexy aren’t they? Really sexy.
Interestingly, second hand guns are sold in a very similar way to second hand cars in local newspapers. One flattering photo in a good light, lots of dense text and obscure acronyms, and at least one vintage gem on the page that’s going for a truly fuck off price. ‘A pair of vintage Berettas, sir? That’ll be £110,000.’
Mind you, these are people with so much land that more than one company has placed classified ads for their services in building car parks.
Other than that, there’s all the wellies, dog food, 4x4s and gun cartridges you could hope for. Unless you want anything in a colour that isn’t green or brown, in which case, you can just jog on right now.
Letters page: There was a letters page. Unfortunately it was quite dull, and made you feel as if you were stuck at the bar of a country pub listening to Don telling his story about the last pheasant he ever shot for the fifth time.
More entertaining was columnist who huffed out 700 words about the needlessness of health and safety guidelines, blustering to the conclusion: ‘I blame the lily-livered schools.’
Shooting Gazette is a polished magazine. But it’s a hard one to love, and not because of the hobby it cheerleads for. It assumes the reader has deep knowledge of the highly elaborate social hierarchy of the shoot, and regularly descends into Quidditch bizarreness with talk of ‘beaters’, ‘keepers’ and ‘picker-uppers’. There are a total of three woman pictured in it. There is not a single non-white person anywhere.
It’s a dying sport. But the Gazette is a fine obituary.
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