Reader Ruminations

From Frequent Reader / Commenter preussenotto comes this thoughtful email:

I grew up in a very rural isolated area, we had TV but reception was spotty at best, and my parents (including the rest of my family) were very big on self-education so we had a lot of books around.

One of the great enjoyments of my yoot, however was the excitement of waiting for some periodical to come in the mail.  It gave me something I genuinely looked forward to every month.

Fast forward to me as a University Student, I went to a ELGS and got persuaded to become a life member of the Wayne LaPierre family enrichment organization (to be fair this was pre WLP).  [Note to Furrin Readers:  he’s referring to the National Rifle Association.]  As such I was entitled to receive the American Hunter or -Rifleman magazine monthly.

I chose AR because I’m more of a shooter than hunter, and the old lifetime joy of receiving a periodical once a month became a regular pleasure once again.

One of my favorite elements of AR though was their articles on historical firearms and their use/development/etc.  Often they would also include some interesting artwork or old catalog entries, and needless to say I was far more interested in that, than judging bullet drop or whatever.

Last week I got my latest edition of AR, paged through it,  and realized that since the advent of the Excellent work done by Forgotten Weapons, C&RSenal, and InRange, the historical stuff in AR, is just average at best.

I know American Rifleman has slipped in other areas too, but their historical stuff was still pretty good.  Now it just seems like they’re providing someone else’s well-chewed gum.

And another excitement from days of yore has been replaced, to the point where the joy of discovery from a periodical, is just not there anymore.

Do you notice the same thing as you’ve gotten older?  Has anyone else experienced it as well?  In my mind its been replaced by something better, but seeing a childhood memory, not so much die, but rust out, is a sad realization.

The problem that you’ve outlined (very well) is that the NRA monthly mags are essentially vehicles for NRA editorials and (mostly) ad revenue — that’s how they can afford to print and ship them — and thus there’s never really been any incentive to make their mags competitive with other gun mags such as Guns&Ammo or Shooting Times.  So they’ve always been kinda sub-par, content-wise.

And this was okay, until Teh Intarwebz came along, and the characters you mentioned above (and a host of others) started to provide a serious service to gun owners.  Frankly, nowadays one could get by with just Othias & Mae and Ian McCollum (for older guns), Honest Outlaw (for pistol reviews), Ron Spomer (for rifles) and hickok45 (for shooting fun) — and I’ve barely scratched the surface.  Compared to just those shows, very few magazines could measure up;  their only advantage is in publishing things like ballistic tables and charts, which TV shows can’t get close to (although Chris at Lucky Gunner comes close).

I have to say, though, that I am of similar mind to preussenotto:  almost my entire life was spent keenly anticipating my weekly / monthly magazine delivery — hell, I think I last purchased an actual paper mag subscription back in the late 1990s, and that was Britishland’s Country Life (actually, it was Connie’s subscription, a birthday present from me).

I think my last magazine sub expired in about 2008, and I don’t get any anymore, which now that I think of it, kinda sucks.

Here’s a little thought experiment for y’all:  if you could choose three  free paper magazine subscriptions — say, as birthday presents from friends & family — which would you like to get?  (They don’t have to be gun magazines, of course.)

Responses in Comments or via email.  Mine are below the fold.

In no specific order:  City Journal, Guns & Ammo, Country Life (U.K.).


  1. The problem with picking paper magazines is that the ones I’d be interested in, have gone out of business (internet killed them). The few that have remained have turned into almost complete advertisements, with a few articles for filler.

    Oh well, at least they enriched my life and I learned from them while they were in business.

  2. I agree with Steve above.
    I too used to look forward to monthly (and sometimes bi-monthly) magazine delivery, but let them all drift away with the access to the internet.

    Couple years ago I started a couple subscriptions of magazines of my youth, Readers Digest and Popular Mechanics. What a nightmare.

    It takes 6-8 weeks at least to get the first issue delivered.
    The first issue is 1 to 2 months old.
    The mags get trashed in the delivery process.
    Address label peeled backwards and sticky shit getting on everything it encounters, and covering some of the front cover.
    Content is short and ads long.
    Content written by seemingly teenagers.
    Most of the ads are not in line with the content of the mag.
    (viagra and hair loss ads, etc.?) Please.
    Then 3 months in they start bombarding me with resubscribing harrassment.
    They don’t send the 12th issue if they haven’t received my resubscription.
    Communication with the publisher is non existent.
    They do everything they can to force you to kick them to the curb.
    If not for the ad revenue surely most of them would die.
    Another part of my life history killed off.

  3. Being OLD, used to enjoy Boy’s Life, SGN, and Practical Classics (last being a car magazine from England). Yes had NRA for a while in the 80’s but now all of these things are history. Like most I can scratch any itch or do research online without delays and a wealth of content that boggles the mind. Dead tree media is all but dead for newspapers and periodicals, unless we have a Carrington event or nuclear/volcanic winter, in which case these systems may revive assuming anyone remaining has time other than for surviving.

  4. As far back as the ’80s, I susbscribed to, perhaps, a dozen periodicals — Smithsonian, Scientific American, Audubon, Nat Geo, A&S Smithsonian, Archaeology, and a bunch of mindless dreck from e.g. Time-Warner. Nowadays, I am hard pressed to even FIND four mags to take monthly: Wood, PopMech, Smithsonian, and I can’t think of the fourth. Publishers Clearing House’s emails sound ever more desperate, but I simply can’t find mags that I can stand to even look at, let alone read cover-to-cover. (And note that Smithsonian is hanging on the edge for their wokeness; I may have to give it up.) The rabid Left has done such a thorough job of taking over jounralism and publishing that it’s hollowed out content for the likes of me. And that’s before you take into consideration the damage that free Internet content has done to paid periodicals. I suspect that print magazines will soon be seen as a thing of the past.

    1. In answer to the OP’s final question, I’d like Reader’s Digest as under the Dewitt Clintons, National Review as under Bill Buckley, and The New Yorker as under Ross.

    2. Yes… agreed, I was a loyal subscriber for 40+ years to R&T, CandD and other Automotive publications as they came and went from the age of 14 onward. Plus a dozen others like Nat Geo, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics. and for a time even Time and US News & Reports.

      Not any more. All the great writers of the past are gone and replaced by people with no passion, no irreverence, and only marginal knowledge of the subject they write about. when they even show up between the Ads.

      So that leaves me with Panorama from the Porsche Club and MIT Technology Review Quarterly.

    3. Egon was more prescient than we thought when he said “Print is dead” to Janine in “Ghostbusters.”

  5. ‘Byte’ magazine for computers. It’s long gone, as well as my favorite editorial writer Dr. Jerry Pournelle.

  6. Getting older makes old and customary things grow ever more stale and boring.

    A few months before my dad died at age 89 he told me the worst curse of old age was boredom. I think he was wrong and that his boredom was caused by his refusal to move forward into new ideas, activities and even new places.

    I no longer read the genres of fiction and non fiction I used to, I don’t listen to the music I used to, I travel more but differently, I don’t watch TV the way I used to, everything changes.

  7. It’s even worse with the magazines – the publishing part of the NRA is a money loser – my only supposition as to why the have not transitioned to 100% digital is it’s a hook for exhibitors at the NRA shows (NRAAM and GAOS) and to get firearm donations or discount prices for the firearms raffles at Friends of NRA events (and the quality of items there has degraded significantly since 2019)
    18th century mindset…..

  8. I used to get more than a half dozen magazines a month. Now I only get two, American Rifleman and Fur, Fish, & Game. I agree with Kim about AR and the only reason I get it is because of my life membership. I still look forward to FF&G coming every month because the articles in it don’t sound like they’re trying to sell me a bunch of expensive shit that I just NEED to kill game.

  9. Like others, this won’t be so much a list of what I’d subscribe to today, but what I enjoyed in the past.

    Periodicals that I very much enjoyed in my youth (read: the 1980s) were Omni magazine (I was a huge sci-fi nerd) and National Geographic. Though, when it came to the latter, my favorite issues by far were the ones featuring the images from the Voyager spacecraft taken as they passed by Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus. Omni has gone the way of the dodo, though last I checked there was an online archive of all editions freely available. Might have to go check again. If Omni were ever to be reborn with substantially the same format as it had, I would consider subscribing again.

    More recently, I had a subscription to PC Gamer magazine for several years. My good friend had a subscription to Maximum PC magazine and we would trade issues when we were done with ours. But with continually improving online content being available, I finally decided to let my subscription lapse.

  10. Mine have, alas, and for reasons not clear to me, all perished, namely:

    1. Soldier of Fortune;

    2. Southern Partisan; and

    3. Outlaw Biker.

    Another old favorite, of course, was Small Arms Review.

    1. I had to buy Soldier of Fortune from the convenience store in town and sneak it into the house. Dad was a Baptist preacher.

  11. I get Angler’s Journal 4 times a year. Unlike all the other mags, it’s got great content, great photos and no ads.

  12. Heh. The ones I used to love to read have all gone straight to hell, and I cant think of any I would want now.

    But from days of yore:

    National Review (back when Bill was still running the show). Now its just NeoCons whining about Trump or why we’re not giving enough $$$$ to/Invading some 3rd world shithole.

    National Geographic. Now just how White people’s climate change is killing brown people and destroying the Pyramids.

    US. News & World report: Enjoyed it because it wasn’t as overtly lefty as Time & Newsweek back in the day. I dont even know now if it is still around, and don’t care enough to look.

    Bonus: Sports Illustrated, for at least the once a year issue featuring the Stunning Kathy Ireland, and the only place where you could get tidbits of information about my favorite NFL team.

  13. I’m really old, so I’m going waaay down memory lane…

    Boy’s Life because back then I was a boy. A year or so ago I saw a copy in a waiting room and the jokes met the standards of old.

    Saturday Evening Post because it had short stories. Does anyone else remember the Earthworm Tractor Company?

    Reader’s Digest Condensed Books wasn’t a magazine but it was a quarterly periodical. I always read them cover to cover.

    Now I subscribe to nothing and don’t even have a single TV show I watch every week. Am I missing anything?

  14. I haven’t had a magazine subscription since about 2000. I started noticing that I had to page past about 6-8 pages of ads before getting to the table of contents, more ads were driving out actual articles, and prices were going up too much for the subscriptions I had – Smithsonian, Natural History, Popular Science, US News & World Report, Space World/Ad Astra (came with membership in the National Space Institute/National Space Society), and Playboy (Hef and I did not share the same taste in women).

    Today, I can get all that information and more from the web. So, if I had to pick three magazines to get today, I’d probably pick American Scientist, Air & Space Smithsonian and look around for something light that didn’t mention Glueball Worming or woke issues (yeah, I know – good luck!).

  15. I grew up with two college educated parents. My father was an English teacher and actor and my mother was an engineer and con artist. We had books everywhere covering everything from current bestsellers to relatively obscure.
    Magazines were Nat Geo Smithsonian New Yorker Boys Life Argosy Analog and Model Railroader.
    When I left home I kept up with Analog and added Omni. Due to a running gag with a cousin of mine I had a subscription to Playboy until the 2nd year I was married.
    During the 90s for our kids we had Nat Geo Smithsonian and a couple of others plus the Time Life sticker books of history for kids.
    We stopped everything before the end of the 90s except Analog due to prices and lack of co tent.
    Amalog got walled when about a year after 9/11 they had a story about a fictitious 9/11 hijacker who was sentanced time viewing the crashes over and over again always with one or another of the passengers….while also reviewing oublic aspects of their life before hand. What made me wall the magazine a d stop reading was that the scientist who developed the time viewing and oversaw the program for this hijacker plus other criminals was the hijackers daughter. In fullveil and hajib at all times.
    I realized then that the lousy writing and strange stories were deliberate and stopped.
    I no longer subscribe and even the Christmas editon of Model Railroader is no good. Just new dusty memories.
    Also I have reached the age where new content isnt and rereading old favorites shows the decay setting in already.

  16. I too miss the periodicals of my youth – e.g. Boy’s Life, Life Magazine and being a sci-fi nerd Amazing Stories. Oh, and the ARRL magazine for ham operators.
    Nothing current, but my most recent list was: Garden & Gun, Cigar Aficionado and Gray’s Sporting Journal.

  17. One of the reasons I got life memberships to several organizations in the 80s and 90s was so I didn’t have to mess with subscription renewals, and after I got our of the AF, still had something to read every month even when I was unemployed and money was tight.

    Those were the NRA, Air Force Association, Amateur Radio Relay League, and later the VFW

    I switched my NRA mag to Shooting Illustrated years ago, and it takes me about 5-20 min to read it through (skipping the NRA chest beating, political fear porn and fund raising articles). Probably wouldn’t pay to renew it

    The ARRL is going to all digital subscriptions for Life Members due to costs. Although I have the option as a long time Life Member of keeping the print magazine, but probably won’t. I can get what I need from each issue on my tablet or computer easily enough. This one I would try to keep my subscription up as there are occasional technical articles that are of use. And having the sub allows me to poke through their archive online.

    I like the Air Force (now Air and Space Forces) mag as it keeps me somewhat in touch with my old life. But again get through it in less than 20min, wouldn’t be worth it to me if I had to come up with funds to keep renewing.

    The VFW mag (more like magazine sized pamphlet) I barley skim. I joined to support the local post and the vets it supports. Not really interested in the doings of the national organization.

    As others have stated, the magazines I used to read regularly have either gone down hill to being useless, or don’t exist anymore.

    So basically, in answer to the actual question, I can think of only one; ARRL’s QST magazine

  18. Ditto, turnkey. Almost word for word.

    I grew up with National Geographic, Popular Science, Mechanics Illustrated, The Farm Journal, Arizona Highways, Sunset, and Readers Digest available in the house.

    Scientific American was good until they changed editorial staff, and jumped into the gobular warmening cesspool with both feet. You can’t trust them anymore.

    I’d buy every Mad Magazine I could. There was great joy found in “The Mad Reader” or “Mad Strikes Back”. The last time I saw, they’ve gone woke also.

    Predator Extreme has gone paperless.

    Nothing remains the same.

    Today the only magazine I look forward to is F.F.&G.

  19. In the flying world, AOPA Pilot and Sport Aviation have really gone downhill. I wouldn’t pay for them but they come with my memberships (which will expire shortly). These days I just thumb through them and toss them.
    There’s only ONE periodical I would pay for these days: Invention & Technology. Sadly, they fell on hard times a few years back and quit publishing. They might be back – sorta’ – now. I don’t know.

  20. Archaeology, Cook’s Illustrated, The New Criterion. There are a few others, but these three I actually read.

  21. As best as I recall I became an NRA annual member back in the early 1960’s. When I was in college and on the rifle team I became a life member. About 1972 as I recall. Hence I have been receiving AR for a ton of years. This year the wife and I got rid of a shitload of personal effects and moved from NY to Free America in Arizona. Everything having to go into a single POD I tried to off load 50 years of ARs carefully saved and curated. NO ONE wanted them so I bundled them all up and put them out in the garbage. It broke my heart but unburdened us.

    About a dozen years or so I asked Mark Keefe (AR Editor) why didn’t they put all the collection on CD, like Gun Digest has ? His answer was that he couldn’t because of advertisers. I don’t think that was an honest answer. Subsequently other folks have made them available on the web. One such location is this…

    There are other sites which go back further.

  22. Used to get a butt load of dead trees. Omni, US world report. time for a while. The economist. Bon Appitite. Popular mechanics, popular science, car and driver. Now I have the internet and Amazon. Time marches on, just faster than when I was young..

  23. I’ve not watched current network or subscription TV (aside from NFL games) since 2012. The only print subscriptions I have left are The English Garden and City Journal. I used to get Garden & Gun, but they started inserting some veiled reference to “climate change” in just about every article, so I let that one lapse. Back in the Long Ago, I got Reader’s Digest and National Geographic in French to keep my language skill current enough to satisfy the Navy. When they quit giving credit for that, I dropped those subscriptions too.

    I’ve sold my business and now have time to read–mostly biographies for people dead for 100 years or more (just finished Endurance, Alfred Lansing’s account of Earnest Shackleton’s heroic exploration in Antarctica).

  24. My local library has Libby online magazines that I look at once or twice a year.
    Gone are the days of Outdoor Life, Field And Stream, Boy’s Life, and Cream.

  25. Easier to tell you what I STILL subscribe to:
    Private Eye,
    I keep meaning to renew my subscription to New Scientist but haven’t got round to it.
    As an aside, I did have a subscription to The Economist but never got a single issue, eventually it lapsed and then I discovered an entire years worth, in the bottom drawer of my desk, where my wife had been neatly putting them for me to read at my leisure. Without telling me. (I still haven’t read them).

  26. Currently, the only thing worth subscribing to in my view is City Journal, which is consistently amazing for correct editorial world viewpoint, quality of writing and physical production values.

    In the past: Boy’s life, Omni, Scientific American, Smithsonian, Heavy Metal, Psychology Today, Byte, and National Geographic, all of which have gone defunct, downhill or woke.

  27. Right now, I’ve got subscriptions to American Rifleman and the AOPA mag – both with the membership. The mags I READ are Aviation Week and the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. Having said this, I concur that the quality of the mags has gone down considerably.

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