April 24, 2023
By Payton Miller
I first became aware of YouTube as a source of firearms information when I needed a quick and dirty refresher course on fieldstripping a TT-33 “Tokarev” pistol.
Like most shooters of “a certain age,” I’d found out the hard way that if you ignore a particular gun in your collection for long enough, you tend to forget how it comes apart and goes back together.
This was my entry into the world of online firearms expertise. YouTube’s gun menu ranges from dry, matter-of-fact instruction on cleaning, handloading and fieldstripping techniques to in-depth historical discussions of classic military and sporting arms, replete with photos from bygone eras.
But those shows at the top of the heap for sheer entertainment value naturally center around the auditory and visual thrills of actual shooting—muzzle blasts, bullets impacting, brass flying and, of course, teeny tiny groups. Let’s take a look at some of the top contenders. These shows have all been in existence for some time—the average being 11 years.
1. Jerry Miculek, Pro Shooter
Anyone who claims that shooting isn’t really a spectator sport has never seen Jerry Miculek in action. Long considered the greatest double-action revolver artist since the late, great Ed McGivern, Miculek is also breathtakingly adept at speed shooting rifles, shotguns and autopistols.
He’s capable of dumping three cylinderfuls of .45 ACP from his S&W M625 into a palm-sized cluster at 21 feet in about 3 seconds. Or effortlessly ringing a gong with a dead-stock SKS carbine offhand at 200 yards. Or actually hitting stuff at absurd yardages with a .380 pocket auto.
Besides giving viewers the fun of watching a world-class shootist at work, Miculek usually manages to find a way to work in some practical shooting advice, plus safety tips, along with footage of him range testing the latest in shooting hardware.
Maybe, maybe somewhere in the world there are guys who can shoot better than Miculek. But I don’t think there’s anyone on this planet who can shoot better faster. It would be trite to say he makes it look easy. But trust me, it ain’t. . .
2. Paul Harrell
If watching someone explode nuggets of conventional ballistic wisdom classifies as entertaining (and it does), Paul Harrell is your guy. Whenever ballistic comparisons are made between calibers with roughly the same intended purpose, hairsplitting—via chronographs and blocks of ballistic gelatin—is the order of the day. But, of course, hairsplitting is part and parcel of any informed “gun guy” debate. Anyone old enough to remember all the old “.270 vs. .30-06” stories in the hook-and-bullet publications from long ago?
Consider some of Harrell’s topics over the years: “Why I Don’t Like ‘Hyper’ Ammo,” “Why Hollowpoints Don’t Expand,” or “.357 SIG versus .357 Magnum.” Harrell spends as much time discussing—and testing—ammo as he does talking about makes and models of different firearms.
You may or may not agree with many of Harrell’s conclusions, but he makes a pretty good case for them, all in an intense, but lucid delivery. And yes, there’s a lot of banging, blasting, and various ballistic media getting ventilated, vaporized and otherwise abused.
3. Forgotten Weapons
If you’re fascinated by the relationship of history and firearms (and who isn’t?), then Ian McCollum’s “Forgotten Weapons” is going to serve as a continual source of entertainment.
McCollum’s knowledge of military firearms is encyclopedic. He delves deeply—sometimes too deeply—into the design and development of iconic—often obscure—military firearms. And he throws in liberal amounts of anecdotal information on their employment throughout mankind’s various conflicts.
Such full-auto classics as Germany’s MG 34 and MG 42, Sten Mark IV, the Lewis Gun, the Soviet DShK Heavy Machine Gun, as well as the occasional sporting arm. He discusses fieldstripping, unique features, tactical employment and virtually every aspect of the firearm in question. His understated delivery is informed, erudite, and free of the “aw, shucks” tone often found in many YouTube gun segments. Many episodes conclude with an immensely satisfying coda in which McCollum “lets things rip” at a range session.
If you want to see a guy shooting gongs, melons and assorted reactive targets, Greg Kinman is worth checking out.
Like most serious shooters, Kinman likes to focus on guns that he likes personally. He shoots them extensively on his private range, which may set a world record for the sheer number and variety of gongs getting rung.
As well as wringing out vintage classics such as the Colt 1909 Army revolver, Kinman delves right into comparing iconic favorites in terms of function and what can only be described as “shootability”—"Luger P08 vs. 1911, 2020 Colt Python vs. S&W M686.”
Kinman’s strong suit lies in the sheer entertainment value of ringing steel, which he does to ascertain what can best be described as an “impact effectiveness” comparison of various calibers such as .40 S&W vs. .357 SIG. Or an exercise in which he demonstrates the differences in reaction among 8-inch steel plates as they get smacked by various calibers to assess “knock-down” power in a manner that is visually apparent.
One of Kinman’s more intriguing segments entails firing a suppressed H&K MP5 submachine gun in order to demonstrate the relative noise levels of a variety of 9mm ammo featuring different bullet weights: 115, 124 and 147-grain.
Kinman’s running commentary throughout his range sessions are informative and amusing, but he never loses sight of the truism that “showing” is superior to “telling.”
This one gets points for truth in advertising. The title says it all. While some of the stuff leans farther toward the wild side than old-timers might prefer, the blast factor for this show is unsurpassed. The operating principle of the Demolition Ranch guys appears to be “What if you. . .”
And this leads to all kinds of interesting scenarios. Like shooting a 100-pound ball of aluminum foil with a series of different handguns and rifles and then seeing how far each penetrates.
Obviously, military hardware is front and center in this one. Different makes and levels of body armor gets shot. Machine guns and sniper rifles in .50 BMG (Browning Machine Gun) get tested against a variety of targets up to and including a solid block of bronze. A high level of humor is evident in all segments, and the operative word seems to be “fun.” These guys manage to get hold of stuff beyond the scope of most shows I’ve seen. And the occasional high-end firearm gets shot until it doesn’t work anymore. My favorite segment title? “I Have a German Stick Grenade.” Yes, they did. Although it was essentially an “authentically exploding” replica, it was used to great effect in instantly dismantling a giant stuffed teddy bear. All safety precautions—including a remarkably elaborate blast shield—were employed.
6. Lucky Gunner
I discovered this excellent channel and its host, Chris Baker, when I stumbled across the segment “Tips for Shooting a Snub Nose Revolver.” This was of particular interest to me and, like most things I end up liking, it mirrored my own experiences and gave me tips that proved useful to me in my continuing struggles with the iconic J-Frame.
Baker’s delivery is relaxed and informative, and his topics are of “real world” interest: “Practical Ballistics for the .22 Long Rifle,” “The Makarov: AK of the Pistol World,” and “Shooting Handguns with Both Eyes Open: Do You Really Have To?”
New guns get reviewed, of course, but Lucky Gunner doesn’t neglect vintage classics such as the M1 Carbine (Chris loves it) and the Walther PPK (he does not and refers to James Bond’s iconic sidearm as an “ergonomic disaster”). And he makes an excellent case for his opinion on both guns.
Which leads to this observation: The silliest and most useless complaint against anyone reviewing firearms is that they’re “opinionated.” Of course they are! If they didn’t have an opinion, why would waste 15 or 20 minutes of your ever-shrinking lifespan watching them?
The descriptive tagline for this channel is “Fun Gun Reviews and Sensible Survival.” The “Review” part is certainly accurate. These guys concentrate on anything new, semi-new, and vintage that’s going to appeal to defensive-minded shooters. Black guns, polymer-framed pistolas, tactical shotguns all get their due. But vintage military and civilian stuff also gets a share of the attention.
But the value of this site is found in segments like “The Glock Gen 5: Why Bother?” In it, every conceivable ergonomic/design change on a Gen 5 G19 gets dissected and analyzed. The honest upshot? Some of them are marketing hoo-hah, but much of the changes represent incremental improvements in a platform of astonishing longevity and popularity. And the Sootch00 crew lays it all out in informative and, yes, entertaining style. . .
Devoted primarily to recreational rimfire shooting, host Dave Nash is a self-described trick shooter/rimfire specialist. He fulfills his promise of “a new trick shot every week,” but also tests the latest in (for the most part) .22 RF hardware. Subjects have included pistols such as the Tippmann M4-22 Micro Elite Bug Out, Standard Manufacturing’s premium SG22, the TaurusTX 22 Compact. Some fairly eye-catching rifles are included in the mix—the Desert Tech Trek-22 (a 10/22-based bullpup) and the superbly accurate Anschutz 1710 bolt action. Naturally, various rimfire suppressors are covered as well. The emphasis here is on fun, such as a segment titled “How Many Little Debbie Cakes Will a .22LR Go Through?” And, yes, the promised “trick shots” are impressive.
And that’s entertainment!