Joe Mantegna's Gun Story
Mantegna talks Gun Stories, shooting sports, and his favorite gun.
Outdoor Channel had the opportunity to talk with Joe Mantegna, actor and host of MidwayUSA's Gun Stories. Learn how he became interested in guns while growing up in Chicago, being a gun advocate, and what separates MidwayUSA's Gun Stories from other gun shows.
OUTD: Can you tell us a little bit about the show MidwayUSA’s Gun Stories?
JOE: In Gun Stories, we track the firearms that have had an impact on history. In other words, significant firearms throughout, not just the history of America, but history of the world – spanning hundreds of years. So in addition to firearms buffs, people who are interested in history in general and how firearms made an impact on world history will find this show interesting.
OUTD: What makes this gun show different than other gun shows that are on TV?
JOE: Well first of all I’m on it so that makes it a little different than other shows on TV (laughs)! But also, we’ve gone the extra mile in the quality show we are making. Right now we are shooting in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, which is an incredible location not just for someone interested in the history of firearms but for those interested in the history of the West. We shot in some great places in Hollywood and saw how the magic of Hollywood is able to incorporate firearms in their industry. It’s a real comprehensive show in terms of historical firearms for people who have a passing interest in it and for people who have an avid interest in it.
OUTD: Tell us about your personal involvement in the gun world and how you became an advocate in the gun industry.
JOE: My personal involvement didn’t start at a really young age; I didn’t even shoot a gun until I was well into my late teens. But I got exposed to trap and skeet and sporting clay shooting as a teenager and really enjoyed it. I learned about firearms in the proper way and realized that the shooting sports, be it hunting or target shooting, is an incredible world and sport where you meet incredible people when it’s done correctly, safely and professionally. It’s something that has been around for hundreds of years and obviously has a huge following and I’m glad to be part of that community.
OUTD: How do you think guns tell history in a unique and different way rather than just a historical look?
JOE: It’s funny because you say the word guns and it’s one of those hot button words where people have a certain reaction to it. But bottom line, if you really think about not only the history of our country but the history of the world, firearms have played a significant part as a tool used in different circumstances. Going back to the Revolutionary Way, it guaranteed our country its freedom, and it’s preserved our freedom over a myriad of wars since so it’s had a tremendous impact just on allowing us to be the country we are today. So regardless of a person’s stance or personal feelings on it as a word or as a sport or interest, there is no denying that firearms and guns have had a tremendous impact on not just our day–to-day life, but on the history of our country and every country on this planet.
OUTD: And a lot of people look at it as a pure political issue and it’s so much not.
JOE: First of all, I wouldn’t be doing this show if I felt it was a political issue because I’m probably the most non-political person you’re ever going to find. I’ve tried to make it my goal to be nonpolitical in life. I’ve been in an independent politically since the time I was able to vote. And for me, the second amendment is not a political issue; the right to bear arms is not a political issue. You have to make adjustments along the way and I think even our founding fathers realized that things had to change with time and so you make little adjustments. But at the end of the day, there are certain inalienable rights that we have which are important. We are certainly still a country that every four years we freely go out and elect someone without people rioting the streets and killing each other, causing turmoil or overthrowing a government or having a dictator step in and take over, so the system seems to have been working for a long time. I think our second amendment right is just as important as a lot of our other rights. We have a freedom of speech, we have a freedom of assembly, religion, and we have a freedom to keep and bear arms as a populace. And you have to be responsible, you can’t just be some knucklehead abusing that right. It’s not a political right, the constitution says “we the people” and that’s everybody.
OUTD: Tell me how a kid from Chicago started shooting.
JOE: Not like you think! I got exposed to shotgun shooting because right along Lake Michigan there was a beautiful old shooting range for skeet shooting that was built back in the 30s. Unfortunately it’s not there anymore but that’s where I cut my teeth on it and realized, wow, this is really something. And I was taught by people who really understood the shooting sports and understood the care, safety, almost the privilege you have of doing it and doing it correctly and not abusing it and obviously dealing with things that can be inherently dangerous. I was taught the right way and exposed to it the right way and I am a proponent of exposing it to other people in the right way. And that’s why the shooting sports are as popular as they are today and hopefully will continue to be so.
OUTD: What’s your favorite gun and why?
JOE: From the ones we’ve covered here on Gun Stories, my favorite firearm would be the 1911 Colt 45 ACP. I actually got into practical pistol shooting back in my mid-20s and started to compete and got up as high as B class at one point. And then technology got too overwhelming. I knew what it was like to swap barrels, have my guns ported and throated and get special sights and things like that, but once they started getting into lasers and all that, I thought, well, this is going in a different direction. I’m kinda old school that way. When given the choice to carry a certain side arm in various television shows or action shows I’ve done, I’ve always opted for the Colt 45. I have a fondness for that caliber and that particular firearm so that’s what this old school guy would carry.
OUTD: What guns have had the biggest impact in the industry?
JOE: Anyone that watches Gun Stories is going to learn which guns have had the biggest impact since that’s what this show is all about! The AR15, ultimately the M16, had a big impact in terms of our military. Again the Colt 45 1911 is something that has been maintained for so long and is still viable not just in terms of a gun but in caliber. The BAR is fairly historical. You could just go down the list of every gun we’ve covered on the show, and because the list is so long, we can fill up a lot more seasons talking about guns that have had an impact on history – from bolt action to semi autos. There’s everything from pistols to rifles to shotguns – the 870 Remington shotgun was very important and to this day still is. Anyone who is an enthusiast will immediately understand and it will resonate with them. And people watching for the first time that don’t know anything about firearms but have an interest in it will learn a lot, too. I’ve been involved in the shooting sports for about 40 years now and I learned quite a bit doing the show.
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