January 05, 2021
Computers were uncommon when I started college at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), and the school’s administration was reluctant to allow freshmen to have personal laptops within barracks. Even still, a number of assignments called for web research or typed papers, so a computer lab was established in the basement of the campus’ engineering building. Some 1,300 cadets shared access to about 20 desktops, and there was always a line waiting to use them.
One night during my senior year, on a weekend, I had the computer lab to myself. I visited gunsandammo.com while surfing and discovered a biographical section of the magazine’s editors and contributors. As I read the backgrounds of Col. Craig Boddington, Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper and Garry James, I came across then-Handgun Editor Wiley Clapp. He served as a U.S. Marine officer through the Vietnam War after graduating VMI with an English degree in 1957. Learning about his career path was inspiring, so I wrote him for career advice. Clapp published my letter and his response in the April 2001 issue:
“Yes, we do have a number of things in common and I will attempt to answer some of your questions. Clearly, you have already accomplished a great deal that would serve you in good stead as a gunwriter. In all honesty, however, the job market at which you aim is exceedingly small. Out of a population of about 280 million, probably less than two dozen men earn a full-time living as gunwriters and it is not enormously lucrative. Most of them do so after careers in other fields. I know of exactly one man who set out to be a gunwriter from college on and who made it — my friend Mike Venturino. Most of us kind of fell into the work sideways, sort of a right-place-at-the-right time kind of thing.” Clapp continued, “To be part of all that, I would encourage anyone to develop the ability to write a plain, straightforward story in the active voice. Don’t even think about doing so unless the technical information is 100 percent correct. Also, I cannot possibly over-emphasize the need for top-notch photography to illustrate the piece. Buy a good single lens reflex 35mm camera and a Macro lens and get all the advice you can from professionals. The editor who gets your manuscript looks at the illustrations first. If they are no good, he may send your story back without reading it, because there’s nothing he can do to fix it. But if the pictures are spectacular, he might be willing to take extra pains to edit your material. Most magazines will at least look at unsolicited manuscripts, but the package they get needs to be smooth and polished. You are facing a rough road and have my best wishes.”
I didn’t find out about the published letter until a call with Dad a few months later.
“Why the hell did you write ‘Guns & Ammo?’” he asked.
“What are you talking about?” I replied.
“There can’t be another ‘E. Poole’ from ‘Abingdon, Virginia!’” he added as if I embarrassed the family name.
Dad read me Clapp’s response, and I felt as if I had been challenged, so I made up my mind that I would eventually work for the magazine.
In 2004, I met Wiley Clapp at a dinner who recalled the letter. “Good job, Marine,” he said. “Someday I can see myself working for you!”
As editor, I’ve remained determined to pay this experience forward by identifying and attracting the most passionate experts to contribute. At this writing, the Outdoor Sportsman Group (OSG) currently lists job openings that include an Associate Editor position for Guns & Ammo based out of Peoria, Illinois, and a Digital Editor position for the shooting titles, as well. There are other opportunities for a digital video editor and coordinators, and a Managing Editor position with Guns & Ammo’s Special Interest Publication (SIP) division, also in Peoria. While we hope to fill some of these positions before this article appears on newsstands, I would encourage individuals interested in working within the outdoor industry to learn more and apply at outdoorsg.com/about/careers.
We receive many applications from internet jobsites, but very few demonstrate real interest in working within the firearms industry, or relevant experience. Therefore, if you think you have what it takes, I invite you to apply online and join our growing team. It would make me proud to work alongside G&A’s readers.
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