November 04, 2020
By Eric R. Poole
Back in the day, Founding Publisher Robert “Pete” Petersen was known for going after popular editors and writers with other magazines. “He believed in the Star System,” Senior Field Editor Craig Boddington recalled. “He also believed that he could make his own stars, elevating Elmer Keith for example. The headline on the November 1961 cover announced, “Elmer Keith Joins G&A Staff!” Keith wrote for many different publications, but as Guns & Ammo became successful, Petersen wanted Keith’s association exclusive to the brand.
When starting G&A in 1958, Petersen secured well-known authors such as P.O. Ackley and Jeff Cooper, among others. Arguably the biggest name in firearms at the time was Col. Townsend Whelen, who contributed until his death in 1961.
In the early ’70s, it was rumored that Jack O’Connor was planning to retire from Outdoor Life, so Petersen and G&A’s next publisher, Tom Siatos, flew out to Idaho in time for the first issue of Petersen’s Hunting in November 1973. They made O’Connor an offer he couldn’t refuse, and named him as the magazine’s executive editor. What’s interesting about that issue is that G&A’s Elmer Keith was also assigned a story, and no one told him that O’Connor was going to be contributing as well. Keith hated O’Connor, though O’Connor didn’t seem to care. That was the only instance where Keith’s and O’Connor’s bylines appeared in the same magazine. Keith never wrote for Hunting again.
During the late ’70s, Bill Jordan wrote for G&A but was lured away to Shooting Times in the ’80s. Conversely, Bob Milek, a known writer for Shooting Times was hired by G&A. Petersen grew to love Milek so much that he sent a private jet to Wyoming to take Milek back and forth to California for cancer treatments before Milek lost his fight in 1993. Petersen sold his magazine empire in 1996.
I was only 34 when this organization took another chance and made me G&A’s 14th editor. Seven years later, I’ve matured personally and professionally, but I’m proud of what’s been accomplished as we grow G&A in new directions. I participate in the decision making of every asset — print, digital and TV — but none of the growth would be possible were it not for the stars surrounding me. Art Director Michael Ulrich designs each issue, while Digital Editor Shelby Laramore Scepanski maintains gunsandammo.com and has refreshed Guns & Ammo’s YouTube efforts. Behind the scenes, Connie Mendoza continues to serve as production director; she’s been with G&A since 1997. Coordinating Producer Jeff Murray and Director David Foster are improving Guns & Ammo TV, and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app continues to broaden our audience with additional streaming services. I doubt Mr. Petersen could have imagined how far the brand would come in 62 years.
We still believe in Petersen’s Star System, which is evidenced by the recent addition of Joe Kurtenbach to Guns & Ammo’s editorial staff from NRA Publication’s American Rifleman. It’s a big win for us as this former U.S. Army Cavalry Scout and Psy Ops Specialist joins the ranks of our former veterans, and brings with him an English and Management degree from Virginia Tech. You’ll see him contributing to all areas of the Guns & Ammo brand and enhancing our digital content. His is a name worth following, and I have a good feeling about his future.
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