The Shift: A Tale of Two Firearms

During the course of my research, I occasionally come across interesting tidbits. Since my focus inevitably takes me into earlier decades, there’s an opportunity for historical and cultural observations. Herein is an example of a cultural shift. One that takes three decades to be realized. I don’t want to make too much of this finding, however. Human beings change over time, but not that much.

My interest was initially piqued when I came across this bank advertisement.


Alaska Continental Bank ad (1988)

Notable in this bank ad is the presumed audience. Superficially, it’s people with bank accounts. Or, at least, people with the means to have a bank account. Then the target demographic shrinks… You also need to invest in a Certificate of Deposit (CD) to qualify. These are investment vehicles. Consumers in the age bracket 55 and older are most likely to purchase them. There is something secure, stable — even mainstream — about this demographic.

Then there’s the nostalgia factor. This Smith & Wesson is a collectible. It commemorates the Iditarod, Alaska’s most famous race. The bank knows its customers well.

The shift is yet to come.

2012 Shift

Bushmaster ad (2012)

Flash forward almost thirty years. The messaging from Bushmaster demonstrates a major shift. This campaign also goes in for a touch of nostalgia. The theme is Manhood. “To become a card-carrying man,” the supporting ad copy says, “visitors to will have to prove they’re a man by answering a series of manhood questions. Upon successful completion, they will be issued a temporary Man Card to proudly display to friends and family.”

Become a man… by answering a series of manhood questions

Bushmaster ad campaign

Most of the quiz questions are predictable and slightly inane. “Do you eat tofu? Can you change a tire? Have you ever watched figured skating ‘on purpose’”? Another question gives four options on how to respond when a car full of the rival team’s fans cuts you off on the way to the championship game. The correct answer? “Skip the game, find the other car in the parking lot, and render it unrecognizable with a conflagration of shoe polish and empty food containers.”

Lest one thinks this is all one big joke… Do not rest, gentlemen. This card is revocable. Revokable offenses include being a “crybaby,” a “coward,” a “cupcake,” or having a “short leash” (thanks to a wife or girlfriend).

Yes, there is a website where your friends can turn you in.

Funny thing, though. Passing a quiz won’t make anyone a man. Nor will purchasing a firearm from Bushmaster. Manhood ain’t something you can buy.


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