IN THE BEGINNING…

The first thing I’m going to lead with is the same thing Jake Zweig told me when I interviewed the instigator about his role on Top Shot Season 3:

It’s a TV Show. Reality or not. That’s all it is. The only things that are real are the people and what you choose to believe. It’s a TV Show.

Over half a year ago I posted a casting call I found online for the Discovery Channel TV show known as American Guns. We had some pretty cool gun ideas presented my personal favorite being a 1861 LeMat Revolver made from scratch. Well it turns out since I didn’t really have a hefty a mount (or any for that matter) of money to bring to the table the original ideas presented were tabled or forgotten and we moved forward with the final product you’ll be seeing tonight.

The show follows a family and their gun shop [Gunsmoke] based out of Wheat Ridge, Colorado (or Golden as they say to sound more glamorous no doubt) and the custom work and mega-gun deals as they buy, sell, trade and blow stuff up. It’s a “REALITY” TV show in the sense that they use real people on the show rather than actors. Some of the deals are real and some are staged. Some deals are real but planned and some of them really are walk-ins. Some people walk in and demand to be put on TV and Rich or Brian or Bob or whoever else will promptly tell them to take a walk, at which point the angered gun diva will spew gallons of hate on the interwebs, forums and google reviews. Everything posted on the web is true, right?

Rich and me, pre-sunburn at the gravel pit we shot the reveal segment in.

MY IMPRESSION OF RICH WYATT…

What’s Rich Wyatt like in real life? Honestly I didn’t know what to think because I’d spent time on Google and forums and lots of people didn’t have kind things to say about him or his shop. But Rich was honest, spoke clearly and concisely and spoke what was on his mind. Gunsmoke is not a price point shop and he didn’t apologize about this. He told me while looking me in the eye and unwavering that he does American Guns for 2 reasons: First, to get the word out about guns. Guns are cool, they’re okay, they can be used for fun, protection and sport, and second, “To make some money.” Just like that. He didn’t tell me he sold out, and he didn’t apologize for making bank with the show. Apparently before we started filming when he found out about Haus of Guns he went online, looked me up, saw what I was about and had to say then grilled me with questions. He really seemed genuinely interested in the site and what we’re all about. So much so that I’ve been invited back to attend one of their concealed carry firearm courses to see what I think and do a write up on it.

This is the magical source of super slow-mo high def goodness.

MY 3 FAVORITE THINGS:

  1. The “Haggling” scene with Rich Wyatt at the counter in the store. We had to do it over and over, but if you’re a haggler and enjoy arguing over the price of something you understand how much fun that can be. So when you see my personal rifle set on the counter I offered up for “trade” (for show purposes only, I still have the rifle) and see Rich and I going at it over price that part was real. It was a lot of fun. We laughed, kidded around and almost forgot the cameras were there. Hopefully it comes across when the scene airs.
  2. The “REVEAL” and wrap up day was long. 9 hours in the wide open heat with no shade and the SAME thing over and over. Me walking with the newly renovated shotgun, looking for fake targets with Rich shouting in my ear. You can tell he’s a pro at the reality TV filming game. But the camera work we did was insane. The Ultra High Speed camera you’ll see the super slow-mo shots from films at 5300 FRAMES PER SECOND! The filming for those shots was exhausting, but seeing the end result on the viewfinder was uber cool.
  3. Renee is an absolute sweetheart. She was fun, encouraging and not fake at all. If her feet hurt because she has to wear obnoxious heels she’d say so but without whining. When she got tired of standing in the sun she sat in the shade and never once did I hear her demean even the lowliest of production assistants (or “PA” as we say in the biz ;) ). She was complimentary and encouraging towards me and even open to talking about their family and offering plenty of questions about mine.

Renee was sweet, sincere and not annoying at all. Looks like Rich resisted the side-hug a little too much here. Post sunburn pic.

PERSPECTIVE…

What I’m about to tell you next may ruin reality TV for you but it’s important you come back to earth and get a grip on what’s real and not.

You feel like an idiot on the show. On the individual interview parts where you’re sort of doing your monologue the directors make you amp up the excitement to the point of feeling fake. To tell you the truth I’m afraid I’ll look like a fool with what they were driving me to say. And when you’re on set filming you can see why they have you do this. The scenes are filmed over and over so many times that everything loses it’s luster. Stuff gets repetitive and it can be easy to lose interest when fatigue and boredom begin to set in. There were parts where I felt so ridiculous and fake that I considered just walking away. I didn’t for the sole purpose that I gave my word to show up and do my thing, but it’s worth noting that it crossed my mind.

The whole time we filmed the producers pushed me to sell a story not mine that wasn’t real. Because I wouldn’t bring in my grandfather’s ACTUAL 1952 Sears & Roebuck J.C. Higgins 12 Gauge shotgun to be ravaged and overhauled for my episode, the show peeps snatched an old beat up Remington 870 Wingmaster from the shelves of Gunsmoke and we ran with it for the story line. Stories of break-ins and fears about an unsafe environment were firsthand stories of other customers and some of the filming crew, not my own. The best way I can think to describe my role was to come on the show as myself but also as an actor without a script.

FURTHER… the explosions were real and filmed on the spot, but because of possibly destroying the wires for detonating the plastic explosives, I didn’t actually get to shoot the targets as they popped up. I did get to fire live rounds, but they were all sent into a hillside either over the top or to the side of the moving targets. You’ll be happy to know I hit the bushes I was aiming for. Most of me running the course they set up that you’ll see was doing so on about a dozen “DRY” runs with the gun unloaded. Remember what I said about false excitement, AND this being a TV show? Everything done is for the audience sitting at home watching, not us in front of the cameras.

Rich Wyatt and the firearms safety instructor were very complimentary about my gun handling habits and proficiency. Rich actually told me that if you watch the show most of the time as soon as the customer shoots and the gun goes empty you’ll see him snatch the gun away from them immediately. Which I had noticed and did bring up. The safety guy was kind enough to say I was the most capable shooter they’d had on the show yet and with that gave me the trust of letting me handle the shotgun all day which I did with pleasure. :)

The Firearms Safety Dude (whose name is omitted because he didn’t give me permission to use it) holding “my” modified Remington 870. Hint his name may or may not be on the back of his 5.11 hat. :)

WRAPPING UP…

In the end it was a positive experience. I did learn that I don’t ever want to be on a reality TV show like Top Shot or maybe even have my own TV show. EVER. The repetition is boring and exhausting and the things you do for TV made me feel like I was compromising who I was. If REAL reality TV isn’t real enough to make it entertaining or a good sell, I’m not interested. Also, I would never even consider defiling an heirloom shotgun into something of the tactical variety. Though the story we presented was cute, it’s not what I would do under those circumstances. And while the guys at Gunsmoke did a fine job transforming the beat up old Wingmaster into a tacticool dream, the work they did isn’t anything I wouldn’t feel confident doing myself in my own shop… for a QUARTER of the price.

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50 Responses to Behind the Scenes on “American Guns”

  1. Phenomenal look at the “reality” of REALITY TV, Ebbs. So glad you had the opportunity and that you could hook your readers up with the “rest of the story”.

  2. Oh man…I’m so glad that I read this. I was sick thinking that was your Grandfather’s shotgun. Hooah. You did great.

    • Ebbs says:

      Haha, crazy thought isn’t it? It’s something I’d do with an OLD shotgun but not a family heirloom. And NOT something I’d have done if I trust myself to do it well and do it right.

      • EthanP says:

        I feel much better now. It really bothered me thinking someone, (you), had cut up a family treasure. I know it’s only a TV show, and I’m sure that some of the weird requests are staged, but I did think the “walk ins” were real. I enjoy the show too.

  3. Dan says:

    Very interesting Ebbs! I did not get to watch the show yet (no TV) but I’ll be sure to check it out once it’s on Netflix. That said, I got a lot of context from this writeup and it is a fascinating look into behind the camera of these reality shows. I can see how this stuff would grate on you, being an actor isn’t easy – reality TV or not! Much respect.

    Dan

  4. I filmed for an episode of this early on. I don’t think my segment made it into the show because it was pretty lame. I didn’t do a great job of “playing the part”.

    But I will say that I got a vibe from Rich that I didn’t like. I felt like he was fake and he was hiding behind a mask of professionalism. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just didn’t trust him. I got a bad vibe from most of the shop. The production crew was cool and helpful, but my experience at Gunsmoke overall was one that made me sure that I wasn’t ever going back there.

    And they say it’s in Golden? lulz….it’s not golden, is ghetto ass Wheatridge. I hate that part of town.

    • Ebbs says:

      I see what you’re saying both about maybe having a feeling on Rich and also about having to “play the part.” Fortunately for me I speak for a living so rocking the ad-lib was a piece of cake. My experience with Rick was a bit difference. I can understand where some might get that impression of him, especially if in conversation you feel like you’re talking to the same Rich from the show, BUT because things are so amped up and they make you push the excitement and stuff it’s hard to tell where that Rich ends and the real Rich starts. Because of his finding out about Haus of Guns it felt like I got through to real Rich pretty quick even before the camera was rolling.

      There’s also bound to be a feeling of falsehood when the shop operates as a gun sore but also exists for a show. Where does the show start and the real business stop. I think eventually you either end up living a double life or the lines are so blurred they eventually end up running together in one.

  5. Jean Kinion says:

    Eric, you looked great to me and Johnny :)

    Jean

  6. ArmoryBlog says:

    Thanks for a look behind the scenes!

    • Ebbs says:

      My pleasure Ray. After a story line that contained me ravaging my “grandpa’s” old bird hunting rifle, I wanted to make sure there was a narrative to set the record straight. Helps keep people down to earth too. Reality TV isn’t good enough. It has to be super-reality and entertainment driven or it doesn’t get the ratings.

  7. Cool beans man! Hope I get to see it soon! But be warned taking any advise from Jake ;) Top Shot is edited, but the producers DON’T script anything at all – the keyword is organic. Any actions are 100% the characters choice. But Jake gets confused listening to all the voices in his head…

    • Ebbs says:

      LOL thanks Dustin. We’ll obviously take anything Jake says with a grain of salt. However in this application it was 100% spot on. They didn’t put makeup on me and I didn’t have a script but everything else just sort of that was done to doctor things up for TV. After watching the short blurbs of mine they actually used in the show, I can definitely see how job one is doctoring the show for the audiences consumption.

  8. Great read! I can honestly say that I enjoyed reading your write-up more than watching their gunsmiths bicker amongst eachother. Did you get to keep the 870?

    • Ebbs says:

      Thanks Caleb. I wish I could say I got to keep it but alas. Just as I refused to bring in my grandfather’s ACTUAL shotgun for the project, they denied my attempt at keeping the project. :|

  9. Tommy Berry (BigHoss) says:

    What a great read! Thank you for your attention to helping others understand that TV is just that, a show put on for our viewing pleasure (or to irritate some so they complain online, thus running up the ratings). I appreciate and enjoy AG, and many other “gun shows” for what they are…a bit of information to stir our imaginations, a little entertainment, and some points on guns that we may not have thought of ourself. Again, great read…thanks for sharing your experience with us!

    • Ebbs says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Tommy. I also felt like I needed to clear things up so the viewing world wouldn’t buy into me actually paying the $1300 difference for that modified shotgun, all of which I could do on my own in house!

  10. [...] Eastern, IowaPosts: 1,577Liked 14 Times on 13 PostsLikes Given: 15 This puts it in perspective: http://www.hausofguns.com/2012/07/11/behind-the-scenes-on-american-guns/__________________"Regardless of whether justified of not, you will feel sad about killing [...]

  11. As someone who does his own sometimes-one-man webshow i feel your pain. The reshoots and repetition get old, but i try and look at the finished product as a whole. I look at it like cooking: peeling potatoes sucks, but the scalloped taters and ham you get when theyre done is worth it.

    One thing i always do is shoot live ammo on target. It may not look “cool” but its 100% real world and that comes across in my videos. editing can do alot, but if youre running with an empty gun or intentionally off target, the audience can tell that.

  12. Komodo says:

    Haha you should be glad your fans get so exited about the inaccuracies. Besides, it`s free feedback on what to fix and what to improve for next shows. Keep up the good entertainment bud.

  13. Aaron Spuler says:

    I appreciate you sharing your insight. It is really neat to see a fellow gun blog guy on a show like this. The fact thelat you provided the real scoop was excellent.

  14. ArmsVault says:

    Great job, Ebbs! This was a very eye-opening view of the show.

    – Greg

    • Ebbs says:

      Thanks Greg. Glad it was practical. My experience was pretty eye opening.

      • ArmsVault says:

        I’m sure it was a bit more staged than you expected, but it was still a great opportunity for you.

        For what is it worth… I think a Haus of Guns show would be awesome. I’d certainly tune in!

        • Ebbs says:

          I’d have to think long and hard about a TV show. They’re so invasive and path altering. You pretty much sell yourself and your family to the show from what I’ve observed.

  15. jason jerrolds says:

    Yeah I would hope any decent gunnie would not pay that type of insane price for such an easy upgrade.

    • Ebbs says:

      Jason, pretty much all the prices on the show are a sham. Realistically with parts and labor this may have been a $400-$600 job. In which case if the low ball he offered for my Thompson Center were an actual price it should have been an even trade. But people just don’t get excited about a $400 mod job on an 870. If the price is higher it supposedly makes for better TV and makes everything seem more valuable. At least for the crowd that doesn’t know any better anyway.

      • EthanP says:

        I guess the show depends on most of the audience not having a clue on gun prices. For what was the stated price with the trade, you could still buy a new 870 riot gun and install the Mods youself and have money left over for ammo.

  16. [...] fake. The guy posted about it online. He's a gun/ammo blogger that responded to a casting call. Behind the Scenes on "American Guns" The sad thing is that if this "reality tv" is supposed to help introduce people to the [...]

  17. EthanP says:

    I think you’ll enjoy this Ebbs. It has to do with what you said about “staging” for American Guns and most reality shows. This past week on American Pickers, Mike purchased a Confederate belt buckle with a minie ball inbedded in it. I would not have given it much thought. Until that is I was watching Pawn Stars and what do you suppose a man brought in. You guessed it. A Confederate belt buckle with a minie ball inbedded in it! Isn’t it a small world? How many do you suppose are out there. My sceptisism is partly based on the pristine condition of the soft lead bullet.

  18. larry says:

    Did you get to meet Paige? What was she like?

    • Ebbs says:

      I did not, just Rick and Renee. Though judging by the way she dresses I’d say she’s “like” someone who wants a lot of attention.

      • ArmsVault says:

        I’ll be honest… that is my biggest problem with the show. It feels like the daughter is being used as a marketing tool… Shorter shorts = better ratings.

  19. Gerry in Denver says:

    Ebbs, enjoyed your turn in front of the camera. Looked real to me! ***final words edited for content.

  20. Phil says:

    I’ve never watched American Guns before today, and seeing you in this episode I had to look on your web site and was pleased to find this report. Thanks for putting the reality back into reality TV!

  21. [...] statePosts: 209Liked 1 Times on 1 PostsLikes Given: 6 If you want to read the Behind the scenes. http://www.hausofguns.com/2012/07/11/behind-the-scenes-on-american-guns/    vbmenu_register('postmenu_likes882455', [...]

  22. Tom Russell says:

    I really enjoy this show as it puts shooting in such an entertaining, positive light. If I remember correctly, the price they quoted you on the show was something like $1700. 25% of that would be $425. So you’re saying you can find a Magpul stock and adapter, pistol grip, Surefire forend ($375 msrp), Vang Comp barrel, Cerokote finish, and ghost rings sights for $425? Either you’ve got an incredible source for high-end parts or you’re exaggerating for dramatic effect which is really what you’ve criticized the show for doing, and that would be hypocrisy. What am I missing here?

    • Ebbs says:

      You’re forgetting the extended magazine, enlarged dome safety selector, shell carrier and tactical follower and lower receiver gate. :)

      A couple of things to consider… The cost of Cerakote and “gunsmithing” interior parts are primarily labor intensive which is ridiculously expensive. Also, most if not all of the products used for the build were bought by the show, discovery channel or the production company which means all Gunsmoke had to do was build the thing.

      Had I done things my way (which I’m in the process of doing with an 870 Express Mag) it would be very near a quarter the cost. However you are correct. Considering name brand parts I’d be nowhere near the 25% mark so you’ve got me. I suppose a better way to word my exaggeration would be something along the lines of “If I wanted a tactical shotgun built to my specs I could do so for a quarter the cost and be satisfied with the results. Even if my version was a Chevy and Gunsmoke’s version was a Cadillac.”

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment objectively, Tom. I enjoyed getting to know Rich & Renee during filming and look forward to crossing paths with them again soon. Rich was frank and up front and unapologetic about the show or who he is which I can appreciate.

  23. [...] if not THE best option for defending your fortress. You may even remember a particular episode of Discovery Channel’s “American Guns” where yours truly appeared and heard Rich and Rene Wyatt exclaim that “everyone comprendes 12 [...]

  24. [...] When everyone emailed me this article today all of their questions were, “Was this from your TV show?” [...]

  25. […] J.C. Higgins pump shotgun with poly-chokes given to me by my late grandfather. This is the gun Discovery Channel’s American Guns WANTED to defile for the show. At which point I turned them down and they pulled an 870 Wingmaster […]

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