Spending time at Ox Ranch in a remote corner of Texas is one big blast after another for gun enthusiasts. There are 18,000 acres of prime hunting lands there, but it’s also a place where you can maneuver and fire actual decommissioned military tanks and shoot assorted artillery that most only see in movies.
All of these things, plus a pavilion that holds 500 people, make Uvalde, Texas, an excellent location for the annual Gundie Awards, which recognize the internet’s overachievers in the realms of shooting and hunting. In today’s parlance, the Gundies honor the pro-gun community’s top influencers and content creators. They’re the people who most effectively spread 2A message through various digital platforms. “It’s a popularity contest, in reality, but it’s also about coming together as a community and making an opportunity to focus on the fun side of things,” says Ben Stacy, a marketing professional who is co-creator of the event.
The awards are the brainchild of his Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-based marketing firm called Forge Relations. Stacy’s business partner, Will Renke, is a big fan of the TV series The Office, and the idea sprang from that show’s employee awards called the Dundies. This year, their third, Stacy and Renke rolled out the red carpet for nominees and winners in 15 different categories. More than two million votes were cast, and just over 500 people attended the awards ceremony, which was also live-streamed.
Stacy says the get-together is also valuable for professional networking among the nominees and the many sponsors and a chance to make more personal connections. Their ultimate, more serious mission, he says, is to promote their lifestyle to younger people so it doesn’t disappear. “Guns are a passion just like someone might like to go fishing or dirt bike riding,” he says. “If we don’t reach this next generation and introduce them to this sport, this passion, it literally won’t exist in 20 or 30 years.”
And the Winners Are…
Read up on the winners of this year’s Gundie Awards, and you’ll see an incredibly diverse group with a common and undying interest in firearms.
Best Gun Reviewer
One thing you can say about Chris Randall; he’s a straight shooter. He’s thorough, and he speaks freely, saying what he really thinks. Most people love his level but unyielding approach, though gun manufacturers aren’t always happy with what he has to say. Known for his comprehensive technical knowledge, he calls his style “good old-fashioned fun on the range.” He does the talking while his wife, La Rae, captures it on camera from their home base in rural Iowa. They have 743,000 followers, but their most popular videos, such as “Top 7 Guns I Wish I Didn’t Buy,” have as many as four million views.
This young music superstar’s passion for guns is somewhat under the radar, but he hasn’t exactly kept it a secret. He showed off some of his prized weapons to a Rolling Stone reporter doing a feature profile in 2017, and his collection has grown considerably since. “He has probably the biggest firearm collection I’ve ever seen in my life,” says Gundies organizer Ben Stacy. “He has a genuine passion for it. He’s building his own private gun range.” Malone, whose real name is Austin Post, had strong competition in this new category—the other nominees included Joe Rogan, Ted Nugent, Keanu Reeves, and Miranda Lambert. Malone was unable to accept in person, but his friend Tim Boulton of Gallenson’s Gun Shop in Salt Lake City accepted on his behalf.
Best Guns of Hollywood
Heckler & Koch MP5
This was another new category, and it was no surprise to anyone that this legendary and iconic German-made submachine gun took top honors. Familiar onscreen or off, the H&K MP5 is so well known that many gun enthusiasts can ID it only from its silhouette. It was first developed as a close-range weapon in the mid-1960s and today is used by military and law enforcement in more than 50 countries. Hollywood loves it, too. It has played major and minor roles in countless classic films such as Die Hard, Blackhawk Down, The Matrix, Lethal Weapon 2, Speed, The Da Vinci Code, Fast & Furious, and many others.
If you’re looking for proof that hunting is catching on more and more with women, look no further than Kristy Titus. Her many fans, including scores of young ladies, admire her for her strong and outspoken support of the Second Amendment as well as her impressive exploits hunting big game. She is host of the wildly popular Wild and Uncut podcast as well as the Carbon TV digital series Pursue the Wild. The Oregon native has nearly 73,000 followers on Instagram. She is a competitive shooter with Team Ruger and a certified firearms instructor. She also serves on the National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors and its Youth Shooting Sports Committee.
If there’s ever something along the lines of a Gundies Hall of Fame, Jerry Miculek will no doubt be a shoo-in. He’s widely known as the fastest shooter in the world, and he’s accurate, too. One of his many accomplishments was emptying a five-shot revolver in 0.57 seconds in a grouping the size of a playing card. This was the third win in a row in this category for the longtime South Louisiana resident. He’s a winner outside of shooting competitions, too, with an enviable reputation for personal integrity. As a testament to his character, he is also entrusted to name the winner of another Gundies honor, the Jerry Miculek Achievement Award, which recognizes an exemplary person in the gun community. He selected Josue Cordova, a paralyzed Air Force veteran who is an avid hunter active in wheelchair sports.
Breakout Creator of the Year
At just eight years old, Autumn Fry should have plenty of time to build a bigger fan base. But her YouTube channel has 180,000 subscribers already, and she has 44,600 followers on Instagram. A video showing her deftly wielding two pistols simultaneously is the one that went viral, eventually reaching more than three million viewers and leading to her breakout success. She and her family are full-time RVers who often visit firing ranges during their travels. Amber shows a surprising level of proficiency and maturity for her age and seems unlikely to outgrow her enthusiasm for guns any time soon. She’s quickly become a poster girl for the pro-gun community who spreads her love of shooting to other kids her age.
Firearms Instructor of the Year
Warrior Poet Society
Combat veteran John Lovell started out with simple training videos, but he’s branched out to offer life lessons, political insight, and more. He’s the authoritative personality behind the Warrior Poet Society, which has 1.2 million subscribers devouring wide-ranging content with almost Netflix-level production values. “The Warrior Poet Society is focused on making lions of lambs and lambs of lions,” says Lovell, who served in special operations with Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. “It’s not contradictory, it’s complementary.” That’s why you might find valuable family advice or philosophical discussions alongside practical how-tos such as how to train with limited ammo or how to shoot one-handed. While this prize for Lovell points to his undeniable teaching skills, he’s so much more than that, and his following will undoubtedly grow.
Influencer of the Year
If she weren’t so incredibly talented in her own right, it would be easy to accuse Lena Miculek of riding the coattails of her successful parents. Her dad, Jerry, is often called the world’s best shooter and her mom, Kay Clark Miculek, is also highly accomplished. This meant an early start for Lena, who won her first shooting competition at age eight. “It would be hard for anyone to follow in her family’s footsteps, but she’s made her own reputation and can certainly stand on her own,” says the Gundies’ Ben Stacy. “She does a great job of continuing the legacy and promoting all the right messages.” And she’s a phenomenal shooter, having won eight world titles in five different shooting disciplines.
Most Dapper Influencer
Britishmuzzleloaders (Rob Enfield)
Sometimes clothes make the man—or at least help him get his point across. As an historical weapons specialist, this mustachioed military expert knows all of the most arcane details of vintage British weapons. And he dresses the part, too—he continually proves that sartorial sophistication is timeless. He’s Rob, from Alberta, Canada, and he is also known for his almost obsessive knowledge of wartime weaponry from the musket age and through the Victorian era. Viewers are accustomed to his finely tailored uniforms appropriate to each period. He’s quite a contrast to typical guntubers in their caps and t-shirts, but he’s certainly not all style and no substance. As evidence that he really knows his stuff, he also was a finalist as Best Gun Reviewer.
Most Entertaining Content Creator
You mention Brandon Herrera’s name, and people laugh. That’s how lively and entertaining he is. One of the running jokes, or storylines, on his channel deals with the 50-caliber version of an AK-47 that he’s building. Millions of people check in regularly for the latest on his almost-mythical AK-50, and the videos are proof that there’s a prototype that’s a work in progress. Another popular regular feature is his Gun Meme Reviews, in which he does smartly funny reactions on the latest relevant memes that are making the rounds. With such a captivating and witty manner, it’s no wonder that Herrera, aka “the AK Guy,” has topped this category every year.
Most Influential Female
Working as an online influencer is a full-time gig for many, but Toni McBride has a pretty demanding day job, too. She’s a veteran officer with the LAPD and still finds time to work as a competitive shooter for Taran Tactical Innovations. Her association with the Hollywood training outfit has led to professional encounters with some recognizable names, including Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Joe Rogan, and Michael B. Jordan. She has over 114,000 followers on Instagram and is credited with drawing many more women to the sport. “She’s influential in terms of the audience that she’s reaching,” says Gundie co-founder Ben Stacy. “She projects a classy image, and many females look up to her as a role model.”
Most Influential Male
Ian McCollum from Forgotten Weapons
You could say that Ian McCollum rescues old guns from obscurity. How old are they? He says his area of expertise is weapons going back to the mid-1800s. “These are often unusual, interesting, rare firearms,” he says in an intro video to his viewers, “and what I try to do is always find what makes a firearm particularly interesting.” His stories are riveting, eased along with his mannerly and articulate demeanor. “What you won’t find here is politics,” he goes on to say. “I have political views, they’re my own, and I keep them off the channel.” His method is quite effective—he has 2.34 million subscribers after 11 years and produces five new videos a week. He has also written several books on firearms from the past.
Most Innovative Brand
Finally, an exploding target that’s easier and safer to use. Firebird Targets are ready-to-use detonating targets that are not binary, which means you don’t have to mix any harmful chemicals or powders. Each Firebird is a 65-millimeter adhesive disc, so you can just peel off the backing and stick it to a stationary target or clay pigeon. They’re great for rifles and shotguns as well as air rifles and archery. On impact they give a satisfying boom and a blast of smoke, so they’re a lot of fun in addition to being an effective training tool. Gundies organizers note that the product isn’t brand new, but the manufacturer, based in Fort Worth, stepped up its online presence recently.
If you’re wondering why these guys weren’t in the running for “most entertaining,” you can rest assured that they were. It was their military background and survival skills, and maybe their penchant for heavy drinking that qualified them for this more offbeat category. The Gundie Awards are meant to be a fun diversion from more serious matters, and Polenar Tactical is leading the charge from around the world in Slovenia. They’re mission is to use humor to help expand the shooting culture across Europe. “We are also passionate about advocating safe, responsible gun ownership,” they say. They’ve been going strong for over a decade and have nearly 660,000 subscribers.
Top Voices of the 2A
Attorney Anthony Miranda concisely wades through the legalese to get to the essence of gun laws. With his watchful eyes, he’s constantly on the lookout for legislation that could affect the Second Amendment, one way or the other, and does daily updates on his latest findings. His reports are thorough and easy to understand, and you get the sense that he’s a committed specialist who stays ahead of the curve. You can easily tap into Miranda’s knowledge to not only arm yourself for debates or arguments but also to know where your own legal ground begins and ends.