It seemed like only yesterday when myself, Steve Johnson, and Alex C. started TFBTV on January 20 at SHOT Show 2015. Steve and Alex have moved on, but despite the loss of a top-tier executive producer and a personality with an enviable arsenal, the channel has seen explosive growth: 380 thousand subscribers, over 800 years of total watch time, and now it will close out 2017 with over 100 million views. TFBTV continues to improve, as 50 million of those views came in 2017 alone.
I’m still around, and presently attempting to fill Steve’s considerable shoes as executive producer. I am proud to work alongside one hell of a team, including Marine combat vet, Miles Vining, who focuses on military history, unique and antique firearms, and infantry tactics; Our ballistics guru, Andrew, also a veteran who makes some of the best personal defense ammunition ballistics tests on YouTube for TFBTV and for his own channel, The Chopping Block, and; Mike, a.k.a. “Bloke on the Range,” who contributes a monthly feature to TFBTV when he isn’t producing top tier content on European small arms on his own YouTube Channel.
TFB contributor and Marine vet Corey Wardrop is also set to join TFBTV in 2018. Corey is the curator of the Institute of Military Technology in Florida, which gives him access to one of the largest gun collections in the world. We hope to expand that access to you, TFBTV viewers.
TFB’s managing editor, Pete, recently did a rundown of the most-viewed videos of 2017, so if you want to watch TFBTV’s greatest hits, click here. But if you’d rather get behind the scenes, the editors circulated four questions for James, Miles, Andrew, and Mike to answer about their time with TFB’s video branch:
“What was your favorite video to make and why?”
Any time I can make a video with an exotic yet practical weapon. While crew-served weapons and LMGs are always fun to shoot, I really got a kick out of shooting the documentary on the H&K MP7 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h84rQDvT4g4
) and the Glock 18C. There’s something a little bit more thrilling about unleashing a bullet buzzsaw that can fit under your favorite Member’s Only jacket. The Glock 18 video was especially great because I got to make the video at Glock HQ and got a mini-course on the Glock 18 from Glock’s lead instructor.
Without a shadow of doubt, my favorite video was our WWII Squad Live Fire that we did in February 2017. It was a monster amount of work, went way over production costs, had to work with 20 different volunteer schedules, the cold, Ivan targets not working, pyrotechnics not going off, forgetting the smoke grenades halfway through, but by God was it worth it. When I look back on everything I’ve written for TFB and filmed for TFB TV, this exercise and my research on the AKS74U “Krinkov” are where I actually feel like I contributed to the field of historical small arms research, however small they may be. As a student of history, this is very gratifying in many ways. The kinds of things we learned from that Squad Live Fire could not have been learned from personal accounts of those weapon systems, and it would have been very hard to independently confirm if we had tried it any other way.
I think it would have to be the Revolver Showdown (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QRuEffnYf4
) since it involved the most fun kind of shooting I’ve done on a TFB vid yet. But even then, one of the revolvers didn’t play ball with the ammo and I ended up with exactly one take where I managed to get 12 rounds out of the Swiss revolver before running out of ammo, and I had massive trigger stall failing to pull that ridiculous double action trigger each time on demand, as it were. You should see my look of absolute despair in a couple of outtakes….
Definitely the Christmas special. It made me feel warm inside to read about how much pellets hate me.
“What was your least favorite video to make and why?”
Any rifle review in the summer where I have to go prone. No question. Bugs in South Louisiana go out of control and will kamikaze into your eyes, hair, mouth, ears, etc. while you’re filming, even if you have so much DEET on your face that you literally can’t feel your lips. But as far as a specific video, definitely the RAM Truck video from last SHOT Show. RAM approached me and said they liked TFBTV videos and said they’d let us publish the first video on this sportsman-geared truck, so I figured “why not?” I hardly know as much about trucks as your average Southerner, so the RAM guy was constantly having to feed me lines about the axles, differentials, steering, etc. and I would screw them up over and over. I think we shot for almost 2 hours and got maybe 4 minutes of usable footage. They were ready to kill me at the end of it.
My initial videos for sure. Where I’m barely coming through on the audio, or have shots that could have been re-shot much better. Many of them are even cringey to me, and I’m so glad I’ve gotten past them, thanks to all the advice of the guys on the team, in addition to the commenters that truly keep you honest. I feel like I’ve come a long way for someone who never really grew up in the United States, has never owned and never will own a television set, and doesn’t have a humorous personality on my own.
This one’s easy: the gun show in Luzern, Switzerland (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRpBS_aaTFc
) was an absolute horror. I’d arranged permission to film and had my press badge, but I nevertheless kept being accosted by random people asking me if I had permission… “Filming is verboten
!” “Err, press pass…” “Oh, sorry…” I got some footage of certain stalls, but some really wanted to check I wasn’t an anti and I ended up showing them my membership card to ProTell, one of the Swiss gun rights organisations, before they’d let me. Also, try filming in a crowd while making sure that random people aren’t identifiable, since they tend not to like that… It was noisy in there too, so doing any talking to camera was impossible. No problem, thinks I, I’ll just voice it over in post-production. Easy. Err, nope. Turns out that’s a complete PITA. All in all, it took me at least an hour’s work per minute of video. Never again…
Any video in the summer. Holy balls, it’s hot here (AZ). And I have to work fast to keep the gel from getting too warm so I’m literally running back and forth between the cameras, lugging gel blocks and whatnot. The only good thing is that there’s plenty of light for the 8 hours or so that it takes get everything done.
“If you could make any TFBTV video in the future, what would it be?”
Interview with my man GASTON GLOCK. Runner up would be a collaboration with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Terry Crews. Or Burger King. Gun-wise, I need to shoot a Beretta 93R.
Repeat our WWII Live Fire, but with other eras and other small arms. A German squad, a Soviet squad, trench warfare, maybe even going back to the Civil War. The biggest problem is getting the volunteers and the logistics organized for such a large event.
If I could get my hands on a Johnson M1941 rifle, I’d like to pit that against an M1 Garand in a fiendish set of trials. There’s always a wishful-thinking tendancy for people to presume that prototypes or small production rifles would have been better than what was actually adopted, as if they wouldn’t have had the same teething troubles that practically every other design adopted as standard suffered. The Johnson is a rifle of that type that is at least somewhat available even if it is a bit of a unicorn, having at least been used in reasonable numbers by the USMC during WW2, so is more likely than being able to do something really rare like an EM2.
I’d like to test the M41 pulse rifle. I still think it was just BS political games that gave the Marines the M41 while the Army is stuck with the ZF-1 pod system. Sure, the ZF-1 has a lot more features, but it weighs a great deal more and most of those features have little practical benefit on the battlefield.
“Other than TFBTV, what is your favorite YT channel(s)?”
Muh dawgs at Polenar Tactical. I met them at SHOT Show and I have considered Samo, Ziga, Manca, and Luka to be friends ever since. The last night of SHOT, I split a suite at the Palazzo with one of my college buddies that comes to Vegas to help with photography for the show. We wanted to ball out on the last night so we more or less wasted most of our Friday TFB checks on a big room for one last hurrah in Vegas. We invited the Polenar crew up and they brought Brandon (The AK Guy, who also has a fantastic YT channel). They all walked in the room and saw two dudes by themselves in a suite with a couple of cameras on tripods and made…assumptions. They didn’t tell me about these…assumptions…until we got to know each other in Slovenia, but at the time they definitely thought we were in the figurative “honeymoon suite.”
I’ve historically always liked Forgotten Weapons and Military Arms Channel. Ian really does well with getting in deep detail about the history surrounding a certain firearm, while Tim does good with bringing a very modern perspective on older small arms, as well as newer ones.
Other than my own (Bloke on the Range: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9k2WzcJ1kUMl4KIwNQwrFA)? Ha. Got it in there, I think I got away with it! Anyway, keeping it to 5, Forgotten Weapons, InRange, C&Rsenal, Taofledermaus and British Muzzleloaders. All of these channels cross over in various ways with my interests and what I like to present in videos. And they’re all super cool guys, which is always a bonus.
Buffman R.A.N.G.E. and The Wound Channel are straight OG. They do solid work and they deserve a much bigger following. Of course, Carnik Con is legit tier one and Mbest 11x makes me tingly downstairs. But I think my very favorite, sure down and watch any time, channel is AvE. That dude is a real man and he can make things chooch.