by Rob Kay
Editor’s Note: This is the first of several interviews conducted with Tim Harmsen. If you’re interested in Tim’s picks for the AK be sure and read his interview at the The AK-47 Buyers guide.
When I was a kid I remember sitting in front of our black & white TV watching Julia Child, the French Chef, with my dad. A graduate of hotel and restaurant management school, he knew his way around a kitchen. He nodded approvingly at her tomato slicing technique as if to say ‘she knows her business’. He then mentioned another celebrity chef and shook his head disapprovingly. “The minute I saw the way that guy chopped carrots,” said Dad, “I realized he didn’t know what in the hell he was doing.”
Given the same two choices when it comes to Tim Harmsen, host of the Military Arms Channel, the TheBangswitch and Military Arms Channel Facebook page, my dad would say, ‘He knows his business'”.
In the last few years Tim has become one of the most popular gun guys on the blogosphere. I believe he’s also one of the most trusted.
In an even-keeled, Midwestern demeanor, he covers just about every facet of the “Shooting Life” ranging from politics to product reviews. His no BS, reasonable manner combined with his military and firearms experience lends him a great deal of credibility.
If Tim digs a product he’ll let you know. If he doesn’t, he’ll have no problem telling you so. His recent review of a new Remington R51 pistol must have given management at Remington conniptions. That’s why consumers look to bloggers for purchasing advice. (When was the last time you saw anything negative about a gun published in a major firearms magazine? The only negative stuff you read is about politicians).
But I digress.
It’s not just what Tim says but how he says it. He’s polite, courteous and humble. There’s no ranting, puffery or phony machismo. He’s literate, he chooses his words carefully and he speaks in complete sentences.
He’s not trying to be cool. He’s trying to be as truthful as possible and people intuitively understand that.
He’s a serious guy who realizes a lot of people listen attentively to what he says. At the same time, I suspect he doesn’t take himself too seriously. (“It’s a hobby gone a bit out of control”, says Harmsen). As Psychologist Joseph Campbell would say, he’s “following his bliss”, which happens to be guns.
Like all of us, Tim has to support his family and pay his mortgage. His recent endeavor is Copper Custom, which which sells custom guns, including Marc Kreb’s products.
I wanted to interview Tim because, as a writer and industry observer, I was curious to know what makes him tick. He was kind enough to offer our publication a free ranging interview. I think you’ll enjoy it.
This is the first of a two-part series.
Q: Tell us a little about your background. Where did you grow up and how did your interest in firearms begin?
A: I grew up in Kansas. My parents divorced when I was 2 years old and my mom raised me on her own. She remarried when I was in my early teens and my stepfather was a bit of an outdoorsman. He introduced me to my first .22 rifle when I was around 13 years old. My interest continued to grow and by the time I was 16 I was talking to military recruiters, mostly because of my interest in firearms.
Q: Can you talk a bit about your career in the military? What kinds of jobs did you have and whereabouts were you posted? Did any of your duties revolve around firearms?
A: I enlisted in the Marines as a 0311 (rifleman) but never made it to the fleet. While I was in Infantry School (then called SOI) I was screened for a security clearance. The thing was, I had no idea why I was being screened or why. It was in the late 1980’s and the Cold War was still in full swing, so I figured it had something to do with that.
As it turns out, I was selected for Security Forces and wound up guarding nuclear weapons at Naval Submarine Base, Bangor (now Naval Base, Kitsap). At the time it was the only refit facility for the Trident Nuclear Submarine as KingsBay had yet to be built. During this time period, it was the most secure nuclear weapons facility in the world as the Trident represented the backbone of our nuclear deterrent.
While at NSB Bangor I was tasked with weapons security. The training consisted of everything from room clearing to counter-sniper training. We trained with SEAL’s and even local SWAT teams out of Seattle. It sounds more impressive than it really was, but it was an interesting time in my life.
Q: You often wade into politics and “current events” such as your recent coverage of a possible 7.62 x 39 ammo shortage. Do you have any professional background as a journalist or a public affairs officer?
A: I don’t have a background in journalism and honestly, until the last couple of years I didn’t have much interest in it. However, my passion for firearms and our rights in general led me into blogging via my activities on YouTube. Video blogging (aka YouTube) and traditional blogging sort of go hand in hand.
Q: Is blog writing and making videos a full time gig? Can you make a living at it or do you do other things to pay the mortgage?
A: It’s a hobby gone a bit out of control. It makes money, but not nearly enough to replace the income of my day job. The money that I earn through my blogging is reinvested into the blog and YouTube channel.
Q: I think your videos are really well done. Minimalist but professionally edited. Do you have a full time crew?
A: Our crew consists of me, and two cameramen who produce the videos. Aaron is my regular cameraman and is a long time friend. He lives in the same subdivision and accompanies me on most of my weekly video shoots. Phil accompanies me on some of my larger gigs like the Israel/IWI shoot and the Academi shoot. Phil owns a production company and produces videos for broadcast for a number of larger boradcast companies.
Q: What are your main objectives with Military Arms Channel and the Bangswitch?
A: The Military Arms Channel is primarily intended to be a video blog dedicated to the serious discussion of firearms. I try to avoid politics on MAC however during the recent threats to our rights post Sandy Hook I veered off into politics until the threat was repelled.
With TheBangSwitch I like to roll in political commentary with my reviews of products. A lot of my viewers like the political discussion and TBS gives me a comfortable venue for those discussions.
Q: Your bio says that you are an Armed Citizens United board member, NRA member, Oath Keeper and are commissioned as a Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky. Which of these activities are you most active? Care to talk about any of them?
A: I joined up with Armed Citizens United mostly because I felt other gun rights groups weren’t doing all they could to defend against the constant encroachment on our rights. None of the other big groups wanted to fight to repeal the NFA or to take a no compromise position on our rights.
I maintain my membership in the NRA because it is the largest of the pro-gun groups, however I find myself disenchanted with them often times. But, I support them through the good times and the bad.
The Oath Keepers is something I believe in very strongly and I urge all military, LEO’s and Firefighters to join them. If you don’t know who they are, or what they stand for, check them out on the web at https://oathkeepers.org/oath/.
Q: How did your life as a gun writer evolve? What were you doing before?
A: I’ve worked in advertising since the early 1990’s. I continue to work in that profession as I slowly become more involved in gun writing. I fell into gun writing through my efforts on YouTube. I think Social Media is poised to replace traditional media in the not too distant future, and folks on the traditional print side of the house realize this and many are trying to embrace the new media… and by proxy they have embraced me and others already establishing themselves in Social Media.
Q: I note that AGS Aramament & Consulting is a sponsor. How does that manifest itself?
A: They are a great bunch of guys who I have known for many years. They are local to me and because of that friendship I give them a push. In exchange they help me out with things like discounts on ammo and guns when I need them.
Stay tuned for part two of this series.
Photos courtesy of Tim Harmsen.
Questions? Comments? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Kay writes about firearms for Hawaii Reporter and is the author of How to Buy an AK-47.