The Materiality of Gun Culture: Revolver Espresso Cups

I sometimes hear people objecting to or denying the reality of gun culture in America. Some of these are people who want to undermine the strength of the gun lobby by suggesting that there is no gun culture standing behind it. Some of these are gun people who don’t like being lumped into some generic category.

To be sure, not everyone who owns a gun is a part of one of America’s gun cultures. But there are gun cultures in America that are identifiable and amenable to sociological analysis. A key aspect of any culture is its material dimension. Browsing around on for some espresso cups to go with my new Nespresso Pixie I came across these revolver cups.

Revolver Espresso Cups
Honestly, I am a bit nervous to drink out of them because they are a cheaply made Chinese product — the SKS of espresso cups — and I worry about lead poisoning from the silver glaze on the outside. But they make a nice display/conversation piece around my office coffee maker. And they do reflect something about American gun cultures.


  1. So are you representative of the “gun culture”? Do you have a list of the identified traits in this culture?

    The idea that 85,000,000 people can be summed up in a single “gun culture” is absolutely ludicrous. I’m the Membership Secretary for a 2,500 member private range; we have enough trouble getting people to agree on BBQ for the 4th of July Picnic much less anything substantial.

    Just in our club alone we have the “Shotgunners”, the “Hunters”, the “Old Time Hunters” (related sub culture to Hunters), the “Tactical crowd”, the “Plinkers”, etc. Imagine how diverse across the country and 85 Million people the ‘gun culture’ truly is.

    Even your own blog references this — so why perpetuate the myth of uniformity?

    Bob S.


  2. Bob – thanks for your comment. You definitely fall into the category I mentioned at the outset: gun people who don’t like to get lumped into a generic category. And I can appreciate that. But I think you misread my post.

    I did try to be somewhat sensitive to the concerns you express. I do not suggest that 85,000,000 people can be summed up in a single culture — in fact, I said that not everyone who owns a gun is a part of one of America’s gun cultures. So, we’re not even talking about 85M people here to start.

    Note also that I began the post by using the singular gun culture, but thereafter use the plural gun cultureS. You highlight the existence of plural gun cultures yourself in distinguishing various subcultures at your club. Books like Abigail Kohn’s “Shooters” which focuses on SASS and Jimmy Taylor’s “American Gun Culture” which focuses on gun collectors highlight some of these distinctive cultures.

    I do not have a list of identified traits of any of these cultures, as this is a work in progress. My framework for understanding, though, would begin by distinguishing between the implicit (non-material) and explicit (material) dimensions of culture. The implicit dimension includes both cognitive (beliefs and knowledge) and normative (values and norms) components. The implicit dimension gets expressed in the material dimension — practices, technology, language (spoken and written), art, architecture, and so on.

    So, to the extent that a culture exists, its members will share — to a greater or lesser extent, there does not have to be 100% uniformity — beliefs, knowledge, values, and norms as seen in practices, technology, language, etc.

    Sociologists and anthropologists often say that culture is to humans as water is to a fish. You don’t always recognize the ubiquity of own culture until you are taken out of it. That is why we say that someone who is in a new cultural environment and doesn’t know what to do is “like a fish out of water.”

    One reason I know gun cultures exists is because I come from outside that culture. When I first started going to gun ranges, sporting clays courses, and gun shows, I had the fish out of water experience. When I first started reading gun magazines, listening to gun-themed radio shows, and watching gun-related television shows, I had the fish out of water experience. Not to mention all things gun-related on Web 2.0.

    So I can say confidently that gun cultureS exist in America. Whether there is a common culture — that encompasses all of these other gun cultures — I cannot say a priori. I will allow that if one does exist, it is probably very thin. But I wouldn’t be surprised to find something that most people (not all people!) who are “shotgunners”, “hunters”, the “old time hunters,” the “tactical crowd”, the “plinkers,” the collectors, the cowboy action shooters, the 3-gunners, the self-defense preppers, and others have in common. Maybe it is as thin as understanding the difference between a fully-automatic and semi-automatic firearm, a revolver from a auto-loaders, or a .22LR cartridge from a .223.


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