Military Channel’s newest show, “Triggers: Weapons that Changed the World,” starts on Wednesday, Nov. 30, and from the looks of the episodes we’ve screened, it should be very popular with anyone who is interested in guns, their history and their applications.
Hosted by Wil Willis, a veteran with the rather rare accomplishment of being both an Army Ranger and an Air Force Pararescueman, the show kicks off with a look at the history of military handguns, particularly the .45-caliber models in American military service. From the Single Action Army to the 1911 and other guns chambered for .45-caliber cartridges, the episode airing on Wednesday features expert commentary from Marine firearms instructor Grant Reynolds, early firearms historian Paul Masterson, World War I weapons expert Dan Sutton and other authorities.
We spoke with Willis about the show and his interest in hosting it.
SI: When were you introduced to firearms?
Willis: I grew up in a military family and my father owned firearms, but he never took me shooting. So, my first experience with firearms was in the Army. I continued to shoot when I left the service. I wish I had more time to dedicate to shooting, as I really enjoy it.
SI: When did the idea for “Triggers” come about?
Willis: We started developing the show two years ago, and Military Channel was the perfect fit. Each episode evolved using a kind of reverse planning. We looked at weapons that are relevant to U.S. or foreign military history as well as to today’s conflicts, then we went backward to look at each weapon’s development from its genesis to the final product used today.
SI: In the first season, “Triggers” covers handguns, battle rifles, submachine guns, assault rifles, artillery and rockets. Was there any gun that stood out to you as being the most significant?
Willis: Well, I can’t really pick one, but the M1 Garand surprised me in terms of its accuracy. Also, its history as the gun that played a huge role in winning World War II is fascinating. I also really liked the Grease Gun for its simplicity—and it was a ton of fun to shoot. But the most fun was the Carl Gustav, an anti-tank weapon used by spec-ops guys. That was a blast, literally.
SI: You look at the AK-47 platform in episode 4, and obviously the AK is important, but it is also the weapon of choice for the enemies of the U.S. How did you handle this gun about which people are sometimes sensitive?
Willis: We look at the AK’s development in the Soviet Union and yes, its use by terrorists and criminals, but we focus on the science, technology and tactical use. We also pit it against the best Western assault rifles in a series of head-to-head tests to see if it is the ultimate combat rifle. We consulted Dimiter Marinov, a Bulgarian AK-47 armorer, who obviously knows the platform very well, and also two former Navy SEALs to look at the M16, M4, M14 and HK416. Basically, we take a scientific approach to the AK, as we do to all of the weapons covered in “Triggers.”
SI: What can we look forward to if there is a second season of “Triggers?”
Willis: The focus of the show can be narrowed or expanded, which gives us a lot of potential material. We could look at aircraft, helicopters or even nuclear weapons, which, after all, require a trigger to detonate.