When the editors first contacted me about doing an article on gun tattoos, I couldn’t answer in the affirmative fast enough. Here was a way to show people something positive about being inked, and what better way than by showing body art on people passionate about shooting. After all, nearly a quarter of the American population has at least one tattoo and about half of Americans own a firearm, so statistically speaking, I was bound to find some gun ink. After a quick call to my mother to rub it in that yes indeed my knowledge of guns and tattoos would one day lead to a source of income, I set about with some more research.
Talk about a broad spectrum of shooting representation! I found a variety of long guns and handguns gracing thighs, rib cages, backs, shoulders and biceps. They are inked in the solid, bold lines of old-school style, vivid traditional colors and intricate black and gray shading. Some are realistic copies, while others are whimsically creative. Certainly, some people choose to wear macabre, desperado, macho-themed gun images, but I chose to
concentrate on art that was less intimidating. Fortunately, most of what I found consisted of tasteful and skillfully inked firearm images representing various hobbies and core beliefs.
Handguns, especially revolvers, are favorite choices for both men and women. Revolvers are often set at holster level, or gracing biceps and shoulder blades. On the ladies, I found some rather tantalizing lace garter holsters and detailed replicas of old-West six shooters. This nicely shaded black and gray piece by Bili Vegas is incredibly lifelike.
Malia Reynolds at Memorial Tattoo in Atlanta, GA, uses bold colors and clean lines in this detailed hip piece. Her same skills were used to render this old-West revolver. It certainly pays to find a talented artist!
Daniel Straub inked his own .25-caliber Beretta on a perfect space on his left ankle. It is the actual size of the pistol and detailed to perfection, but he added the wood grips to enhance the piece. Daniel has been tattooing for 17 years and is an avid deer hunter in his home state of Wisconsin.
In the hands of trained and skilled artists, military themes truly come to life. A common design: the barrels of M16, M4s or M14s set in strong lines on fallen soldier memorial tattoos, immortalizing honor, tradition and respect.
This piece was inked by New Hampshire native Ryan Thomas. It was a special piece for the former soldier who lost a buddy in Iraq.
A little bit of everything is represented when it comes to ink. From miniature AK-47s to oversized revolvers, it appears that the popularity of gun images is slowly but steadily growing.
Why do people get gun tattoos? Some answers appear to be obvious—showing the world your hobby or passion, helping to ease the pain of loss or just because the firearm design is appealing. Like every piece of body art, the answers are specific to the wearer. I was hoping to get a little more personal insight as I headed to the Baltimore Tattoo Convention in April. Using the common denominator we all shared—ink—I overcame my shyness to approach people out of the blue and ask if they had any gun tattoos. I had no reason to be nervous. Nearly everyone I spoke with “knew someone with one,” and there were plenty of tattoo artists talking about other artists who had done some “killer pieces.” Their words, not mine.
A lot of seriously inked people showed a willingness to talk about gun ownership, shooting and their preferences in firearms. There were even a few offers to put some firepower on my skin, but alas, I wouldn’t have been able to narrow down the choices to one.
Twenty-four year old Renee Berol chose to display her shotgun passion in a rather unique way with some impressive ink by Pat Whelan. Renee started shooting as a young girl and trap is her favorite shooting sport.
Joe Margiottiello (a.k.a. Lil’Joe CEO) is a jack-of-all-trades. The actor/producer/musician is also the owner of Kings County Tattoos in Brooklyn, NY. He sports a piece still in progress representing his belief in “God, guns and country.
Artists and brothers “Seven” and “Syxx” have created a successful following around the country. Seven wears this tattoo of an experimental gun built by Enfield for the British Army, inked by Syxx. Seven is a recreational shooter and likes drawing guns, as evident in some of his more graphic artwork. Check some of his work out at inkillusionist.com.
The gentleman who requested this piece from Cris Gherman of Dublin Ink let the artist choose the design. His only requirement: the eagle engraved on the grip.
This convention attendee couldn’t wait to show off his Smith & Wesson .38 spl. Almost as an afterthought, he showed me one of his own favorite pieces. He has been an NRA member for nearly 13 years and is a strong believer in the Second Amendment.
So who gets gun tattoos and why do they get them? Your guess is probably as good as mine. What I do know is that being a tattoo junkie and being a gun nut don’t have to be mutually exclusive pursuits. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
Editors Note: Show us your gun ink. Simply comment on this story, upload the photo of your tattoo and feel free to name the artist who did the work. Gun tattoos only, and although staff will closely inspect any revealing photos submitted, we’re afraid they won’t be approved for public review.
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