By Chris Avena
Chris: Okay I'm Chris Avena and I’m here with Joe Mantegna host of Gun Stories, a veteran Hollywood Star of the Big Screen with over 100 feature films and TV credits including Godfather lll, Criminal Minds and the Simpsons and much more. He is a producer, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the credits go on and on. Thanks for coming Joe.
Joe: My pleasure Chris.
Chris: Can you tell me a little about Gun Stories? How did that come about?
Joe: Well Gun Stories started out about seven years ago, we're starting our eighth season now but, it was Tim Cremin and Michael Bane two guys that produce, direct and write the show came up with this idea at the Outdoor Channel. I think they must have read somewhere that I was a shooting enthusiast. You know I make no bones about that of course in my career and they just basically sent a random email to my website and my assistant read it. She has been with me for many years and knows that I do have an interest in these things. She came to me and said “you know I've got this thing, want to look into it?” I said “sure let's look into it.” So these two guys flew out, one from Oklahoma and one from Colorado, met me on the set of Criminal Minds where it has been my day job for the last eleven years.
Chris: Great show by the way.
Joe: Thank you, and they pitched me this idea about me hosting the show that would deal with the history of firearms and what its has its impact has been on the world and it just sounded very interesting to me and I'm a big believer of if something comes your way and it sounds interesting, you should check it out. It is better to be doing something than nothing and so I checked it out and I’ve been checking out over seven years. Going on our eight season, so it’s been great.
Chris: There's so many firearms to choose from, how do you pick which will be on the show?
Joe: Well it’s difficult and I've certainly shot a lot. I think about it, I've shot everything from under twenty two caliber to over fifty caliber. So I have run the gamete at firearms from handguns to rifle to shot guns to just military weapons, the whole nine yards but the history of firearms is also the history of the world. When you go back to when gunpowder was invented to today, it is limitless. We can probably do five hundred of Gun Stories and still not cover everything. Every country has a history and we delve into firearms from every country. So the history of the gun aside from even what its function is just its place in each nation’s history is really important. So our show will also deal with that and that is what makes it successful and interesting.
Chris: What was the most innovating firearm that you have used on Gun Stories?
Joe: Well there’s been a few, one of the most innovative that really comes to mind is... I can’t quite think of the name of it but it was one basically designed for French paratroopers during World War II and the reason it made it so innovative is these guys were in a parachute and had carried something they felt was powerful yet compact, something a little more than a pistol.
Chris: Something that would not to get in the way of their job.
Joe: Exactly, so they came up with this semi-automatic machine gun that folds up into a square that almost looks like a house brick and it took me about twenty minutes of instruction which of course they would have to do with these para troopers as to how it unfolds, it’s like in there a puzzle and it becomes a little like a fold up rifle and I thought, wow that's pretty awesome. When you get into all the different designs of what people come up with from how guns functions and how they work, it has been quite a ride for me in these past seven years to see the different innovations and configurations, but that one certainly a recent memory comes to mind is something that if it was sitting on this table you wouldn’t even know it was a firearm until you kind of put it all together. Things like that that stretches the ingenuity of those who invented these thing which is also pretty attractive about the industry.
Chris: Well what was the biggest game changer of weapons past and present that changed the way firearms were actually manufactured, how they fired, their accuracy, the distance, what was the biggest game changer?
Joe: Well that's a question better asked to somebody with more knowledge than me as to exactly you know the real history of firearms in that respect because there's certain innovations all along the way that made huge differences you know just going from black powder to smokeless powder to things like that or going from rimfire to center fire. There is all kinds of different innovations that changed and they continue to. It is an ongoing process but along the way when you have people like Golishnicov or people like John Browning and you have these inventors, guys who move the process forward because they are like Tesla or even Da Vinci in the sense that they see something in there that moves things forward.
Chris: Something innovative that changes...
Joe: And yeah, those kinds of guys still exist today. We were out at the Benelli factory in Urbino Italy, to me this fellow Marco who was very much behind the innovation of Benelli shotgun. He was a guy like modern day Browning and so it’s always interesting to see how the industry progresses.
Chris: What was the most unusual thing on...?
Joe: Well, there have been a few, Like I said that French bullpup is rated on a top five I would say. Sometimes they were the owe guns that were made for clandestine kind of work. We did an episode where I dealt with a gun that was basically brass knuckles but it was also was a gun. So if the gun misfired you could just punch the guy because it had the barrels coming out of the part that was kind of, close combat, then we've had guns that were in chains, guns that were in belts, guns that were in pins, so they've had some fun ways to incorporate firearms, so it’s all kinds of different things, so those are probably the most innovative and obscure and kind of like wow! Most of them didn’t probably have a light long shelf life because it was a novelty. You couldn’t count on it probably over the long run but they do exist and they did happen it just shows the imagination of these inventors
Chris: Out of all the guns that you've reviewed which one do you think had the most impact of the fire arms of today?
Joe: Well that's a good question too. I think in many ways you almost have to say the 22 Rimfire has had a huge impact because it has sustained so long. The era was something that was probably prevalent in civil war.
Chris: Now I know that’s one of your favorites.
Joe: Think about it, today they're still making these wonderful little twenty twos and it is still a fairly cheap way to shoot and enjoy the shooting sports and are not too loud and they're.... so I mean and like-
Chris: So it is a great way for a kid to get into a shooting-
Joe: Absolutely, I still appreciate everything about the 22 Rimfire. Do you know that Browning the invention of the 1911 to me was important because that's my favorite kind of go to kind of gun caliber and configurations the one I have been carrying on criminal minds for the last eleven years, a version of that.
Chris: That’s the 1911.
Joe: 1911 configuration and so I think that's something that's held up through world wars and beyond and so there's a lot of things out there and you get into the rifles every stuff lever rifle that were big in the cowboy days are still you know as popular today if not more and you still have these cowboy shoots are still in corporate stuff like 45 long colt and stuff like that. And so the good stuff, the stuff that endures does just that and endures. So stuff that was popular a hundred years ago, sometime two hundred years ago, they're still people out there shooting black powder and doing all that to.
Chris: Now a lot of the parts that you've taken over the years such as Joey Zasa, Fat Tony, a lot of them evolve around firearms was that by design or they just happened to come your way because people know you're interested?
Joe: Well yeah I think that's just the luck of the draw but again I think it again points to what I mentioned earlier that guns are part of our history and so in other words its almost difficult to tell a historical story without somehow in-cooperating the fire arms of that time within them at least if it’s a dramatic story and if it is they would either survival or combat or protection, whatever the subject matter may be. there will always be firearms of that era that have a place in its history. So there's no difference in my movie business, I've shot at, I've been shot at a lot my characters that I’ve played over the last forty plus years but again its part of the history of the world and the history of firearms.
Chris: What is the second amendment mean to you?
Joe: Second amendment is very important to me and it’s for reasons that I think there's a huge section of our populist that doesn’t quite get it, that doesn’t quite understand it. When they don’t understand it I'm not saying that they just don’t have the knowledge that I think they should have, is to understand the depth of it and that it’s not just an amendment that was put there like we think everybody should have a gun and then that's it. I think many people believe that they think that's a crazy amendment that might have worked in the seventeen hundreds but that doesn’t apply today. You should get rid of that, well that's almost like saying we have the first amendment called the freedom of speech to be as careful about that second amendment you have to be as careful about the first one, so where do you draw the line. So in other words without the second one you don’t have the first one and that’s what people don’t understand and I understand that it's been misused and miss-abused in the sense that it only works if you have an educated, responsible, honest populous but that's what the founding fathers hoped was going to happen. We in this nation of course everyday hope will happen. We hope that we are all like individuals and we all go our own way, we're a nation of immigrants in this country but we all want to follow the same kind of rules, regulations and stuff whatever it is and so that second amendment there's a reason the founding fathers made that the second amendment because they knew let’s start at the top, what's most important, our freedoms are most important. To have that freedom of speech, that's going to be the most important thing. How do we protect that? We need to have that thing and it’s got nothing to do with people who misuse that privilege and people gang guys will go get a gun and start you know illegally start shooting people. By doing that, that doesn’t necessarily negate what the second amendment is, that would be like saying you know 'oh I see this guy jump the curb with that car and killed all these people with this car, we better think about burning car.' You know what I mean it's really is that same kind of a logic, I understand people get killed by firearms every day and I understand people get killed unfortunately due to misuse of them and people using them you know criminals using them and all that but that doesn’t negate the 99% of the people in this country that understand, realize this is part of not just our heritage, this is part of the foundation that keeps this country, keeps us free, it really does because you can’t have the logic because it didn’t work in other countries where they said 'yeah lets disarm the populars, will just trust the military and the police and the governing, those in charge, they'll take care of us.' It hasn’t always worked yet in this country we still every four years, even every two years we peacefully go to the polls and vote and change, sometimes completely change the power structure, that doesn’t happen all over this planet and the places where it happens the least are the places where the people they can’t say anything about it anyway, it’s almost like you've surrendered and said look this is your ball game, good luck So that's why it’s an important amendment to me.
Chris: Alright well one last thing, I' going to put you on the spot where most people don’t know that you were a musician as well.
Joe: Yeah, yeah I was.
Chris: Now you were part of a band, you played bass in a group called The Missing Links.
Joe: No that's a mistake, I played with a group called the Apocryphals and we used to tour with a group called The Missing Links and the Missing Links became the group Chicago and I think sometimes there’s been some confusion about that. I never was in The Missing Links but to this day I'm very close to the Band Chicago and even in the documentary that HBO recently did on them. We became good friends at that time which is probably 1967 or 1968, of course their career went one way musically my career went another way musically. So that's why I kind of got into the acting game.
Chris: I think things worked out for you.
Joe: Yeah things worked for both of us, I had to go a different direction, I didn’t have the musical talent that they did but yeah the missing links they became Chicago, they are to this day very close friends of mine. Actually they brought me up on stage at the Greek theater in LA and had me sing a song with them for old times’ sake. So in essence I've played with them but I was never a member of the group but that’s okay, my day job is doing just fine.