Joe Mantegna-hosted “Gun Stories” Tells Tales from “The Guns” of John Wick & Elvis Presley to Annie Oakley

Ashley Jude Collie
4 min readMar 10, 2023
John Wick, fictional gun enthusiast
Joe Mantegna hosts series on the Outdoor Channel

What do fictional characters John Wick, James Bond and Dirty Harry have in common with real-life Annie Oakley and Elvis Presley?

They’ve all been featured by Gun Stories, a stirring historical documentary series, which recently aired its 12th season on the Outdoor Channel. Hosted by Joe Mantegna, a sporting gun enthusiast and a renowned Broadway/TV/movie actor, Gun Stories has told captivating stories about “The Guns of John Wick” (the character that actor Keanu Reeves plays in the modern and electrifying action franchise), and “Guns Made Famous by Hollywood” (in which Mantegna examines guns made famous by fictional big screen heroes like Dirty Harry and James Bond).

Mantegna, who has starred as special agent David Rossi in the long-time TV series Criminal Minds, which now airs as Criminal Minds: Evolution on Paramount+, tells his own interest in “gun stories,” explaining that he has had an interest in shooting sports since his early twenties, when he got introduced to safe and responsible skeet shooting at a range in downtown Chicago: “Since then it’s been a hobby for me. I’ve shot skeet, sporting clays, and trap. I was intrigued by the Outdoor Channel’s proposal for me to host a show based on historical firearms. Twelve seasons later, I’m still telling some amazing gun stories.”

This season, one of the many riveting episodes is called The Firearms of Annie Oakley. In the intro, Mantegna says of Phoebe Ann Moses, “She was the most rooting, tooting cowgirl that ever lived, astounding audiences with her sharp shooting skills around the world. Her sisters called her Annie, and taking the name of the nearby Ohio town as her professional surname, she would be forever known as Annie Oakley.”

Women like “Little Sure-Shot” also handled firearms

Oakley, who was born Phoebe Ann Moses in 1860, became the star attraction of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show — a thrilling and widely popular 19th-century traveling show known for its romanticized portrayal of frontier life in the American West. Oakley’s reputation was crafted by her partner/husband Frank Butler and the promoters of the Wild West Show.

Some of the fascinating insights brought up by this Gun Stories episode on Oakley was that firearms have been presented as the domain of men. BUT there is another take, with one historian noting that both men and women came to the West: “And in many instances, women manned (handled) guns, too. But here you had a young girl, Annie Oakley, who outshot everyone in the country. She was extraordinary and did it with such grace.”

Wild Bill, larger-than-life character from the Old West

The firearms that Mantegna and producers choose to feature for the series are ones that have become classic by enduring the test of time, like the Colt 1911, which Mantegna has suggested is “the world’s greatest handgun,” the Colt .45 and the 1894 Winchester. Award-winning actor Mantegna adds, “We choose some firearms due to their popularity from film and television, such as the Walther PPK, which became famous as James Bond’s gun. And, each season we try to do a cross section of guns that have made an impact socially, and economically, and not just in this country, but everywhere in the world.”

Drop in on Gun Stories on Outdoor Channel. And, check out Criminal Minds: Evolution which goes back into production for a new season in April. Check out all episodes on Paramount+ — and, drop in on Joe Mantegna’s website.

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Ashley Jude Collie

Award-winning journalist-author-blogger for Playboy, TO Star, Movie Entertainment, HuffPost, Hello Canada & my novel REJEX (Pulp Hero Press) is on Amazon.