Ryan Busse - Standing His Ground
Ryan Busse is a Montana-based conservationist, public lands advocate, and former top-performing firearms executive. He's also the author of the new book "Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America," which has received advanced praise from everyone from Publishers Weekly to Senator Jon Tester. Ryan is a life-long hunter and angler, as well as a proud gun owner, and he brings a unique, nuanced perspective to our country's ongoing debate about guns and the Second Amendment. "Gunfight" is in no way an "anti-gun" book-- rather, it's an insider's examination of how and why the firearms industry transformed from a sportsman-centered business into a politically driven machine that uses decisiveness and fear to grow profits exponentially. From a broader perspective, "Gunfight" helped me to understand how we ended up at this bizarre moment in history-- a moment defined by anger, misinformation, tribalism, and binary thinking.
Ryan was born in western Kansas and grew up on his family's ranch, where most of his childhood was centered around hunting, fishing, and a close connection to the land. After college, Ryan focused his energy on building a career in the sporting goods industry, first working for an optics company and then moving into the firearms business. Ryan found his calling as a gun salesman, and, over the course of his career, he helped transform a small firearms company named Kimber into an internationally recognized brand. But as you'll hear in our conversation, Ryan's advocacy for public lands and conservation created a rift between him and the firearms industry-- a rift that eventually exposed the industry's authoritarian power structure that does not tolerate independent thinking or deviations from industry dogma. Ryan refused to be bullied or told what to think, and he eventually quit his lucrative job selling guns and decided to tell his story and that of the industry's transformation. The result is his book "Gunfight," which we are discussing here today.
I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of "Gunfight," and I was thrilled to have a chance to discuss it with Ryan. We started out talking about his upbringing on his family's Kansas ranch and how his father introduced him to the writings of conservation luminaries, including Aldo Leopold and Theodore Roosevelt. We then discussed his life-long love of hunting and guns, and why he chose to pursue a career in the gun industry. We discussed the exact moment when he realized that his personal devotion to public lands was at odds with his industry's stance and the unraveling that occurred over the course of the following years. We talk about why gun sales soar during Democratic administrations, the industry's shift from hunting rifles to assault rifles, some very disturbing stories from industry events, Ryan's public land advocacy, the positive influence of his wife, and much more.
I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, and I learned a lot. I really appreciate Ryan taking the time to chat, and I hope you find it enlightening. Be sure to check out the episode notes for a complete list of topics and links to everything we discussed. Enjoy!
- Ryan Busse
"Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America" - Bookshop & Amazon
- Episode notes and links: https://mountainandprairie.com/ryan-busse/
- 5:00 – Ryan’s background
- 8:30 – Ryan discusses his father and his impact on Ryan’s conservation ethic
- 12:45 – Ryan talks about what he was like in high school
- 15:00 – Ryan discusses when he felt like his role in the firearms/optics industry was a good career path for him
- 17:00 – Ryan tells the story of the experience that made him second guess his career
- 22:00 – Following his falling out with the leaders in firearms industry, Ryan explained why he stayed in the industry
- 26:00 – Ryan describes an uncomfortable moment when he went to an NRA conference
- 32:30 – Ryan describes a moment where a journalist showed up to an interview armed with an AR-15
- 37:30 – Ryan discusses the phenomenon that gun ownership/purchases sky rocket during Democratic presidential administrations
- 41:30 – Ryan explores why gun enthusiasts or industry personnel may disagree with him
- 45:30 – Ryan talks about his wife
- 48:00 – Ryan talks about Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and his role with them
- 1:02:30 – Ryan’s book recommendations
- 1:05:00 – Ryan’s parting words of wisdom
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