The Rise of the American Gun Logo
Why brands that have nothing to do with firearms use rifle imagery to appeal to their clientele
It may be that no company today better personifies America, or perhaps simply ’Merica, than Black Rifle Coffee, which has grown into a multimillion-dollar concern by building a brand centered around a right-wing political stance that is heavy on, as the name would suggest, its reverence for firearms.
Black Rifle’s original logo, along with much of the merchandise — mugs, t-shirts, caps — that it sells on its website, prominently feature the silhouette of an assault rifle. There’s no denying the graphic impact of the image, as the weapon’s stark outline is lent a certain technical menace by its protuberant components: the gently curved magazine, the ridged handguard, the blunt barrel.
It’s a powerful symbol that can be received in different ways. To the millions of Americans for whom such a logo conjures up not visions of the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School or the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, but connotations of military might, personal empowerment, and individual liberty, it carries a great appeal when used in a commercial context.
It’s no surprise, then, that Black Rifle is not the only brand employing firearm imagery in its logo. Examination of data from the United States Patent and Trademark Office shows that in recent years, there has been a surge in the percentage of American logos featuring this sort of design element. And while this increase has been seen in logos with firearms of all kinds, it’s been particularly notable in the case of rifles, whether Black or otherwise, as opposed to handguns.
This discrepancy might be traced back to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which put the US on a war footing for the next two decades and boosted the rifle’s prominence in the national psyche. While pistols have been the chosen weapons of traditional pop culture stars like spies, cops, and gunslingers, military combat prioritizes the rifle, and today’s gun logos reflect that.