As a published author specializing in small arms and military technology, I spend a lot of my time reading original source documents as part of the research process for my work. Like anyone else, sometimes I get tired of reading about obscure firearm history and kick back… to listen about obscure firearm history. Even when they come from reputable channels, I don’t rely on internet videos as sources, but they can be a great tool to guide research efforts, or just a good source of informative entertainment. Unfortunately, YouTube has chosen a hostile and actively antagonistic stance toward the people who upload firearm-related videos to their platform, making it difficult for enthusiasts like us to find and enjoy that content.
History has shown that free-to-use upstart video hosting websites simply cannot compete. Without the backing of a global megacorporation and legions of advertisers, free sites like Full30 could neither provide adequate quality of service nor maintain profitability. This left an open niche for a subscription-based service to come into existence, offering a carefully curated library for paying customers. That service now exists in the form of “History of Weapons and War.”
When Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons announced History of Weapons and War, I decided to shell out a few dollars for a one-month subscription, just to see if it was worth my time and money. I was immediately treated to videos that weren’t available on YouTube from channels such as Forgotten Weapons, The Armourer’s Bench, British Muzzleloaders, Bloke on the Range, and more. I know this blog post already sounds like advertising copy, but no one who wants to watch firearm-related videos that can’t be posted on YouTube and has $10 to spend needs any more convincing to go sign up for a month just to try it out. Instead, let me dish on what I think the platform could do better and where I see it going in the future.
The people behind History of Weapons and War claim that the subscription fees can support the platform entirely, with no ads in sight; I’m inclined to believe them. My biggest gripe is on the basis of value for money. $10 per month or $100 per year is a good value when it goes to an organization like SDCGO that works in the courts and legislatures to protect our Second Amendment rights, but it feels a little steep for such a niche platform, especially given that many of its videos are already available for free on YouTube. It wasn’t long ago that $10 per month would buy you a Netflix subscription with access to a far greater library. Of course, there’s no way a small upstart platform can work with that kind of economy of scale, but it can’t grow to that level if the value isn’t already there.
The way I see it, History of Weapons and War needs a “killer app:” something so huge on offer that it will attract subscribers just to watch it. In this case, that could be something like a feature-length documentary series or even a historical drama. It doesn’t much matter what it is, it just needs to bring in enough subscribers to allow the people behind History of Weapons and War to lower the fees, a move which itself would help bring in even more subscribers.
All in all, in spite of the fee problem, I feel like I got my money’s worth from my first month. There wasn’t enough exclusive content to keep me occupied for more than a few hours, but for such a new platform, that’s to be expected. I believe History of Weapons and War has room to grow and mature, and the list of prominent creators already on the platform makes me optimistic that it can become self-sufficient in perpetuity. Until then, if you’re serious about historic small arms and you have $10 to spare, a one-month subscription might be worth it. It was for me.