In the late 1980s Daniel Philip Côté was a self-employed painter of 21 years, managing a recession-beleaguered artist co-op in northern Michigan. He had a wife, Joanna, and two children but little money. At that time, by his own admission, Daniel possessed only scant knowledge of double guns, and his publishing experience amounted to nil other than some printing of lithographs of his work to assist his income. In the expensive, often-cutthroat world of magazine publishing, this was a recipe for failure.
But Daniel nursed a vision, and from it grew arguably the world’s most iconic publication devoted solely (and initially) to fine double guns: The Double Gun Journal, which launched late in the winter of 1989 and was published quarterly until this past spring, when its subscribers (this writer included) received a sad note in the mail from Daniel and Joanna stating that the Spring 2022 issue would be the last. According to the note, subscriptions and advertising revenues had been brought low by soaring paper, production and shipping costs and by a general decline in interest in classic firearms and traditional shooting sports.
Like fine guns and rifles, The Double Gun Journal—after 2004 titled The Double Gun & Single Shot Journal—was never intended as a flimsy throwaway. It was a journal for good reason: Printed in full color on best-quality paper, it was perfect-bound with a cover always stamped in gold foil with Daniel’s art designs on thick, brown, leatherlike stock. All page layouts and many adverts, too, were designed by Daniel, and the Journal always exuded old-fashioned “craft,” just like the subjects covered so expertly and often encyclopedically in its pages.
Daniel hatched his idea after taking his 12-year-old son to a sportsmen’s show at a local VFW hall. “It was the first such show I’d attended,” Daniel said. “I noticed certain displays were gathering much more attention than others by what appeared to be more astute and affluent men. What was creating such interest was that those tables were graced with beautifully engraved double guns.”
Daniel had grown up shooting shotguns, but only pumps. “In the 1950s,” he said, “pumpguns were the thing, so I didn’t have the opportunity to experience fine doubles and to associate the art, craftsmanship and mechanical genius those guns exuded. Right then I realized that there was a special interest that had not been fully addressed.”
Daniel raised funds by placing adverts in The Gun List. “I had to sell my idea to ‘pre-subscribers’ before I had a product,” he said. He called and recruited contributors, bartering his art for work. Michael McIntosh and Bill Headrick became his first writer and photographer, respectively, and then the talented Steve Bodio. Early production was literally home-cooked: “Joanna, my younger son, Josh, and I hand-laminated that first cover on our kitchen table with a paint brush, labeling glue and a dinner tray weighted with a 25-pound barbell plate.”
The Premiere issue debuted with a press run of 4,000, and the Journal’s popularity surged after becoming available on the newsstand—eventually attaining a peak paid circulation of 12,000 in 2001.
Daniel and Joanna are now in their 70s, and while their quarterly journal is done, their work is not. They will continue selling back issues and affiliated products and perhaps publish new books on fine guns, and next year they plan to release Volume 3 of The Double Gun Journal Index & Reader, a hardbound index and compilation of new articles by their stable of writers. For more information, email [email protected].