Review: The History Channel’s new reality gun show ‘Brothers in Arms’

The History Channel has launched a new five-part reality show “Brothers in Arms,” which features Army veterans Vincent “Rocco” Vargas and Eli Cuevas, and their new Ogden, Utah-based gun shop, Banditos Armory.

Vargas is a former Ranger and Border Patrol agent, and Cuevas is a decorated 11B. Both have multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The duo are well known in the veterans community. They’re affiliated with Mat Best and the hilarious hooligans at Black Rifle Coffee, in addition to Leadslingers Whiskey and the greatest movie ever made — Range 15.

The History Channel deserves some kudos for producing a reality show in this political environment that’s  centered in a gun shop, as nowadays they seem to be cursed. The principals from two previous reality shows, “Sons of Guns” and “American Guns” are both, deservedly, behind bars.

As a veteran and a gun owner, I really wanted to like the new show. However, it’s got some problems.

The formula is cut-and-paste “Sons of Guns.”

There are crazy projects — a cut down 10-gauge shotgun turned into a blunderbuss, and a suppressed black-powder cannon — but it’s the overly scripted in-the-shop drama that provided the most uncomfortable “Sons-of-Guns” flashbacks.

The worst?

Episode 2 features a segment in which Vargas counsels his 14-year-old daughter in an ice cream parlor about the perils of wearing too much makeup. And there are other cringe-worthy moments.

The cure?

Simply show us the guns.

To be clear, there are interesting builds, such as a complete renovation of a OT-90 — the Czechoslovakian version of the Soviet BMP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicle. In another episode, the staff fixes a semi-auto 1919 machine gun by replacing a broken firing pin.

I think the show could be salvageable if the two veterans exert a little more creative control, but that’s not easy to do in the Hollyweird environment, because the producers call all the shots.

If they stop the manufactured drama and focus on realistic builds — not Will Hayden style zaniness — they could keep me coming back each week, because gun owners are a discerning bunch.

We’d flock to a show that focuses on the weapons, not over-the-top builds and targets full of Tannerite.

Show us the guns — real guns — because we want more than just scripted drama, ‘splosions and high-fives.

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

14 Comments

  1. I attempted to like this show, but it has no respect for the viewer of for them selves. I am not sure who wrote the script that they are following but it isn’t good. The comic releief is the most immature jokes and i am not sure if you want to portray gun owners/builders as people that don’t take their jobs seriously. They touch on the history of the weapons for about 1 min. In the first episode they took a “JUNK” tank and cleaned it up and got it running in what appeared to be no time. I know some of us have watched tank restoration shows before and if it was in as bad shape as they were making it, then it should have taken a lot longer to restore. A 10 guage blunderbus? Really that wasn’t a blunderbus it was a 10 guage with a cone. I can go on and on whith their projects, like the Red White and Blue Tommy Gun????? and what is with all the stupid over the top explosions?? Show us what the weapons can really do to targets. I am not sure if it is the editing or if the guys on the show just think that they are really that entertaining, I don’t see this show being on very long. They need a formula where you actually see the work being done, not a clip about a guys teenage girl wearing makeup. I just don’t know who approved this at history but I think they need to watch the show sometime becaus they obiously just read a memo before they approved it.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. I’m watching it right now, and the scripting is so obvious and out of sorts. The dialog is straining under the fake weight of itself. It’s cringeworthy a lot of the time, but has no reason to go in that direction. Likeable dudes, hell, just let them be themselves.

    • I was wondering the exact same thing. Nothing against the stars of the show, but considering the less than adequate background checks Hollywood does prior to hiring folks, I’m a little concerned there’s a hidden connection. How much damage would that do to the veteran community and gun owners. The curse of the gun reality show?

  3. I agree with previous comments about the scripting of the show being fake and over dramatized. Just watched the latest episode where they supposedly make a black powder bazooka?? While I appreciate these guys for their service and I know they know a lot about certain weapons they are either completely lacking in some regards or are overly satisfied with the fakery. That weapon was not a bazooka in any form except that it was shoulder mounted. It was simply a black powder, percussion fired smooth bore rifle. Not even the slightest bit creative for the amount of danger involved in making it. And blowing up the house. Come on, really??? It’s clear to everyone watching that the house was rigged with explosives. You might have just shot a trigger target on the house with a .22 cal. Why was that event so big for their company as was played up. No crowd to watch and comes across totally fake on TV. They better insist on much better writers for the show unless they want to totally ruin their image.

    • I totally agree. I hate the explosions that they want us to believe were caused by the gun. I’ve been an FFL for 29 years and an active shooter for 45 years. I’ve seen all kinds of guns and things shot and I’ve never seen a house blow up from a small gun. They give the ignorant the wrong impression.

  4. The wrighters of the show must not want or do not understand firearms people. I have been involved with weapons most of my life Militery law enforcement as well as instruction. I would be hard pressed to accept the two Rocco an Eli plus the staff would be as represented . It is ashame that a potential great and needed second amendment show is doomed to fail. Maybe the director should acquire out side help. The staff are young and talented but lack refinement to present there product to the viewers. As I said great idea but doomed as it is now. To the BROTHERS IN ARMS. SEMPER FI
    Vietnam Grunt

  5. I used to enjoy watching the Sons of Guns show, and I agree with the others about the over acting and over the top pyrotechnics. I just watched the bazooka show where a single shot solid copper bullit blew the crap out of a 2000 square foot house…….Really?!?

  6. Ok, I like roco and eli, but tonight’s show was way off. The Gatlin gun they showed…. so fake, if you watch closely when they are showing the guns weight, I noticed that the barrels looked like a large caliber. Then the next scene shows what looks like 223 or 22lr caliber sized barrel. Ok, at first I let it go. But then when there shooting it, I noticed the shape of the shells ejecting look to be a large caliber like say a 45 long colt. But then they shot the water tanker and I see that they are shotgun shells falling out when being shot. So, what’s the deal with that. Also, while roco is shooting the the water tanker I noticed the he is leaning back and angling the gun at at what looks like about 30 degrees or so. Yet the tanker is right in front of him at a straight line. And at the distance, you know he isn’t even close to actually shooting it. Look, I have been a fan of article 15 clothing and black rifle coffee. But come on, stick to the Military comedy, clothes and coffee.

  7. It appears the blond headed gun Smith is the only one who knows anything about firearms on the show. He seems to have to explain to Rocco and Eli in each episode how firearms work. The explosions are stupid! Please, give us a real fire arms show.

  8. I like the premise of the show, sometimes the dialogue between the owners and employees of Banditos Armory gets kind of annoying at times. The second episode of the show seemed to follow the same pattern as the first, except for a cool card trick in the beginning by Eli in the first episode. They built a bazooka which was basically a giant smooth bore musket with a pointed projectile. They say they are going to blow up a house with it. It you shot at a house with a smooth bore musket, would that make the house blow up as well? They obviously used some type of explosive or accelerant and shot at it in order to cause an explosion. They never mentioned that or told you what it was. If you shot the weapon that they built at the house on its own, it would just make a very large hole and probably go through the entire structure, but that’s it.

    The show is obviously scripted in some areas, like the scene where Eli picks up the pipe they need for the bazooka. He goes into this metal fabrication place and says that he needs piping. The guy says, “You can just take it.” It was free. Then the show makes a point to show the front name of his shop at least two times. This was all rehearsed. He gets a free plug for his shop and they get the piping.

    The other project they worked on was a BMW WWII motorcycle with a sidecar. I had issues with this as well. They affixed an older machine gun on the sidecar of the motorcycle. They didn’t even make the machine gun automatic, and were just firing it on semi-automatic. Isn’t that the point of a machine gun, to fire automatic? They could have just grabbed an AR-15 from their shop if they were going to do that. It was disappointing. They have done this before. I don’t know if I am going to continue watching this. Maybe I will give it one more chance.

  9. Yet another terribly scripted “reality” show from the History Channel. This show suffers from the same issues all of these previous type shows suffer from.

    Bad dialogue and script writing and light on the tech specs and too heavy handed with the characters and fake drama. Won’t last more than a season.

  10. And… OMG! The big guy is on Mayans MC! I bet you’re right! There’s got to be a link from outlaw biker gangs to this show. Undoubtedly the Bandidos are making straw purchases of suppressed civil war cannons through the Banditos! I believe we’re watching the beginnings of the next Mexican revolution, hidden in plain sight!

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