I was a History Channel kid through and through. I watched dozens of documentaries about World War II, Vietnam, and, as I got older, the Global War on Terror. For a lot of people, the History Channel has fallen from grace as Pawn Stars enters its 28th season, but I was glad to be alive in its heyday. My favorite show from the mid-2000s History Channel was Shootout.
Shootout ran for only two seasons and had a total of 22 episodes. Episodes took up an hour timeslot, but when you factor in commercials, they were about 45 minutes. I tuned it to Shootout every Friday night and was captured. I watched reruns over and over, and the show had a real influence on me.
The show ran from 2005 to 2006, when I was a prime-time teenager. I’d always had an interest in the military, and Shootout helped steer me towards both the infantry and the Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps seemed drastically over-represented in the show, and that’s likely because the Marine Corps loves publicity for recruitment purposes. The Corps made Marines available for the show, and America’s smallest military force got prime time slots.
As the name implies, the show is about gunfights. Specifically small-unit engagements. The show would take a gunfight, or even multiple gunfights, and break them down. They’d talk about the enemy and friendly forces, armaments, and terrain even. They’d break down the gunfight from beginning to end.
Different Shootout episodes would be presented in different ways. The best episodes involved interviews with the men who had participated in the engagement.
The GWOT episodes got Marines and Soldiers in the hot seat being interviewed and giving their perspective on the fight. This allowed for details that you’d miss from just reading a history book. For example, during a gunfight in a cemetery, a Marine fell into a grave, and in his interview, he recounts the details of that experience while under fire.
Shootout didn’t just document modern military conflicts, but it also dived into the world of historical wars, including WWII and Vietnam. We also got SWAT team and police shootouts as well as a Wild West episode. These episodes varied but typically followed the same formula. The main difference was if they had the actual gunfighters on hand or historians to document the events.
How episodes worked
It’s fairly simple. They set up a situation, time frame, and location. They introduced the friendly and enemy forces by numbers and typically armaments. Then, they’d interview the gunfighters or historians about the area, the enemy, and the little details we might not think about.
The episodes would have a short break before shootout explanation, and then they’d dive right into it. The show punctuated the interviews and over-the-top narrator with recreated footage. The footage recreation was fairly solid; not cheesy or corny by any means. The production team used lots of jump cuts and short sections of recreated gunfights to keep things grounded.
Weapons, gear, and equipment were fairly well represented for the era in which each episode takes place. We saw green camo interceptor vests and M16A2s during the beginning of the GWOT and more advanced armaments and even desert camo eventually. The historical episodes replicated the weapons and gear well.
Heck, the settings they filmed in were downright impressive for a little History Channel show.
It’s an immensely entertaining show and very well done. It came out of a time when the History Channel hadn’t quite discovered reality TV just yet. Plus, the Shootout’s narrator was over the top and just fantastic.
Where to watch it
Well, this is tricky. The DVD is out of print apparently, and copies of both seasons on Amazon sell for over 200 dollars. That’s insane. A ton of episodes are available for free on Youtube — some from History Channel. Also, History Channel’s website has three episodes in its “vault” to watch if you subscribe. I can’t seem to find the show streaming anywhere in its entirety.
It’s worth a watch and is a ton of fun. If you know where the show might be streaming, feel free to let us know in the comments below. I’d love to watch the series from beginning to end.
Did anyone else watch Shootout? What about Dog Fight or Warriors? I miss the old History Channel so much, and it’s a shame they don’t make their older catalog more available. You can watch one of the episodes below: