Radiation plus guns equals art

Detail of an HK416 print.

Detail of an HK416 print. (Photo: X Ray Guns)

One day in Mississippi, a couple x-ray technicians with time to spare decided to run a box addressed to their co-worker through the office CAT scan machine. The result was an intriguing image, blurry in places, of a lower receiver. The addressee, a fellow named Houston, saw possibilities in the image beyond a workplace prank. Months later, a business called X Ray Guns was born.

Houston, whose real name has not been disclosed, spent months and then years, experimenting with CAT scanning firearms. He figured out just how to position them in the machine and how to set moving parts in order to create images of firearms unlike any previously seen.

These x-ray images offer a look at firearms in exquisite, striking detail. It’s one thing to see parts on a table, or the exploded views offered in repair or owner’s manuals. These pictures allow the viewer to see the relationship between parts — including ammunition. The fact that the guns are loaded adds a certain alive-ness to the prints.

There are old standbys and longtime favorites available for sale. The unframed scan of a 1911 pistol, cocked, locked, and loaded, is $49.95 on the X Ray Guns Etsy sales page. A couple other pistol models are are a bit less at $39.95.  Popular modern and historic rifle prints are $59.95. Add a basic black frame and rifle images are shipped ready-to-hang for $139.95. X Ray Guns offers custom work as well, starting at $300. The images are printed on satin-finish paper.

One astute viewer on X Ray Guns’ Instagram queried how the clarity of each round in a double-stack magazine was so clear. The simple reply: Houston alternates dummy and real rounds so that single rounds stand out for visual appeal. Clearly, the guy has spent time perfecting his product.

It doesn’t take a gun lover to appreciate these prints.  The exquisite detail and haunting black, white, and variants of gray are enchanting. To view the masterful and unique construction of individual firearms is to marvel at the minds that conceived them and brought them to functional reality.  To see something so potentially powerful as a loaded firearm in intimate and delicate detail, preserved in perfection on the wall, inspires a visceral reaction.  This is powerful art, literally and figuratively.

X Ray Guns appears to be keeping overhead low by vending direct to customers through Etsy and their own website. Let’s hope Houston either owns the high-dollar medical equipment that’s making these images, or keeps his day job for a very long time. The world could use more museum-quality views of the guns of yesteryear and tomorrow.