What's it really like inside the Big House? How hard are the hard guys, how nasty are the screws, how long is that last mile anyhow? G. Gordon Liddy, whose Watergate caper led to 44 months in nine different slammers spills his guts in "Serving Times in America" in the December Esquire.

Prison, Liddy decides, is in some ways no different from life on the Outside: "Big fish eat little fish and the operating principle is natural selection, survival of the fittest."

Just to make sure he was one of the fittest, Liddy, who has a flair for the dramatic, says he prudently accumulated an arsenal that would make even Jimmy Cagney envious: "a knife, a length of iron pipe and a tool handle resembling that of an ax but tipped with jagged, rusty steel." And no wonder, since the going rate for having someone killed in prison is five cartons of cigarettes, up because of inflation, Liddy notes sadly, from the two cartons that did the job when he entered prison in 1973. Eyes Right

Almost everyone is righthanded, says Science magazine, but no one seems to know why. Some scientists claim it's an inborn, physiological trait, others that nasty social pressures have made righties out of potential lefties.

Tired of the controversy, Stanley Coren and Clare Porac, two professors of psychology at the University of British Columbia, decided to look at the record. Not the written record, because written references to hands are scarcer than hen's teeth. Instead they laboriously examined 12,000 photographs and reproductions of works of art dating from 3000 B.C. to 1950 A.D. in which people were making use of their hands.

And over those 50 centuries, the scientists found, 92.6 per cent of the people were right-handed, a percentage that varied little from century to century, meaning - they concluded - that, like it or not, people are simply born right-handed, society be damned. Money Talks

When editor Len Miller says he has "filled a literary need at the marketplace," he's not talking about going one-in-one with the Partisan Review. His magazine, Gambling Times, is bent on more secular aims. "We tell people how to lose less money by becoming more conversant with the games they play," he explains. "We bring the excitement of gambling to people when they're not in the casinos."

Excitement apparently means monthly departments like Gambling Humor, Gambling Scenes from the Movies, even a Gambler's Horoscope, as in "the moon in a fixed position will guarantee you profits in gin rummy on the 2d, 3d, 4th, 9th and 10th." The magazine also features sterner stuff like "10 Myths of Harness Handicapping" and "Behind the scenes at the Longest Blackjack Game in History," as well as cover photos of Hollywood stars in varying gambling poses.

Miller, a former talent coordinator for "Can You Top This?" who teamed with Stanley Sludikoff - better known as Stan Roberts, the Blackjack Millionaire - to found the magazine, says that a measure of Gambling Times' acceptance is the people who agree to pose for the cover. And for the Feb. 1 anniversary issue Miller feels he has, you'll pardon the expression, hit the jackpot: "Liberace has agreed to appear cutting a cake. He was just delighted, and he's as big as they come." Talk Is Cheap

When people talk to magazines, there's simply no telling what they'll say. For instance:

"I heard the other boy bit the director on the nose." - Cary Guffey, age 5, telling people how he got one of the leads in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

"Not all women are whores, but still ain't going to be no equality. If you want to be equal with me, you get your own Rolls, your own house, your own million dollars." - Muhammad Ali in the December Viva.

"I do have periods of what to me is incredible depression. As high as I get, I'm capable of being that low. There are times when I am very sad, times when I'm lonely, there are times when I'm unhappy and when I feel sorry for myself." - John Denver (yes, John Denver) in the December Playboy. The Big 10

Just released circulation figures for the first six months of 1977 name the following as the 10 biggest magazine around:

1 - TV Guide 19.811,268

2 - Reader's Digest 18.512,453

3 - National Geographic 9.601,727

4 - Family Circle 8.328,930

5 - Woman's Day 8,240,306

6 - Better Homes & Gardens 8,031,981

7 - McCall's 6,502,027

8 - Ladies' Home Journal 6,037,616

9 - Good Housekeeping 5,081,173

10 - National Enquirer 5,017,569

Most notable change from the last six months of 1976 is Playboy lising 600,000 in cirulation, down to 4,900,000-plus, and consequently falling from the No. 9 spot to No. 11, only 300,000 ahead of No. 13 Penthouse. Good Housekeeping moved up from 10 to 9, the National Enquirer from 11 to 10, and Family Circle replaced Women's Day as No. 4 despite losing circulation.

TV Guide remains the perennial No. 1, but its loss of 400,000 combined with a 600,000 gain by No. 2 Reader's Digest means the gap between them has narrowed to a mere 1.3 million. Biggest gainers in the top 100 were The Star, which moved from No. 36 to No. 23 by picking up 400,000, and the Smithsonian, which moved No. 42 to No. 35 by gaining 250,000 readers. Buy, Baby, Buy

Roger Horchow, wrote fashion doynnne Eugenia Sheppard, "changed the mail-order catalog from something deadly dull to a publication that women can hardly wait to open." The biggest thing since Montgomery Ward, with customers ranging from Robert Redford to Pricness Grace, Horchow and his Collection are profiled in the December Texas Monthly.

Most impressive are the figures: Horchow expects to gross $21 million in sales this year; his mailing list is 1.2 million names strong: this year's holiday catalog alone cost $1 million to produce; and he and his wife and six buyers log over 100,000 miles looking for goodies for a clientele that is 70 per cent women between the ages of 30 and 55.

Horchow exercises total control over graphics and passes judgment on every photograph used. Before okaying an item, he asked "Would I buy this for myself," which turns out to be largely a hypothetical question, for the king of the catalogs admits, "I don't care much about earthly possessions." Look Out!

According to the November Natural History, if you see any of the following animals do any of the following things, get out of the way fast because the little critters' sensitivity to shifts in magnetic fields menas they know an earthquake is coming:

Shrimps crawling on dry land

ants picking up their eggs and moving

Pheasants chorusing in alarm

pigeons balking at entering their coop

cattle bellowing mournfully and refusing to graze

Cathfish leaping out of ponds

hibernating snakes leaving their holes and freezing to death on the ice

A word to the wise . . . Local Doings

Washington has an uncanny attraction for new magazines, as witness these two:

Reliable Source - "a kind of irreverent look at the events of the day," says political prankster Dick Tuck about his plan to turn what was a satrical paper published only during the Democratic and Republican conventions into a regular affair.

Backed by "New York money - there's $87 in New York bank account" - Tuck says Reliable Source will be distributed through selected newstands, restaurants and bars. How can it miss, he asks, since "I have the red ink of publishers flowing through my veins."

Country - a magazine that in the words of Upcountry editor Virginia Armat "will leapfrog over cities" and concentrate on rural doings in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Based on New England publications like Country Journal and Yankee, Country hopes to appeal to "people who live in the country, who are longing to get out or at least get out on weekends," which sounds like almost everybody. Tidbits

The December Architectural Digest features lots of color snaps of the upteem-room palace lived in by the Shah of Iran and the Empress Farah, who treats the place just like home: "From time to time I move everything around. Things go into other corners, and often into other rooms." . . . Rolling Stone and Outside have a new general manager, an MBA from the Harvard Business School, former assistant to the president of Dell Publishers, and by all accounts a hard charger of the first water . . . Speaking of Frank Johnson, the one who decided not to take the F.B.I. job appeared on the cover of the issue of New Times that hit the streets practically the day he stepped down. New Times, incidentally, has just been bought by entertainment conglomerate MCA . . . Margaret Mead comes out four-square for Santa Claus in the December Redbook, which plans to raise its cover price to $1.25 in February, making it the most expensive of women's magazine . . . Connoisseur, one of the classiest magazines around, at at $5 an issue it ought to be, has a stunning pictorial on The Chase in Art in its November issue . . . Armed Forces Journal, the nation's oldest military magazine and the fourth oldest magazine of any kind, has broken tradition and named a woman. LuAnne Levens of Silver Spring. Md., as its publisher . . . Ever eager to improve its color reproduction, National Geographic has begun using brand new gravure presses, each towering four stories high and stretching half the length of a football field . . . U.S. News & World Report is reportedly shopping for someone to redesign it . . . Science-fiction writer Roger P. Elwood has founded a new publication called Inspiration, a "middle of the road. Christ-honoring and ultimately Biblical magazine," Larry Flynt, take heed.