What to Make of Gun Reviews


What to Make of Gun Reviews

John J. Woods
Magnolia Outdoor Communications


When people find out you are a gun writer, gun dealer, shooter, hunter, and general all around outdoor product evaluator, the questions come in droves. This especially happens on line, on Facebook or live at gun shows where I work nearly every month.

Most often these inquiries are fair questions from consumers that want to spend their hard earned money wisely. They want valued and unbiased input on all kinds of products or recommendations on the best items to buy. Mainly they want to avoid a piece of junk or inferior product from the get-go. This is especially true of firearms’ purchases for shooting, recreation, prepping, survival, self-defense, or hunting.

For sure, I have my own opinions after some 50 years of shooting, collecting, selling, trading and evaluating firearms. I got my first writing gig back in 1978 with the North American Hunter magazine doing a monthly column called Woods Guns. Like the guy says on the Farmers Insurance ads, I know a thing or two about guns, gear, and related shooting/hunting products. Even so, I am still learning and evaluating new products virtually every day.

So, what about gun reviews? Well, if you are reading them here at AllOutdoor.com, I can say with confidence that our writers know their business. If they say this or that is a good product, you can trust that. I try as well to provide clear, concise evaluations or accurate write ups of all the products I review or report on, then you can make your best buying decisions. We all do.

If you buy quality merchandise in the way of name brand firearms, seldom are you going to run into a problem. Sure, an individual gun may need an adjustment from time to time, but rarely have I ever seen a major brand firearm totally fail, but they do sometimes. I still have a Kimber 1911 that will not lock closed upon slide release even though springs have been changed. Go figure.

I see reports of users running down a brand or model of a gun from time to time, but I most often attribute that to user error, poor maintenance, or outright abuse. Just ask a good gunsmith what they see come through their doors. Some shake their heads, others just cry.

Sorry guys, but waterfowl hunters are notorious for this. They slug a shotgun through mud and water, never clean it, and expect it to run endlessly. Ain’t happening. Every mechanical device needs maintenance and cleaning to run at peak performance and a firearm is certainly no exception. The manufacturer cannot be responsible for how a gun is treated by its owner. If there is a design flaw or a need for a recall to fix something, they will do it, most often very pronto.

There are without a doubt some highly qualified and completely honest gun review writers out there. Some are not. I look to see what they tout on social media, the hats and shirts they wear constantly to promote the products they were sponsored to write about. Some are paid to do this. But, in all fairness, this is their business, and livelihood, too, so they have to be a team player to make a living. It is up to the consumer to see if the dots connect between a fair and honest product review or was it a paid sponsorship for a good write up.

Then how do you know a good review when you read one? Make sure a gun review is actually that. Admittedly, we do gun introduction information reports, since often the gun is not even available in the marketplace yet. We just want AO consumers to know as soon as possible what new products are coming on the market and the general information about it. Actual live shooting reviews come later as we can afford to acquire these new arms. That’s expensive.

For a thorough review, be sure the gun has actually been fired extensively at a range and the data is reported. Is the firearm’s function and performance described in detail? Note what ammo was used and its accuracy. Make certain the complete specifications on the gun are included in the review. Does the author walk through how the gun works, loaded, unloaded, its features, etc. This is essential to a fair review.

Are the product photographs taken in the field, at the range, on a hunt, or in a photo studio? Check to see how detailed and introspective the review is. You’ll know the difference. Is the information on the maker’s web site listed, so you can check out the gun further yourself?

The gun industry and those of us reporting on these products are a trustworthy effort. Sometimes there is a missed step or a gloss review. I am sure we have all bought a product that we thought was going to be top notch only to be disappointed. This happens for sure. I know because I owned a Chevrolet Vega at one time and it was a piece of crap. At the time the reviews were good. As always, it is the buyer’s responsibility to purchase wisely.

Avatar Author ID 67 - 821756736

Award winning outdoor writer/photographer since 1978. Over 3000 articles and columns published nationally. Field & Stream Hero of Conservation in 2007. Fields of writing includes hunting most game in American, Canada, and Europe, fishing fresh and saltwater, destination travel, product reviews, industry consulting, and conservation issues. Currently VP at largest community college in Mississippi in economic development and workforce training with 40 years of experience in Higher Education. BS-MS in wildlife sciences from MO. University, and then a PhD in Industrial Psychology. Married with two children and Molly the Schnoodle.

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