The Vuurwapen (that’s Dutch for “Firearm”, if you haven’t figured it out) Blog lit the candle about the professionalism of gun reviews and others have chimed in, so here’s my thoughts as well.
The current state of gun reviews (online or not) is something that’s been bubbling inside my head since SHOT, and I’ve come to the conclusion that gun reviews, as they are now, are pretty much useless.
And I blame myself as much as anyone else.
Let’s break down a typical gun review. It starts with a brief history of the product or the manufacturer, then swings into a paragraph or two about what features on the Überblaster 3000 make it new and exciting (or, alternatively, such a beloved classic). Next is a opinion piece on why that reviewer thought those features were good or bad, and then lastly a trip to the range where they’ll put about 200 or so rounds through it at varying distances and then pronounce (if we’re lucky) that said gun is a good value or if we’re not, they’ll just say whether they like the gun or not.
What I didn’t learn was a) how it compared to other guns with a similar purpose b) what other people think of it and c) and what the gun is like to own and maintain.
It’s that last point that’s the biggest gap in gun reviews. Gun writing is in a permanent state of ADD: We’re always distracted by the bright and shiny new objects the gun companies dangle in front of us, and we don’t write about what it’s like to live with a gun for a long time. As I said on the post that started this whole thing,
My main complaint with most gun reviews is they are similar to the car reviews in the auto magazines: “Look, here’s the latest and greatest thing from Detroit/Milan/Stuttgart/, and it goes REALLY REALLY FAST!!!!”
That’s nice, if I have an extra $50k+ to spend on a mid-life crisis. However, I’m more concerned about what a given gun will do over it’s lifetime. I don’t buy a gun a month, if I’m lucky, it’s a gun a year, so I need to make sure what I buy will hold up as an investment, and putting 200 rounds through it tells me squat about what it’s like to live with that gun day in and day out. A pistol that can hold up to a 2000 Round Challenge is much more interesting to me than the last überblaster.
I’ll probably never buy a Lamborghini, and even my chances of owning a Mustang are beginning to fade as my kids grow up and bills increase. What matters to me more right now is whether my wife’s Nissan Pathfinder will be as reliable as my old Frontier pickup or what are the long-term maintenance costs of a Civic Hybrid.
The fact of the matter is, most cars are reliable for the first 75,000 miles or so and, with a few exceptions, most guns are reliable for the first 1000-ish rounds (we’ll leave the “break-in” discussion for another day). Because I don’t buy a gun a month, I need to know that what I buy will last, and the 2000 Round Challenge is good way to mimic the life of an ordinary (non-competition) gun and how a typical plinker/CCW gun owner will treat their gun.
Gun reviewers (including me) need to start thinking about what it’s like to OWN a gun and not just what it’s like to BUY a gun.
Part Two on Monday: Learning from Car and Driver.