Do gun writers get specially selected guns to test?

AP Photo/Wilson Ring

For a lot of people, they have to get their first glimpse of new guns via gun writers who test and evaluate firearms, then write about them for the magazines and websites.

No, we don’t do much of that here (but hey, if you’re with a gun company’s marketing department, hit me up and we can change that), but a lot of other places do. They have writers who spend days upon days at the range running all manner of firearms through their paces, all so they can eventually tell you what they think of it.

However, if a gun seems to have a problem in its design, it often seems like it never comes up during that testing and evaluation phase for some reason.

Some seem to think hand-picked guns get sent to evaluators so they never see the issues. Is that true?

Well, one such gun writer has thoughts on the subject.

For gun writers like me the opportunity to get early looks at the latest rifles, handguns, and shotguns and talk about them is one of the best perks of the job. When those reviews are posted there’s an invariable torrent of feedback. One recurring comment from skeptical readers—especially if the review is positive—is that while such-and-such firearm might be good, it was probably cherry picked for the gun writer. Sometimes the same is said of the ammunition I test. The implication being that the rifles, handguns, shotguns, and ammo shipped to your local Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse, or mom-and-pop gun store are somehow inferior to what the gun media reviews.

Is there any truth to that? Do gun writers get the good stuff, while the peasants that comprise the shooting public have to make do with whatever rolls off the production line? Having been at this game for more than 20 years, I have to say—not so much.

The Evil Geniuses of Marketing

I understand the sentiment. In theory, it sounds like a no-brainer. When Ruger, Browning, Savage or whoever trots out a new rifle, why wouldn’t they make sure they are delivering a ringer to the gun writer, a paragon of accuracy that will skew public opinion in the gun company’s favor?

In this scenario, the gun company’s crafty marketing department goes to the factory floor and grabs a pile of rifles—how many? Five? Ten?—and tests them to see which performs best. I suppose they’d have to go through the hassle of scoping them all up and shooting a broad variety of ammo through each, just to be certain.

Honestly, writer John B. Snow knows far more than nothing (Game of Throne reference, in case you missed it). He’s absolutely right.

To really get the pick of the litter, every gun would have to be test-fired over and over again to determine which weapons were the very best, all so they could be sent to your friendly neighborhood gun reviewer.

However, as Snow points out, there’s no marketing department in the industry with the time, people, or resources to do all of that.

Instead, they’re far more likely to just grab a gun ready to be shipped out, and then…you know…ship it out.

I’ve never believed anyone who tried to claim gun reviewers got cherry-picked guns. I’d be more likely to believe they provide positive reviews so as to not alienate advertisers. However, since misleading reviews will lead to a drop in readership, thus alienating reviewers, even that one doesn’t hold water for me.