Gun Magazine Articles: Industry Advertisements?

I have been reading gun magazines off and on for 20 years and have come to the conclusion that gun articles are just thinly veiled advertisements for the industry. At one point, I subscribed to seven monthly gun magazines at the same time for 6 years. It was during this six year period, I began to notice some interesting problems in the gun articles I read and I would like to get on my soap box and get them off my chest.

I subscribed to and read gun magazines because I am very interested in handguns and rifles and have owned and traded many over a twenty year period. I subscribed to and read the gun magazines to gain knowledge, and look to experts with more experience then me for advice or recommendations. Now the writers’ in the gun magazines and the gun magazines themselves try to give the impression that they do product evaluations of guns and other related accessories. Some even say they are writing the article specifically to test the gun or ammunition for the readers benefit.

Now back in college, when you said you were going to do a test and evaluation, that required certain protocols to ensure that the results were not spurious, but were valid and repeatable. Now, the only way to give results with any validity is proper “research design”. Unless the testing process provides barriers against any unknown variables, tester bias and maintains consistent methods, the entire procedure and results are useless. Good research design is not that hard and can be done with just a little planning. Unfortunately the gun writers often stumble on the first step.

For example, gun writers often begin a test and evaluation article by saying that a particular gun was mailed to them for testing by the manufacturer so they grabbed what ever ammunition was available or called an ammunition manufacturer for some more free ammunition. If you think about this for a minute you will realize immediately that there is already inconsistency in the ammunition tested, and a potential conflict of interest in the results. Ammunition is a key factor in how in how a gun performs.

A 230 grain .45 caliber cartridge from Winchester is not the same as a 230 grain .45 caliber cartridge from Golden Saber. A given cartridge consists of several parts such as the bullet, powder, brass case and primer. A change in any one component can drastically affect the accuracy and performance of the bullet.
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Additionally, if the gun writer calls up an ammunition company and requests free ammunition, there is a conflict of interest here. Can I trust the gun writer to give me an honest evaluation of the cartridges performance? If he gives a bad review, does the company stop sending him free ammunition? Would you give free stuff to some one who gave you a bad review a year ago?

Moreover, if you test Gun A with a 5 different brands of bullets of various weights and types and then compare it to a test of Gun B with different brands of ammunition of different weights and types, is the comparison valid? I often find it amusing that they give an impression of trying to be serious and precise when the basis research design testing procedure is so flawed, the results are not valid.

The gun articles also tend to just be predominately puff pieces instead of concise and complete reviews of the product. I frequently try and guess in what paragraph the writer will actually begin to directly talk about the product or what the thesis of the article is. In a small minority of writers, I may find the actual beginning of the article in the second or third paragraph, but for the majority of gun writers I find the actual article starts in the 10th or more paragraph. The first ten paragraphs were personal opinion on life, the shooting publics’ perceptions of hand guns or some Walter Mitty dream of being in a dangerous spot where you can count on the product that is the subject of the article.

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