For those who might not have been following, there’s currently a huge backlash among gun writers overÂ an article that appeared on The Truth About Guns bashing Richard Mann for a review he did of the R51 in NRA’s publication Shooting Illustrated. I’ve never been a fan of propping yourself up by tearing down others, which in my perusing of TTAG is their modus operandi. As I’ve said previously, I think their content can often be very good, so it’s a shame they aren’t better members of the community. There’s also the issue that there might be some personal animosity between the TTAG contributor and NRA Publications. That said, there is a legitimate debate over how gun and gear reviews should work.
Most print publications, and some new media publications, don’t do bad reviews. That’s not to say there’s dishonestly going on, just that if a gun or gear doesn’t pass muster, it’ll be returned to the manufacturer with feedback. This isn’t really just an issue with the gun community, since most media in any hobby have tended to work this way. The reason is because your advertiser base will tend to be the source of products you’re reviewing, and it’s never a good idea to pan your customers’ products in public if you want them to keep offering upÂ test and evaluation samples, special visits, factory tours, access to insiders, etc. This is the way of things. There are exceptions, Consumer Reports exists and doesn’t take advertising because they sought to be an impartial source for product evaluation and wanted to build trust with consumers. Blogs also can achieve more flexibility because the advertising model is very different (and not nearly as profitable) than traditional media, but blogs still are dependent on access and good will from manufacturers if they want to get in early on the buzz about new products.
In an ideal world, I tend to think the objective model is better, and is what I prefer. AÂ writer ought to give his honest opinion, and it should be a base expectation of manufacturers and product designers that’s going to be the case. But we don’t live in the ideal world. I don’t think the traditional model is evil incarnate therefore mustÂ be destroyed. I don’t rail against it. There is something to say for what your mother taught you, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.” In the traditional model, bad products are deprived of the oxygen they need to succeed in the marketplace. As long as a writer is honest, and doesn’t try to tell you a turd sandwich is really pumpkin pie, I have no issue with a publication choosing to follow mom’s old advice. I also don’t have any issue with a publication that chooses to go the route of objective reviews, good or bad. Each has its own merits. But even for those of us who would ideally prefer the objective model, I’m pretty certain we’re not going to change that world by crapping all over it.