April 2002

Rankings Explained

Reader Bill Vogel recently had a question that periodically requires explanation. He said:

“I have just subscribed and received my first issue. I have a question. I understand what “Don’t Buy” means. But what is the difference between “Buy It,” “Buy,” and “Conditional Buy?”

Buy It and Buy are two ways of saying the same thing. Most often, our rankings take the imperative verb form of a recommendation, such as on page 24 in this issue. There, we write, “Springfield Armory MilSpec 1911A1, $682. Buy It.” But we could have just as easily have written, “Springfield Armory MilSpec 1911A1, $682. We would Buy this gun....”

Conditional Buy means there is some “condition” attached to our recommendation. The condition is often cost or some aspect of function that we may not particularly like, but which we recognize others might not worry about. The recommendation for the Franchi Alcione on page 29 illustrates this: “Franchi Alcione Field 12 Gauge No. 40405, $1,275. Conditional Buy. There is nothing at all wrong with this shotgun. If you shoot one and like it, we think its interesting feature set—including the trigger-mounted barrel selector, mechanical triggers, and stocks with cast—might be worth the money.”

There are two other recommendations as well.

Our Pick means that of the guns in a test, we’d buy one over the others, even though the others might also have earned “Buy” ratings. We usually specify why our testers liked Gun A better than Guns B and C., such as on page 18: “Lyman Great Plains Rifle, $395. Our Pick. We liked the Lyman very much. It actually looked a whole lot more like a real Hawken mountain rifle than the Traditional Hawken did. Mountain men didn’t want a shiny rifle in Indian country, and specified iron hardware over brass when given the choice. Except for the misshapen butt plate—the rifle should rest on the heel when stood upright, not the toe, which was the case here—this was a close-enough copy of one of Jake Hawken’s flint rifles. Because of its dull, dark finish, this rifle would be our first choice for serious hunting.”

Best Buy is our highest accolade. It is given to a gun with good performance and quality, but the gun isn’t inordinately expensive compared to others in its class. For example, in the flintlocks story we wrote: “Cabela’s Traditional Hawken, $225. Best Buy. We thought the Cabela’s Traditional Hawken was an excellent rifle, easily worth its modest cost of $225. It’s also available as a kit for $190, but you’d be hard pressed to do as good an assembly job as the factory did, for the price difference. The loose ramrod was its only flaw, one that would be easy to fix.” Because the gun was $170 less than Our Pick of the Lyman Great Plains, and performed well to boot, we thought it deserved a Best Buy.

-Todd Woodard