At this magazine, we do something that a lot of other magazines and websites do — recommend firearms that our readers might like to buy. We also do something else that most other outlets would never consider — telling our readers what guns not to buy.
Based on correspondence with readers through the years, I’ve been told repeatedly that when a firearm comes up with a B or lower grade, it really doesn’t matter what the grade is. The winning gun sets the pace for the test, so readers usually say, “Why would I buy what Gun Tests says is a second-ranked gun?” That logic is hard to refute. So, when you’re at the gun counter and are trying to find a rifle, shotgun, or handgun you might like, it’s helpful to know what to buy, of course. But sometimes a well-meaning retailer will offer another choice if the store doesn’t have your A-ranked model. That’s when information about which firearms were not our picks comes in handy.
I mentioned a couple of issues ago that I might be truncating reviews for the B or lower-grade guns so we can squeeze in more guns in the magazine. My mail has run mostly positive for that change, but with some pretty big “yeahbuts.” That is, “Yeah, but cut the fat, don’t cut the meat.” A note from Gun Tests Reader Don M. expressed it like this:
As far as less treatment on B grades and lower, I have serious misgivings about that. I want to know all the problems, if possible. We need to know all kinds of problems and what it might take to solve them so we can fix, or at least diagnose, problems with older guns that we already have, or that friends or relatives have, or that we may come in contact with in the future. I absolutely want to know why a gun gets an F, a D, and so on. Was it just an assembly-line guy missing something, a quality-assurance person asleep on the job, or was the designer on drugs and the problem is not fixable? I want to know all of that. I do not think you have slipped much in the latest editions on what you tell us. I do not care if the B grades and lower cover problems faster in less words, but I want to know all the problems.
If Gun Tests were just reviews so we could know what to buy for new guns or the occasional used old gun, I would not have subscribed this long. That information is very valuable, and we need it. But reading Gun Tests is education, not simply a list of buy and don’t buy. For example, years ago you mentioned a handgun caliber that went through windshields and car doors better than others, based on a reviewer’s experience in police work. That info was not the point of the review, but it was the most useful info in the article to me — and all the other info was still useful.
Another article on hunting rifles mentioned how one gun could do a raking shot if needed. Not in the standard review, not revealed from your tests shooting paper targets, but very useful information to hunters. Your added content on how some of these calibers came to be and what makers were trying to do is so useful to know. Do not cut down on any of that. List all the problems on B and lower guns, even if you have to do a list of sentence fragments to get the detail in. But get all the info down, one way or another. I have been reading Gun Tests for at least 10 years now. You are getting better all the time. Removing knowledge on failures would not be a step up in my opinion. Shortening it is OK. Removing it is not. Thanks.
That’s pretty good advice, Don. Thanks for writing and hanging in.