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What do you look for in a review?  

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When considering a new purchase for a gun or piece of gear, what data points are you looking for in a review? What info makes a review valuable to you? Who are some of your "go to" reviewers?

Over time, I've noticed that there are reviews and then there are "reviews". I'm a skeptical person by nature, so a good review  to me features data about the item that is backed up by the review, knowing if the item was bought or provided, photo or video evidence backing up claims made in the review, the reviewer being qualified to pass their opinion on to their intended audience, to name a few. I'm noticing these are harder and harder to find. Professional influencing/third party advertising/ paid reviews are a thriving part of the internet. The recent kerfuffle with IraqVeteran8888 on Youtube pulled back the curtain for a lot of folks.  A lot of first shots and initial opinions are passed off as in depth reviews in the vein of "Got a loaner gun from the manufacturer, shot 200 rounds, no failures, 5 stars, buy it now". It got me thinking so I figured I'd throw it out there and see where other people are at.

4 Answers
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For me a good review is data rich, as others have said. Task, conditions, and standards for the equipment. Context for how it’s intended to be used and context for how the testing was conducted. That varies depending on what type equipment it is. Reviewing a rucksack, a multi tool, a pair of boots, or a spotting scope all have different conceptions of task, condition, and standards.   An example of generally good reviews, with overt acknowledgement of bias, is Precision Rifle Blog.

Reviewer credibility matters too. A credible reviewer doesn’t need a bunch of credentials or scare badges. Just consistent criteria and performance over time. Honest reviews point out strengths and potential weaknesses of the equipment or technique. I appreciate that level of candor.

A-B comparisons are also helpful. Especially if the reference item is a known and respected industry leader. These are often found in detailed Amateur Radio equipment tests and reviews. They’re also time consuming and expensive to perform that sort of evaluation.

Timing of the review matters.  If the product is new and a lot of people are reviewing it at the same time, that smells of advertising or paid propaganda.

In short, I like reviews that explain what the item is intended to do, how it objectively compares to industry leaders, what profile the target audience for the item is (novice, expert; occasional or hobby user, occupational user, etc), a summary of strengths and weaknesses, suggested product improvements, and a recommendation to use or not for the intended user profile.

Many gear reviews are little more than fanboy adverts.  Unhelpful in the extreme.

That said, I do like Matt’s approach to reviews.  Generally detailed enough to be useful, but not so data filled that readers get turned off

@jon

Great answer!

And I appreciate the shout out for my reviews. I hope to do more, it's just a matter of getting things to review, lol. I don't really ask for handouts, which means I'm usually footing the bill.

But, that said, I've been asked to freelance for a magazine from time to time and they sent me my first item to review (a pistol). So I'm thinking I'll dual-purpose it and write the article for the magazine to their specification, but do a parallel review for the site that includes things I left out for brevity sake, or that is more personal.

@jon

Dang Jon, I wish I'd read this before my post on Friday reviewing a scope.

2

To me, the #1 thing is integrity and honesty. That applies to the product itself as well as the background and intentions of the reviewer.

I always accept that there's going to be some inherent bias in reviews. On one hand, if the reviewer spent their own cash on something and posts a review of it, then I know there's a good chance they will speak positively of it just to avoid feeling bad about buying something they don't like. That's often the position I'm in, and I try to be mindful of it. On the other hand, if a reviewer received the product from a manufacturer, then there's pressure to say good things about it or risk damaging future relationships with that manufacturer and then receive no products to review at all (or revert back to the first position).

I'm ok spotting that bias so long as the author is upfront about where they got the product from.

To my second point, about the background of the reviewer and what they actually did with the item. Details matter. For example, if someone reviews a bolt action rifle and tells me only that it held .75 MOA, but provides no data on how many shots they fired or what kind of load, then it's not actually all that useful. On the other hand, saying that they fired three 10-shot groups using Ammunition X and averaged to .75 MOA- then it's a much more informed discussion.

Lastly, the more stuff I read and come across, the more I realize that a lot of products just aren't all that different from one another. For example, Klik Belts sent me a 1.75" duty belt with cobra buckle to work with for my upcoming article on duty belt configurations. It's honestly a nice belt, it really is, and I'd happily recommend it. But there's a lot of other nice belts from companies like HSGI, FirstSpear, and more that do the exact same thing. I mean...it's a reinforced nylon belt, how creative can you get with it? I'd much rather a review tell me that a piece of gear is good to go for this use or that use, but probably not ideal for some other use and then provide honest alternatives.

That tells me they thought about it, and it's not just another quasi-sponsored post.

Anyway, I'm ranting. The bottom line is that I think people should operate with integrity above everything else.

"Man is still the first weapon of war" - Field Marshal Montgomery

@matt

Spot on but having written a number of reviews I've had stuff handed to me by manufacturers and also reviewed stuff that I bought. One anecdote I'll tell you about later when we have time is a negative review I gave to something that had been sent to Snipercraft for review. I put that guy out of business and he withdrew it from the market. So there's that.
Now integrity is important but I think competence and knowledge needs to be up there as well. I may not be able to tell immediately if someone is lying to me but as you pointed out we share the pet peeve of folks simply publishing group sizes with no context. Really, really annoying. But the reviewer I always avoid like the plague are folks like Massad Ayoob. The guy has never met a gun he didn't like. The final straw for me was when he was reviewing a pistol that had a European magazine release at the bottom of the grip and said that wasn't a negative and maybe American shooters were spoiled. But getting back to integrity, just because someone is honestly telling you what they believe (no matter how stupid) doesn't serve as a litmus test to their reviews.

1

They've made me jaded.  I have to lump them together under the label "snake oil salesmen."  The good thing is they drag a product on to MY radar, I get some idea of quality, price, use or purpose.  No faith that I get the truth, the whole truth , but some reviewers give you a glimpse of how many layers of varnish are on the "truth".

1

I look for feature sets, important details/dimensions, price, performance, faults being listed as features, and something completely negative.

I don't want to have to "read between the lines", I just want to read the lines and know the truth.

"Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement"

progunmillennial.wordpress.com

Thank you for coming by The Everyday Marksman. This site and its community are a labor of love. I hope you stick around for a while, and maybe even join us.

-Matt

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