How To: Gear Reviews

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Reviewing isn’t as simple as one would think. Often, readers assume it’s as easy as getting products in and just throwing opinions up online. It’s far from that. In fact, it takes a lot of time as well as effort to craft a thorough, detailed, objective review.

Step One: Idea and Implementation

The process for me starts with an idea. Often I come across products by way of press releases. In addition to working as a reviewer for Guns.com, I also man the product and consumer news portion as a reporter; which gives me the ability to see what’s new and upcoming in the gun and gear world. Other times, I am asked to review items either by the company itself or by members of the gun community.

Once an idea takes form, I contact the manufacturer and request to test and evaluate the product, known as a T&E.  If the company agrees to the project then we outline the specifics — how long the review will be, how many pictures are included, if there’s video, etc. For gear reviews, this is also where I detail what guns I have available to test with and sizing of holsters.

I’d like to make it clear that with holsters that require specific sizing to ensure a proper fit, I always send the manufacturer my measurements and allow them to select the size of the holster for me. This eliminates any errors on my part. Once the specifics are in order, companies ship out the gear to me for testing.

I T&E all products AS IS.

Step Two: Testing and Evaluation

Testing and evaluation for me is an arduous process that I don’t take lightly. I take on the responsibility of providing unbiased, honest information. What I say has meaning to consumers and readers and I know that.

I base my usage of the product on the instructions sent to me by the company or through their website, Facebook, Instagram, etc. If I am utterly lost on the proper usage, I will contact the manufacturer for clarification. I approach each review from two stand-points: that of a shooter who has been carrying for nearly a decade and from the viewpoint of someone totally new to the world of guns and gear. This creates a full-bodied review that suits both new readers and seasoned veterans.

The testing process for holsters and most gear is a multi-week ordeal where I focus solely on that product. For holsters, I first begin by pairing the rig with either a SIRT training pistol or a blue gun. I carry one of these guns for one week to get a feel for the gear. This helps solidify limitations the holster might have and also ensures that I am safe while testing. During this time I analyze form, fit, function, comfortability and the basic details that start my reviews.

I then move to carrying a firearm. I have a bevy of guns to choose from but usually stick with either the Springfield Mod.2, Ruger LC9s, Smith & Wesson Shield or Glock 19. I first carry around my home with an empty mag and chamber working on my draw and dry fire. There are situations in which a holster might perform well under the conditions of a blue gun but when an actual gun is introduced a flaw will emerge (such as sights snagging or holsters sagging due to the weight of the real gun).

Additionally, I look at real world testing. I jog, run, do cartwheels, roll around on the floor and even practice self-defense scenarios to see how the gear holds up. Nine times out of ten this is where the holster is either going to shine or fail and the majority of my opinion will be crafted from these exercises.

I then move onto multiple trips to the range with live, chambered rounds. I practice drawing and shooting with the gear and gun. This gives me practical information on how the gear holds up with the introduction of live ammo and gun. For instance, a fabric holster might hold up in dry fire tests but once a hot gun is introduced the fabric might deteriorate or not provide enough protection to keep the wearer from being burned.

Sometimes the process takes longer. If I feel I need more time with the gear, I definitely take it. My numbers are not hard and fast but reflect how the holster performs throughout the testing.

Step Three: Write it up

Once testing is done, I move on to the actual writing of the review as well as picture/video taking. I strive for accurate and honest assessments based on the guns and gear given to me. There is NO bias, no predetermined outcome, no personal feelings in the writing of the reviews. I am a journalist first and foremost and I do not allow personal feelings into my reviews or news articles. There’s no bad blood, there’s no malevolence. The reviews stand on the merits of the products.

If there are major issues, I always include comments from the company within the written article to allow them to state their position or opinion on what went wrong. Occasionally, companies will ask to send another holster for a second look. In those instances, I oblige and will update my review based on what I find.

Final Thoughts

Every T&E and review is conducted with the utmost professionalism that nearly a decade in the writing business has provided to me. I love testing, I love reviewing and I love sharing my thoughts and opinions with you, the reader.

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