A week or so ago I asked for input on what you guys want in a review. I’ve taken all of your feedback, ignored most of it and tried to tie as much as possible of what was left into a guide for writing reviews. As always, we’re open to suggestions on how to improve them (and this will be a living document, not just a one shot deal) so let us know in the comments if you have any more bright ideas.

Overall Style

Believe it or not, there actually is a style guide for TTAG. It’s right here. Give it a read and try to follow the guidelines, but remember that these are more like “suggestions” than commandments.

Reviews should be like a conversation with the reader. Imagine if you were discussing this gun or piece of kit with your friends, and write it in that same tone. We don’t want to come off as pompous boffins sharing our knowledge from on high — we’re just firearms enthusiasts like everyone else reading our site giving our opinions on a gun.

To that end: ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH. I know you knew that already, but I just wanted to spell it out, too. Don’t make stuff up.

Topics to Cover

A complete review should discuss the following topics in the text of the review:

  • Overall appearance
  • Fit and finish — how well everything works, and if there are any defects
  • Ease of use
  • Ease of disassembly — can it be cleaned easily?
  • Handling characteristics — weight, balance and ergonomics including how the trigger feels. For more on trigger terminology see here and here.
  • Applicability for a given situation (concealed carry for handguns, hunting for rifles, etc)
  • Available aftermarket options, including whether or not there are holsters available (if a handgun).
  • Favorite feature
  • Least favorite feature
  • Available accessories

EVERY review must include at least one feature or function that you didn’t like or could be improved. Whether it’s that the gun didn’t work at all or that the bubbles in the bubble wrap were too big, there is always something to be improved and we want to point it out. Even my favorite guns have faults.

The following topics are suggested, but not required:

  • History of the design of the firearm
  • Technical details about the operating mechanism
  • Interesting nerdy trivia
  • Amusing cat stories

Accuracy Testing

In order to encourage a standard accuracy test for firearms, all firearms should be tested using this target when printed on a standard piece of copy paper.

Other targets may be substituted if they are more applicable for the particular firearm in use, but there must (at minimum) be a scale of some sort included on the target for reference (even if just a dollar bill lying on the target in the picture). The following distances are suggested (if you use something else just let the readers know):

  • Handgun: 20 feet
  • Rifle: 50 yards
  • Shotgun: N/A

For general accuracy, 20 rounds on a single target will provide an excellent idea of how well the firearm handles. For rifles, if doing group sizes, 5 round groups are encouraged with 3 rounds being the minimum to be able to discuss group size and spread. We will be using the “maximum spread” or “extreme spread” metric for ALL group size comparisons from now on, meaning the measured distance from the outermost edge of the two furthest away impacts in a group and then subtracting the diameter of the bullet. This will give you the distance between the center of the two holes.

Rifles are also encouraged to be fired both “normally” (offhand or bench rest with minimum support) and from a vise or other immobilization device for more accurate group sizes (not required).

Writers are encouraged to compare the target shot with the test gun to another target shot using a firearm of the writer’s choosing. This will give the reader some indication of the general accuracy of the writer and allow them to draw their own conclusions about the firearm’s accuracy.

Writers are also encouraged to enlist the help of a less experienced shooter when doing accuracy testing and providing their results as well, giving an idea of how well a novice would handle the firearm (not mandatory).

Reliability

The absolute minimum number of rounds required to be fired through a gun to begin to discuss reliability is 200 rounds. Writers are encouraged to fire between 500 and 1,000 rounds, but given the expense this is not required. If you fire less than 100 rounds you may only make generalizations about the relative reliability of that class of firearm and not any claims about the exact firearm in question.

ANY AND ALL MALFUNCTIONS MUST BE REPORTED. No malfunction is too small to be reported in the review. Be sure to note what ammunition was in use at the time as well as the circumstances.

For gear reviews, a minimum of one month of constant use is required to start discussing reliability. Again, all malfunctions must be reported.

Ratings

All firearms that are reviewed should have ratings at the end to give a brief synopsis, a TL;DR if you will, of the review for lazy bastards. Ratings should be out of five stars. The way to determine how “good” a given firearm is to compare it to other similar firearms within +/- 25% of the retail value of the gun. The following general rating should then be applied, taking into consideration the other firearms:

  1. Meets the basic requirements in terms of features but has serious issues that impact reliability
  2. Has minor issues, but more than the other guns in the group
  3. Average given the available firearms
  4. Above average, but not the best. Alternatively, overpriced given the other firearms.
  5. Perfect

A rating of zero stars is acceptable for firearms that fail to function or otherwise fails to incorporate basic features into the firearm. Like a safety, for example.

Giving out a five star rating should be avoided UNLESS the gun is absolutely perfect. If there are any reservations whatsoever about the firearm a five star rating can not be applied.

Half star ratings are only permissible if you absolutely positively cannot live with yourself unless you use them. They’re a pain in the ass to code into the new review search engine.

Photographs

All reviews must include pictures. The following is recommended for pictures for a review:

  • Overview shot of the firearm, showing the complete firearm with none outside the frame. Should be taken against a contrasting background.
  • Close-up shots of each component discussed in the review
  • A picture of the firearm disassembled
  • On the range

Flash photography should be avoided at all costs. If your picture is still too dark or blurry try moving to a brighter location or investing in a cheap lamp from the local grocery store. It might be a pain, but it looks MUCH better.

Try to avoid using the word “porn.” Because the old people don’t like it.

Length

A gun review should be over 600 words. More is always better, though. But if you feel you can do it justice in fewer words — like “shit’s broke, don’t work” — that works too.

25 Responses to Official TTAG Review Guidelines

      • “All food must be compared in some way to a bacon cheeseburger.”

        Utter nonsense. Nothing compares to a bacon cheeseburger.

      • Okay Guys, if you want some “guidelines for gun writing”, lets take a few tips from the Peter Kokalis school of gun scribes. Here are some useful points:

        1. Never use one word when a dozen will do. After all if a publisher is paying by the line, it pays to stretch things out a bit.

        2. Never use simple language like “the bolt slides in the receiver” Instead, impress all the readers with stuff like “the bolt regcom pivits over the cam axis at 25.77 degrees, with a 3.88 micron receiver treated with .00022 mm’s of polymerithon paxton coating tested to 200 microns of thermals”. Sure the readers will have no clue what you are talking about, but we all know the author doesn’t either!

        3. Make sure you add another 3000 words to the text, shamelessly plugging all kinds of gun products (scopes, mounts, slings, bipods). Sure little of this stuff has anything to do with the test gun, but you can’t expect the makers to give you this stuff for free if you don’t do a plug now and then, right?

        4. Make sure you say “I recommend this gun with no reservations whatsoever” on all the products you test. More free stuff to get, and the fact you have said it about a thousand times before won’t matter. After all, those unwashed masses you are always talking about in your text are too dumb to remember anyway.

        5. Always wear Cammo clothes. Sure you wish you could write for Soldier Of Fortune, but don’t feel bad — nobody listens to them either!

        now kiddies I hope I have helped a bit here. lots of free goodies and fame await you!!!!!!

  1. Ok, so I guess I can address my biggest beef with TTAG reviews: what seems to be a lack of exposure to competing firearms in the category.

    When RF got a Wilson, he seemed to love it. But he talked the thing up as if he had read Wilson’s marketing literature and believed it hook, line and sinker. It made me genuinely question weather or not he had any experience handling, shooting or learning about the myriad of competing upper crust 1911 brands (Les Baer, Ed Brown, Nighthawk, Springfield customs).

    Or NL’s SCAR review, where someone with some experience with that class of firearm (7.62 modern battle rifles) is left wondering if the author has much, if any, experience with this class of rifle. For those of us who move a lot of 7.62 downrange, the SCAR 17 is the obvious winner across all other current options. It isn’t really a question of opinion, because everyone I know who is decently exposed to that category of rifle universally agrees that the SCAR is a huge win. So why is NL writing these definitive sounding reviews on a class of weapon he has limited experience with?

    Today, I bought a S&W 646. I own lots of pistols, but only one revolver (one of those scandium S&W J-frames in .357 – kills on one side, wounds on the other). To say I have limited experience with revolvers would be an understatement. I’ve put perhaps 500 (painful, unenjoyable, torturous) rounds through the snobby, and 60 through the 646 today. I am in *no way* qualified to write a S&W 646 review. I feel like a lot of TTAC reviews comes from the same sort of place though.

    Perhaps calling these a “Owner’s Review” would be more appropriate? Start out with an outline of why they picked that particular firearm in the first place, and recount their experiences with it so far?

    Unless you are experienced and well exposed to an entire category of firearms though, I don’t think it is appropriate to be writing definitive “reviews.”

    • “Perhaps calling these a “Owner’s Review” would be more appropriate? Start out with an outline of why they picked that particular firearm in the first place, and recount their experiences with it so far?”

      Now that is a GREAT idea.

    • The SCAR is a turd made by an “out of touch” gun company that has no clue. But otherwise I agree with most of what you say. But keep in mind gun writers who are used to doing this for a living (I did it for 20 years) and used to be paid well are not very motivated to write on blogs for free, so it if left to “owners’ to state their opinions as it is instead of firearm pros. Yeah the writing is bad sometimes, but after reading the fake crap that Guns and Ammo, Shooting Times, and American Handgunner/Rifleman puts out, it’s still a good change of pace. And look at all the fun we have busting their nuts when they say stupid stuff! So I am not complaining — not at the moment anyway….

      • We try, we mean well, and we generally respond positively to critiques and criticism. Heck, we ASK for it. Hopefully one day we’ll be the best bar none, but until then please do feel free to point and laugh when we screw up.

        Just keep it civil, eh folks?

  2. I think it would be better to use a vise. I try to avoid other vices as much as I can while shooting, preferring instead to wait until later. I’m a horrible multi-tasker.

  3. That picture of a target shows measuring from the center of impacts. That isn’t what you say how you measure: ” We will be using the “maximum spread” or “extreme spread” metric for ALL group size comparisons from now on, meaning the measured distance from the outermost edge of the two furthest away impacts in a group.”

    Is the picture or the text correct?

    • Text is correct. I couldn’t figure out how to make the damned thing do the measurement to the edge instead of the centre. But tack on an extra .224 inches and you have the right measurement.

  4. Here is a rule for you: “The person who does the paying has the saying. ” So If TTAG starts paying the writer for their work, TTAG has the say about writer style. If the cost of the article (and ammo) is coming out of the writers (my) pocket (it does), the writer (me) has the say about writing style. Far easier to remember I think!!!!!!!

  5. Just to be clear, can the general public contribute and author reviews? I’m a fairly articulate writer and owner of a new Adcor BEAR Elite that I would love to talk about.

  6. A couple of issues I see with these criteria:

    1. The standard evaluation range for handgun accuracy is 25 yards for a “full” sized handgun, 7 yards for a snub or compact and concealable handgun. Accuracy tests are usually done from a “Ransom Rest,” which eliminates the human factor in shooting from an unsupported position:

    http://www.ransomrest.com/RansomRest.html

    2. Most rifle evaluations are done at 100 yards, not 50 unless we’re talking of rimfires (.22 LRs’). Shooting is off the bench. Many evaluators shoot 3-shot groups, but I think this is statistically misleading. 5-shot groups are more revealing, and an experienced shooter will shoot a group from a cold bore and group from a fouled bore.

    For both rifles and handguns, the type of ammo used in the evaluation, (maker, weight, projectile type) should be clearly specified.

    3. Trigger pulls should be measured with a scale, and at least 12 readings taken, with an average and standard deviation. This is revealing of how consistent the trigger is, which is an indication of how clean the trigger pull is.

    4. All safety features, no matter how noxious, should be tested for positive function.

    • Yes the standard pistol range is 25 yards, but it is more “real” to shoot at 8.3 yards, then multiply by x3 to get your “25” yards group if you don’t have a ransom rest. Military sight-ins are done at 25 yards on the AR, which is the way it should be. If it hits in the circle at 25, it’s sighted in, but I can assure you that even so, about 15% of shooters who do so will still wander the hits at the 100 yard line due to eye distortion, wind, shaking table, or what not. As a firearms instructor I see this often, especially in the desert where the sun can mess your line of site (mirage). ALL of my site-ins are done at 8.3/ 25 to start. A procedure that has yet to fail me.

      • I like a 50 yard zero on my ARs myself. Its a distance that just about every rifle range offers, and lets me hit 10 inch plates out to 250 yards without changing my point of aim — 300 with a little guesswork.

  7. As far as gun reviews, I haven’t seen too many yet. And the reviews I have seen, do not impress me much. There is no indication of a deep interest or passion about the subject at all. This site is more political in nature than firearm related. Guns are just the topic that drive the political argument. It might as well be oil or cattle futures.

  8. Having researched 308 caliber/7.62 I was torn between Sig Sauer 716 for under $2000.00 dollars and an incredible customer service department (they get your firearms back to you in an average of 1-2 weeks).

    My next choice was the LWRC RPR another incredible firearm (I have the LWRC in .556 and love it, they also have very fast and responsive customer service, but this rifle seemed a little heavy and is in the same price range as the fnh scar 17 heavy.

    The fnh scar 17 hvy has a good reputation as a fire arm if you like multi-colored rifles at no additional charge which they surprise you with and the slowest customer service i have experienced in my entire life.

    I ordered a “black” scar 17 hvy at the end of February 2015, the only problem was it looked like it was assembled by old parts they were cleaning out their bins with. I ordered a “black” rifle and yet the rail under the barrel arrived in dove grey as well as the clamp that attached the front sight to the barrel. Grey parts on an over $3000.00 rifle…

    I sent the rifle back to fnh on March 2nd of 2015 asking for them to remove the grey parts and send me the black rifle I had ordered through my gun shop.

    It is now May 21st almost 3 months later and I still have no rifle!

    It feels as though they are using up old parts, selling multi-colored firearms, what happened to quality control?

    fnh just doesn’t give a damn about their customers.

    I have called several times to no avail, “they are examining the entire rifle” is the response I get when all I needed was to have the 2 dove grey parts replaced with the black ones that should have been on the black rifle that was ordered.

    I had even asked what grain of ammo this rifle was partial to for long distance accuracy, realizing that there are variations amongst the manufacturers, but the weight should give me a starting point, alas the service manager had “no idea” and just suggested to try them all and see what worked best. I get he can’t refer to any one brand, but certainly fnh must have a clue as to what grain has a better chance of meeting my question and a place to begin.

    Still nothing.

    I wish I had known how poor their quality control was as well as their service department, any other business or service industry would certainlt fail or at the very least be highly challanged by the cavalier attitude.

    I’m sorry I purchased this rifel as I detest giving my hard earned money to people that don’t appreciate my business and a rifle in the $3000.00 plus range should have very goo customer service, sadly fnh doesn’t seem to care about its customers even a little.

    Can you imagine 3 months waiting for 2 simple parts to be replaced that never should have been on the rifle to begin with?

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