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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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:
- Meets the basic requirements in terms of features but has serious issues that impact reliability
- Has minor issues, but more than the other guns in the group
- Average given the available firearms
- Above average, but not the best. Alternatively, overpriced given the other firearms.
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.
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.
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.