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If there’s one thing that we here at TTAG do well, its gun reviews. That’s the #1 people come to the site, and after meeting countless readers over the last few months it seems like we’re pretty much the gold standard these days for impartial and honest reviews. Which is awesome, since that was the whole idea. But I want to make the reviews even better, and one idea Chris and Joe had that I brought up to the boss was the idea of standardizing the reviews to ensure that we don’t let the quality slip as we bring on new writers. He rewarded my enthusiasm for the idea with a promotion to “Gun Test Editor” and a HUGE raise which tripled my salary (from $0 to $000), and told me to get on it. But before I finalize anything I wanted to see what you guys thought, and if you had any suggestions. So here’s the instructions I have in mind for our writers, and don’t hold back telling me how much it sucks…

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
  • Handling characteristics — weight, balance and ergonomics including how the trigger feels
  • Applicability for a given situation (concealed carry for handguns, hunting for rifles, etc)
  • Favorite feature
  • Least favorite feature
  • Available accessories

The following topics are recommended, but not required:

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

Accuracy Testing

In order to encourage a standard accuracy test for firearms, all firearms should be tested using 20 rounds fired at this target when printed on a standard piece of copy paper. The following distances should be used:

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

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.


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.


All 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.


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


A gun review should be over 600 words. More is always better, though.

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  1. Rifles should be tested at 100 yards, except maybe rimfire .22s and .17 Hmrs. The bigger debate should maybe be focused on whether the test should use 3 shot vs 5 shot groups. I think three shot groups are fine for most rifles, but maybe varmit barrelled guns and sniper rifles should be tested with 5 shot groups.

    • I like 5-shot groups, but that’s just me. Perhaps the reviewer should also state whether the barrel was allowed to cool between shots?

    • 50 yards makes sense, as some reviewers may not have access to a range out past 50 yards. It’d also give as much sense of its precision as shooting at 100 yards.

      5 shot groups should always be preferred, as it increases that validity of results.

      • The reason I don’t like 5 shot groups is that it is only the rare reviewer that can shoot a perfect 5 shot string without adding human error. Is that fourth shot that is an inch away from the rest of the group the rifle’s fault? 9 times out of 10 is was caused by bad trigger control.

        • That problem is easily solved using a vise. If the gun doesn’t move, then there is no human error. ALL RIFLES should be tested in a vise for at least two cold barrel groups and two hot barrel groups (5 shots each). There’s your 20 rounds.

          I know this is probably overkill but accuracy is everything:
          Use a bore sight before the first shot and after the last shot to ensure that the rifle has not changed its point of aim in the vise.

  2. one thing i would kike to see is an extra step in the review process. people reviewing firearms for print and film are experienced gun people. take a rookie to the range session of the review and get their input on the actual shooting qualities of the gun under review.

  3. I have no complaints about your gun reviews in general. They’re very well done and informative.

    I kind of like jwm’s suggestion of having a rookie try out the gun in question as well, might give a better outlook on how naturally intuitive the gun is. Far from necessary for a good review, but might be an interesting element to add when possible.

  4. I appreciate the honesty at TTAG yet let’s be honest some parts of a gun review are always going to be a subjective opinion and not an objective fact.

  5. I want to see someone telling the gun companies that pumping out another polymer framed, striker fired, 9mm, blah, blah, blah, doesn’t impress anyone. This is the 21st century and by now we ought to have something that fires lightning bolts and costs less than $500 AND that doesn’t jam. Example of what not to do: review the new so and so .22 caliber whatever that might as well have been manufactured in the 19th century. Just because you use new manufacturing techniques and materials doesn’t mean you’ve done something impressive. I want a weapon worthy of Star Trek, and I want it yesterday!

    • Okay, how’s ’bout Gun Pr0n? jk.

      it seems that the word “porn” is getting a bit overused (for just about everything in electronics, the “gut” shots, and other things too.)

      I second this opinion.

  6. I think the accuracy only has any meaning if the gun is secured in some sort of rest so that you can eliminate as much of the shooter as possible. The accuracy of the combined human+gun has a lot less meaning for me because of all the added variables. Plus, I don’t find it interesting in a review to look at picture after picture of holes punched in paper.

    I can understand that maybe a gun has a crappy trigger and it makes it hard to shoot accurately and that should be noted. But, maybe the trigger is not an issue for one shooter but is for another. Just take a double action revolver for instance. Maybe one reviewer can’t shoot it for crap and it makes the gun look bad. Another experienced revolver shooter might have no problems.

  7. Some sort of actual scale for reliability on defensive firearms. See if you can come to terms with a cheap, lower quality ammo, and shoot a hell of a lot through it with out cleaning. Have your writers use the same brand and same number of rounds, record the number and type of malfunctions. One point for a type one malfunction (FtF), two points for a type two (FtE) and three points for every type three malfunction (Everyones favorite, the double feed!)

    So, maybe I test out my GLOCK and put 500 rounds through it and it has a failure fire and a double feed, that gives it a malfunction score of 4.

    Then I take out my nice target 1911, and fire 500 rounds through it, and it has fifteen failures to fire and a couple of stove pipes, that would give it a malfunction score of 19.

    This way there can be an at least somewhat objective scale of reliability. When I worked as an instructor and RSO at a shooting range, and had the time and money, I’d borrow things and try them out, and started keeping track of each malfunction, then, I got bored of writing them, so I would just write down 1, 2, 3, every time something hicciuped, and then I started using that as an objective scale with Wolff ammo, because its dirty, steel cased, cheap, and has fairly hard primers.

    • What an excellent idea! Great thinking! I wouldn’t necessarily use the same point scale (even though I thought it was good) but I would provide a chart with each category and include the percentage of total rounds fired. For example:

      Gun | Type 1 fail | Type 2 fail | Type 3 fail | Totals (%)
      Glock | 1 | 0 | 1 | 2 (.004)
      1911 | 15 | 2 | 0 | 17 (.034)

      Pure genius! This should be an industry standard!

        • I would really love to see this. Actually, seeing this on the review board, and giving a ‘user poll’ to see how many failures us readers have had in comparison to the review. I can review a Taurus 1911 and get no failures over 100 rounds, but my friend’s Taurus failed 3 times over the course of 100 rounds. It adds a sense of public manufacturing error that you normally would never see. I’d like to know if RF’s Glocks are as functional as mine.

  8. I would like reviews of rare guns like the mab 15, ect.. Rather than a glock, of which there are already many reviews.

  9. Measure the trigger pull weight with a trigger pull gauge and throw that in there, if you don’t mind.

    I’m also interested in knowing what lubricants were used to oil or grease up the weapon before the test.

  10. One thing I didn’t see is mentioned was the list price and the “street price” that you guys typically include in most of your reviews. I wouldn’t want to lose that. Frankly, you folks do a great job in your reviews, I have seen the kind of honesty that no main stream magazine would ever print. And your reviews tend to be very complete.

  11. Less like this:

    “My not-entirely-thrilled-with-guns wife recently decided that hiking would be fun. When she casually remarked that it might be prudent to bring along some form of protection, quid pro quo was go.”

    More like this:

    “SIG introduced the 516 at the 2010 Shot Show. The 516 is actually a line of rifles with varying configurations aimed at specific markets.”

    Read some Hemingway, stick to the facts, and cut the kitsch.

    Also, don’t review any guns that are donated to you by manufacturers.

    • “Also, don’t review any guns that are donated to you by manufacturers.”

      Another good point but probably not practical for some guns. Try to stick to off-the-shelf guns that we peons can actually purchase. The “donated” guns could be worked over a million ways to be perfected for a review. We want the real-world guns.

      • Most guns are sent to us from the manufacturers to test, meaning they are “donated”. Some reviews are done with our personal weapons that we bought, like my CZ P07 Duty or Nick’s review of his SIG P226. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to buy guns from the LGS every time we want to review something.

        • Make reasonable efforts to buy them yourself–used, if necessary–and resell after reviewing. When guns are donated by the manufacturer, make that very clear to the reader. Just remember that the guns you as journalists receive from manufacturers are NOT the guns we as consumers receive from manufacturers.

        • More reviews, more often. Borrow guns from friends family, readers, (i’d ket you guys borrow my guns to review them). Maybe approximate MOA on rifles?

        • Might I suggest holding raffles to cover the expense?

          Post a list of firearms you want to review, sell raffle tickets (say, $5 per) tied to that firearm. When you’ve raised enough money to buy the gun, purchase it, review it, and send it off (via FFL, of course) to the raffle winner.

          You don’t have to worry about getting a non-representative sample, and even if the review says “it blows”, the winner of the raffle can be happy that he didn’t pay full price.

    • I actually enjoy the humor and word play, but I have a love/hate/BDSM relationship with puns, so my opinion might be in the minority.

      • I second keeping the word play, I enjoy reading the same gun being reviewed by different authors as well

        • I concur. Multiple reviewers is a good idea also. In the motorcycle world, 4 people will review 4 motorcycles (to compare them) after riding each one and they each give their opinions of each bike. Then they tally up scores for each category and declare a winner with the highest overall scores. Seems like it could work well for guns too. Also, that means we get more guns reviewed and more opinions for each.

          Some comparison examples would be:
          Similar polymer pistols
          Concealed-carry pistols/revolvers
          Bolt-action rifles
          Rimfire plinker handguns and rifles

    • [quote] Also, don’t review any guns that are donated to you by manufacturers.[quote]

      Waddya you, Nucking Futz! You get a lot of free guns that way.

      • yeah, you get lots of free guns that way, I’ll agree.

        BUT… that also allows manufacturers to cherry-pick the best ones for the job. That can skew a review. Hanging on to the test subject though would be a plus.

  12. My comments:

    Accuracy- Due to range differences, I think I’d just like all to use the same target, but stipulate distance, inside/outside, off-hand or bench device, approximate length of time for string to be shot, and which ammunition produced what results, etc. For rifle, I also like 3-shot groups at 100 yards with open sights. (Might simulate with a different target for shorter distances.)

    It would be nice to measure trigger pull (DA/SA), and also the gun weight, unloaded and loaded.

    I would also appreciate a comment on ease of take down, cleaning, and reassembly. (Think Ruger 22/45!)

    Last: “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.” Is an Excellent idea!

    Good work and congrats on the promotion. (I tell people I’d be paid what I’m worth, but there’s a minimum wage law!)

  13. Article one: Reviewers shalt leave any and all brand bias to the side. If I want a slanted story pretending to be good discussion ill pick up a cable subscription to CNN.

    Article two:Reviewers should evaluate guns based on their intended purpose, not on imposed standards. I cringe every time someone posts that an AK rifle won’t out-group a bolt gun at 500 yards. That information is useless because the AK isn’t designed for long range sniping, and evaluating it by that standard is foolish.

    Article three: Not everyone lives in Utah. Reviewers should take the time to note whether or not a firearm is included on rosters in anti-gun states. The info isn’t hard to find, a quick google search can determine it easily enough. Don’t need a large legal spiel, just mention in passing whether or not a certain model is on a CA/MD/MA roster before the video ends. I don’t live in those states, but id be annoyed if I got pumped by watching a gun review only to realize later I can’t buy it.

    • This is not the purpose of the review. I appreciate your concern (I live in Cali) but this is a little silly for the reviewers to keep track of. Or, move to Utah.

      • Thanks ST for thinking of us in the Republik of CA. I don’t mind if they don’t include it, but it would be nice. I won’t hold it against TTAG though if they don’t include it at all.

  14. Maybe some comments on ease of dis-assembly/assembly for routine maintenance for those of us who are pleased when we change a light bulb and it works…

    • I like that idea a lot. And also state whether you need to use tools, or if routine disassembly for cleaning requires allen keys, wrenches, screwdrivers or what not.

  15. How about borrowing a page from the likes of Car and Driver in terms of having a “preview” type series on new models, a standard review article, a “long term” article using the weapon over the span of a year after multiple range trips, classes, hunting trips, carry days, etc. to truly gauge reliability over time (because 200 rounds in a modern weapon is nothing), and the occasional comparison piece with 2-5 firearms from the same category tested against each other (because impressions may change when the competition is fired side by side)?

    • Wow, that’s way too complicated. I have a much simpler solution:

      We’ll set up a TTAG subscription service like netflix. Log into the subscription service and choose the weapon you’d like to review. Then TTAG will ship you the firearm and you can do all the reviewing yourself. Then you just ship the gun back after a week and they send you a new one. Easy right? (rolleyes)

  16. For accuracy ratings shoot from a secure rest every time to remove human error as much as possible. Some reviews in past have scored the accuracy using the ***** system and some haven’t. Would like to see it on every review.

    Love this site and appreciate all the work TTAG staff does.

  17. “Overview shot of the firearm, showing the complete firearm with none outside the frame. Should be taken against a contrasting background.”

    Contrasting backgrounds can work against you if the contrast is too great, a black rifle shot on a white sheet, for instance. Backgrounds should be mid tone; the stump Tyler Kee used to show off the 1911 grips the other day was an excellent choice.

    Also, NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY. Camera flashes distort form, cause glare and obscure detail. And avoid direct sunlight, which does to a gun what a flash does. Take the gun outside on an overcast day or in the shade and photograph it there.
    How many guns have you seen for sale on Gunbroker for thousands of dollars represented only by crappy pictures? No sale.

    As for the rest of the guidelines I think they’re great, keep up the good work!

  18. I’d like to see chronograph results with popular loads that would likely be used in the gun being reviewed. I’m curious how much velocity is lost in short-barrelled handguns and rifles. I’d also like to see rifle accuracy at 100 yards in either 3 or 5 shot groups, depending on the usage of the firearm (i.e. – why would a sporting rifle need to hit a tiny target at 100 yards more than 3 times?).

    Overall, I appreciate the way that firearms are being reviewed, and that you are putting your own time and $$ into the process. It is definitely better to be informed when making a purchase, since we will be putting up our on cash as well.

    • I’ll second that.

      Though they don’t use a massive variation of bullets, chronograph tests are one of the main reasons I’ll jaunt on over to Gunblast and check out their, ah, “overviews.”

      Now that I think about it, I think that’s the *only* reasons I’ll go there…

  19. One thing I think would be helpful to know about handguns is whether anyone makes a holster for it. Very little use for a pistol I can’t carry. Just knowing that X-Y-Z holster mfg’s make ‘something’ for it.

  20. It all seems on the up and up, I would agree with the first poster that we should try and shoot the rifles at 100 yards… But whatever is appropriate. I mean if I’m reviewing a .50 BMG (In my dreams) I feel like I wouldn’t be giving the reader a valuable piece of info by testing it only at 50 yards.

    Also along the same lines as testing the firearm for it’s intended use, I’ve got a shot timer and I’m going to start doing some “El Presidente” drills with a few other experience shooters and recording our times.

    Also pay that James Grant guy like 75k a year, he’s worth it.

  21. I agree on using a rest, or vise.
    Also I would like to see pistols especially used in a real world defensive situation.
    It means using a holster, and drawing on a target. The reviewer can comment on if it got stuck on anything and how it feels on the draw. Something might be great on the range but sucky as a carry weapon.

  22. OK….try shooting your gun in a vice and see what happens besides “That’s the end of the gun test for now.”

  23. I do like the TOPICS TO COVER criteria. This will give readers a general overview of the firearm and will “warm them up” to the rest of the article. However, to steal a line from my favorite movie, “these be more like guidelines than actual rules”… If you read the national magazines, you’ll see that two writers RARELY follow the same set of standards. This is what makes the magazines interesting to me. Patrick Sweeny follows a very different testing format than John Taffin does, although both give great and thorough reviews. Heck, even the same writer from article to article follows a different set of test criteria.

    The reason for this you have already touched on. There simply can’t be a single set “test criteria” that all firearms will fit under, even if you categorize them by rifle, handgun, and shotgun. Would testing a 7mm Rem Mag at 50 yards really give readers an idea as to how well that rifle performed in its intended function? Certainly not! The Sendero is marketed for hunters shooting across canyons. Similarly, you wouldn’t test a combat carbine at 300-yards with open-sights and make ANY kind of assessment as to how accurate it is.
    Here are some other “topics” that I have issues with:

    1) Handgun at 20ft… OK, perhaps for a LC9 or other personal protection pistol. What about my S&W 460XVR that was designed to dropped elk-sized animals at 100-yards? Similar to the 7mm Rem Mag above, it isn’t testing the guns purpose.
    2) The target that was selected – the SR21 is fine for “general” open-sight shooting. However, it will handicap most scoped rifles by providing too large of a focal point (7-MOA @ 100 yards). Also, since vision is also subjective, readers should be allowed to use whatever target they prefer, but these targets should remain constant throughout testing. Writers shouldn’t change out target types during testing, especially if testing different ammo types.
    3) Accuracy testing has so many variables in general that ALL accuracy statements should be taken with a grain of salt. Person to person abilities aside, environmental conditions play a huge factor in accuracy.

    Trying to take the subjectivity out of a gun/gear review will objectively make them boring and impersonal. The truth about guns is that they are subjective – if they weren’t we’d only have 1911’s (and the world would be a better place 🙂 )

  24. I want to know how the reviewer acquired the firearm under review. Did they purchase it at a local store? Did they contact the manufacturer and ask for a firearm for a review? This is an extremely important question. If a reviewer acquired a firearm from the manufacturer for review and the manufacturer knew that the person requested it specifically for review, the manufacturer could supply a “perfect” firearm (have their in-shop gunsmiths make everything perfect) which would not represent what actually comes off of their production line.

  25. To quote Jeff Cooper, “What’s it for?”

    Most of the information in gun reviews doesn’t interest me. What’s it for, and how does it accomplish that goal? Why would I buy this new gun instead of one that already exists in the same market niche?

    For example, I don’t see a point in accuracy testing of defensive firearms intended to be used against man-sized targets at 7 yards. Any modern pistol’s going to be more than accurate enough to make headshots. On the other hand, if it’s a competition pistol designed to drop small steel plates at 25 yards, it might be appropriate. But then you want to measure it against that standard. But I don’t want to see calipers unless we’re talking about a benchrest or varmint gun, where that makes a difference.

    Dwelling on poorly-measured irrelevancies draws many newbies into making mistakes. Things like the availability of accessories and customer service are far more important than minor variations in guns.

  26. Just please keep the corny sayings out. I swear I don’t get past paragraph 2 of any reviews that can’t help using phrases like slicker than paris hilton on date night etc. You know what I’m talking about.
    Also if it is a new product a picture of it next to a category competitor is worth a thousand words

  27. A rigorous SOP is essential to any kind of standardized testing. Your draft and the various suggestions above pretty much have it all covered. Pull no punches, take no prisoners, go straight for the carotid. It’s often said that he who takes the King’s shilling is beholden to the King. I’ve never really thought that. Take it and do what you will with it. If the King doesn’t like it, tough. There will always be plenty of others who will gladly provide you what you require if you prove to be a first class operation. Honesty, integrity and real competition with more often than not carry the day.

  28. I think you guys do a good job as it is. There really isn’t anything I can think of immediately that I’d change. I rather enjoy the amusing, whimsical writing. I am less concerned about the “star ratings” at the end of the reviews than I am about the prose describing them. I can usually tell more about how you feel about the weapon from reading than from looking at “Reliability: ****”

    Some thoughts on some of the other suggestions made here:

    I realize that suggestions were requested, so nothing is out of bounds, however…

    * Some of the ideas here are quite expensive and/or very complicated and time consuming. Please keep in mind that nobody writing these reviews is getting paid to do so, and they all have “real jobs,” unlike reviewers for gun mags who have all day, every day to do it.
    * The idea of testing rifles from a solid rest or vice is a good one, but remember that the half-dozen guys who write these reviews are located in wildly different areas of the country, so for all of them to adhere to that standard would require them all spending, at minimum for a quality vice, probably $150 each, unless they happen to know someone that has one they can borrow.
    * Repeat same comment above vis a vis chronographs. Not quite as expensive, but the idea is the same.
    * Gun rosters… Legality of ownership is your responsibility. Expecting the reviewers to keep track of the states that are an entire country away from them is unreasonable in the scope of what they do here. Furthermore, laws change all the time, so including that information in a format that might be viewed two or three years later is just an invitation to confusion.
    * Gun sources for reviews… “Don’t review guns donated by manufacturers” & “Make reasonable efforts to buy them yourselves.” These are just plain unrealistic expectations. Again, you’re dealing with glorified hobbyists here, not paid authors with the power and budget of Guns & Ammo behind them. As far as the “you’re not getting what we’re buying” idea, I don’t think I’ve yet seen a review done here where there were not some complaints, regardless of the source of the weapon, so I”m pretty certain they’re not getting gunsmithed show queens for review. In some cases the “donated guns” that they review are ones specifically designated to “make the rounds” of the press for review, so they can have several years worth of wear on them in just a few months of that circuit. That actually helps speak to the long term reliability of the gun. All said, I’m pretty comfortable that the authors’ journalistic integrity is thus far intact.

  29. OK, Robert, I’ll keep trying for awhile.
    The gun (not games) reviews are what drew me to this site. Some good suggestions for gun reviews have been made here.
    I believe you guys are trying to deliver what we are all looking for honest, understandable, entertaining and consistent reviews. The only area I see that needs much improvement is consistency. That applies to each reviewer reviewing the guns in a like manner and to the methodology of the tests performed.
    The use of gun vises will go far to provide a truer picture of the gun rather than the shooter’s accuracy. The standardizing of things like range, number of rounds, usage of more uniform ammo would also provide for more consistency.

  30. I think this would be a boon.

    I understand the minimum of 200 rounds, and feasibly a cap at 1000, but… as models are used more and more, how about a follow-up on reliability?

    I’ve heard examples of a little plinker, the Ruger SR22 (.22 LR) that have had their take-down levers fail from early on, up to about 4000 rounds with the pistol flying apart on the range.

    We don’t need a gun that does that.

  31. If it is a Semiauto, I’d like to know the cost of Spare Magazines. For some, the cost of magazines makes ownership much, much more.

    20 feet is adequate, but I prefer to know a 25 yard group.

    An honest assessment of how well the gun is made, how it handles, what the trigger feels like, and the weight when loaded to capacity.

    How often it malfunctions, honestly. I frequently read reviews where there aren’t any. Even the best of the best do.

    How easy it is to field strip?

    Your reviews are very straightforward, well written, well organized and honest. Ones from gun magazines are suspect given that they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

  32. Review more rifles and shotguns! Pistols are over represented compared to long guns. Sometimes it feels like TTAG is TTACCW.

  33. I need to know where to inquire about a Surplus 380 Beretta 85F reviewed in the August 2017 issue of Gun Tests.


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