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March 16, 2007

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Why Everyone Hates Gun Writers

One of the things I’m called on to do in this curious line of work is try out various items of gear for their manufacturers before they hit the market. These devices are usually given to me with a request to “use it and tell us what you really think.” I learned long ago that if I do, the response I get is often the same as if I'd told someone that their kid looks like a young wildebeest or maybe a manatee.

No, what they want to hear is, “It’s perfect, wonderful, and I shall give it reams and reams of publicity.” As an example, a couple of decades ago a major scope maker came up with a scope with a graphite tube. They claimed, correctly, that it was lighter and stronger than aluminum, wouldn’t scratch, and on, and on.

I put it on a rifle, fired a couple of shots,  and found that I could get the crosshairs in focus or I could get the image in focus but I couldn’t get both in focus at the same time. Not trusting my own senses, I invited a couple of sharp-eyed friends to try and they had no more luck than I did.

I sent the thing back with a letter explaining what had happened, and received an infuriated call from one of the company execs asking who the hell did I think I was and what was this b.s. about their scope? And then silence. The graphite scope disappeared without a trace. The problem was that graphite is light, and strong, and very slippery, and none of the scope’s little innards would stay anchored, and so it came unglued with the first shot.

Other gun writers have had these experiences. In 1987, a bunch of us were herded off to the premiere of a new hunting bullet, and the instant a cross-sectional diagram of it was flashed on the screen the whole room started to cough and snort and fart. The new bullet had a paper-thin jacket and nothing much to hold it together, and it was obvious to us what was going to happen when people started using it on game. And we were right.

And that is why most of us are social outcasts. There are other reasons of course, but that’s the main one.


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Ah geez Dave, lifes a bitch......then you marry one!



No one really wants to hear an opinion unless it's beneficial to them. Criticism (even if it's constructive) is more than many people can bear to hear anymore. I think it's because the last couple of generations have been told that they are great and wonderful and no matter what they did it's okay and Mommy understands.

Some people are stupid and they suck, some products are stupid and they suck, some gun writers are stupid and they suck.

But not you Dave, you are great (according to your mom).



Well Dave,

One of the things I have noticed now is that everything is about $$$. I am sick and tired of looking at hunting magazines and shows with people looking like a billboard. I fully understand that there has to be some sort of advertising to make the programs work. For instance:

If you notice some clothing manufactures add additional “logo’s” onto the “editors line of clothing”. Take a look at Bill Heavies pictures and video of his turkey hunt. Who in their right mind would wear a Gander Mountain logo on their chest like that while turkey hunting? Take a look at any Under Armour Garment, it looks tacky with a big logo on it saying look at me……

I also do not understand why Bow’s have to have a massive logo's on them. I guess because when people shoot their spike buck and take a picture of it they can also be proud of their $800 bow.

Hunting is not about being a billboard. Some grown men are turning this sport into fashion show (acting like some women with their purses and shoes). Go out and hunt.

Dave keep up the honest work (not that Bill isn't).


I hate you because you are a self-actualized SOB who gets to hunt and shoot all the time, not because you write honest product evaluations, so see - it's not all bad.


There is no need to hate gunwriters. Gunwriters offer me entertainment which I enjoy. Gunwriter opinions and pronouncements are considered as advice, not declarations of Bilblical importance. Time spent in fields and streams for almost all of us is all for recreation, not survival. It's all supposed to be fun. I would much rather spend, (waste) money on a bad scope than on a root canal. Enjoy life.

Kristine Shreve

As the Director of Marketing for a hunting products company, this post made me laugh.


I couldn't care less who hates me; I'd love to be a gun writer. Or any kind of writer.

Dave, to whom do I pitch a great story idea, please? It's a close to NYC story, too, so you know that will raise some eyebrows...


if you can't take the heat stay out of the kitchen. Keep up the good work dave!


Subscribed to the gun nut about a month ago and appreciate your take on things.
I turned 50 this year and got away from outdoor mags after the passing of Gene Hill, Zern and Trueblood, but you and Heavy have made me pick them up again.

Blue Ox

If I were to design a new firearm, a better mousetrap, or whatever, what I would want is you to look me in the eye and tell me like it is. If you told me it was crap, so be it. I would simply ask what needs to be changed or improved, and then it's back to the drawing board. I don't see what's so hard about this.


I love the blog. And today's subject is one that has spurred a lot of disscusion (and cussing) over the years. I think the thought among knowledgeable shooters and hunters is that gun writers are spoon fed from the gun makers.
I can only recall one review of a firearm in last couple of years where the writer said this thing is a lemon and here's what was wrong with with it. While that was refreshing I like many others take any review from a gun writer with a big grain of salt.
Not that you or any of these other guys are unethical or dishonest but you'd be hard pressed to convince me that the guns you guys test and review haven't been cherry picked or even hit the custom shop before they end up on your door step.


Dave, I really enjoy your blogs. I also agree on the testing. I once tested a knife for a manufacturer when I was in a hunting club. The lockback would fail and the blade would close. They didn't like what I told them and only pulled it after numureous calls from irate users.


I enjoy your blogs and your articles in field and stream magazine keep writing. how about writing an article on the 30/30 lever


what bugs me is when you spend good bucks on an item, have it shipped to you and find it's not right and have to send it back for repairs before you get to use it. Example I ordered a very high dollor scope that will do everything but pull the trigger. It was three weeks before hunting season, in plenty of time.Waited a week or so for the delivery. when arrived looked thru the scope could not see anything, read the instructions, shook the scope something was running around inside.Called the dealer, send it back. missed opening season with no scope. that drives me nuts. and took me about a month or so to get my funds back.


Ya dave i feel really bad for you having everyone hate you and being a social outcast and all. I'm mean you actually have to test all the newest guns and gadgets....man that must be rough. And then having to write about them...wow i'm surprised you have the strength to do it. WEll keep up the good work for all us little guys who need you so dearly...your such a hero

Scott in Ohio

"everyone" is the truth (e.g. Jim Zumbo). Dave, how about convincing JZ to begin writing under a pseudonym; we're all going to miss him.

Sinky O.

By Dave:
"One of the things I’m called on to do in this curious line of work is try out various items of gear for their manufacturers before they hit the market. These devices are usually given to me with a request to “use it and tell us what you really think.” I learned long ago that if I do, the response I get is often the same as if I'd told someone that their kid looks like a young wildebeest or maybe a manatee.

No, what they want to hear is, “It’s perfect, wonderful, and I shall give it reams and reams of publicity.”

If the above does not deter you, Dave, why is it we don't see much criticism of gun gear (including guns) in your columns. Or does the above actually determine, one way or another, what you write and publish?

You only have to read the message boards, forums and these comments to see that there's problems with lots of stuff. (Plenty of good stuff, too, of course.)

I'm not talking about the type of glowing gun review that happens to add something like; "the big negative I found was a little smear of grease on the trigger guard - wiped it off and it was better than perfect." That's a faux criticism to add plausibility.

Want to see a gun magazine that anonymously buys its own guns to test and (fairly well) tells it like it is -- Read "GUN TESTS";


Yeah, must suck to have to play with all of the new toys on the market (for free), and then piss off multi-million dollar a year executives with reality.
On a serious note, the most exasperating thing to be told is that something you have put a lot of time, money, and effort into is crap; and let’s take a reality check ourselves, as gun people we are not the most tactful. This I think is because we would rather spend a day in the woods spending quality time with a Remington 700 than in a boardroom smoking and joking with some stuffed shirt that hasn’t a clue the difference between internal, external, and terminal ballistics, and is focused only on the bottom line. Hunting, fishing, and the shooting sports have become to commercialized, but on the positive side of this there are new innovations that have been extremely beneficial to us as sportsmen, and with the commercialization that come with these products, anything new we are going to know about. A gunwriter’s position and opinion on these products after testing them is important, personally I have never been contacted by Hornady or Nosler to test new bullet designs or Kimber for my take on their newest 1911 clone; and I do not think this will ever happen unless I first pay my dues and get picked out for my charming personality and wit by F&S or Outdoor Life or one of the other gun or hunting magazines.

What a wonderful job that must be. To bad I was not a writer and get to try out all this junk the mfges put out. Should be a law passed that all firearms be tested by experts before it goes public. But no, the Mfgers usually let us lame -brain- idiots do their testing for them , and no money in our pockets and not out of theirs.I;ve tested many field items for another magazine club, but never a gun. It's always a pile of junk that a true hunter would not purchase. If you send in a bad report, can rest assured, will be the last item you get to test. If I were a writer and a tester, I;d sure tell my opinion, good or bad, as if a sorry A---d piece of junk, then John Q Public needs to know before they spend their hard earned $ for it. Some of the products out there, I'd be afraid to try, as might end up blind, ear bursted, limb cracked, etc. To be on safe side, look, feel, handle any product before you buy, as all articles in books, magazines look wonderful and with that product, you will kill a trophy of what-ever they advertise. I made the mistake of ordring a gun once, based on a article writen by a well known writer. Had I seen the gun before i ordered, i sure would not have done so. Cost me many $, but never again. I want to see the gun, and have my gunsmith look over. Once, I even made the dealer let me shoot the gun first, glad i did as it was a junker also. If we got serviceable mdse and it performs well, be happy with it and continue to use.As this new Mdse coming out, 99% is made overseas and they don;t know which end of the gun the bullet comes out of.

Tell it like it is Dave...You are doing them a big favor in saving on production costs in marketing a bad product and they know it!

Kristine Shreve

Definitely tell it like it is. That's why we ask people to test our products. We try to balance criticism, knowing that some will like the product and some won't, but we know if we hear the same thing from several different sources, it is something we need to examine further.

We had our product field tested by the NAHC and received a lot of valuable feedback and are actually making some adjustments to the product based on the feedback we received.

So, some companies can stand to hear the truth. We may not always like what we hear, but it is better to hear it from one person or a few than from a bunch of disgruntled customers.

But then I'm not an executive with a million dollar salary.


Charles  Benoit

Dave, keep up the good work! As soon as the F&S magazine arrives in our mail box, I turn the pages to your articles first. What more of a compliment can a magazine writer ask for?

Best regards,
Charles Benoit

Dave Petzal

I have gotten way behind on responses to this blog, so I'll try to do it with one posting. Here goes:

To PB Head: You are a wise man.

To Kristine Shreve: Were you laughing in derision or agreement?

To John: No, the guns I get are not cherry picked. If you believe nothing else I say, believe that. I get more dogs than a kennel.

To Steve: Thank you for the compliment. I can't tell you how much I miss those guys. They were great people as well as great writers, and I wish everyone could have known them.

To Chalres Benoit: Much appreciated. I think the greatest compliment a writer can get is to be read in the bathroom.

art levine

would appreciate your opinion on best american semi auto under 300.00. thanks

To Art: I am disabled/handcapped and used a 742 rem in 06 for many years. Four yrs ago ws on a hunt for Lopes and the guide would not let me have one in the chamber till ready to shoot. Now a 742 when you try to inject a round from the clip into the chamber and let go of the handle, it makes so much noise can be heard for miles. Needless to say all the Lopes eloped. So I had to go to a bolt gun for that reason. As for $300.00 many dealers have Remingtons in 742 at bargin prices. However, I;m told the 7400 is better than the 742, not sure as never owned one. I do like my 742, never had any problems with jamming, but I always clean my guns after each outing, and make sure the chamber is clean. A gummed up chamber is 99% of problems with Auto's jamming. When you buy one, also buy a chamber brush or two and clean the chamber with Hoppes as soon after each shot as you can. Oil lightly, but keep action clean. I use Gun Scrubber on mine, and the guke runs out of action. Any auto takes more care and cleaning than a Bolt gun. I killed a 6 x 6 Elk at 225 yds, a 3 x 3 Mulie at l65 and many w-tails from 50 to 200 yds with the 742. I will say, you can get better/longer distance with a 24" bbl bolt gun with the better Ammo available today. I killed a 4 x 4 in MT last fall at 345 yds, l shot and a lope at 325 yds with a Rem 700 in 06 and a Rem 700 in 25-06. I will not sell my Auto ,as I use it here in N.C. but when I go West i take the bolt guns due to the guides request.Inspect the action closely, and if possible have a good gun-smith check out the action for wear. The screw bolt in the action wears first, so look for the teeth to be rounded off if been shot a lot. That's what usually causes mis-fires a lot. But again, keeping the action, trigger assembly clean is more important in a Auto than anything you can do.PS: i always load the chamber from the clip, I never insert a round directly into the chamber, as sometimes the bolt head does not go down far enough for the firing pin. Thats why I only use 4 rounds per clip, and I want to feed that first round directly from the clip into the chamber, so I know it will pick up the next round. good hunting. Some good Auto's out there, for same reason I got one, less recoil and my disability makes the Auto easier on my condition.

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