G&A's Testing and Evaluation

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Guns & Ammo aims to bring its readership the first look at any new guns, ammo, optics and suppressors. Firearm makers need to keep their FFL records clean, so there is continuous pressure to return firearms and optics promptly after testing.

The typical manufacturer loans Guns & Ammo its new product for about six to eight months. In most cases, we start receiving invoices the day the product arrives, and the letters that follow show increasing agitation until said product is returned.

With plenty of competition to review new products, those who are most professional usually get first crack at breaking the next big story.

G&A strives to provide its more than 11 million total-reach readership with as much detailed information and photography as the loan period and resources allow, but no test we can perform is equivalent to your experience with a product after having lived with it for several years. You may encounter problems that we do not.

Also, we are not one of the military's proving grounds where millions of dollars and several years are applied to evaluating a candidate in controlled experiments before it's adopted.

In a perfect world, we'd torture test every product to failure and fire every load through every firearm for performance data. That level of testing is impossible for any gun magazine or blogger. I've tested hundreds of firearms over my 12 years working on staff for the NRA's American Rifleman, various Harris Publications titles and now here.

I can say that G&A's T&E procedures are pretty much the same. For example, hunting rifles are usually tested measuring the average of three shots from at least three different loads, which are fired from a benchrest or supported prone position at 100 yards. Tactical rifles take the average of five shots, also from 100.

Shotguns are tested on paper at 40 yards with at least three loads fired at a patterning circle noting the size and each shot's aiming point and its relationship to the center of the actual pattern. When testing target loads in a shotgun, every tiny pellet has to be counted faithfully.

Handguns used to be tested in a fixed Ransom Rest from a distance of 25 yards. When available, a Ransom Rest is still the preferred method for obtaining a handgun's mechanical accuracy potential.

Unfortunately, many contributors cannot afford a Ransom or come up with the different grips for each model, so testing handguns with three loads from a benchrest position at 25 yards has become an acceptable alternative.

Testing personal defense handguns is the subject of much debate. People argue whether the firing distance should be 5, 7, 10 or 15 yards, and some even question whether accuracy is important at those ranges. Since every shooter's ability varies, we demand that our contributors test their handguns for accuracy potential on the bench.

Chronographing each load is a requirement of most gun publications, including this one. Though we publish the average muzzle velocity (MV), standard deviation (SD) and extreme spread (ES) of five shots fired across the clock, I'd like to take this moment to encourage you to purchase a chronograph and learn how your guns perform with different ammunition before relying on them.

With thousands of companies in this industry and only 12 G&A issues to present what's new, virtually every manufacturer in this industry is willing to share its secrets of tomorrow's products with us today. Innovations and products that bring value to G&A's readership will always get our attention.

Once nondisclosures are signed and embargo dates are agreed to, it's my job to weigh the significance and value of a product in accordance with the magazine's production schedule.

I get hate mail from a few readers who threaten to cancel their subscriptions if we publish another favorable review. Really? The line "You've never met a gun you didn't like" has been repeated so often that I now consider it cliché.

Why publish a story about a product that failed our tests? An old adage declares "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Even with a bad review, that company would still benefit from having been written about. I'm not going to waste your time writing about a product that isn't worth your attention.

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