SHOTGUNS & RIFLES 2002

Hundreds of rounds of test firing led to tight groups, sore shoulders and some real surprises from one of the best selections of new guns we've seen.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

We're getting a bad reputation...among a few gunmakers and importers, that is. Perhaps this is understandable, from their viewpoint, because before we began our unique "test team" approach to firearms evaluation, gunmakers had long since grown accustomed to syrupy sweetheart reviews about anything they produced. Especially if the gun being written about was by a big-name gunmaker (read advertiser) and bore an impressive price sticker.

So naturally, there was an assumption by some gunmakers that our "new" way of testing guns would be just as sweet as before, only bigger and more prestigious. You can imagine their shocked reaction when our first trial-by-jury issue appeared two years ago, and then again last year.

Particularly aggravating, it turns out, is our grading system, which scores guns with grades like those on a school test. "How come," we were asked in various ways by various gunmakers, "so-and-so's gun scored higher than ours when ours costs twice as much?" And that's the crux of why we're getting a bad reputation in some quarters. It's a reputation we take considerable pride in, but not without some losses ourselves, because some gunmakers have a few ways of hitting back, or at least hiding out. "Scarcity" of some makes or models to test is one excuse we hear. "Not available yet" or "We don't have a sample to loan" or "We can't get it there in time for your tests" is an increasingly familiar response to our requests for guns to test, along with some truly original excuses. My personal reaction to those who shy away because they are fearful of low scores is simple-make better guns and you'll get better scores.

Most gunmakers, I'm happy to say, take pride in their products and appreciate the fairness of our testing system, even when they occasionally have to bite the bullet. So to all who contributed their services and products, what can we say but sincerest thanks for being part of outdoor life's gun test, because it takes a lot more than five shooters to build the great team we've become.

Also, you will benefit from the extra comments published here on the website that did not appear in the magazine.

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