Grant Cunningham has the courage to notice the elephant in the room: Most gun reviews aren’t all that useful.
The reports (on the Remington R51) were almost universally positive: raves were given for the gun’s feel, its accuracy, and even its reliability. It looked, according to the people who were there, like Remington had hit one out of the park.
Come mid-January, at the all-important SHOT Show Media Day at the Range, and the R51 was conspicuous by its absence. It was just a scheduling mix-up, everyone was assured, and when they got to the show proper the next day there were plenty of display models on hand.
As guns trickled out to the public, a different story about the R51 emerged: the triggers were awful, the slides felt like they were moving in a sandstorm, and worst of all: the guns just didn’t run. People wrote of not being able to shoot a full magazine successfully, and accounts of broken parts and incorrect factory assembly were being pasted all over the ‘net. It was turning out to be a disaster of a new product.
Grant has three reasons why there was/is a disconnect between what was fondled at GunSite and what showed up on the shelves of your local gun store, and they’re all very good ones.
One of the things I’ve noticed about gun reviews is they tend to exist in a vacuum, as if the gun itself had no purpose for being other than itself. This is true for art, but not so true for guns, because tools where meant to be used, that’s why they’re tools and not sculptures.
So the question then becomes, what task was this tool designed to assist, and does it succeed in doing so? What is the job that an Remington R51 is designed to help with, and does it succeed in assisting a person to accomplish that task?
Start with knowing what makes a good hammer, then review hammers and judge a hammer by how well it drives nails. Same is true with guns: I really like NutNFancy’s “Purpose of Use” approach to his reviews, and I’d love to see that idea spread to the traditional media as well.