When it comes to purchasing a new firearm, it pays to do your homework. You want to know that you’re getting a reliable platform, that it doesn’t have any glaring safety issues, and that you’re getting a good value for the price you’re paying. The problem is, it can be pretty tough to find that information when most of the internet is dead set on either selling you something, or convincing you that whatever gear they aren’t selling must be “junk.”
That’s not the end of your predicament either, because there’s still the jaded bloggers to contend with. I grew up in the racing industry (of the street, open wheel, and busted knuckles variety) and, thanks to my age, have a clear recollection of the early days of car forums. Long before Facebook gave us a means to stay in touch constantly, long before Reddit made forums obsolete, like minded guys would have to find groups devoted to our interests to talk trade craft and compare notes. The thing about car guys, though, is that whatever they like is the best, whatever they don’t like is junk, and whatever they haven’t done yet is impossible.
Sound familiar? If it does, you’ve likely made the mistake of mentioning a firearm somewhere on the internet, and then suffered a barrage of trolling comments encouraging you to throw your gun away. If you’re a Glock guy, 1911s are garbage. If you’re a 1911 guy, Glocks are garbage, and if you’re a Ford guy, it doesn’t matter how nice that other guy’s Trans Am is… it’ll always be garbage to you.
And it’s all ridiculous.
Those of you who have read my writing for a while may have noticed that, when it comes to firearms, my purchases are often informed by two important factors: the first is that I live on a budget, and can’t afford to throw a few thousand dollars at new gear, or Christ help me, accessories, just because the internet posse has deemed it cool. The second is that I like to make decisions for myself, rather than trust the Facebook commenter that thinks “Rugers are tots junk brooooo!” Don’t get me wrong, he might be right, but I don’t vote based on Facebook opinions, just like I don’t make my purchases to please the digital hordes.
Sometimes, of course, popular opinion is spot on. Many years ago, a young and inexperienced me picked up a 9mm Hi-Point for around the same price as I’ve been known to spend on tacos from time to time. In my head, I figured the pistol couldn’t possibly be as bad as people say they are, and given the choice, I’d probably rather have a Hi-Point on me than nothing at all. I guess that last part holds true, because a fully loaded (at a whopping 8 rounds) Hi-Point pistol weighs around the same as a stack of phone books, and if you’re able to hit the guy with it (by throwing it like a boomerang) it might do some real damage. If you were hoping to shoot at anyone, however… you might be better off buying something else used for the same price.
But here’s where I have to backtrack a bit. I’ve heard from a number of folks that the Hi-Point carbines are pretty reliable and a lot of fun to shoot, and that Hi-Point has stellar customer service that includes a lifetime warranty that’ll keep your gun shooting (however poorly) for time immemorial. I can sense some of you cringing at the thought, but until I put some rounds in paper with one of those carbines, I’ll hold off on passing judgement. After all, even bad car makers occasionally make fun rides (feed me beer and ask me about the times I’ve almost died in a Suzuki Samurai sometime).
The point is, reviews do matter, but only to a certain point. If you believe what you read online, it’s not even worth buying a 1911 unless you’re willing to drop $1500 on one. Of course, when my brother and I go shooting together (him with his $1500 Sig and me with my $500 American Classic), it tends to be my experience with a pistol in hand that makes the difference on paper, not the price tags. Full disclosure, however, I had to fiddle with my pistol a bit and replace the magazines with some new ones from Wilson Combat before I really felt like I could count on it – and that’s not something most folks with a four-digit price tag pistol usually have to bother themselves with.
What you plan to do with the firearm matters, what you like to do with a firearm matters, and what you’re willing and able to pay for a firearm matters. Don’t listen to the guy that says you’re not a real shooter until you’ve paid more for your gun than you did for your car – instead, get something you like and put the time in. That guy can keep on judging your purchases from Facebook while you’re hitting black and becoming the shooter he’s just pretending to be.
I’m a big believer in buying less gun and more training. I’m also a big believer in finding out what you like for yourself. I own all sorts of guns – some are the fancy name brands that cost a lot (and are hopefully worth it), some are borderline novelty items (like the Taurus Judge Public Defender I picked up for a steal recently), some are great budget buys… and a few are just pieces of crap that stay in the safe because they aren’t worth selling. There’s nothing wrong with having any of those, just as long as you know what they are, and what they aren’t. And if you ask me, there’s no better way to know for sure than putting rounds downrange yourself.
So read the reviews, talk to your friends, and make sure you walk into your local gun dealer informed and empowered… but when push comes to shove, get a couple squeezes of the trigger in before you pass judgement on a platform. You never know which bargain might be the Suzuki Samurai that gets you out of a few jams.
And always remember that flashy gets you noticed, but reliable keeps you alive.
Images courtesy of Twitter/the author