Recent events and discussions in the firearm “blogosphere” have touched on why individuals start blogs, and whether some folks just want free stuff “for review.” This prompted me to look back through my sent email folder in order to find out how often I had initiated a request for firearms or accessories from manufacturers for the purposes of a review on Vuurwapen Blog.
This list does not include requests I made on behalf of other blogs that I have written for – that list would be not much longer, but is not germane to this discussion – nor does it include offers of T&E items by various companies, or requests for loans of firearms from friends not associated with manufacturers.
T&E Request History
– In early 2009 I requested SPR-type AR rifles or uppers from POF-USA and LaRue Tactical. I subsequently toured the POF-USA manufacturing facility and received two uppers from them for a T&E period that lasted for several months before I returned the uppers.
– After SHOT 2011 I contacted LaRue Tactical again with a request for a .308 PredatAR. Although this was discussed verbally at SHOT with LT, I figured I would include it on this list because it fell into a “request gray area.”
Neither request of LaRue was responded to; that’s perfectly fine, and it has not stopped me from recommending their products. As an aside, if anyone (industry or otherwise) is aware of a request I have made for products to be reviewed on this blog that I have not listed here, please let me know.
As I have become busier and busier with work and also have started to focus on finishing up the reviews that several companies have been patiently waiting on for quite some time (for this blog and others), I have realized that T&E of firearms or accessories is an incredibly time-consuming, and therefore expensive, process when done correctly.
It is unlikely that I will be requesting any items for review in the near future, especially considering the backlog of reviews that I need to complete. I have recently turned down T&E offers, mainly for this reason. I cannot in good conscience continue to receive “free stuff” when I still have reviews to complete from – wait for it – 2010 (an Elzetta flashlight).
Free Stuff = Positive Reviews?
On the subject of free stuff – there is a popular perception in the firearm community that receiving a firearm or accessory for free automatically guarantees a positive review. I do not believe this to be the case, though one could certainly insinuate that I am biased because I have received many free things for review (or for which the manufacturer specified that they did not want the item back).
The purchase price of an item is rarely higher than the value of the time required (fair market hourly rate for quality photography/video production/written work), as well as ammunition and ancillary costs, for a quality review. In most cases, it would make far more financial sense for the reviewer to simply purchase whatever item he or she is interested in, then enjoy the use of that item on their own dime and time. Of course, a free item is a nice offset for these costs, but it does not affect the outcome of my reviews, nor does it affect the outcome of many other bloggers’ reviews.
There are some reviewers who simply will not accept what appears to be a gift from a firearm manufacturer, and I understand their position. Perhaps their policies make this more clear than my lack of such a policy does, but personal honor and the pride that comes from delivering a straightforward and honest review to fellow firearm enthusiasts are far more important than the occasional (or even frequent) “gift” of firearms or accessories. If anything, the relationships formed between a reviewer and members of the industry as a result of fair and honest product reviews and feedback are far more valuable than the simple cost of the items reviewed.
Someone Call the Waaambulance, He’s Tired of Getting Free Stuff
I do not intend for this to be interpreted as a complaint regarding T&E or product reviews, just as a statement of fact regarding the realities of time and money. As your reviews improve, your “product” becomes more valuable. It stops being a side hobby and starts becoming a business, if you want it to. You start measuring each “free” review by how much money you could have made if you had put your skills to use for a company in the industry – some of which have already made you lucrative offers for your time that have the side benefit of not requiring you to sacrifice your moral convictions for a paycheck. There are, of course, slightly less moral offers – those you immediately deny.
I have been on the other side of the fence, listening to experienced (and honest/honorable) reviewers describe how much time they had spent on reviews, and how it had eventually grown to negatively affect the quality of their lives. I’m not exaggerating this in the slightest. That said, doing product reviews has not negatively affected the quality of my life – if anything, it’s been a stepping stone to improve the quality of my life. I am, though, heeding the advice of those reviewers, which in one case dates back several years.
In any piece of work I put out, by any medium – whether compensated or uncompensated – I will always strive to deliver an honest and grounded opinion or message. This is especially true for any content placed on my blog.