Reimagining Gun and Gear Reviews

I’ve been thinking about how I conduct product reviews and what I include when publishing them on the blog. Given the introduction of UncleZo.deals and the increasing number of product reviews, I’m going to make a few changes. Here is what’s happening.

Some of y’all have noticed and pointed out that I have continued to not be as engaged as I usually am on social media. Additionally, the blog post publishing rhythm has been a little off lately. There are a few reasons for this. For example, I’m dedicating a bit more of my time to preparing for the upcoming Rangemaster Advanced Instructor class I will be attending. I’ve also continue to devote more of my time to the implementation of UncleZo.deals. That time came from somewhere and it should be obvious that it came from social media time first and it’s been impacting the blog publishing rhythm. Things should return to normal soon enough.

Before getting into what’s going on with reviews on the blog, I need to back up a second and tell y’all about what’s going on with UncleZo.deals since it’s part of the reason I’m writing this post and why I’ve been expending gray matter energy on the topic. So let’s back up…

The premise of any deal site is to create a place where folks can find and share deals. In this case, we are talking about guns and gear. Of course there are a handful of deals sites for this purpose already and some folks have been critical of me for putting another one up. One person even said, “affiliate marketing is a hell of a drug.” Now I’m going to lie and say that affiliate marketing income wasn’t on my mind as I rolled out the initial implementation of the deal site. I like money. More than that, I like shooting. Even more so, the content on this blog is a result of me doing a lot of shooting. And shooting is expensive. So yeah, I am hoping the deal site generates some affiliate marketing income, but I digress. 

The initial roll out of the deal site allows the posting of deals (all deals not just affiliate marketing deals and even deals posted by y’all) and searching for deals. Additionally, the deals are now being grouped by product. The vision for the next major release of the deal site is to clearly provide my opinion and recommendations for the product along with links to reviews or posts on each product available among the hundreds of posts that have been published on this blog. The thing is that folks often ask if the deal they found is a good deal and what my thoughts are on that particular product. I have come to realize that many of you make purchases based on my opinions and that weighs heavy on me. So my hope is that the next version of the site will make it easier for folks to identify if I have any knowledge or opinions on a particular product and furthermore help y’all find the best available deal on that product while using data to qualify how hot that deal is. It’s a tall order, but it’s achievable and within reach.

This begs the question, “How can I better convey my thoughts on a product and qualify those thoughts in the context of specific applications?” And that question has led me to consider how I am doing reviews today and how I can be more intentional with them in the future? 

As of today, there are three types of gear reviews I typically write: first impression reviews, looking back reviews, or follow up reviews. The most common one is the first impression reviews like the one I just published on the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum. This review happens after I’ve fired somewhere between one or two hundred rounds with a particular firearm or using a particular optic or accessory. In order words, it’s the result of me using something new to me a little bit (and applies to non-firearm related items as well). Looking back reviews, like the recent one published on the Desert Eagle, are very similar to first impression reviews with the caveat that it is on an item that I’ve known about or handled sometime ago that I may have recently used a little bit. In both cases, I generally provide a description of the item along with my likes and dislikes in addition to some parting thoughts on the uses I think the particular item is well suited for. Follow up reviews are exactly what the name implies and happen when something notable has changed with an item or I’ve used it extensively enough to warrant some follow up. An example of this would be the 500 round, 2000 round, and 5000 round follow up reviews on the H&K VP9 and the Trijicon RMR. 

In all of these reviews, my parting thoughts are somewhat improvised in the sense that I simply write what is on my mind. There is no conscious strategy or checklist to ensure I’ve covered all of the angles. That is what I am working on changing. I expect that strategy and checklist will continue to evolve, but I expect it will provide more consistency in future reviews and with that I should be able to provide a score card of sorts that can help provide some a bit more contextual information that may better inform y’all’s purchase decisions whether they come from a review on this blog or a deal found on the deal site. 

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