I recently replied to a comment on a social media site, and that got me to thinking. While I try to read as many of the comments as I can, I typically do not reply. For whatever reason, this one struck a chord, and I reached for the keyboard. I may have been a little bit cranky, but thinking those words were not over the line, I hit send.
The gist of the exchange had to do with my brief evaluation of a holster. The commenter first accused me of taking money to do the review, and then he questioned my judgment. (People question my judgment all the time, so we will address that later.) First, I need to make something clear: I cannot be bought. I have been in this business too many years and have seen too many otherwise good writers destroy their reputations by engaging in the pay-to-play operations. I take my job as a self-defense writer way too seriously to engage in that type of activity. If I were telling you how to catch bluegills on a fly rod, the makers of a rubber spider might be able to sway my opinion because I am not betting my life on their product. I seriously care about self-defense. Bluegills and fly rods, not so much.
So here’s the deal: If a company makes a good product, we will talk about it in our magazine and through our video outlets regardless of whether or not that company agrees to advertise. Conversely, if someone makes a bad product, no amount of advertising revenue will get me to talk about that product. We provide fair, honest and impartial reviews. If you do not believe me, ask our advertising manager. He hates it when I nix a pay-to-play deal because it affects his commissions. But nonetheless, I nix every single attempt. We are a great place to advertise because we have smart readers who spend money on good gear. We will keep those readers only by being honest and open.
That brings me to my next point: my questionable judgment. I commented back to that reader who questioned my judgment on the quality of holster I reviewed. I did this not because I think I did a bad job and not because I think I was wrong about the holster. I was not wrong. But I welcome the feedback, and I challenge anyone to never buy anything without checking it out personally.
I can show you new gear. Sometimes it is gear that, because of my position, I get to see before others. I can give you some insight based on my experience and ability to work with the gear that I have decided to review. But, I will never, ever assume that what I have to say is the last word, and neither should you.
When you watch a video review — any video review — you should consider it for informational purposes only. When I introduce you to a piece of gear, it is just that: an introduction. You should take that information, go look for that piece of gear in the marketplace and evaluate it for your personal needs. You are betting your life on the self-defense gear you choose. It has to work for you. What works for me will not always work for you.
So, by all means, question my judgment. Evaluate each piece of gear based on what you hear from me in combination with your individual needs. It is never my intention to come at you as the all-knowing expert. We all have more to learn, and the best thing about this job is that I learn something new every day.