How We Test & Rate Gear
Creating helpful, reliable, authentic — and maybe even entertaining — reviews is at the core of everything we do.
How We Test & Rate Gear
Creating helpful, reliable, authentic — and maybe even entertaining — reviews is at the core of everything we do.
We’ve been at it since 2006, driven by a love of the art and science of the firearm. Every day our team tests the latest guns, accessories, apparel, and tech from our 10-acre Oregon office, which gives us access to our range & testing grounds.
Our dedicated team of testers, photographers, and firearms experts is 100 percent obsessed with finding, evaluating, and reviewing the best gear in every 2A category. Our test team includes competitive shooters, authors, and contributors to some of the world’s most popular gun websites.
We know how impactful finding the right gear can be — and almost more importantly, how frustrating it is when you buy the wrong stuff.
We take our role in helping you find the best stuff seriously.
Product Testing & Scoring System
We describe what we do as “Tinfoil Hat-Proof Reviews” because of our commitment to creating independent, expert-reviewed comparisons and reviews based on deep hands-on testing and experience. We don’t accept sponsorships, and almost everything in our reviews are independently determined by hands-on testing, range time, or real-world use. Products purchased through our links can earn us a small commission, but we never let that steer the products, ratings, or review conclusions.
It all starts with Research
The American Firearms team lives and breathes the world of firearms, so we’re constantly getting press releases from brands, watching the latest YouTube reviews, and watching the forums explode with the latest leaks and gossip. We distill this passion into digestible news briefs that help us stay ahead of trends and away from fads.
We then pick products and put them to the test
Every month, we test multiple firearms and dozens of pieces of gear. Our team of product testers is comprised of competitive shooters, range officers, and certified instructors. This team of experts evaluates each piece of equipment across various use cases and conditions, weighing its performance against established benchmarks and personal experience.
We compare products against competing items to accurately provide insight into the right product, who it’s best for, and hone in on its shortcomings.
When we test, we do so in real-world conditions that reflect how you would use a product. When we think it helps us make a more informed decision, we’ll do quantitative testing on essential performance characteristics. We’ll measure the consistency of a rifle’s FPS from shot to shot or break down the weight of various CCW pistols. It’s fun for us and helpful for you.
The “Shooter’s Scorecard”
In every review, you’ll see a badge we call the “Shooter’s Scorecard”. This is where we summarize how a product performed in all the key performance areas. Firearms are tested across six key categories:
- Fit & Finish
How a product scores in each category is displayed on review page and uses a “10 Point Must System”, similar to boxing’s “10 Point Must System,” which means the winner of a given test round will receive a full 10 points for that test category (e.g. “Accuracy”), with the second highest performing receiving nine stars, the third best eight stars and so on. The lowest number of stars a product can receive is one star, and in the event, more than five products are being tested, multiple products may receive one star in a given category. This doesn’t mean the products are bad per se — just that they scored the lowest of the test subjects featured in this article.
No fractional points are awarded (no 4.5, for example), and in the event, more than one product performs identically and tops the category performance (e.g., the two top-performing pistols are identically accurate), all products will be awarded 10 points for that category.
And guess what? You can rate products too! Check our Most Popular Guns lists — a place where the American Firearms Community can rate and review all your favorite (or most hated) guns.
Accuracy fundamentally pertains to the firearm’s consistent ability to land shots on the intended target and to achieve tight shot groupings. Although some degree of subjectivity may come into play, efforts are made to minimize user-induced errors during the evaluation.
- 1-2: The firearm displays erratic or unpredictable shooting patterns, achieving unacceptable levels of accuracy (one-foot groups at 7 yards with a pistol or at 100 yards with a rifle). Severe ammo selectiveness or keyholing may be present, raising substantial concern.
- 3-4: The firearm showcases less than desirable accuracy but with more reasonable group sizes. It may still exhibit ammo specificity. The firearm might not align with the point of aim with factory sights, suggesting room for improvement.
- 5-6: The firearm demonstrates satisfactory accuracy for general use. The shots land at or near the point of aim. With at least 50% of major ammo brands, the shooter should be able to achieve respectable groupings, indicating a level of consistency.
- 7-8: The firearm stands out in its class for its noticeable accuracy. This may be attributable to superior ergonomics, a smoother trigger, or a more efficient mechanical design. It should deliver solid accuracy with most brands of ammo, making it a reliable choice for discerning shooters.
- 9-10: The firearm excels as an extremely accurate “tack-driver”. Pistols should create groupings where all holes touch at 7 yards, and rifle groups at 100 yards should be at or under .75 MOA. These firearms should yield consistent results with most ammunition types, representing the pinnacle of precision shooting.
Ergonomics refers to a firearm’s comfort, efficiency, and ease-of-use. How well does the gun feel and fit in the hand or stance while gripping and shooting it? We evaluate stock design, size and weight, balance, adjustability, palm swell sizes, grip length, texture, control placement, and if this style of grip works for multiple hand sizes, lefties & righties, and shooting styles.
- 1-2: The firearm is extremely uncomfortable due to its shape, size, or texture. Proper use or actuation of controls may be challenging or unsafe, creating difficulties during use and potentially negatively affecting shooting results.
- 3-4: The firearm offers serviceable ergonomics but may still require grip adjustments and could cause some discomfort. Controls might be placed in less-than-ideal locations or be somewhat difficult to use. Despite these limitations, the firearm remains usable.
- 5-6: The firearm presents middle-of-the-road ergonomics. It’s reasonably comfortable, but specific users may still have complaints, such as finger groove design or size. Controls might need some getting used to but are generally well-placed, indicating a level of thoughtful design.
- 7-8: The firearm provides comfort for approximately 75% of the general shooting population. It features well-thought-out controls and possibly adjustability to accommodate multiple hand types. Minor criticisms about the shape, texture, and controls are acceptable at this level, pointing to a good balance of design and function.
- 9-10: The firearm fits like a glove and is likely to offer comfort for the majority of users. It boasts extremely intuitive and easy-to-use controls, enhancing the overall shooting experience. At this level, the firearm exemplifies outstanding ergonomic design that is likely to improve the user’s shooting performance.
Features refer to the parts and components included in a firearm’s factory build and the aftermarket support for a given gun. We assess a firearm’s features (handguards, rails, optics support, grips, sights, etc.), investigate the size of the aftermarket for that product, and assess how easily an end user can swap parts.
- 1-2: The firearm is significantly lacking in features. It presents basic functionality but lacks any additional elements that would enhance its usability or performance. The absence of options such as adjustable sights, accessory rails, or ambidextrous controls is noticeable.
- 3-4: The firearm offers a basic set of features. It may have some rudimentary enhancements, such as an adjustable sight or a simple safety mechanism, but lacks the versatility or functionality offered by more feature-rich models.
- 5-6: The firearm presents a satisfactory package of features. It could include adjustable components, accessory attachment points, or some level of ambidextrous functionality. While it doesn’t boast the most comprehensive list of features, it covers the basics adequately.
- 7-8: The firearm is well-equipped with a diverse range of features. It may boast adjustable sights, multiple accessory rails, ambidextrous controls, and advanced safety mechanisms, and optics support all in one package. It provides a higher degree of adaptability and customization, catering to a variety of user preferences.
- 9-10: The firearm excels with an extensive and innovative set of features. It offers a wide array of customizable and adjustable components, multiple accessory attachment points, advanced safety features, and comprehensive ambidextrous controls. Its features cater to all levels of users, enhancing shooting performance, versatility, and user comfort to the maximum extent.
Fit & Finish
Refers to the overall craftsmanship, detailing, and assembly of a firearm. Examine the firearm’s construction quality, focusing on the precision with which the parts fit together, the aesthetics of the final product, and how it stacks up against other products in the category and price point.
- 1-2: The firearm exhibits poor fit and finish. Parts may be loosely assembled with visible gaps or misalignments, and the surface finish may be rough, uneven, or show signs of poor quality control. Keyholing or extreme ammo pickiness may be present, indicating potential safety issues.
- 3-4: The firearm offers a basic fit and finish. While the assembly might be generally sound, some minor misalignments or gaps may be present. The finish could be somewhat uneven or show minor defects. The overall build quality falls below the industry standard.
- 5-6: The firearm displays an acceptable fit and finish. Parts fit together adequately with few, if any, noticeable gaps or loose components. The finish is generally consistent, although it may lack the finesse found in higher-end models.
- 7-8: The firearm showcases a good fit and finish. Components are well-assembled with tight tolerances, and the finish is evenly applied with a high degree of consistency. The firearm exhibits the hallmarks of competent craftsmanship.
- 9-10: The firearm excels with an exceptional fit and finish. The assembly is precise, with components fitting seamlessly. The finish is impeccable, demonstrating a high level of attention to detail. At this level, the firearm represents the pinnacle of craftsmanship, enhancing both its performance and aesthetic appeal.
Reliability as the firearm’s unfailing ability to fire and cycle appropriately. Key to our evaluation is the firearm’s consistency in performance – it should function as intended each and every time the trigger is pulled. We look for any characteristics or design decisions that could potentially interfere with its cycling or firing, as these are vital aspects of any firearm’s reliability.
- 1-2: The firearm is plagued with an unacceptable malfunction rate exceeding 50%, whether due to ammunition, magazine, or mechanical issues. It struggles with feeding rounds, has magwell complications, and other performance problems that render it unfit for reliable use in a combative scenario.
- 3-4: The firearm exhibits a malfunction rate of around 10%. These could be minor issues, potentially rectifiable with aftermarket parts. While not ideal, the firearm still provides a degree of functionality.
- 5-6: The firearm presents one to three malfunctions during testing. Despite these issues, no significant problems are detected, suggesting that the firearm is generally reliable with room for improvement.
- 7-8: The firearm demonstrates a high level of reliability, with a single malfunction during testing at most. This is a good indicator of the firearm’s functionality and reliability under normal conditions.
- 9-10: The firearm performs flawlessly, with zero stoppages, malfunctions, or issues during testing. A firearm that reaches this level of performance is not just reliable, but one you could confidently entrust your life to.
Value refers to the proverbial “bang for the buck” – how much you’re getting for your dollar versus relative to other firearms in this category and price point. We consider the gun’s overall price tag and weigh it against its specs, features, performance, and competition.
- 1-2: The firearm demands an extremely high price but offers little to no features, and its performance ranges from mediocre to low. This disproportionate cost-performance ratio significantly diminishes its value proposition.
- 3-4: The firearm incorporates some interesting features, but it’s performance or other aspects do not justify its high price for the average consumer. It may offer limited value compared to more affordable options on the market.
- 5-6: The firearm may lack some features, but its price aligns reasonably with similar competitors. It presents a balanced cost-performance ratio, although there’s room for improvement.
- 7-8: The firearm boasts great features and performance at a good price point, or it exhibits excellent high-end features and performance that justify a higher price. It provides substantial value for the investment.
- 9-10: The firearm excels by offering excellent features and performance at a highly competitive price, outperforming most of its competitors in both performance and cost. Firearms at this level could be considered “absolute steals,” delivering exceptional value for money.
How We Select Products to Review
Each product is carefully selected by our testers after rigorous research into the category, trends, recent product releases, interviews with product engineers and experts, and listening to reader feedback and consumer reviews.
A significant portion of our job is to stay aware of the latest product releases (our weekly News Briefs detail the most important of these) so we can inform our readers of new gear we think you’ll enjoy or cool new stuff that belongs on one of our Best Of lists.
We avoid reviewing products just because a brand asked us to and never accept compensation for a review. Our editors independently select every piece of gear we choose to review. Beyond product compensation, we also won’t accept payment from any company for editorial inclusion in an article, nor do we accept sponsored posts or link requests.
Success or fail, it’s all us.
Revising Existing Articles
Our team does its best to deliver up-to-date, accurate information, but the world of firearms is constantly changing and innovating. Sometimes older products fall out of favor, are discontinued, or are surpassed by newer options. Each month, we dedicate time to reviewing and revising previously published product reviews and guides to ensure the information and products are current.
Suppose we see a product is no longer active or the user reviews have changed drastically. In that case, we take a deeper look at product quality, availability, and the popularity of newer, better models, then update our guides and reviews accordingly.
Armed with this ever-evolving knowledge and research, we’re positive our articles give readers the latest and greatest information on the world of firearms.