One of my readers asked me a really good question yesterday. “You don’t seem to do torture tests, why not, they seem to be popular?” Short answer, because they are “meaningless and useless when performed as a writer, or any single individual”. To me they are a waste of ammunition for the sake of a headline. Pure unadulterated marketing whether its paid for by the manufacturer or a publisher. I have done one or two over the years, and while it has cost me more than a little work I just wont go there again. Too much huckster, not enough reality for me.
Its only one gun!
You are testing an example of one, so it means that gun, at that time, with that ammunition, in those conditions, generally over a short span of time. Its not a long term hard condition test. Its not combat, probably not in a jungle, desert, or at 40 below zero, certainly not all of them. If it fails it says nothing other than that rifle failed, at that time, with that ammunition, in those conditions. Is it one of ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand? You have no idea and proved nothing. Just because that rifle passed the next rifle (the one they ship you) could fail at round 10. That test rifle may fail at round 5001 of your 5000 round test, is it now a 5000 round gun? If the conditions change slightly it could fail. The original AR is a great example. Tested under various conditions prior to adoption it ended up getting Soldiers and Marines killed in Vietnam. Why, someone changed the conditions, mostly ammunition, the test did not match what was deployed. Now the military tests a range of samples at multiple locations often over years. In order to meet the SOCOM spec Sig Sauer’s MCX Virtus completed a 200,000 round test. Yep, 200,000 rounds with no breakages using simple maintenance. Even if a writer trudged through a 5000 round test, thats not even a warm up. So if gun-scribe extraordinaire breaks the gun the 200,000 round test is meaningless? Even worse, you make your choice based on a gunwriter ignoring more extensive testing? As stupid as that sounds it happens all the time. Ruger tests its guns for a year or longer before offering them to the public. Cumulatively over a broad range of weapons (not just one) Ruger may double the Army’s round count before bringing a weapon to market. Some writer has a “failure” or does not like it for some reason and you dismiss it? I have Primary Weapons Systems and LWRCI weapons that have not malfunctioned in years of use. During a recent class my rifle was flawless, another students (same basic rifle) had a couple issues. Some moron in the class pipes up about how his (fill in the blank) rifle “will never fail”. This guy was a combat vet and an industry professional, one who should know better. Apparently he bought someones marketing hook line and sinker. Interestingly it was a good rifle, tested several, and yep at least one failed for me, so should he now abandon it? Its stupid, just plain stupid, never base a decision on a sample of one or pure marketing either way and please understand not every “expert” really is without regard to their background.
Exactly what is torture? Is it 1000 rounds, 2000, 5000, 10,000? Run over it with your truck, tractor, or drop it out of a helicopter? Freeze it, throw it in a lake and drag the bottom like its an anchor (all have been done)? Now, have the “tester” frozen in the same block of ice, or get dragged along the bottom of a lake and you might just have something. Any firearm need only survive what the human using it can. And who does that other than a showman or salesman? That’s what vacuum salesman do, suck up ten pounds of crap on your carpet making you believe whatever you do will be easy. You would think it was a Shamwow or something. Choosing the rifle or pistol designed to save your life based on some huckster just makes you eligible for the next Darwin award. I get it, this stuff sells, people like it, so long as you understand that’s what it is then fine. Enjoy it for what it is, just never consider it anything but marketing and only one part of your decision making process.
Is it Real?
For the most part anything entertaining enough to print won’t occur in real life. Most don’t drop their rifles out of the aircraft used to get them on target, or scene. They may jump out of it with rifle in tow, but probably not from 1000 feet without a chute. Dropped from a few feet, happens all the time. Dropped from your trunk, hood, even the top of the car sure, again it happens. I have done that with a few rifles and pistols, on purpose and accident. Honestly its more a test of your optics than the rifle. Testing over a 1000 rounds or so without cleaning, sure, in a day, not likely. Real life is doing that over a year having stuffed it in a bag and put it in your trunk. Shoot a hundred rounds, stick it in your trunk and don’t shoot it again for four months, repeat for a year, that’s real. Run an open class and you see guns all the time that are dry, dirty, and won’t work. Why, they have not shot it since the last class attended, a couple years ago. The one where they did not clean it because they were “testing” it. Most people won’t shoot 2000 rounds in a year or years, for a few a lifetime, let alone in one sitting. Unlike writers, readers pay for their rifles and ammunition, makes a 10,000 round test cost several times what they paid for the rifle. Few paying a grand or more for an AR have another six grand to torture test it. Besides, anyone who has will never do it again, having done so the only thing being tortured is the tester.
There is certainly nothing “wrong” with performing some “torture” test of a rifle or pistol, its part of the marketing / entertainment factor of the gunwriter’s world. Attention spans being what they are a headline may be the only thing that gets people to click or read. Just don’t put a ton of value into any single short term test of a weapon, its mostly a show. Consider that many manufacturers want the firearm back in weeks making real testing hard for most writers, assuming they have somewhere to actually perform a real test. It’s one of the reasons there are so many “drive by” articles these days. A hundred rounds or less fired in one afternoon at limited range. Shoot some groups, dump some ammo down range and write it up. Coupled with publishers that “pay on publication” at times six months after you did the work and turned it in and you lose some incentive to be real in your testing. So next time you read the “torture test” headline enter, read, enjoy, just don’t think for a nano-second it has any real bearing on the real world or is truly indicative of the rifle you get. As always, its the gunwriting industry so truth and realism are appreciated but too often optional.