Every so often, you might see all of your favorite Youtubers or Guntubers. All seem to release a gun review at the exact same time. It seems odd. The one I remember most recently is the S&W FCU. The little folding carbine got a media blitz because all of a sudden, there were tens of reviews hitting the information super highway. This leads to the question of why, why do all gun reviews get released at the same time.
Beyond that question, it leads to the accusation that these guntubers are ‘shills.’ Shills is the cry of the people who still watch these channels but deeply believe that they are completely owned by the gun industry. The accusation is that these guntubers are participating in the media blitz by all aggressing to release reviews at the same time to get a specific firearm to get a massive influx of popularity. The term shill infers that opinions are bought and paid for.
The idea comes from the gun rags of old who needed advertisements to keep the lights on. How do you write a bad review about a gun if the same company is keeping your lights on via ads? Some high-profile examples of this included a few magazine-based reviews of Remington’s R51, which was praised highly by magazines but was a terrible gun upon release.
This corruption of the gun media is why it becomes so suspicious that all of these reviews are released at the exact same time. But the answer is fairly simple and has nothing to do with being paid by the gun companies.
Why Are Gun Reviews Released All At Once?
Gun companies have their firearms produced and made well before they ever announce the thing. Most want their gun to be debugged, working and have a suitable stock to release to distributors. Distributors then release the guns to gun stores. With that in mind, they’ve known about the gun for quite some time. Sometimes major releases are done at SHOT or right before SHOT; sometimes, it’s NRAAM, and other times it’s seemingly random.
At those random times, they want to get a pump of popularity. They send out sample guns to gun reviewers, oftentimes months before they are released. This gives the reviewers time to create a review, to shoot their gun, and to film or write reviews. These reviewers are given a bit of trust and often agree to an embargo date. An embargo date states you cannot post reviews, pictures, or even talk about this new gun until a specific date.
Too Soo, or Too Late
If you’ve sent the guns to a dozen different review channels, then those channels all want to publish their review, and they are competing with the 11 other reviewers. Once that embargo date comes, you want to release that review as fast as possible. If you release it early, you’ve undermined the marketing team at XYZ gun company and likely won’t have much contact with that company again.
If you release the review late, then you’ll be too late. The 11 other companies released the same review at the same time, and they’ve already been watched, so yours likely won’t receive a crazy amount of views. As someone who has written a gun review or two, I’ve always abided by the embargo date for better or worse. I remember one company moving the embargo date up a week, meaning the release date was the actual day they notified us of the embargo update. Why did they do this? Because earlier that morning, someone broke the review embargo, and we all had to play catchup.
The leaker hasn’t reviewed a gun from that company since, and I can only wonder why. You might say that free guns are basically a bribe. That would be true if that was a common occurrence. In my experience, the best offer you’ll get is a discount on the purchase price. Maybe I’m just not big enough to get those free guns.
Do Shills Exist?
I’m sure they do. Plenty of influencer types release ads for companies, but as long as they are upfront with the fact it’s an ad, I don’t think it’s shilling. Is shilling common? I really don’t think so, at least not amongst major gun and accessory companies. If XYZ gun company offered me a certain amount of money for a review, then guess what?
That review might get a few peeks. I might cash that check, but do you know what would blow up? If I wrote a story about XYZ company offering me money to review their product and provide receipts, I would have a massive story. That story would be worth more than the cash they offered.
Have I been offered money to review products? Sure, but by overseas companies selling crap tier red dots. The folks contacting me are never American. They are brands are fly-by-name relabel of the junk tier red dots you can find on Amazon.
Ultimately, most gun reviews these days are going to be honest because the internet forces them to be. It’s too easy to gossip, and there is too much competition to be the company that takes money for reviews. Gun reviews get released at the same time because of embargos and a race to be first, not because XYZ gun company pays to make it happen.