Friday, June 15, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Reviewing Guns

Sig Sauer P250 9mm

This stuff occurred to me on the way to the way to the Manchester Airport this AM, and I thought I should jot it down.

When I talk about shooting this gun or that gun, I'm a lot more atuned to my impressions than any sort of true evaluation...a friend of mine said I bring a "rock critic's sensibility" to talkign about firearms...I used to be a semifamous rock critic, doncha know...and my friend didn't actually mean that as a compliment.

Here's the difference...I can with certainty tell you my impressions of a gun — how does it handle; how are the ergonomics; how are the fire controls placed; how did the recoil seem to me, etc. Just like in music criticism, those impressions are filtered through my own personal experiences and shaded by my personal strengths and weaknesses. For example, the size of my hands, which are medium to small, effect how I view the ergonomics of a gun. That's why I believe the H-K SOCOM .45 ought to come equipped with wheels and a crew.

The fact that I came out of practical competition predisposes me to a certain type of gun — paging STI! The fact that I presently carry a Sig Sauer also shades my view of firearms ergonomics...I don't carry the Sig because I think its ergonomics suck. Quite the opposite.

But an evaluation implies that you have a lot of time and intimate understanding of what problem the gun was designed to solve (or the role the gun designer envisioned for the gun). Such an evaluation generally has nothing to do with lab coats, grills, or baseball bats, however, as there are no requirements for a firearm that involve Bobby Flay or the New York Yankees.

I mention these things because I actually don't believe in "objectivity." That comes from years in the newspaper business, where objectivity is bandied around as a truth somewhere between liberalism and safe sex. I realized pretty quickly that objectivity was right up there with the myth of fingerprints. I could be honest, but I couldn't truly be objective. What drove me out of newspapers was the realization that the way to be honest was to lay out one's biases so the reader could understand what filters were in place. Newspapers weren't wild about I like this" versus "this is true."

I've seen this a bit on the ole bloggerooni, where some of my compatriots have lusted for the very same "legitimate" status I ran from. I've had a "press card" since I was 18; it's overrated.

So, did I like the Sig Sauer P250? Well, of course I's the link to the European version, btw, which only superficially resembles the American product. I've watched the gun go through its entire development process; been present for the compromises — and everybody makes them — and the breakthroughs. The 9mm version I shot yesterday is the latest, and probably the final, iteration. In a bit of synchronicity, the slight tweaking of frame width to accomodate the upcoming .45 ACP magazine lead to a one-round pick-up for the 16 + 1.

In my hands, the grip is perfect. I think I mentioned in the very first review I did of a Sig Sauer back in the early 1980s, a P226 9mm, I said (or at least I remember saying, which may not be the same thing), that unlike most of the semiauto offerings at the time, the Sig appeared to have been designed by someone who had actually seen a human hand. There have been a lot of refinements in that grip along the way, and the polymer frames have essentially freed weapons designers from the strictly lines of machined metal. The P250 is the zenith of that grip design, and the result is a very light yet very easy to shoot gun.

My standard is pretty much "would I carry it?" Would I replace my againg P225 with it...both the P220 Compact and now the P250 meet that criteria. The appeal of the P250 is that it delivers 17 rounds in a package that is very close to the size of the P225, an 8 + 1 round gun. Look at how close the specs line up:

Length 7.1"
Barrel length 3.9"
Width 1.3"
Height 5.2"
Weight 26.1 oz (without magazine; figure about 3 + a bit ounces for an empty mag)

P250 (European)
Length 7.2”
Barrel length 3.86”
Width 1.38”
Height 5.12”
Weight 30.86 oz (INCLUDING magazine)

For concealed carry, the critical dimensions are width (1.3" vs. 1.38"), height (5.2" vs. 5.12") and weight (30.6 oz vs. 30.86 oz), and yes I know that the additional rounds of 9mm add a chunk of weight. Size and weightwise, though, it's pretty much a wash. The P250's a little fatter and a spec shorter in the butt (I'm assuming the American specs are pretty close). I felt like I could run the 250 every bit as fast as I could run the 225; maybe with a little better first split on the 250's ultralight DAO trigger versus the 225's DA/SA, which I do actually prefer for concealed carry.

A few quick words on the's sweet. One of the big design considerations for the American market was that the European 9-pound DAO just wasn't goign to fly with American shooters. So Sig's American engineers redesigned the system, dropping the DAO to a very smooth 5-6 pounds.

Whoops...gotta go get on a plane...

Video on the P250 is embargoes for six more weeks...under the guns get intot he retail pipelines!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great gun, and I love Sigs. Now to the real question, though. When are you going to write addressing the recent sellout of gunowners by the NRA? Without folks like you in the NRA's leadership, we may have to resort to harsh language to protect ourselves.

Anonymous said...

affect not effect

Joe Allen said...

I think the aim for objectivity in gun reviews is that the reviewer be able to look past a personal affinity for a manufacturer, or the fact that his bread is heavily buttered by a manufacturer, in order to call a turd a turd if need be.

I don't think anybody is offended by a reviewer's opinion being colored by their own preferences and proclivities. However, I don't think I've seen a negative review of a product in a dead tree gun mag in I don't know how long, the general consensus among consumers being that it has something to do with all of those full page ads.

Glowing reviews of guns that are infamous on the web for being round yellow and tart.

That's the lack of objectivity that people are sick of.


Michael Bane said...

;affect not effect"

i'm a writer...that's why god made editors! lol!


Gromulin said...

I always liked Frank Zappa's line about reviewers:

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

JoeMerchant24 said...

Objectivity in newspapers is based on the number of quotes devoted to either side. I spent almost a decade in newspapers and what appeared to fairly obvious biases were discounted because "the other side had the same number of quotes."

The key is to clearly state any biases up front, as Mike just did, then allow the reader to weigh the review against the stated biases.

For example, Clint Smith clearly admits his disdain for plastic guns. So, when he gave a good review for the Springfield XD, it carried more weight. Conversely, any review he gives on a 1911-based handgun is taken with a little less weight.

But the key is Clint has the respect to tell us this up front.

Mike, as a former editor, I can assure you God made us for oh, so many reasons... :)

jalt said...

I read on that there are 3 frame sizes: small, medium, large. I suppose the frame you had for your measurements was the medium frame? I'd like to know what the small frame measurements are. I have small hands. Btw, when will it be on sale in the American market?

Big said...

jalt said...

I read on that there are 3 frame sizes: small, medium, large.

No sir, the frame is the same size, except the .45, it's the grip assy that comes in the different sizes as listed above.

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The writer is totally fair, and there's no doubt.

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