Firearms Food for Thought: To Advise or Not to Advise…

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Ah, the internet. It’s made experts out of everyone with the ability to enter words into a web search engine and models out of, well, everyone who cares to stretch the truth about their looks. It also seems to have removed the need for basic manners and being polite, which brings us to the current Firearms Food for Thought question: internet gun advice. As in, do you give it or not?

On social media there are countless numbers of gun-related groups filled with shooters and collectors of all ages. Experience ranges from newbies to skilled marksmen and everything in between, but here we fall back on the earlier problem: the internet has made experts out of everyone. Of course, the problem isn’t contained only within gun groups but is all over the world wide web. For example, if someone posts a picture on their Facebook page of a well-perforated target with the heading “Had a great day at the range with my .380” they are far more likely to be inundated with advice than they are with those agreeing with their statement regarding the joy of range time. It won’t necessarily be good advice, either. Odds are good the advice will be a mixture of well-meant-but-poor, half-decent, and hideously bad advice. And of course it will have been offered with a combination of rude bluntness and sarcasm with only the occasional polite poster.

When you happen upon such a post, what do you do? Do you insert your own advice – and correct everyone you feel is wrong – or do you congratulate your internet friend on getting some trigger time? Let’s assume, for the sake of the debate, you do not know the original poster. They’re not a good friend, not someone you know at all well, and not someone you’ve ever met in what I like to call the real world. Is there a proper etiquette for gun advice? Maybe there should be.

To advise or not to advise…that is the gun-related question, and it’s one that should be afforded far more thought than it tends to be given. Social media has made it nearly impossible for someone to share the thrill of a new firearms purchase without being lambasted for making a poor decision and it’s created experts on tactics, marksmanship – you name it – out of every armchair warrior. Even in cases where someone does ask for advice the resultant rush of replies tends to be filled with insults, which only serves to discourage them from asking in the future. Rather than being encouraged, these newcomers end up discouraged.

The gun industry can always use greater numbers, so let’s start encouraging growth rather than crushing it before it can even take hold. Just a little firearms-related thought.



katie.ainsworth

Katie is an avid shooter, hunter, military journalist, and Southern girl. Firearms are her passion whether at the range or on a spot-and-stalk after a big buck. She’s a staff writer at The Firearm Blog and writes about guns, hunting, and the military for various publications both online and in print such as Outdoor Life, Handguns, and Shooting Illustrated. Shoot her a message at ainsworth.kat@usa.com


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  • El Duderino

    Unsolicited advice = criticism.

    Ask first. “Hey, I was wondering if I could give you a couple tips on your shooting stance. I’m a former range coach in the Marines. Would that be okay?”

    Don’t critique gear unless it’s just obviously not working for the person. They guy who can rack the slide and hit the 8 ring or better with his Hi-Point? Leave him alone. So what if he has a $150 gun made of pot metal. He probably would have bought a better gun if he could have. If he asks you about your gun, chat him up.

    Pull people in with your knowledge and visible expertise. Don’t push it on them. If you’re posting about your recent experience with 3Gun or IDPA, people will ping you with questions on gear and techniques. Be the OP, not the one who just flies by and posts a block of “advice” on a range pic of a new shooter.

    • Tyler McCommon

      Reddits R/guns is full of “experts” giving “advice”.

      • RocketScientist

        That place is the biggest firearms related s***hole on the internet. It’s like a cult of idiots, and if you aren’t one of them you’re crap. I believe a lot of it has to do with their moderators, who set the tone/culture for the whole sub. I posted some pictures and info about my (genuine original production) Colt 1860 Army cap and ball blackpowder revolver. Its an awesome historical gun in really good shape, fought in the civil war, and any time i show it around people always love it. I was downvoted into oblivion because

        (a) I photographed it in a photographers white-box a friend has. Apparently one of the mods awhile back posted a “guide to photographing guns” where he requires you to take the guns outside and use a natural background, and if not, you’ll get downvoted or have the post removed.

        (b) I didn’t call it a “wheely-gat” or a “merry-go-gat”, which are apparently the approved /r/guns terms for revolvers. No, I’m not kidding. If you call a revolver a revolver, and not a “wheely-gat”, you get downvoted or your post removed.

        If you are a redditor, and like guns, may i recommend /r/Firearms. none of those shenanigans. There may be the occasional low-quality post, but a much less toxic community.

        • n0truscotsman

          I’ve never had an interest in reddit, but that is an interesting perspective.

          I know from my limited experience with arfcom, there is a huge echo chamber and brand cults that fiercely retaliate against those that dare to contradict them (Like one brand that starts with “L”). Then there’s the occasional posters who provide invaluable information that I’ve saved even to this day.

        • Audie Bakerson

          Reddit is the biggest anything related shithole.

    • Michael Lubrecht

      +1 If someone solicits advice, I’ll provide my best recommendations. As an NRA instructor and as a former PSIA certified ski instructor, I have plenty of expertise and experience behind me and opportunities galore to provide teaching moments at the range or on the slopes. Only if someone is unsafe or obviously struggling will I ask if they would be interested in getting a pointer or two – if they aren’t, I just wish them a nice time and move along. And I don’t ever give unsolicited advice just out of the blue.

    • Len Jones

      Your right and the high point was my first gun, took the test with it. Gets real heavy and slick when it 92 deg out and your waiting for someone to clear a failure with a more expensive gun, we took the test outside. Well now I have 3 but still have the high point. If you read all the blogs what I have found is either expensive or cheap you can still get a bad gun its a crap shoot.

  • Ken

    I don’t give or take advice off the interwebz and I advise everyone else to do the same.
    . . . . . . What??

    • Jwedel1231

      So, I shouldn’t listen to you? So, I should take/give advice on the internet?

  • USMC03Vet

    If you put it out publicly expect criticism.

  • BattleshipGrey

  • Twilight sparkle

    Generally I only give advice if I see something wrong or if it’s asked for.

  • Edeco

    Internet advice, heck no. Nor the white-hat thing. Not my zoo/monkey.

    I’ve refused to recommend a gun for someone IRL. It’s like in the movie “Pet Semmetary”; you have to pick your own. Might point something out like if someone wants X round, Y trigger type, Z barrel length and I can think of a gun that has them.

  • stephen

    I don’t usually give unsolicited advice unless its a big safety issue however here is some stuff I do recommend.

    My advice in no particular order…

    1. Learn safety to protect you and others.

    2. Fit a gun to the shooter – seen too many people buy a .45 but couldn’t handle it because some ‘pro’ said its the only caliber to have.

    3. Fit the gun to mission/task – IOW no .50 cal for concealed carry.

    4. Make sure the shooter can effectively handle the firearm and put rounds on target accurately and with precision.

    5. Make sure your super-duper self defense rounds work in your gun – the worst time to find out they don’t work is in a life or death situation.

    6. Do your homework, read tons of reviews, try before you buy and…

    7. Buy once, cry once – don’t go cheap on a gun. Your life is priceless so pay for quality. If all you can afford is a HiPoint, go give blood or mow lawns till you can get something good. Last time I checked no LEOs or military use HiPoints. I have seen too many students get hipoints then after the class of trying other guns, regretted going cheap- get the point? Good.

    8. Get good training and practice, practice, practice.

    😉

    • Anonymous

      I should probably be better about the safety thing (I usually don’t do advice unless asked). Just yesterday I got muzzled by a guy showing his friend his “awesome” .38spl at a public range. I promptly packed my gear and left. Maybe I should have said something, but I figured it was better to just get out of there. Most people think they know everything already anyway…

      • Len Jones

        Yes and you don’t know how someone will react so packing and leaving was probably your best choice good call.

    • Len Jones

      Wow I have a high point my first gun, yes heavy ,never had a failure 9mm and my Glock failures on the first 2 magazines my Taurus 9mm slim never a failure and the Glock cost the most. My son in law’s Glock 40 just blew the side out of it at the range and he just got it back from sending it in Jan. go figure. You buy a gun its a crap shoot.

  • Martin törefeldt

    I can not speak for everyone.
    But when some one comes to me for advice on guns, for example “witch gun is the Best one” i usally answer ” the answer is simple, its the one that suits you and your needs best. However the solution finding that gun/guns that actully suits you, well thats the hard part”.

    • Len Jones

      I agree that is the hardest part.

  • Gambler X

    I dont offer advice. Im not an instructor or a dealer anymore. Just a random guy just who wants to enjoy himself putting holes in paper. Ill only say something if someone is being unsafe or if someone asks then I will be more than happy to help. If I am offering advice I wont criticize, i will try to relate with them and say “Yes, ive made those same mistakes.” It puts people at ease and makes them not feel alone in this.

    And to all the RSOs out there
    1. Dont talk smack about weapons or gear. One had harsh things to say about people that buy SBRs and Sig Sauers, im standing in the next stall with both. The earmuffs dont mean i cant hear you.
    2. Dont critique me. If i didnt ask, dont offer.
    3. If im with a woman, just stay back. Dont insert yourself, dont flirt, dont try to show off how much you know. We paid to shoot not listen to you run your mouth.

    • Len Jones

      I don’t know where you shoot but where I shoot you can’t hear nothing but pop pop pop from the time you go in until you leave. Your either reloading or shooting I wouldn’t even hear somone crapping on my gun. Matter of fact the last time I went by myself I couldn’t hear myself fart and there was just like 4 of us in there.

  • John

    Internet trolling on social media got to point that being fan firearms there is very much fun. It bad enough us gun owners have deal with ant gun people on social media but you have trolling jerks there well make discouraging remarks against you and firearms if they do not like them. One type discouraging troll I see a lot on social media one say well you can not own best firearms for most money in world than you do not deserve be gun owner. Other kind troll out there I hate can not afford go best firearms train school out there than you should be firearms owner. Third kind social media troll who I love best he tell that you firearms crap because never own your firearm or brand his firearms better than yours than goes over youtubes make video his firearms higher price quality than your firearms it fails big time live up that better quality price he paid for. Fourth kind troll mfg troll he high paid firearms instructor you see all over youtube facebook the only thing matter them they get well paid for option witch slant to what ever firearms company that support them with free guns ammo money for them do so. This kind troll hate comments well tell your firearms sucks if he not being paid support them.. Hell tell if your not paying for his option than your option does matter. So four many types firearms trolls you can find all over socail media.

    • Glenn

      What did he just say ? English as a second language ?

    • Drake

      May be because he right only one getting up set about comments are same troll he talks about you can find at socail media.

    • SLINGSHOT

      I stopped reading at ” ant gun people”

  • I find the bigger problem is getting anyone to answer the question you asked instead of opining on nine different things you didn’t ask.

    I don’t typically listen to random internet clowns anyway, so I don’t expect others do either. Everyone is someone’s clown. And you are too.

  • Budogunner

    Can we get more content instead of pays like this, please? There are several regulated on discus who would make great contributing authors of TFB is really this desperate.

  • imachinegunstuff

    Is it dangerous?
    No.
    None of my business

  • Mattblum

    I don’t give advice on shooting other than the aforementioned practice, practice practice. I like to shoot, but I’m not very good. I take advice in person, but I sure don’t look for it on the net. I have yet to find a better place to get absolutely incorrect solutions to any problem than the web. On the other hand, if you know enough on a subject to separate the wheat from the chaff, you can learn a lot. I’m still working on that with firearms. Thus my presence here.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    You’ve made some good points, especially those about civility. To that, I would also add understanding and more of a live and let live outlook. I seem to recall a post on TFB some years ago where a contributor knowingly went out on a limb and submitted an article where he openly, honestly and clearly admitted making a gross mistake during a range session that resulted in him injuring himself with his firearm. His whole purpose was quite sincere and clear-cut — to let everyone know what had happened so that no-one else might be injured in a similar incident.

    What followed was appalling and narrow-minded, to say the least. Instead of understanding where he was coming from and taking things in that perspective, many of the commentators took it upon their “expert” selves to severely criticize and insult the person in question, thereby adding insult to injury — as if he had not already learned a lesson the hard way. Frankly, judging from the content of their statements, I got the distinct feeling that they were using this as an opportunity to vent whatever personal frustrations they had against a convenient scapegoat. The high and mighty tones in which so many of the comments were couched were nasty and hypocritical —- as if any of those individuals had never made a single serious mistake in their lives. It is like listening to someone declare that they have absolutely no regrets in life, which is a load of rubbish so far removed from human reality that it is almost laughable.

    • Tassiebush

      I think in a collective sense we’re actually pretty good at applying a bad double standard and eating our own. I sometimes wonder if we’ve internalized the scorn of the antis. I think we’ve developed an attitude that somehow we can’t talk about safety because we’re afraid to admit that it’s something we have to learn and make some effort to achieve.

      • Tassiebush

        I say this after taking the mickey out of that poor tannerite mistake fellow.

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          Thanks for your candid and unpretentious follow-up — it’s refreshing to read something like this versus the judgemental, self-righteous commentary that sometimes prevails in these forums.

          • Tassiebush

            Thanks. It’s actually illogical to despise people for percieved stupidity and to pretend we’re completely different. Would we despise someone for having an acquired brain injury or a preexisting condition? So why are mistakes so deplorable? Perhaps it’s only choices that we can really judge people over.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            You’re quite right about this. People constantly forget that we all learn by assessing, trying and doing. Making mistakes along the way, no matter how much forethought has gone into the process, are often part of that learning process due to unforeseen factors. Preparation and forethought simply help to minimize ( and occasionally eliminate ) the consequences of those mistakes. It is when one fails to learn or deliberately chooses to ignore the lessons from those mistakes that one can then become open to justified criticism.

          • Tassiebush

            Well put!

  • Bear The Grizzly

    I’ve only ever given advice once to a close, personal friend who needed a gun for personal protection. If it’s some random stranger I don’t care what they do with it. I’ve had so many people say this trigger is too heavy or the grip too big and when I test it out myself I don’t agree with any of it. I try to take everything with a grain of salt.

    • Len Jones

      Good advise would be go to a range and rent a gun to see how it shoots, that is the most reasonable advise I have seen since everyone is made different like you were talking about the grip.

  • Daniel Philip Cook

    I don’t give advice unless it’s either personal experience or factually based(ie laboratory research or someone who has actually been in combat/has extensive experience with the topic at hand).

  • Boogur T. Wang

    Expert Witness = Someone more than 50 miles from their home.

    Having said that, the only advice I have found safe to give is “If you are carrying via a belt holster, invest in a damn good belt.”
    That is about the safest and least controversial advice I can offer.
    (and some will still argue with that)

  • Pete Sheppard

    I don’t mind politely sharing my thoughts and experience, but telling somebody ‘what they want’ or ‘should do’…no, thanks.

  • Phillip Cooper

    This is not a problem specific to the gun world. It’s the internet as a whole.

    Lack of civility is a good indicator of the health of a society. Ours has lacked civility for quite some time. All you have to do is look at the political world to get a first-rate indicator of waht I’m talking about.

  • Len Jones

    I agree. I own 4 guns have had 5 that I could give advise on but it would just be my opinion and you may think otherwise if you owned the same one so your just telling someone your experience with the gun thats all you can do.

  • Fruitbat44

    I don’t necessarily think that the Internet has increased the numbers of jerks, know-it-alls and out-and-out a-holes. But it has given them all direct access to your living room.

    Okay, if someone is doing something monumentally stupid, then offering advice is probably a good idea. But, be polite and always bear in mind the question; are they really doing something monumentally stupid, or just something different to what you would do?

  • retfed

    I don’t care if you decide on a Glock, a 1911, a Colt Dragoon, or a Gyrojet for personal protection. It’s America. Do what you want. I have commented, however, on blog posts regarding shootings, especially bad ones, which is something I know something about. My posts always consisted of two points: Never shoot to protect property, and Warning shots are always illegal (or they’re so restricted that they might as well be). Notice the verb tense in that last sentence (past). I’ve been lectured on Texas law (always wrongly) and on the thought processes of the Founding Fathers, called names, and told that if I didn’t like warning shots I should take it up with the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
    I no longer care. If people want to bankrupt themselves in court so they can spend the rest of their lives in a cage, it’s not my problem.

  • retfed

    I misspoke. My third point: You have no duty to pursue and apprehend, and therefor you have no qualified immunity, so don’t do it

  • Cymond

    Oh l definitely call someone out if they’re being an idiot who thinks they know it all. I especially despise guys who think NFA stuff is completely, totally illegal. When they continue insisting, I post links and quotes of the law.
    One guy insisted that an AOW was an illegal sawed off shotgun, and then when told about AOWs, said “try telling that to the feds”. So I posted quotes of the NFA and links to the ATF’s page about AOWs.

    Same thing happened last week when a guy insisted, repeatedly, that suppressors are completely illegal. When I quoted the NFA and linked to Silencersarelegal dotcom, be insisted “not in Texas”. I actually took the time to go find Texas’ legal code, quote it, and link it. Again, he never acknowledged that he was wrong, apologized, etc. He just went silent when confronted with irrefutable proof.

    • TheMaskedMan

      I will step in and argue with someone if there’s a safety issue, but that’s about it. For example, there was this idiot at a gun show who was saying you could shoot 5.56 out of a .300 Blackout. He didn’t mean that most of the parts were interchangeable, he meant that you could use an AR with a .300 Blackout barrel installed to shoot 5.56.