How we review guns and gears at the USA Gun Shop

How We Test and Review Gear

How we test and review gear at the USA Gun Shop

Since 2017, the USA Gun Shop has been testing and reviewing guns, accessories, hunting gear, apparel and the latest technology. We even moved to Miami to pursue the dream.

Now a team of likeminded enthusiasts spend our waking hours talking about, testing and writing about the best gear in the guns industry.

Our team includes an ex Law Enforcement Officer, contributors to the best firearms publications in the world and two licensed firearms instructors.

We know how important it is to find the right gear, especially with the current cost of living crisis. And we want to help you make every cent count with informed decisions when you buy a gun.

Our Scoring System

In all of our hands on reviews, you’ll see us address a number of key factors:

  • Price
  • Accuracy
  • Reliability
  • Capacity
  • Weight
  • Prestige
  • Features
  • Value

We won’t always use all of these in every group test, just the most relevant topics to help you make an informed choice on your next purchase.

And like school, we grade on a curve system, so the best in class gets 5/5 and we adjust the other scores according to their relative performance. It’s simpler than it sounds…

We absolutely want your reviews, too. That’s why you’ll find a box asking for you to give us your feedback on the most popular guns, parts & accessories.

If you want to send us a full review of your own gun, we’ll publish it in the upcoming User Reviews section too.

The basics of the scoring system are as follows.

1. Price

We all know that price is a complex issue, but basically speaking, the cheaper it is, the better. It’s easy to make a winner when you’re charging the Earth, but producing a quality firearm on a budget is a much more complex task. It’s all about the bang for your buck.

So the scoring system is as follows:

  • 1 – It’s crazy expensive. That can be a 13K Barrett 50 BMG rifle, or a $3000 1911.
  • 2 – It’s too expensive, but not insane.
  • 3 – A reasonable price. This is no bargain, but it is a solid price point.
  • 4 – A seriously attractive price for the class. A bargain.
  • 5 – An absolute steal, like a Rock Island Armory or Palmetto State Armory price.

2. Accuracy

This is one of the fundamental ways to judge any gun. How well does it hit the target? And how good is it at grouping shots. Of course this is never 100% objective, as much depends on the shooter.

But by comparing notes with our review team and others, it’s fairly easy to come up with a consensus and majority decisions.

Our scoring system is as follows.

  • 1 – Useless. We wouldn’t trust it to hit a barn door. We normally exclude these guns from group tests and will never recommend guns that are this inconsistent or plain bad.
  • 2- Still not accurate enough, but with better grouping and consistency. Acceptable on a very cheap firearm, but not good enough for a quality gun.
  • 3 – Middle of the road. Acceptable accuracy and groups, especially for a short range defensive weapon or a budget rifle.
  • 4 – Impressive and a cut above most in terms of accuracy out the box and grouping.
  • 5 – Tack driver. Consistent groups with all ammo types and tight groups at 7 yards with a pistol and sub 0.75 MOA at 100 yards for a rifle.

3. Reliability

There’s not much worse than a gun that doesn’t fire. An unreliable gun prone to jamming will get you killed, so we take this one really seriously.

Of course it’s difficult to find every fault, but we look for design issues, listen on the forums for known faults and do our own research. Guns that fail regularly tend to get a reputation pretty fast and we do take that into account in our own scoring.

We test with a variety of ammo, including the cheap stuff, and we sometimes torture test and put the gun through hell, mud and water, just to see what happens.

The scoring system is:

  • 1 – Regular failures or a bad reputation for jamming or component failure. Feed issues, reloading problems and other issues that could put you in danger when you really need your gun. A 20% failure rate on our tests will automatically incur a 1 Star rating.
  • 2 – A reputation for fixable issues that new parts or an internal polish can fix. Problems with cheaper ammo, regular stovepiping, component failures or a failure rate of 10% on our tests.
  • 3 – A solid gun that does not fail under normal use, records a failure rate of 5% or less on our tests and works with most ammo, in most conditions.
  • 4 – Solid reputation, a failure rate of 1% on our tests and no known issues that aren’t clearly outlined. Works with all ammo types and should just fire when you need it to.
  • 5 – No failures in our tests and a reputation with enthusiasts for flawless performance. A 5 is a Glock, or a Wilson Combat, a metronome, an Energizer bunny that just goes and goes.

4. Capacity

More bullets or shells in your gun is always a competitive advantage, provided that doesn’t come at the expense of reliability. That’s often the compromise, but that aside, more rounds is good, less is bad.

It’s less relevant in a bolt action hunting rifle, or a side by side shotgun, but it’s really important in a subcompact 9mm group test.

The scoring system is:

  • 1 – Much less ammo than obvious competitors. A seriously handicapped weapon that really is lacking.
  • 2 – Not enough rounds, but there may be extenuating circumstances such as limited ammo but a compact frame, or a lightweight gun, or a form factor that simply demands it. A single stack handgun in a sea of double stack pistols would be a good example, or a 3 round rotary mag in a bolt action.
  • 3 – Solid capacity, comparable to the nearest competitors. Certainly not high capacity, but enough to get the job done.
  • 4 – Higher capacity than average. It packs in more bullets or shells than most in the class.
  • 5 – Massive capacity, we’re looking at the Springfield Prodigy, or mag fed shotguns with a drum mag or 20-round box magazines.

5. Weight

Weight is the enemy when it comes to your gun, and extra pounds have to come with a payoff like a longer barrel, massive capacity or stability for long range shooting.

Without that, it’s just a heavy gun and that can be an issue. So for the most part, the scoring system penalizes frivolous weight and rewards those that shed pounds and ounces with lightweight materials like carbon fiber, or clever engineering.

The scoring system is:

  • 1 – A hippo. Unnecessarily heavy and poorly thought out with no major payoff. Overweight for its own sake and a burden on the shooter.
  • 2 – Heavy gun, but with mitigation. There could be reasons and other benefits that make the weight worthwhile.
  • 3 – The right weight. Exactly what you’d expect for a gun of this type and comparable to the competition.
  • 4 – A lightweight. Through slick design, materials or engineering, it’s lighter than average without paying any obvious price.
  • 5 – Ballerina. A flyweight gun that doesn’t give up its punch. Plastics, carbon fiber and more combine to shed pounds and produce a gun that won’t wear out the user and still has the punch when you fire.

6. Features

It can be a modular design, attachments for aftermarket parts like sights & lights, or it could be something truly surprising.

A feature rich gun is often more expensive, or sometimes heavier, but the additional parts are often there for a reason that makes it all worthwhile.

Conversely cheap guns often come with simple moldings and one piece components that actively fight against the aftermarket, and the low asking price comes with a bill later on in terms of the lack of versatility.

The scoring system is:

  • 1 – As featureless as a California legal AR-15. You get basic functionality, but basically no expansion, often fixed sights, molded grips and a non existent upgrade path. This is the Walmart shotgun class.
  • 2 – Basic features like an adjustable sight, external safety or compatibility with third party magazines and the like.
  • 3 – Average features, compatibility with third party parts and accessories and the ability to switch out sights, barrels and other parts.
  • 4 – A feature packed gun with accessory rails, modular design and standard fit for a wealth of aftermarket parts. Optics ready weapons, ambidextrous safety systems and easy upgrades.
  • 5 – Massive feature list, an innovative design that changes the game or a modular design that allow you to change the look and feel of the weapon with aftermarket parts. Multiple attachment points, standard fit parts and total versatility.

7. Prestige

We all want a Nighthawk Custom, Wilson Combat or Daniel Defense in our gun safe and the simple reason is prestige.

These are the Ferraris, Porsches and Rolls-Royces of the firearms world. It’s all about the brand and quite a simple one to score.

  • 1 – These are beyond off brand guns. They’re the ones you look down on. Hi-Point and Norinco come to mind.
  • 2 – The blue collar specials from the likes of Taurus, Palmetto State Armory and Radical Firearms.
  • 3 – The middle class from the likes of Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, Glock and Beretta.
  • 4 – Basic high street designer labels like HK, Walther, Sig Sauer and higher end S&W.
  • 5 – Boutique specials from Wilson Combat, Nighthawk Custom, FN, Staccato and Daniel Defense.

8. Value

This goes back to the bang for your buck and does stray a little close to the price, but it’s a more subjective view that takes into account the features, accuracy, performance and more.

  • 1 – You’re burning money on a poor gun for too much money.
  • 2 – The price is simply wrong, but it might have redeeming features.
  • 3 – Correct pricing, either a low price for a basic but quality gun, a high price for an outstanding gun or just a middle of the road price that feels right for the firearm. Ruger rifles territory…
  • 4 – Good value. A gun that outperforms its price tag.
  • 5 – Fantastic value. The price is secondary, a $3000 handgun can still feel like a bargain if it’s perfect. That’s the secret to value. But cheap and great is better, of course.

How We Make Money

None of our posts are sponsored and we don’t accept or seek advertising. So we’re free to review the products that we want, which we think are the products you want.

Of course everybody needs to eat, and a lot of work goes in to the sight. So we use affiliate links and can earn a small commission when you click on the links and go on to buy products from our retail partners.

You pay no extra and this small commission allows us to carry on bringing you the latest news and reviews free of charge.

Our partners include Palmetto State Armory, Guns, com, Firearms Depot, Primary Arms, Sportsman’s Guide, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Euro Optic and Grab A Gun.

So we’re not beholden to specific brands or products. We just review what we want, and the most popular brands and top end gear, then we search through our partners to see who has the best deal. It’s really that simple.

If we give good advice and you like the article, maybe you share it. Maybe it gets more popular and becomes one of the top articles on Google. More people reading it means more people buy and we make more money. All by being a completely impartial source of good advice.

Sometimes being the good guy and playing it straight pays off, right?


  • Nick Hall

    Nick is a lifelong gun enthusiast who has a simple mission. He wants to find the best deals for guns online and help you make the best choices with weapons your life may depend on one day.Nick won a minor league shooting competition at the age of 11 and it all went from there. Now he runs one of the biggest firearms websites on the net and his work has featured in Playboy US, Tatler Asia, Forbes and a whole host of national magazines and websites.

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