What If YouTube Gun Channels Were 100% Honest?
Look, as the Geico commercial reminds us, not everything you see on the internet is true. YouTube gun channels are no exception. While many are honest and forthright, many others are dishonest shills who will say anything to get more free stuff.
YouTube posters do not earn as much as you might think. The amount earned for each view varies, depending on a variety of factors such as view duration and engagement, but it looks as though most channels earn somewhere in the neighborhood of about one dollar for every thousand views. That means that, unless you have an extremely popular channel, you probably will not even recover the gas money you spend driving to the range. That’s okay for many of us. We are not in it for the money. Don’t get me wrong, it would be great if I was someday able to get enough from YouTube that I could buy a new gun, but for the time being, I spend more on making test videos than I get out of them and I’m fine with that.
As you can see, I get about $30 a month from YouTube and about two bucks a month from my most popular video. Not time to quit the day job yet. Some YouTube channels treat their channel as a business, though. They have invested in advertising to promote their channel and have enjoyed a significant return on their investment in subscriber count. Channels like this usually aggressively pursue manufacturers for test and evaluation samples and may even receive monetary compensation. The latter is of questionable legality under consumer protection laws. If they do receive compensation and do not disclose the fact, it is most likely a crime. On the other hand, they will shatter their illusion of impartiality if they do tell their viewers that they are promoting paid content.
In some cases, it is painfully obvious, such as TWANGnBANG’s videos where he simply tells us everything that a manufacturer put out in their press release over the manufacturer’s publicity photos without fact checking any of the manufacturer’s claims. Other times, it is more subtle, such as MAC’s pervasive use of ZQI ammunition in all his videos, right after the trip he took to their plant in Turkey that I’m sure he paid for out of pocket. Or his detour to tell us about the 3M electronic earpro in a video about a 9mm carbine.
Now, T&E samples are an important part of the gun industry. Reviewers get free samples and sometimes are allowed to keep them and we get to see new stuff. The Manufacturer gets free advertising and the YouTube channel gets a way to make content that generates revenue. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with paid advertisements, either, so long as it is clear that is what we are seeing.
The real problem comes into play when viewers believe they are watching an honest, unbiased product review when, in reality, they are watching what amounts to a paid endorsement. Even when actual cash money does not change hands, it can be difficult to maintain an entirely unbiased perspective if you are getting free stuff. Moreover, the manufacturers are not likely to give you things to review if you have a reputation for tough criticism. This pressure to be gentle is usually somewhat subtle but can occasionally be explicitly stated. Another YouTuber told me about an interaction with a manufacturer where they explicitly stated that they would not send ammunition for testing unless they could be assured that they would have the opportunity to review the video before publishing.
I know from personal experience that some manufacturers react poorly to negative reviews of their products. A while back I posted an article here that was highly critical of DRT ammunition on the grounds that it fails to meet, or even come close, to FBI penetration recommendations. I have often used DRT as an example of worthless gimmick ammunition because it is. In response, the president of DRT emailed me to invite me to shoot animals with his ammunition. I am a meat eater and I am happy to kill an animal for food. Moreover, I am confident that the animals used in his testing are not wasted, but it seems unnecessarily cruel to shoot the animals solely to determine the effects of the ammunition. I cannot rightly articulate why it rubs me wrong, it just does. Aside from the ethical consideration, the fact is that his ammunition does not meet established standards using the established method of testing. Apparently, he hoped to distract from the failure in standardized testing by subjecting animals to his idea of “testing”.
He declined to answer when I asked him whether the deer would be moving rapidly, using cover, and shooting back, but the exchange went downhill from there. Shooting an unsuspecting animal in relatively controlled conditions is obviously not the same as a desperate fight with a human being who is also desperately fighting for his own life, which is why a shallowly penetrating projectile works fine for hunting, if the shot is carefully placed. When fighting a human being, though, you do not have the luxury to decide not to take a shot if you think it will not produce a humane kill. You must shoot to stop and your rounds will likely impact the torso at an angle after passing through a limb or other intervening obstacle.
It is pure speculation on my part, but in light of this interaction, and given the conversations I have had with other folks in the gun community and in the industry, this sort of “gentle” pressure is likely common. And why wouldn’t manufacturers want to aggressively promote a positive image of their products?
The bottom line is that you are encouraged to exercise discretion and take YouTube reviews with a whole fistful of salt.
Editor’s/Owner’s note – While I have no idea how things likely work on the youtube gun community. Gun writers with few exceptions get to keep any guns for free. It is true that we are mostly offered the “writer’s price” and that price is often very hard to say no to, we get no guns from any companies for free. Obviously they do send them out for demo free of charge, but they do want them back or want you to buy them. Some writers do indeed get stuff for free to keep and we all obviously know them as what they are. Shills.
As far as companies wanting to look at a review before it goes up, only one company has ever said that to me and it was KAC. And that was after I had to justify and explain in detail what I wanted to do with the gun in questions. Obviously since you have never read a review of the KAC EMC carbine on looseorunds, you know how that turned out. – Shawn