The Problem with Pay-to-Play July 01, 2017 07:00

The Problem with Pay-to-Play


Perhaps you remember the infomercials from the 1990s that began with the disclaimer: “Warning!  The Following is a Paid Advertisement!  It does not reflect the views or opinions of network x.” At this point the viewer understood that the advertisers were paying for their slot on the television channel, and that the “commercial” was in fact not factual but conditional.

The days of the television infomercial are surely waning, but what about the internet, specifically products related to firearms?  How can a person trust and know that the “reviews” are genuine and honest, much less scientifically verifiable? These are important questions, and I would like to take the opportunity to address some highly troubling observations about potentially influential individuals that speak with a level of knowledge they have yet to attain.


I own and operate Valor Ridge, which is a company dedicated to education about American heritage and training in the art of firearms, as well as medical preparedness.  The purpose of Valor Ridge is to ensure that each student gains competency, confidence, and ability upon graduation.  All members of our cadre have real-world experience in either the medical, military, or law enforcement arena.  Many have experience in more than one of those areas.  We have first-hand knowledge of carrying weapons into harm’s way, treating trauma, and instructing both adolescents and adults professionally.  In short, neither I nor any member of my cadre sell anything other than our knowledge and information.  We are not sponsored by anyone in any capacity.  We do not receive anything pro bono, nor do we receive compensation from any of the companies we recommend. 

Influence and the Ramifications

The internet has allowed information to be transmitted at a pace never before seen.  There are countless articles, videos, and news streaming available to an individual at the click of a button.  Regarding firearms, information is abundant, but wisdom is scarce.  There are a few individuals that provide quality information, but how does anyone know the wheat from chaff? 

First, look at their credentials.  Were they in the military, and if so, what branch, active or reserve?  What is their MOS (military occupational specialty)? Were they trained in combat arms, or in non-combat arms?  Next, if they are/were in law enforcement, look at their department size.  Was it a town of 400 people, or 400,000+?  Do they have any shooting accomplishments?  If so, was it a match with their friends in a field, or an internationally recognized entity?  These are all important questions to ask, and you should ask them critically.  Be selective about the information—and from whom you derive that information. 

The next criteria should be to determine the relationship between the individual reviewing a product and the company providing the product.  Is there a monetary arrangement compensating the reviewer?  Is there an agreement between the reviewer and the company that provides free or no cost product to the reviewer in exchange for exposure on a media platform?  These should be clearly known to viewers. 

Take gun magazines as an example.  I have yet to read an unfavorable review of a firearm in any gun magazine.  That would mean a loss of advertising revenue.  It is in the magazine’s fiduciary interest to make and maintain a profit, often through means of advertising. 

When it comes to information found on the internet, you could go to the company’s website, with the understanding that it is in their interest to sell their product.  Every AR-15 company is the “best” in innovation, reliability, and performance.  Just ask them.

Regarding those with social media platforms, your discernment is absolutely required.  Many individuals make a living on social media, and many of them receive monetary compensation as well as “the bro hook up” in the industry for promoting sub-par foreign and domestic products to their trusting viewers.  Did anyone ever stop to wonder why the same products keep ending up on reviewer’s channels at the same time, with the same talking points, often during the same week?  In short, some channels peddle influence when lives are on the line in order to promote their status at industry parties and social events.  It bothers me a great deal that those who others depend on for information have compromised their integrity for improved access to movers in the industry, as well as financial and tangible benefits 


Be extremely cautious about the information you receive.  Many reviews are in fact not reviews but are simply one individual doing his or her “buddy” a favor in the industry.  Their relationship is unknown, and viewers take it as honest and sincere “torture testing” and valid reviewing.  I can assure you that this is not the case in many of the instances.  Be very wary of these snake oil salesmen.  A given channel will test ONE rifle and claim the results of their extremely limited sample size to be scientifically valid or the final word.   A sample of one is not a sample.  On the flip side of that coin, the same channel will test a different rifle, furnished by their industry friends and cherry-picked “testing” for great results.  The same brand rifle has failed miserably in our 900 round count class on more than one occasion.

Since my channel and company have begun years ago, I have been approached by dozens of companies and individuals seeking promotional access to my students and viewers, and their hard-earned money.  These companies range from well-known manufacturers of rifles to ammunition, to parts and accessories. We only recommend products that we have personally purchased and used on an extensive level.  Additionally, we do not accept any products for free, nor any monetary compensation from those companies.  We form our opinions and spread information based on thousands of samples, provided from students who bring every conceivable rifle, pistol, ammo, holsters, slings, and optic combinations imaginable. 

If you would like to see what brands we recommend, you can view them HERE.  I want you get honest, reliable, and credible information.  We use not only our personal and professional experiences, but draw from a literal living laboratory of students and equipment.  Take it from someone who has spent a vast amount of money on products that did not work as promised.  Often the gear “cure” does not even have a disease to remedy. 

“The lessons that we learn are written on the tombstones of others.”