The internet is a great place to learn. It’s also a very efficient at spreading bad information, half-truths, and lies. I’m sure that this applies to any niche community, but let’s look at the gun community because, well, this site is called “Gun Nuts” not “Mopar nuts.” When you do need help from the internet, no matter what question you ask and where, you’re going to get good answers and bad answers. Here are five ways to make sure you sort the wheat from the chaff.
1. Avoid confirmation bias
This one is first because it’s the most important, and the toughest. For the new readers out there, confirmation bias means that you’re going to be more inclined to believe people who agree with your biases. In gun terms, let’s say you’re selecting a shotgun for home defense, and in your heart you’re lusting after a Remington 870 Magpul FDE, but you decide to ask the question “what’s the best shotgun for home defense”. Confirmation bias means that you’re more likely to listen to answers that say “get an 870” instead of people who say “get a Nova/590/etc.” It’s tough to fight this, and I believe that 95% of “what gun should I get” questions are driven by people looking to justify a purchase they’ve already made in their mind.
2. Learn to recognize fanboys
Fanboys are the worst. Any advice they give is immediately suspect, because they’re recommending gear not based on your mission requirements, but on their own personal preference. The best way to ID a fanboy is to look at their history. Are they always saying “buy this brand” regardless of whether or not it’s even appropriate? To continue our shotgun discussion, a fanboy might well answer that question with “You don’t need a shotgun, what you need is a Taurus Judge.” Then go look and see if they recommend the Judge for everything, and that’s a clue.
3. Don’t phrase your questions as x vs. y
We like to make categories. It does legitimately make sorting information easier, so when we ask for advice, especially around product, we want to phrase it as “x vs. y.” Continuing the shotgun example: “Should I get a Mossberg 590 or a Remington 870 for home defense” isn’t a great way to ask the question, because it limits your options. Someone might make a legitimately good case for a Benelli Nova or used Winchester 1300; if you’re locked into two choices you might just ignore their points. That’s why I much prefer open ended questions.
4. Don’t get dragged into debates
Invariably, when you ask for advice on the internet, two or more people will respond initially to you, then get in a slapfight with each other over what’s better. They are frequently fanboys, and if you let them they’ll drag you down into their pool of muddy suck. If you’re looking for information, avoid interacting with the people who are more interested in scoring rhetorical internet argument points than actually answering your question.
5. Vet your sources
Last but not least, vet your source. Sometimes online this can be difficult, as people often like to hide behind their usernames. However, some people use the same username in multiple places, and have built up a pattern of behavior. It’s important to know if the guy telling you about the best breacher muzzle device for your shotgun has ever actually breached a door, or if he’s a fedora wearing neckbeard in a my little pony shirt. Experience does come in all flavors though – a seasoned 3-gun competitor will likely have good answers on what makes a shotgun more shootable, and an experienced pig hunter can weigh in on important topics like bug vs. slugs.
Bonus: Don’t get advice on any site where people care about their post count
Hopefully, you’ll be able to arm yourself with these handy tips; disregard fanboys, know your biases, check your sources, and don’t let the trolls drag you down. It makes reading about guns on the internet a lot more fun!