An engineer at Stress Engineering Services records a draw force curve in the lab.
Engineer Patrick Harrell records the Hoyt RX-7's draw force curve at Stress Engineering's lab in Mason, Ohio. Natalie Krebs

Why Trust Outdoor Life?

Since 1898, OL has been a leading authority in testing and reviewing hunting gear, fishing tackle, guns and shooting equipment, and much more. We have more than a century-long history of evaluating products, and we’re now bringing that expertise to online reviews. Our editors are experienced outdoorsmen and women, and most importantly, we’re trained journalists. We prioritize field testing and objective data when reviewing products. We conduct interviews with gear manufacturers and engineers as well as outdoor experts so that our readers have an understanding of how and why a product works—or doesn’t.

Advertising does not influence our gear reviews and it never will. While we always focus our coverage on standout products—because we want our readers to be aware of the latest and greatest gear—we also cover the flaws and quirks of any given product.  

What We Test

Outdoor Life’s gear coverage starts with our focus on rifles, handguns, shotguns, optics, bows, crossbows, and fishing tackle. Each year we conduct in-depth, head-to-head tests on each of these categories awarding Editor’s Choice and Great Buy awards to standout products. These tests are conducted by teams of OL editors and contributors and each product is panel scored. We verify specifications, like speed and weight, and conduct in-depth accuracy testing. These annual tests are regarded as the best in the industry. 

But we are also reaching far beyond our traditional categories. We’ve added editors and contributors who specialize in off-roading, camping, backpacking, hiking, survival, trail running, and more. If there’s a product that’s designed to help our readers be more successful in the outdoors, OL will be covering it. 

How We Test and Review Products

Outdoor Life gear testing starts with in-field experience. Put simply, expert reviewers put products through their paces—as they’re designed to be used—to see how they perform. However the real magic is in the details. For all of our cornerstone tests, a team of testers panel scores each product. We create detailed test criteria and take careful notes and mark down our scores. The scores are then averaged and the highest scoring product wins our Editor’s Choice award and the product that offers the greatest value wins our Great Buy award. Some other key points on our product testing: 

  • We prioritize new products, but also test the classics.
  • Whenever possible we test similar products in head-to-head matchups.
  • We evaluate products based on price-value. More expensive products bring higher standards.
  • We choose some products for our roundups based on years worth of experience using the product in the field. This gives us a real-world look at a product’s durability.

Affiliate Disclosure

Outdoor Life earns commissions when products are purchased through the links in our reviews and roundups. However, all the products were selected independently by our experts. No consideration to brand or retailer was given; our experts pick the best products based on their own testing and experience.

Meet the Gear Testers

Outdoor Life gear testers are all experienced outdoorsmen and women. Our roundups and reviews are written by true experts in their categories. The stories are then edited and vetted by professional editors and journalists. 

Scott Einsmann: Executive Gear Editor

Einsmann leads a team of ace editors and writers who are experts in everything from ultralight backpacking to sheep hunting. He specializes in reviewing archery equipment and heads up the annual bow test

Adam Moore: Associate Gear Editor

Moore is OL’s associate gear editor and resident southerner. He grew up learning how not to hunt turkeys in Mississippi and continues in this fashion each spring. Aside from collecting old hunting rifles, Moore spends his time reading literature about hunting and angling.

Laura Lancaster: Staff Writer

Lancaster is an OL staff writer covering backpacking, camping, and outdoor adventure. She’s thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and Colorado Trail and camped everywhere from Alaska to Arizona, Florida to Connecticut. Her current version of Type 2 fun is lugging a toddler up to 10 miles a day into the alpine.

John B. Snow: Shooting Editor

Snow has held the renowned title of Outdoor Life Shooting Editor since 2009—he’s only the fifth person to hold that title since the publication was founded in 1898. Snow is a diehard Western hunter, competitive shooter, and avid fly fisherman. He’s  the author of The Ultimate Shooting Skills Manual and in 2012 was an ASME finalist in the Leisure Interests category for his story, Long-Range Shooting School. To his eternal shame he lost out to a story about pasta.

Joe Genzel: Senior Editor

Genzel is OL’s senior editor and heads up the title’s shotgun, shotshell, and bird hunting coverage. He has duck hunted with and learned from some of the best waterfowlers of his generation. Genzel is an avid sporting clays and skeet shooter and a reluctant turkey load tester.

Tyler Freel: Staff Writer

Freel is OL’s resident Alaskan big game hunter. He specializes in chasing dall sheep, grizzlies, black bears, caribou, and blacktail deer in the wildest country Alaska has to offer. He’s also experienced in trapping, recreational and competitive shooting, rifles, handguns, traditional archery, and winning arguments on Facebook.

Andrew McKean: Optics Editor, Hunting Editor, Conservation Editor

McKean has been OL’s hunting editor since 2008 and has been conducting our annual Optics Test for more than a decade. Through his expertise, he’s helped revolutionize the way optics are engineered and evaluated in the world of hunting. Beyond optics testing, McKean’s Expertise and interests include Western big-game hunting, upland and waterfowl hunting, and natural history.

Pete Robbins: Contributing Writer

Robbins is a bass fishing fanatic who has covered the sport for over a decade. He’s also a bass gear fanatic and has his garage stacked with rods to prove it. Robbins also enjoys traveling to exotic fishing locations for tuna, trout, tarpon, and peacock bass. 

Jim Chapman: Contributing Writer
Chapman brings decades of airgun expertise to OL’s air rifle reviews. He’s passionate about all things airgunning from backyard plinking to competitive shooting and big game hunting. Chapman is considered one of the lead experts in air rifles in the U.S. and he’s hunted with them around the world.