So, you've bought a rifle, but you're not really sure it's going to peform as advertised. You've got a shovel, a wheelbarrow, a pond in your backyard, and a youtube channel. What do you do with all of these things? A torture test. This is a staple of youtube gun reviews, although it dates back much further. Legendary publications in the Eighties, such as Soldier of Fortune, would conduct these tests and publish results with large amounts of commentary. Now, what exactly is a torture test, and where does the wheelbarrow come in?
A torture test in the context of firearms is to operate the weapon in as adverse a set of conditions as is possible. These tests are far more complex than the simple "unbox and shoot" reviews which are also common. Some test procedures include, but are not limited to operating the weapon:
- without lubrication
- in extremes of temperature
- after sumberging it in water
- after covering or filling it with sand, mud or other foreign matter
- without cleaning
- after dragging it across rough ground
- after dropping it onto concrete
- after running it over with a car
- for extended round counts
- while firing as much ammunition through it as is possible in a short period of time
- with ammunition that exceeds design pressure limits
Many of these test procedures will be combined. A favored combination would be shooting a thousand (or more) rounds through an unlubricated rifle without any cleaning between session, often "magdumping" during sessions. Some of the more internet famous tests are mud tests, as perfected by the InRange youtube channel operated by Forgotten Weapons' Ian McCollum and Karl Kasarda. This is where the wheelbarrow comes in.
They fill a wheelbarrow with Arizona dirt, add water and mix with a shovel into a gluey, thick mud. They then place a rifle on the rim of the wheelbarrow and apply mud in large amounts with a shovel, and attempt to operate the rifle. The results they get are not always what would be expected, and the test they conducted on a civilian AKM clone was so polarizing that a Russian state television show clumsily edited together footage which implied that the test had the opposite result. Amusingly enough, the AR-15 passed the same test flawlessly.
Another youtube channel, the AK Operators Union, does extremely high round count evaluations. The five thousand round wear tests are performed without any cleaning other than that provided by throwing the rifle into a creek repeatedly. Complete with multiple drops, magdumping and function tests, they provide a view of extended wear on the weapon, with videos produced every thousand rounds. Some examples have been know to suffer more or less catastrophic failures before the three thouand round mark.
The final test procedure listed is not seen frequently. In most cases, exceeding the maximum chamber pressure a weapon is designed for will destroy it, often in an explosive manner. The rapid unplanned disassembly of a rifle next to the shooter's head will tend to have fatal results. The upshot is that performing this test can show the characteristics of this failure mode as it pertains to the weapon in question. I myself have done this by accident, thankfully without injury.
These tests can be difficult to conduct. They require you to abuse or even destroy a weapon you have bought and paid for, and frequently call for large amounts of ammunition, or shenanigans that you can't do on most rifle ranges. This means you'd have to do the tests on land of your own. However, the information produced can highlight defects in production which wouldn't show up in a superficial review. They show just what you can put your rifle through, and help you determine how far you should trust it. Note that tests of this nature have most likely been performed on any gun you might buy, no need for you to do it yourself.