We get emails almost every single day offering us free stories to run on this website.
Some even offer to pay us in cash or through PayPal to run their “stories” and post links to their websites.
The one thing they all have in common is that they’re participants in the Amazon Associates Program.
This is a program that, according to Amazon, is “designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon (.com, .co. uk, .ca etc) and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.”
Some of these websites disclose their membership in the associates program.
How does it work?
The sites use a lot of lists — “Top 10 Best Gun Safes” or “Top Five Holsters for Concealed Carry” or “Top 10 Red Dot Sights.”
Others masquerade their offerings as Buyers Guides.
When you click of a product on their site, they get paid by Amazon.
There are more and more Amazon-sponsored sites appearing every day.
To be clear, I do not begrudge anyone from trying to make a living by writing about guns. And I totally understand that not every would-be gun writer has the resources and support of a daily newspaper and real sponsors behind them — I am truly blessed. But I firmly believe in total transparency with readers, because when you write about guns or gun-related products, bad info can get people hurt, or worse.
These sites are not transparent. Some don’t even have a single person’s name.
And they have an incredible built-in bias.
They only feature products that are available on Amazon.com.
They only review products that are available on Amazon.com.
They only recommend products that are available on Amazon.com.
Products not offered for sale on the Amazon website — including many great new products — are not reviewed or even mentioned.
What is mentioned? Often, a lot of cheap, imported junk you wouldn’t even find on the back tables at a gun show.
Nor are their reviews accurate. They’re never critical of any product because that would prevent a reader from clicking on the link.
I consider most of these stories unethical but relatively harmless. However, these Amazon-sponsored sites promote tactical and EDC gear — some of which is trash not even suitable for Airsoft — that’s when serious problems can occur.
Shoddy holsters can fail. Cheap Chinese optics will fail.
Most switched-on gun owners know the difference between something you wouldn’t even look twice at and reliable American-made gear on which you can stake your life.
I worry about the beginners — the novices — as some of this crap can get you killed.
Buyers, and readers, beware.