Firearms Guide Makes Jump from DVD to “The Cloud”

FirearmsGuide-screenshot01We have told you about the Firearms Guide in the past as it has grown and matured from a disk-based database of firearms information to a more comprehensive suite that includes high resolution photos, schematics, gun and ammo specs, printable targets and more; as well as growing to include specialized versions for niches such as tactical rifles.  Now the firearms guide has made the next step since the previous disk-based version as it moves into “the cloud“.

Firearms Guide bills itself as the first fully researchable global database of firearms, air guns, and ammunition created for industry professionals and enthusiasts.  The guide enables searches of antique and modern guns along with side by side comparisons of search results.  Firearms are cross-referenced with the ammunition database and the guide also includes a separately searchable firearms schematic database.

FirearmsGuidePS90While the previous versions have certainly been great tools for firearms enthusiasts, we did have a couple of minor beefs with it – mainly stemming from the fact that it has always been disk-based.  This lead to long read times (which translate into waiting for search results), lack of cross-platform usage (separate PC vs Mac versions… and what were android and iOS users to do?), and the inevitable collision with evolving devices that don’t come with a disk drive.  The last one really hits home since I just bought a new Surface Pro this week.  Another downfall of the disk-based guides was that they were static.  You bought the disk and that was the guide you got, without much room for expansion.

FirearmsGuideTargetsThese concerns all fall by the wayside with the new web-based Firearms Guide.  The Guide’s creators promise 26 updates a year covering new guns and ammo as well as updated prices and values.  The fact that you peruse the new guide via your browser means that you can use it on just about any connected device.  The flip side of that being, of course, that users without internet or with low data caps might be S.O.L. for this version of the guide.  I spoke with the software designer, however, and he assured me that all images and resources in the software have been made as lightweight as possible to avoid bandwidth or speed issues as much as possible.  This, however, doesn’t do much for those without any internet connection whatsoever at the location in which they want to use the guide.

FirearmsGuideAmmoThe Guide allows users to perform deep and complex research by combining up to 14 key search criteria (caliber, country, year, action type, stock type, and more), or firearms can be viewed by manufacturer.  Firearms and ammo are presented with specs, features, ballistics information, values and more, and also include up to 12 high-resolution color photos.  The new presents over 61,000 antique and modern firearms, airguns and ammunition from 902 manufacturers from 50 countries!  The guide also contains over 5,500 printable schematics with parts lists for all types of antique and modern firearms.  FirearmsGuideCompare

One of the many features that I like is the ability to mark several firearm models or ammunition types for comparison and see them side-by-side.  For someone who is in the market for a new firearm, absent actually going to a gun store and handling the firearms, this is a fantastic way to comparison shop.

FirearmsGuideSchematicOne minor issue I have with the schematics setup is the watermarks.  While we realize that it is important to protect the guide’s content from being plundered for profit by screen scrapers or what have you, this can be rather distracting when trying to view the technical drawings.  The watermarks are the same black color as the drawings themselves and tend to be directly over the important bits.  Depending on how densely the drawing’s components are arranged, the watermark might block a part number or a small part.  It seems like a lighter, more transparent watermark could have been a better choice.

On the topic of schematics, a feature I would like to see is the ability to jump directly from the firearm listing to the schematics page for that firearm – as you can for ammunition – rather than having them be completely different databases.

FirearmsGuideSubscriptionsAnother new facet introduced by the Guide’s move to being web-based is subscriptions.  The online Firearms Guide now makes use of subscriptions to control access to the guide.  Although some users might not be so excited to abandon the buy-once-use-forever model of the Firearms Guide for the new recurring subscription based model, it could be well worth it for avid firearms collectors, enthusiasts, and gunsmiths.  Quite a few different subscription types are offered ranging from $2 for access to a single model to $50 for a 1-year all-access subscription.  Savings can be had through longer subscriptions or group subscriptions or, if you only need access for a little while, monthly subscriptions are also available.

I tested the new interface on a variety of devices including traditional PCs, tablets, and smart phones running a variety of operating systems including Microsoft Windows 7, 8.1, 10, iOS, and Android.  The guide worked on all of them – something that was nice after getting used to being tied to a PC with a DVD drive for previous versions.  One caveat that I noticed, however, was that despite the basic functionality being there, the interface was a little wonky on the small screen of the Android smart phone that I tried.  I’m not sure if this is an Android issue, a small screen issue, or a device-specific issue.  In any case, filtering search results and viewing the hi-res photos was not simple as it was on the other devices.

If you are a firearms enthusiast and are looking for details about a wide range of pistols, rifles, airguns, shotguns, revolvers, machine guns, ammo and more, the new is a resource worth checking out.  It’s great to see the interface maturing and becoming more accessible.


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