Florida rifle maker sues shooting forum, gunsmith for $75,000, claims defamation

A Florida rifle company is suing an online shooting forum and a gunsmith for $75,000, claiming that they promote negative discourse about the company in order to gain praise for its competitors and get the forum owner free merchandise.

Tactical Rifles is accusing the website Snipers Hide, its owner Frank Galli and gunsmith Marc Soulie of publishing a video review that falsely portrays its rifle, according to court documents.

In the brief Tactical Rifles argues that the two also discourage positive comments about it, its products and its owner, David Rooney, on the post and in other forum threads.

“Galli manipulates the forum, allows fake bad reviews and let’s competitors write reviews,” said Jennifer Englert, the attorney representing Tactical Rifles.

“This is a nuisance harassment suit,” Galli told Guns.com, adding, “Tactical Rifles feel the negative reviews are an assault on their company and not a problem to be addressed and fixed.”

“We crowd sourced enough funds to fight this case in three days,” said Galli, who has different representation than Soulie. “We’ll fight this to the end.”

“Tactical Rifles caused a hundred percent of this. First by their workmanship and now by this story,” said Soulie, owner of Spartan Precision Rifles in California.

The review in question was shared on Aug. 11, 2012, by an angry customer who said his new Tactical Rifles firearm had chips in the stock, a few blemishes, an unusually narrow trigger, and a bent scope rail (the latter he said he had fixed and was reimbursed for).

However, even though the rifle had issues, he felt financially burdened and lost interest in fixing it, so he put it away in his gun safe for “a few years” before giving it another chance.

Four years later, when he used the rifle again, it still performed poorly, so he contacted Soulie to work on it.

Soulie said he filmed his work and had it posted on YouTube so the customer would know what changes were made.

The video, which is the centerpiece for the defamation suit, is titled “TacticalRifles.net: Bad out of the box”. It is 11 minutes of Soulie identifying issues and how he improved them.

“That rifle was over 4 years old — the review is a misrepresentation of the product,” Englert said.

However, Soulie said he was only told that the rifle was “older”, that it had a broken trigger and the aforementioned issues. Otherwise, “it didn’t look like it had ever been fired,” he said.

Soulie emailed the customer the link to the video in the morning on Aug. 9, 2012, and the customer forwarded it to Rooney about 12 hours later.

In his email, the customer demanded that Rooney reimburse him $966.56 for the modifications or else he would post and share the video.

“You have two days to contact me about the matter and get it resolved and if we can’t resolve it, I am going to go public with the YouTube link and then I am going to post on all the major shooting forums,” the customer wrote. “I am going to start with Snipers Hide. Frank Galli personally watched the video and he could not believe you call that a precision rifle product.”

Rooney did not comply.

The suit was filed Feb. 6 with the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida.