This is a little different than what I usually do on Fridays, but I think it’s important. As you may have heard, credit card processor Square recently announced that it would no longer do business with people who were in the firearms business. Whatever their reason, they’ve made it very clear that they don’t have much respect for us or our industry.
Be very clear: Square is certainly within their rights to decide who they want to do business with. I support that right. At the same time, we as their customers have a right to educate the marketplace about that company’s competitors, those businesses who might have more respect for the Second Amendment and the people who exercise the rights it protects.
To that end, feel free to share this article far and wide. Tell your friends, families, and anyone you see using a Square reader: if Square doesn’t want our business, there are alternatives!
Not a Square deal! by Grant Cunningham
Square, the iPhone-friendly charge card acceptance service, stunned the firearms industry recently when they decided they would no longer accept accounts from companies that sold weapons - or, presumably, had anything to do with weaponry.
Many small companies in the firearms and training businesses had come to rely on Square to be able to accept credit cards from their customers. Having the company decide that they no longer wanted perfectly good and legal business was a blow to many, and now lots of enterprises are scrambling for a replacement.
Why did Square decide to abandon these customers? The company is being rather coy, but one industry outlet pointed out that Square is preparing to go public, and may have wanted to ‘clean up’ their customer roster beforehand.
I don’t know about you, but being lumped into a group that needs to be purged doesn’t sit all that well with me!
What Square is Square, along with some similar competitors, is what’s known as an ‘aggregator’. That is, they supply a front end for access to their own merchant accounts, access which they sell to people who want to accept cards. The transactions go through Square’s accounts and then to a credit card processor, for which Square charges their handling fee. Think of it as a straw purchase for credit card transactions, and you’ll get the concept.
The result is a system that’s easy to set up, because the merchant doesn’t need to qualify for an account of his/her own or go through the rigorous underwriting process of traditional processors. The merchant doesn’t have any exposure, but that also means that he/she is at the mercy of the company offering the service - in this case, Square. They can (and did) change their terms at will, leaving their customers out in the cold.
The solution? Get a real merchant account from a credit card processor - the folks who supply the service which Square resells. Not only will it be cheaper, you’ll be insulated from the whims of a service provider who may purge your account for any reason, including their own changing political positions.
The credit card processor I talked with Ian Miller, the Vice President of Merchant Banking at Merchant Services Ltd. (‘MSL’). MSL is the company behind the PistolPay system, the competitor to PayPal who will accept payment for things the eBay-owned PayPal won’t. MSL is an actual card processor - the company that runs the transactions companies like Square give to them. They do the actual work!
As Ian explained, today there is a wide variety of mobile payment solutions available. He said that MSL had nearly a dozen from which to choose, many of which are actually cheaper than Square for the average merchant.
While set-up is a little more involved than what Square required, it’s not that difficult and the benefit is an account that can’t be canceled (outside of things like using it to commit fraud, of course.)
That’s because an actual credit card processor doesn’t make political decisions about what the transaction is for; their concern is that the transaction is honest and legal. The result is an account that won’t be abandoned by changing political positions.
In fact, the credit card processor is probably the most agnostic entity between your customer and you. Banks have occasionally decided to drop customers whose business they dislike, but the card processor isn’t tied to your - or any - bank. Their agreement with companies like VISA, MasterCard and Discover is that they will process any transaction that falls within the card issuer’s guidelines.
The aggregator, in contrast, has no such obligation. They’re a merchant themselves, and they can decide which customers they do and don’t want. When they decide that guns and anything to do with guns are unacceptable, there’s no recourse other than to cancel your account before they do it for you.
Simple hardware One of the big draws with Square is the tiny little card reader that simply plugs into your smartphone. As Ian explained, those turn out to be less than ideal, especially if you’re using it often. The readers plug into the headphone jacks, and there are many reports of the plug portion breaking off in the phone!
While MSL can supply those kinds of simple readers, they can also supply more robust systems that will take the kind of abuse someone who processes a lot of transactions can dish out. Some of them can also be used in environments, like at a range, where they might get knocked around. For the merchant who travels to his clients, a ruggedized model might keep from having to send the phone to the shop to fix a broken-off reader plug!
Another hardware issue with those cheap readers is the larger percentage of unread swipes. If for some reason the reader can’t get information from the card’s magnetic strip, the merchant has to key the card in manually. Those manually keyed transactions cost more to process, and so the merchant is charged accordingly.
The small readers, like those used by Square and their competitors, have a higher ‘no read’ percentage than the better card readers that are available. That translates in to a higher number of cards you need to key in manually, which means higher fees and less money in your pocket. In this case, you definitely get what you pay for!
If you’ve been to an Apple store, you’ve no doubt marveled at the card readers attached to the back of each employee’s iPhone. Ian tells me they can supply similar devices too; they’re not cheap, but if you run a lot of transactions and need an all-in-one solution that’s very rugged, they can fix you right up.
The readers companies like Square use may be cheap, but if your business depends on the ability to swipe cards a better reader may be a wiser choice.
Future proof One of the real benefits of having an actual merchant account, especially the way MSL handles it, is that the same account you use to take orders on your website can be used to take orders on your smartphone! Having the accounts integrated makes accounting and reconciliation easier, and allows you to grow with your customers.
The biggest benefit of acquiring your own merchant account, however, may be the level of service you receive. Reporting services are more robust, you can get more timely information, and when you need to integrate your new storefront your representative at the card processor can help you get that done in a timely fashion.
Companies like Square make things easy, but in exchange for making life easy you give up a lot of features, services, and even security. As we’ve seen, if your aggregator decides they no longer want “your kind”, that’s it! Getting a real merchant account, particularly from a devoted Second Amendment processor like Merchant Services Ltd, is the smart way to replace Square.
In my book "The Shooter's Guide To Handguns" is a short chapter on famous (and some not-so-famous) handguns and their designers. Once you get beyond Colt and Browning, most people’s knowledge ends, and that’s a shame; there’s more to life than just those two!
As Americans we tend to believe that all of the great gun inventors were American, but that's simply not true. From the earliest firearms history to today, there are great - and important - designers who were born and did their business well away from the United States. Some of them even worked for "the other side".
While my knowledge base is a little larger than most, I still don't claim to be an authority on gun designers. I may know a few more of them than the average person, but there are many even I've never heard of. Take, for instance, Arkady Shipunov. He was the chief designer at Russia's Tula arsenal for decades, and apparently produced a very wide range of firearm designs. My interest in him is because of a rather intriguing polymer pistol called the GSh-18.
In case you missed it, the biggest news event to come out of the NRA Annual Meeting and convention this last weekend came from an unlikely source: a seminar on home defense concepts by Rob Pincus. (Those who know Rob may say it isn’t all that surprising he'd make headlines, but with the election of a new and indiscriminately vocal NRA president intent on reliving the 1990s it was surprising the press would focus on Pincus instead. Probably just as well that they did.)
It all started when the Think Progress blog, which has a decidedly anti-Second Amendment position, snuck a stowaway into Rob's seminar and videoed a couple of minutes which they put on YouTube. The video is part of his discussion on keeping a spare gun - should you have one - in a quick-access safe in your kid's room. The idea is that, in the case of a home invasion, it's very likely that you'll head to protect your kids first - and wouldn't it be a good idea to have a defensive tool there in case you hadn't yet made it to your safe room and retrieved its armament?
Here's the clip they posted:
Of course the key here is that the gun is kept in a safe, the same as it would be in your own bedroom. As Rob took care to explain, the safe in the kid's room is no more dangerous than the safe in your room. If the kids know there's a safe anywhere (and any conscientious parent will admit that you can't hide anything from kids - they will find it), they'll play with it. The fact that it's in their parent's bedroom makes it no less immune to their tampering than if it were on the coffee table in the living room. Kids, as I'm told, will be kids.
That's why the gun is in a quality, tamper-proof safe that's securely bolted down. The gun is no more dangerous than it would be in a safe anywhere else in the house, but it is accessible in an area where it is plausible that it would be needed. Logical, no?
The story was quickly picked up by any number of knee-jerk blogs and websites, including the Huffington Post (whose editorial board is a staunch supporter of the Bill Of Rights, except the parts they find icky - like the Second.) The response amongst the prohibitionists was immediate, predictable and nearly unvarying: "Gun Expert Urges People To Keep Guns In Children's Bedrooms!"
Once there, the story-that-really-isn’t-a-story made its way into some a few of the more mainstream media outlets with similar results. It got even bigger play across the Atlantic, where both the Guardian and the Daily Mail expressed their dismay over the perceived craziness in the Colonies. (If Piers Morgan hasn't hopped on this story yet, he soon will.)
The story may get a bigger boost today: Rush Limbaugh's website featured the story this morning, and as I write this his live show hasn't yet started but I expect him to talk about it. (I don't often listen to Limbaugh, as I personally can't stand demagogues on any side of any issue, but I might make an exception today.)
What do you think: does keeping a gun in a safe in the kid's room make sense to you? (Feel free to post links to any mainstream news site which features this story!) -=[ Grant ]=-
For a year now I've been working with some of the luminaries in the defensive shooting world on an exciting project. The idea was admittedly audacious: start a professional membership organization to bring together people who teach defensive firearms use. The goal would be to give defensive shooting instructors a place to congregate, share, network, increase their teaching skills, and ultimately advance professionalism in what can often be a contentious business.
It started very simply with a document called The Seven Tenets. That document was a non-doctrinal statement about the traits a professional shooting instructor should have, as opposed to what they teach. This was written up in many venues, including this blog, as the Code Of The Professional Shooting Instructor. It was signed by a large number of famous and not-so-famous people, all of whom can legitimately be considered movers and shakers in the field.
At some point someone said "hey, we need an organization that can help both the aspiring and seasoned instructors live up to those high standards.” From that was borne the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors, and we're officially unveiling it this week!
Rob Pincus, Omari Broussard, Paul Carlson and I have spent huge amounts of our precious free time getting this new organization up and running. (Turns out that starting a professional association from scratch is a lot of work!) We've been honored to be joined by John Farnam, Massad Ayoob, Tom GIvens, Ken Murray, Marty Hayes, Dr. Robert Smith, and Robbie Barrkman, all of whom support our goals and have agreed to serve on our Advisory Council.
They're not just window dressing, either! We've put them to work to get the ADSI on the map and to guide our future programs, which will be geared toward providing continuing education for defensive shooting instructors who want to become the best that they can be.
If you teach defensive shooting skills, or if you want to, you should be a member of the ADSI. If you know someone who is a defensive shooting instructor, please make sure that they know about the Association! If you run into an instructor at your range, or perhaps from whom you're taking or have taken a class, ask them if they've joined the only professional organization representing them and what they do.
There are an endless number of sites here in the intertubes where you can read about guns, shooting, self defense, and the politics which surround all of those. Most of what you'll find are from individual bloggers (like me!), full of opinion (again, like me) but usually a mixed bag for actual news about shooting and self defense. When I want news, here are some of the places I check.
The Gun Wire is sort of like the Drudge Report for the firearms world. They've got links to firearms stories from all over the world, updated constantly. It's a lot to wade through, but if it's about guns you'll probably find it there.
The Tactical Wire isn't what you might think; it's primarily a collection of press releases from all of the companies and organizations in the shooting world. If anyone puts out a press release, whether it's a new product announcement or match results, Tactical Wire will have it. (You might be surprised how many get published every day!) Absolutely a must-read if you're trying to keep up with the industry.
The Shooting Wire is similar to Tactical Wire; mostly industry news, but with more original content and commentary than you'll find on the Tactical Wire. They also report on articles of note from bloggers and magazines. Another must-read for industry watchers.
Gun Digest (whose parent company publishes my books) is one of the oldest sources of news in the shooting world. Their online edition and daily newsletters feature a mix of industry releases, original content, gun reviews, and opinion pieces. Probably the most well-rounded of all shooting news sites, they're also one of the most professional due to a large and experienced editorial staff. If you want solid news you can trust, Gun Digest is one of the first places to turn. In fact, if you could only read one shooting-related site a day, Gun Digest should probably be that one.
While it's something of a mixed bag, The Truth About Guns will talk about breaking news other outlets haven't discovered yet (or simply won't touch.) I won't call TTAG unbiased - they make no pretense of being so - but they've been known to get news on the 'net before anyone else. I also like the fact that they're not afraid to stir the pot now and again, and they pull no punches just because a subject happens to be on their side. Opinionated and sometimes irreverent; if you've got delicate sensibilities, probably not a site you want to visit.
Finally, the Personal Defense Network (for whom I occasionally pen an article) is my favorite source for self defense information. The information is timely, topical, and factual. There's not a lot of actual news, but you will find articles which look at current events through the lens of keeping you and your loved ones safe.
What news sites do you like? Sound off in the comments!
The latest internet rumor, apparently from the proprietor of a gun store back east, is that U.S. Customs is holding up containers of imported smokeless powder on the orders of the White House. This, it's claimed, is the reason that powder - for both reloaders and ammunition manufacturers - is in such short supply.
Ed Harris, who many of you will recognize as one of the longstanding voices of sanity in the gun industry, has access to people the rest of us don't. When I call Hodgdon Powder Co., for instance, I get a Customer Service Rep. When Ed calls, he gets Chris Hodgdon - which is exactly what happened a few days ago, and this is what Ed related to me of their conversation:
“[Chris] says that the story [the gun shop] related about US Customs playing games with containers waiting to come into the country is nothing but an Internet rumor.
He says that since the President was re-elected that demand for powder has exceeded anything they have ever seen. They are importing more powder than they ever have, and shipping over 100,000 lbs. a month but the market is absorbing it instantly. Their supply is the greatest it has ever been and it is still not enough. The market has gone crazy since Obama’s re-election.
Hodgdon asks dealers and consumers to be patient. Panic buying is driving the current shortage. It is likely to continue until the administration is required to move onto some other, serious world crisis probably unrelated to gun control…… Then we will have something else to worry about."
There you have it, folks, straight from the horse's mouth. People are simply buying up everything that's being produced, even though it's being produced and shipped in record amounts.
As to the source of the rumor, my general rule of thumb is this: if you hear something from someone behind the counter in a gun store, it's probably false. Just like this rumor.
I've been a little hesitant to talk about the woes of the Caracal pistol, largely because it's a gun I really like. Why? Well, for starters it’s just a nice gun to shoot! That’s largely due to the incredibly low bore axis and well designed grip.
How low is that bore? I’ll put it this way: it's the only gun since the HK P7 which gives me what I call the "Monitor feeling", in reference to the Civil war ship that carried its bulk below the waterline and left only a short turret with a gun poking above the surface. It seems like the barrel itself is sitting on top of my fingers with just the sights peeking up out of my hand. That low bore axis makes for reduced muzzle flip and perceived recoil, enabling one to shoot faster at any given level of precision.
More importantly to me, the Caracal’s grip is small enough and the trigger reach short enough that it fits my hands like the proverbial glove. I can actually get my stubby mitts around the gun and reach the trigger, which is something I can’t do even on a Glock 19. That’s a major advantage for me!
Shooting the Caracal was one of the more pleasant experiences I've had in recent years and its handling alone was enough to make me like the pistol. What clinched the deal for me was the apparent reliability: the one I shot had over 10,000 rounds through it since last being cleaned, with not one reported malfunction. (This was a gun that Rob Pincus was using in his classes one last year's PDN Spring Training Tour so I know for a fact it hadn't been cleaned. You could tell by the gritty feeling as the slide reciprocated!)
Unfortunately time has not been good to the folks at Caracal. First they recalled the pistols because of a potential for not being drop safe. Caracal USA promised fast repair or replacement of the affected guns, and according to Robert Farago over at The Truth About Guns they've had his for over 160 days. That's not what I'd call fast turnaround, and there’s no end in sight.
That was bad enough, but now comes the news that one of their guns suffered a catastrophic failure of the slide, one which they admit resulted in injuries to the shooter. They've issued a second recall for this issue even though they haven't finished the first. Who knows how long this will take? Will Caracal owners ever get their guns back?
It's too bad, but because of these issues I've crossed the Caracal off my personal purchase list. You see, I'm in the market for a new compact autoloading pistol and the Caracal seemed perfect for my small hands. My second favorite gun, the Steyr S9-A1, is out of the running simply because they don't make full capacity magazines for the things - 10 rounds is the limit, in a gun that's exactly the same size as a Glock 19 and whose magazines are actually slightly bigger than the Glock.
I've looked at the XD and the M&P and frankly just can't get all that excited about either. I'm now seriously considering just picking up another Glock 19 (my wife carries one, and that would give us magazine and spare parts commonality) and doing a grip reduction on it.
There is a growing list of gun companies who are refusing to sell to any government agencies (police departments, etc.) in states where their products are not allowed to be owned by the general populace. I've applauded this practice, and have taken more than a little heat from both friends and enemies for my stance.
Their arguments against industry-government boycotts are generally based on efficacy: the "it won't matter, so why bother?" school of thought. I think that's short-sighted, and ignores the idea of foundational principles of which I've been writing lately.
Let's take the case of Magpul. As you may know, their home state of Colorado is banning what they refer to as "large" capacity magazines. Magpul, who built their business on the 30-round PMAG for the AR-15, has threatened (and appears to be following through on the threat) to leave the state and take their $85 million business and 250-odd direct jobs with them. I've applauded them for that action; good on them!
Unfortunately they turned around and publicly declared that they'd be more than happy to sell their PMAGs to any police officer or department in that state - despite the fact that the citizens of the state are now forbidden to buy those same items.**
Magpul, and some of the other companies which have issued public statements defending municipal sales in such areas, have said that they'll continue to sell their restricted products to the brave guys and gals who "need" them. This is also a common refrain amongst supporters of those companies, who defend the practices by invoking images of police whose operations would be severely hampered for want of a 30-round magazine.
I believe this indicates a lack of understanding of the issues involved, and one of them is an idea that we've been fighting tooth and toenail since last December: the mistaken belief that a Constitutionally protected right is subject to a test of need.
All over the country, in Congress and in the states and on the airwaves and in the forums, we've been fighting the argument that no one "needs" a "high" capacity magazine or an "assault weapon." Many of us, unfortunately, have fallen into that trap of debating "need" rather than pointing out that rights cannot be subjected to such tests. We haven't done a terribly good job of disabusing people of that notion.
The companies who enact or continue policies of selling specifically to police officers and agencies in ban areas directly support the argument of "need”, whether they recognize it or not. You see, by continuing to do business in those states which have established two legal classes, companies help to perpetuate the idea that some people do in fact "need" those "high" capacity feeding devices and some don't - the police agencies being the people who need them, and the general public the people who don't. Many of their statements, and the tepid defenses uttered by many of their supporters, say things to the effect that they don't want to deprive police officers in such states of the tools that they “need" to do their jobs.
Having a company in our industry publicly declare that they recognize need as a valid reason to sell to a specific part of the public is the next best thing to carving the concept on stone tablets and having a certain Senator from California carry them down the mount, loudly declaring "Thou Shalt NOT!"
Don't get me wrong; I understand that a Magpul boycott of a state's police agencies would be unlikely to have any effect on their lawmaker's votes. The police aren't going to lobby the Legislature for a repeal of the law because they have their exemption; there is no incentive for them to urge a repeal, and no boycott by the industry is likely to ever change that. I also recognize that a boycott won't do anything to forestall the burgeoning tiered society we're creating with such exemptions to these laws.
None of that matters. Efficacy is a poor argument; principle is not.
I don't care if a company's boycott against a state is successful. I do care about the lack of such a boycott cementing into the public's minds that some people need certain things and others don't, and that ownership of those items should be based on that need. Allowing these companies to enact, publicize, and defend policies which recognize the need argument -- or, at the very least, don’t voice any opposition to it -- lends credence to one of the prohibitionists’ main and most successful talking points.
If industry leaders like Magpul accept the argument of need in Colorado, it becomes much harder for people in Oregon and Oklahoma and Maine to counter their legislators who use need as a basis for new laws. Exercise of a fundamental right, any fundamental right, cannot be based on a requirement to show need. The companies who accept the status quo which is built on need make it harder for the rest of us to get that point across to the public.
When a business entity says that some specific group of people needs a particular thing while accepting a law that says no one else does (and is happy to profit from the situation), they've actively validated the prohibitionist position. The prohibitionists are greatly strengthened by such validation, and that's the real problem.
-=[ Grant ]=-
** - Magpul has since "clarified" their position, stating that they will sell to individual officers in ban states who will sign a promise that they won't enforce any unconstitutional laws. That alone is another discussion, but they've simply erected a minor hoop through which the people with the alleged need must now jump. Their slightly modified position has no fundamental effect on the underlying concepts.
Lots of stuff that I need to disseminate this week, so look for multiple blog posts - some of them might appear on days I don't normally post!
First is this gem: when I was at SHOT Show I got together with Toby Lee from the Politics & Guns Podcast. We sat in the hallway outside the media center (which was the quietest place we could find) and had a chat about my new book, The Gun Digest Shooter's Guide To Handguns. Our interview starts at 30:20. Enjoy!
I don't really go to SHOT to look at gear, but on Friday I had the whole day to get out and look at stuff. Prior to that I only saw gear on a "hit and miss" basis as I ran between appointments and meetings. Here’s what I managed to see:
- The first thing I have to report (and the most exciting for revolver enthusiasts) is that Korth, the top-tier German revolver maker, is looking for a new importer to expand their presence in the U.S. They understand that they'll never sell a ton of guns here, but they also understand that they're a small company; any market share they get would probably double their sales! I got a chance to talk at length with their representatives and also got to play with one of their clear-sided demonstrators. As expected, the actions are superbly smooth and the workmanship is perfect. (The big news is that they're planning on making a left-hand version this year!)
Korth revolvers start around $4k, which sounds like a lot - and it is. Let's put that into perspective, however: when I discussed the possibility of reviving the Python with the head of Colt's Custom Shop, he indicated that to reproduce it to the quality of the "classic" Python would mean a price tag of five large. (For those of you under 40, that's five grand or "five kay" - $5,000.) That level of hand fitting costs, no matter where it's made, which puts the Korth in the same ballpark a modern Python would have to be. The Korth people believe that there is a market for a high end revolver in this country, and I agree with them; the only question is whether people will understand that ANY revolver of such a grade is going to cost that much. I’m sure some will complain that a Performance Center gun is 1/4 of that cost while ignoring the fact that they’re hardly in the same fit-and-finish ballpark.
- Speaking of high grade guns, I had a talk with Ray Rozic at Cabot Guns. Cabot, you may remember, makes the Python of 1911s. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if I were to ever buy another 1911, it would be a Cabot. They're put together like nothing else I've ever seen; the quality of workmanship rivals the very best hand-built customs and simply blows away any other production 1911. Cabot's first full year of production was 2012, and Brian Zins used one to win the 2012 NRA National Pistol Championship at Camp Perry! Not bad for the first time at bat, and speaks volumes about their quality.
Their position in the 1911 market is much like that of Korth in the revolver world, and the prices are even similar: starting just north of $4k. Again, that level of quality simply costs that much no matter who does it.
(Oh, I asked Ray if Cabot would ever consider making a similarly high-end revolver; he simply smiled. I'm keeping my eye on him!)
- One of the interesting products I saw was one that got a lot of attention last year: the Flashbang Bra Holster. Not being a woman, I thought the product was a gimmick like every other bra holster that's been made over the last 40 years. Turns out I was dead wrong. This time I visited their booth with three women who are trainers and authors of shooting books and articles; all three of them told me that the Flashbang actually works and took the time to explain the ‘why’. My take? It works well because it was actually designed by a woman!
The woman is Lisa Looper, a sharp and inventive young lady whose enthusiasm is absolutely infectious. I spent some time taking pictures of her and her products for a new book being written by Gila Hayes, and later had a talk with her about her invention. She's a great example of the next generation of gun carriers and shooting industry entrepreneurs, and I felt a lot better about the future of our industry after meeting her. If you're a woman looking for a discreet and apparently comfortable way to carry a handgun, or know one who is, give the Flashbang serious consideration. The women who know tell me it's a top notch product.
- I also stopped in at the Elzetta booth and talked with them about their world-class flashlights. They're coming out with a new light, one featuring an LED module of their own design and manufacture. It puts out an honest 500 lumens with a very nice beam pattern. I was impressed, and was assured that the module features the same type of robust construction we've come to love about the Malkoff modules they've been using. I'll probably need to own one!
- Speaking of flashlights, I dropped by the booth of the most well known tactical flashlight manufacturer. At one display of perhaps 8 or 10 lights the sales rep could not make two of them function properly due to bad switches. When I left he was desperately twisting and pushing, trying to make one work. That pretty much mirrors my own experience with their products, and is why I now use an Elzetta for my defensive illumination.
- Remington was showing their AR-10 type rifle, available in .308, .243 and 7mm-08. What makes the R-25 a little unusual is that the controls are completely ambidextrous: magazine release, safety, and even the bolt catch. It’s well engineered and seemed to work very smoothly. Bonus: it takes DPMS type magazines, which are not exactly common but at least they're a little less proprietary.
- Redfield has a neat new scope out, and in fact it is so new that their one display unit arrived via FedEx the day the show opened! It's a 2x-7x scope with a bullet drop compensator for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge (36gn hollowpoint at a nominal 1250 fps.) It should make for a dandy varmint hunting scope, and at $189 list price should sell easily. Optics were pretty good for a sub-$200 unit. I'll probably buy one for sage rat hunting.
- Speaking of varmints, Winchester showed off their new .17 caliber rimfire round - the .17 Winchester Super Magnum. It spits out a 20 grain bullet at over 3,000 fps and has a fairly flat trajectory out to 300 yards. It's a better performer in every respect than the .17 HMR, and according to the Winchester rep I talked with is only about 20% more expensive than .22 WMR. While spendy, it's still cheaper than shooting centerfire! Initial chamberings are in an affordable Savage bolt action and one of the Browning single shots.
Gunsmith Todd Koonce, who was with me at SHOT, was so impressed that he immediately bought a chamber reamer for the new round. He has something up his sleeve, and I can't wait to find out what it is.
- While I'm on the subject of ammunition, Federal has introduced a line of suppressor-ready centerfire ammunition in their American Eagle brand. It’s to be packaged in black boxes and labeled “American Eagle Suppressor”. We all know that suppressors are hot, hot, HOT right now, and it’s great that at least one of the major ammunition makers sees the potential in a product made to provide the best performance in a suppressed gun. I just hope they can produce enough of it!
- Premier Optics, the rebirth of the former Premier Reticles, reportedly fell on hard times since last year's SHOT Show. That's too bad, because their scopes were among the best I've seen. Luckily a Canadian investor thought so too, and just before the show opened purchased the company. He told me that he felt their scopes had great potential and thought it a shame that they might be lost before they could really have a chance to prove themselves. I agree; their scopes are top drawer, and I'm glad they now have the backing they need to really cement their place in the market. If you're in the market for a high end scope, I suggest looking hard at Premier.
- Springfield introduced their subcompact XD-s in 9mm. They told me it is exactly the same size as the .45 ACP version, but it sure feels smaller to me! No matter; it's a neat little gun and the 9mm cartridge is an eminently more sensible chambering for that tiny pistol. It will sell as easily as it shoots.
- One compact 9mm I've not paid any attention to is a cute little polymer gun from Bersa, the Argentinian maker of "affordable" handguns. Make no mistake: the single stack BP-9cc appears to be of high quality construction, fits the tiniest hands easily, and has a superbly light and smooth trigger. It surprised me by being smooth to the hand, with no unfinished edges or seams. At under $400 MSRP, should it prove to be reliable I can see them selling every single one they can make. I'm hoping to get one for a long-term torture test and see just how well it handles the strain. I'm told by people who've shot them that they'll stand up to whatever I can dish out, so we shall see!
- Down in a little out-of-the-way booth in the basement sat a little Chinese company called Op.Electronics, who is selling a neat electronic target gadget called TopGun. It consists of a laser module which goes into the barrel of your pistol and an electronic target pad which hooks to your PC. The target pad is magnetic, and a reduced size target of your choice is held on the pad with some tiny magnets. That target shows up on the software running on your computer! The target pad tracks muzzle movement before and after the "shot" is fired. The target shows a green track before the shot, a red dot where the shot would have landed, and a yellow track showing follow-through.
The cool thing is that targets can be scanned in and added to their selection, so it's theoretically possible to get any target of any configuration you want.
I'm not generally a fan of extensive dryfire practice for defensive shooting, but this has some intriguing possibilities for training if used intelligently. It's a big step beyond the laser "hit" targets which are on the market now, and though more expensive ($299) I think it’s a justifiable cost.
- Oh, I forgot: Korth was also showing their autopistol, a gun which has never intrigued me, in a heavily engraved edition with superb ivory grips. It was one of the most beautiful guns I saw in the entire show, even with the stupendous examples shown at the Perazzi booth. I did not ask the price; somehow, it just seemed gauche to do so.
- The Tavor bullpup from Israeli Weapon Industries (IWI) will be imported this year - assuming the State and Commerce Departments don't come under contrary orders, of course. This is a rather exotic gun for us, as I never expected to see it on our shores. It's currently the issue rifle for the Israel Defense Forces and was purpose built for their unique needs. It's compact, like all bullpups, and can be easily converted from right-hand to left-hand operation (though not without partial disassembly.) Though it has the rotten trigger typical of bullpup designs it has tremendous practical accuracy potential, as Todd Koonce demonstrated on Range Day by rapidly landing shot after shot on a 100-meter steel silhouette target. Uses standard AR magazines, of course - the Israelis are very pragmatic about such things.
- Merkel was showing a neat straight-pull bolt action rifle called the Helix, which features rapid caliber change. I thought it was really cool, even if the price was a little much for my wallet: starting "around" $5,000.
- Caracal introduced their pistol caliber carbines, taking the same magazines as their pistols (of course.) The thumbhole stock, like that on the competitive Beretta carbines, seemed a little awkward to me but Todd found it usable.
- The rep at Ithaca, my favorite shotgun company, tells me that they're selling all the guns they can make. That's good news, as it means this iteration of the company will be around for some time yet. Those sales include their "tactical" line of police and home defense shotguns. Oddly, though, he says their 20 gauge defensive shotgun barely sells. I'm a huge believer in the 20 as a defensive tool, and specifically the Ithaca 20 gauge - I'm surprised they don't sell more of them.
Not content to make just shotguns, Ithaca has returned to their roots and is once again making 1911 pistols. Ithaca was a major producer of those guns during World War II, making almost the same number as did Colt. As you all know I'm not a 1911 kind of guy, but the examples I saw were quite nicely done. They're also working on their AR-15 (which they showed in prototype form last year, but was conspicuously absent this time.) They say they'll have an announcement later in the year.
That exhausts my notes. This show was notable for not having a lot of exciting introductions; the truly new items, which were few and far between, were evolutionary rather than revolutionary (new people making 1911s and AR-15s just isn't all that exciting.) I got the impression that all of the companies are too occupied with their growing pile of backorders to put a lot of effort into new products. That isn't the case for everyone, of course, but sure appears to be so for the majority. I predict we'll see many more new products introduced at the next show than we did this time - assuming that this buying frenzy slows down a bit!
I spent last week in Las Vegas at the annual SHOT Show convention. For those who don't know, it's the shooting industry's major business convention and darn near any company you can name is there. SHOT is where major new products are typically released, and it's where the "people of the gun" congregate.
I go there specifically to network, to see people. The hardware isn't terribly exciting to me; don't get me wrong, I enjoy seeing a new gun as much as anyone, but I also know that I could stay home and get the same information. It's the chance to talk to people in the industry which is valuable to me.
For this trip I was accompanied by Todd Koonce, a talented local gunsmith about whom you’ll be reading more. Todd is “Mr. Vegas!”, well versed with the recreational opportunities that Vegas offers yet possessing a phenomenal self-restraint which keeps him from going too far. We hopped in a car, drove to Vegas, and started our adventures.
The first person I wanted to meet was my editor at Gun Digest books, Corrina Peterson. I would in fact have considered the trip a complete success if I'd met only her! I've worked with her on three books over a span of almost that long, exchanged numerous emails, but had never gotten to actually shake her hand. Unfortunately I neglected to get a picture with her, but I'll remedy that next time.
Many of the industry's top trainers go to SHOT, and I got to meet both Ken Murray and John Farnam. Ken is something of an "instructor's instructor": he's the acknowledged expert in scenario based training and the author of Training at the Speed of Life (yes, I have a copy - if you're a defensive shooting instructor, you should too.)
John Farnam should not require much of an introduction, being one of the more well-known shooting instructors in the business. He's also surprisingly non-doctrinal, amusingly self-deprecating, and very open to new ideas and approaches.
I'll be working with both Ken and John (and some others you might recognize) on future projects, so watch this space!
I managed to cross paths, very briefly, with Ian from Forgotten Weapons. He was running around with Oleg Volk, and I sadly had to turn down their invitation to join them for a coffee break (I was running to another appointment.) Next time, guys!
Kathy Jackson, whose Cornered Cat website is one of my recommended sources for women who are interested in defensive shooting, sat down with me for a bit to discuss her new project: The Cornered Cat Training Company. This is good news for women who want to learn about guns and concealed carry, as Kathy is well versed in the subjects. I'm glad that she's finally getting the attention she deserves for her work (even if we do disagree from time to time!)
Speaking of women and guns, I spent all of Thursday helping out Gila Hayes with pictures for her new book on concealed carry for women. Gila is one of the industry's best trainers, and her last book Personal Defense For Women has carried my highest recommendation since it was published a few years ago. This new one promises to be just as good!
One of the things which impressed me was the number of next-generation men and women getting involved in this industry. They're bringing new ideas and energy into shooting and self defense, and only a real curmudgeon would look askance at them. They're the future, and I believe they're capable of handling whatever gets thrown their way.
On a personal note, I've attended trade shows in several industries since I was 17 years old, and darned near every time I come back sick. This time I resolved to break that cycle; I carried hand sanitizer and used it every time I touched anything or shook hands with anyone, and every time I passed a bathroom I darted in and did a thorough hand washing. Despite all of that I still came back with a mild case of the flu! I'm thinking of going in a plastic bubble next time.
In Part Two I'll talk about some of the gear I saw.
Yesterday was the first day of SHOT Show (Monday was Media Day At The Range; the actual show opened on Tuesday.) I'll talk about the hardware on my Facebook page, so please hit the Facebook button to your right to see that stuff.
Today I'd like to talk about the general tone of the show. Yesterday, before the news about our President's impending press conference came out, I'd describe the show as upbeat. Ammunition makers didn't want to talk about supply issues, the AR-15 manufacturers would only smile if you asked them what the delivery times would be, and generally people were very happy with the state of the industry.
This morning, as we wait for the press conference, there is a feeling of unease in the air. There are people here who are genuinely concerned that they'll essentially be put out of business by executive fiat about 11:45 Eastern time. The new legislation in New York, and pending bills in Maryland and points west also have everyone worried - and for good reason.
We've made great strides in the past couple of decades, only to see the possibility of having our progress wiped out in a very short period of time. We haven't been helped by people in our own camp who insist on reinforcing every negative stereotype of the "dangerous gun nut", nor by politicians who stand on polling data rather than principle.
We have a lot of work to do now, and it's going to take everyone being on the same page. It's going to take some political activism, and to that end I'd ask you to go back and read my piece about contacting your elected representatives (both local and national.) Join the NRA (if you haven't already.) Tell the idiots and grandstanders in our own fraternity to shut the hell up. Make sure that your local elected law enforcement (Sheriffs in most places, Chiefs of Police in a few) get the same message as your Congresscritter: that you will not accept any infringement on the rights protected by the Second Amendment.
If we don't do those things, in a few short years there may not be a whole lot of need for a SHOT Show.
It’s the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas! I’m hoping to bring you some news on the revolver front, and possibly even a neat announcement or two. Watch my Facebook and Twitter feeds, as I’ll update them as I hear anything new.
(I also happen to know that there will be a neat announcement or to come, so stay tuned!)
Some things that have crossed my path over the last few days:
- My publisher, Gun Digest, is having a Twelve Days Of Christmas Giveaway - a different prize every day! They're giving away a lot of neat stuff this week; on Friday is a drawing for a Gerstner pistol case! If you haven't seen one, they are gorgeous. Gerstner, of course, is the old-line wood tool chest manufacturer renowned for their quality. They're still in business, still making great stuff, including the aforementioned case. I'm not eligible to win, sadly, but you certainly are - go enter! Here's the link the the Giveaway.
- James Yeager is a fairly well-known instructor who's also something of a bomb-thrower. He's been all over the net lately challenging people who call him 'coward' to do so to his face - and has issued threats about what would happen if someone did. Now I know people who've known him for a lot of years, and they insist he's really a nice guy and that this is just a publicity stunt for his school. Perhaps, but he's doing a great deal of harm to the image of gun owners and shooting instructors in a time when we really can't afford that kind of nonsense. Please go read PDB's assessment, whose opinion in this case mirrors my own.
- I recently found this piece by Terrell Prude Jr. Mr. Prude** is a self-professed liberal who is also a Second Amendment supporter and a member of the NRA. If you've been following the blog, Facebook, or any of the podcasts I've been on lately you know that this is a hot issue with me. I don't believe that someone needs to be of a certain political persuasion in order to be a gun rights advocate, and I certainly don't believe that just because someone voted for President Obama immediately means that he or she is my sworn enemy. Please read Mr. Prude's essay for the other side of gun ownership, one that we're far too eager to dismiss. Take the time to read it, especially if you’re not a ‘liberal’.
-=[ Grant ]=- ( ** - In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that many years ago I did business - and a bit of socializing - with Mr. Prude's father, who he mentions in his essay. One might suggest that this would predispose me to agreeing with him, but given my public stance I think it's clear that I'd agree with him even if I didn't know his Dad.)
The pictures for the article were taken by the author, one J. Guthrie. All of them - several pages worth - were of a youngish bikini-clad woman displaying her wares, along with the guns, in suggestive poses. There was even something for the foot fetishists in the audience: six-inch stiletto shoes. Black, of course, to match the bikini.
Now understand that I'm hardly a prude. I rather enjoy looking at the female form, and have been known to peruse pictures of scantily clad women from time to time.* I’m also not what you’d call politically correct, as my wife will readily attest!
Even with my barely submerged neanderthal tendencies, my first reaction when I saw the article was one of disbelief. Surely, I thought, no one could be that out of touch in this day and age. I was wrong.
I'm sorry to break this to the misogynists out there, but an article on defensive shooting in a gun magazine is not the place for bikini babe pictures. Those kinds of images are a throwback to gun rags of the '70s and '80s, where no effort was made to appeal to (let alone understand) the female shooters in this world. Depictions of women as mere ornaments for the gun are what I'd thought the industry had gotten away from, but the author and his editors at Shooting Times are apparently stuck in a time warp and haven't yet figured out that the rest of the world has moved on.
Now you may be thinking that I'm over-reacting. I thought about that possibility, so I shared this with some people in the industry. They ranged from famous to barely known, male and female, but everyone had the same reaction I did: they thought it was disgusting.
In an age where the industry is finally getting a large cadre of confident and competent women who are both good shooters and terrific spokespeople (think Jessie Duff, Julie Golob, and Randi Rogers - and there are lots more where they came from) the article in question is simply inappropriate. It's particularly ironic that in a self defense magazine (which women should be reading), in an article on .380 pistols (which women do tend to purchase in disproportionate numbers to men and thus need the education), the author and editor would go out of their way to do something so patently offensive to them.
The message from J. Guthrie and Shooting Times is clear: women and guns are okay, as long as they're paired in a superficial and stereotypical manner that trivializes their relationship and doesn't threaten the egos of the male readers. It's sad that the article was written and illustrated the way it was, and even sadder that it was published.
-=[ Grant ]=-
( * - I will admit to becoming more selective as I get older; bleached hair, tattoos and excessive makeup are not particularly attractive to me, but I certainly do enjoy the, uh, other parts.)
It's Cyber Monday - the day when everyone shops from the comfort of their chair! There are some deals out there for shooters and those interested in personal defense, and here are just a few.
First off, a DVD that I've been recommending for some time is "Lessons From The Street" by Tom Givens. I consider it a must-have for any personal defense library, because Tom distills the lessons from the nearly 60 shootings his students have experienced. This DVD contains some really important information that counters a lot of the misinformation that's often encountered in the defensive training business. It's available from the I.C.E. Store.
What's the deal? If you use the code "ICEXMAS" at checkout you'll get 20% off this DVD - in fact, any of the DVDs that you order from the I.C.E. Store will be 20% off! There are a lot of terrific titles available, so don't miss this opportunity to stock up!
Speaking of DVD deals, the Personal Defense Network is running a Cyber Monday special: sign up for a PDN Premium Membership and get 3 free DVDs - over 3 hours of training. The PDN Premium Membership is one of the best-kept secrets in the defensive training world; for the price of a typical DVD you get access to tons of streaming training videos, many of which are available only through PDN. The DVD offer is like icing on the cake! Click here for the PDN Cbyer Monday DVD Deal.
(Note: I am omitting names in this article, not because the information is secret but because I want to focus on a concept. The incidents I talk about are public knowledge and can be found with about 15 seconds of Googling; if you really want the nitty-gritty details, feel free to do the searching - but please don't bring that information in to any comments here, as I want the discussion to center on the ideas not the players. Thank you.)
This last week two seemingly unrelated events came to the attention of the shooting public. First, a trainer whose background is supposedly Russian special forces (Spetsnaz) violated some cardinal safety rules and shot an assistant instructor three times; second, a well-known shooting retailer published an article on their blog that promoted what is universally considered to be an unsafe act when holstering a gun.
In the first incident, the trainer in question has produced some videos (one of which I've seen) that show techniques I find rather dubious from a safety aspect. They're presented under the guise of being "real world" special forces training and aggressively sold to people in the private sector.
In the second incident, the writer (whose pictures and videos show a certain laxity with regard to trigger finger discipline) presented a technique for "safely" reholstering guns like the Glock. This technique required the the shooter to put the trigger finger into the trigger guard behind the trigger to ostensibly keep if from moving backward if caught on something. It was supposedly developed by a Marine-turned-police officer, whose "secret" work necessitated anonymity.
Fans of the instructor who shot his assistant tried to downplay the negligent shooting by invoking nonsensical terms such as "big boy rules" and "real world" safety. Because the instructor was formerly a special forces soldier his methodology, we were told, would be different and we needed to apply different standards of safety to him and his methods.
At the same time, the author of the article in question defended the technique by invoking the inventor's status as both a Marine and an undercover cop. Because of his undercover work, we were told, his technique was "real-world" and needed to be judged under a different standard of safety.
The linkage between the two is obviously safety, but it goes well beyond that. Both incidents are infused with a liberal amount of the logical fallacy of 'appeal to authority' - that is, the material being presented is valuable (or not unsafe) because of the position of teacher/inventor. What concerns me is that so many people will actually fall for that.
Just because someone was a special forces soldier, Marine, or police officer doesn't automatically make a technique or an opinion correct in all cases. First, because of context: just because it's valuable in a war zone doesn't mean it's applicable to you in your home; second, because the authority (real or perceived) that someone receives from his job doesn't mean that his opinions are infallible. If you assume either (or worse, both) of those you can end up adopting wholly unsafe and inappropriate techniques, not to mention the loss of valuable time training and practicing them.
It's up to you to look at everything you read, see, or experience in a class with a critical eye. Just because someone is famous or holds a certain position doesn't mean he's right! You need to ask yourself whether what you're seeing is safe, applicable to your own life, and addresses a plausible need.
More importantly, the person who is promoting that technique or idea must be able to give you more justification and explanation than simply "I'm special forces/SWAT, and unless you are too you’re not in a position to question!"
Whenever you encounter a technique justified only (or at least primarily) by the status of the person who invented or is promoting it, you should immediately question its validity. Anything you learn with regard to defensive shooting has to make sense, it has to address a real need, and above all it needs to be safe. If there isn't a rational explanation forthcoming, if all you're given is appeal to authority, then you should be extremely wary of both the material and the person feeding it to you.
Some time ago I railed about how firearms are being sold to women: by adding pink grips to wholly inappropriate guns and peddling them to the “little ladies”. That just frosts me, because I want women to have the same thing that men have: a gun which they can actually use efficiently to deal with a threat. Part of being able to use it is being able to train and practice with it, and a gun that doesn’t fit well isn’t conducive to doing so.
Putting cute little grips on one of the Airweight Smith & Wesson's doesn't make it into a woman's gun - it makes the thing impossible for all but an expert to shoot. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for non-traditional colors and finishes to appeal to a wide variety of shooters, but the gun needs to be right for the job before those final touches are added. If they're all the product has to offer it's nothing but window dressing. And just a little insulting to the intended audience.
As it happens, I'm not alone in my disdain of frippery engineering; Laura Burgess thinks it's silly, too.
Who is Laura Burgess? She runs a marketing and PR firm that serves the shooting, hunting, and outdoor industries - it's one of the top firms in the business, in fact. Laura's a shooter too (as are her family members, who are also active in the industry) and knows a little bit about the subject.
Last week Rob Pincus posted a photo on his Facebook page of him teaching Khloe Kardashian how to shoot. (I'll admit to the necessity of Googling the name to find out who she is. I am unabashedly unhip.) Though I'm not a fan of “reality” television (I studiously avoid “Top Shot”, for instance), I'm glad she took the time to find out about the shooting world from someone who knows it quite well.
There, I thought, it sat. Until this weekend, when Rob posted this:
"Gun People" chasing away potential new shooters with their Ignorant Behavior
I was kind of surprised at the number of negative comments that the picture of teaching a pop-celebrity how to shoot garnered earlier this week.
The fact is that, for all the TALK about expanding the ranks of gun owners and reaching younger people & more females, the kind of ignorant responses that some have offered aren't going to encourage a twenty-something year old girl who happens to follow the Kardashians or Justin Beeber or who will vote for Obama to come to a shooting range and give it a try. In fact, some of the comments might downright chase them away from even being open to trying shooting or wanting to be part of the 'gun community'.
The Biggest Offenders have actually suggested that I should have taught her to shoot herself and/or attacked her looks and/or suggested that it would've been better if she had been wearing a bikini in the picture.
Those types of retarded comments aren't going to anything to sway someone who is on the fence about going shooting to imagine that they will be welcomed with open arms at gun store or shooting club and, in fact, could push many people away.
Whose side are you guys on??
I went back and looked at the comments, and sure enough there was a lot of negativity. Instead of embracing another (potential) crusader for the cause, a certain segment of the shooting fraternity had already written her off. That's hardly a welcoming attitude!
During the RECOIL debacle I opined (either in print or on Doc Wesson's show) that the younger generation is not likely to embrace the NRA as it exists today. There are simply too many in that organization, and in some of our defensive training and hunter education organizations, who are intolerant of people who are different than they. Whether it's the guns these newcomers use or what their voting preferences are or the tattoos and piercings many of them sport, our community too often finds ways to make it clear to them that they're really not "one of us" and can't be, until they become just like us (“us”, of course, being a variable dependent upon the sociopolitical hangups of the individual doing the judging.) I think a lot of them are just going to say no, and may say no to shooting altogether. That would be a great loss.
I once asked someone who lived in a seedy area what it was going to take to clean his neighborhood up. He responded with “quite a few more funerals.” He didn’t mean that people needed to be killed; rather, he meant that attitudes tend to go with one to the grave and only the natural turnover in population with births and deaths would lead to the change he hoped for. Trouble is, we can’t wait for the dinosaurs to die off. If we do we’ll lose the people we claim to want to attract and possibly lose our political advantage over time. Yes, we need to encourage younger shooters - but we can’t do that if we’re sending out signals, both subtle and overt, that we don’t like them!
A single blog post by a single person isn’t going to change things, but if we can get more bloggers and people of influence aboard perhaps we can make some headway. If you agree with this, if you believe that we need to attract and hold onto the young guns, you can help: forward this to the blogs and forums you frequent, post it on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and generally talk it up. Perhaps - if enough of us voice our support for the newcomers to the fold - we can bring the shooting world to understand that the next generation of shooters is ours to lose. Lose them we will, if we allow these inane and wholly inappropriate attitudes to exist.
There are a bunch of logic failures associated with that kind of aspirational marketing or consumption, but unfortunately people fall for them constantly:
- Let's say you've got one police agency using a specific gun (like, oh, the Kimber) and you make your decision based on that. What if another agency that picks, say, the HK P7? They can't both be "best", so how do you make your choice with such contradictory endorsements? What usually happens is that people actually end up arguing about which agency is the best/toughest/most respected, as if that somehow validates their choice - and therefore yours.
- Use of a specific product by any group isn't proof that it is superior to any other choice under all conditions. In fact, it isn't even proof that it's a superior choice for any specific conditions! The testing and procurement process is byzantine in complexity and subject to many kinds of coercion and meddling, from kickbacks by vendors to top brass intervening in the process to influence the selection of their personal favorites. That a product manages to survive that process isn't proof of any intrinsic superiority. Our cops and our troops often end up with inferior gear and supplies, but for some reason the private sector looks upon the failures as having the same stamp of quality as the successes. (CLP, anyone?)
- The presence of an NSN doesn't even mean the product is even being used by the people who are presumably using it. Lots of products that have an NSN aren't actually wanted or needed by the people on the front lines, but they're invariably sold to you as being "the choice of our brave men and women!" Look at the marketing of gun cleaning and lubrication products; when any product claims to be in use with Navy Seals, complete with the NSN, it's probably bunk. And even if it were true, that still doesn't mean it's the best choice for THEM, let alone you!
- Finally, remember that the procurement process (when it works) is designed to get a product that is minimally acceptable for its purpose at the lowest cost to the agency. It's useful to remember what the late, great Alan Shephard once said: "It's a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one's safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract." Not very reassuring, is it?
You need to make your purchasing decisions based on an honest assessment of your needs and the product's suitability for your purpose, not internet loudmouths going by names like Geck045 who drone on about how their gun "must" be the best because "LAPD don't buy junk!"
RECOIL Magazine certainly took a heck of a beating last week. The editor, Jerry Tsai, resigned on Thursday after a long list of advertisers cancelled their support of the publication, and on Friday the publisher "suspended" Associate Publisher Joe Galloway - likely for his ridiculous spin attempts (and perhaps some alleged astroturfing that was tried on Facebook.)
Now what? They may survive, they may not; I don't think anyone can really predict their fate, at least not now. If they want to survive, however, the first thing they're going to need to do is to appoint a new editor who is both a young iconoclast AND a knowledgable defender of gun rights. It will need to be someone who the 20- and 30-something readers of RECOIL can accept as one of their own, someone who knows (and is known in) the industry, and someone who can retain the talent that actually put the magazine out. That's a tall order.
The publisher is going to need to come out with a strong commitment to the Second Amendment. Not a tepid, "we stand in full support" kind of statement that politicians everywhere spout, but a real, here-is-exactly-what-we-think-about-the-tough-issues statement. He's also going to need to come to grips with the internet and social media, which the whole affair (delayed statements, flip-flopping, alleged astroturfing, and leaked internal emails) showed not to be the case. They're a print entity and it seems they didn't quite understand how quickly things move in the electronic world, let alone how easy it is for people to find out if someone is lying.
Once those things are done the magazine is going to need to rebuild its advertising base. That's going to be a tough row to hoe, because the advertisers have been burned and are probably quite shy of any association. This is where the new editor is going to have to press the flesh and make the personal appeals necessary to woo those companies back into their pages. Any whiff of insincerity or suggestion of hesitation on their new mission, and those ad dollars will leave for good.
As a community we're going to need to support those advertisers if and when they return to RECOIL. A continued boycott won't do any of us any good, least of all the under-represented shooters for whom RECOIL was intended. It's time to put down the pitchforks, folks, and get busy putting RECOIL back on the newsstands - assuming, of course, they show that they're deserving of that support. The community will need to be both immediate and visible so that the advertisers understand they won't be penalized for going back to RECOIL.
Why? Because, as I’ve already pointed out in this blog and on The Gun Nation, the magazine is important to the shooting community’s future.
The industry is just now getting their heads wrapped around the very place of RECOIL in the panoply of firearms publications. I don't think many people in the business yet "get" the purpose of the magazine (the online criticisms of their content are painfully hilarious to read), and very few consumers outside of their target market understand the new gun enthusiasts themselves.
As the story unfolded I wondered aloud about their political connections and ownership. I had the facts correct, but my concerns, I think, proved to be misplaced. It became very clear as the ship started listing to starboard that the magazine existed not as a tool of subtle political manipulation, but simply as an example of how people’s interests are not always going to be in line with our preconceived notions.
This weekend, for instance, I was listening to a gun talk show and the host couldn't understand how someone could be both an enthusiastic gun owner and in favor of gay marriage. (Apparently he is not aware that there is a significant, yet quiet, subset of gay gun owners whose passion for gun rights easily equals his.) These young shooters very often are supportive of both concepts, and it's something those people in leadership positions who see the political spectrum in black-and-white must face up to.
Here's the key to understanding the RECOIL reader: they are not one-issue people or one-issue voters; they are not gun rights activists first and foremost, whose points of view are shaped by that. And, though it may cost me some readers, I'm going to say for the record: THAT'S OK!
They don't have to be rabid gun rights activists to support the Second Amendment. They simply need to be educated as to what the Amendment means, why it's important to them, and how it is perfectly compatible with their desires for "social justice". We are not going to turn them into "conservative" voters, we're not going to stop them from voting the way they want to vote, and it would be hypocritical of us to try to do so or to abandon them because they won't. We have to accept that they're not going to vote gun rights exclusively, that they’ll consider them as one part of their whole world view, and that they're often going to support candidates who sport a "D" after their name.
If we as a community are serious - really serious - about broadening the support for firearms ownership in this country and ensuring the continuation of all that we’ve fought for, we have to accept the RECOIL readers for who they are. Our job is to move the Second Amendment up on their scale of importance, but we can’t do that if we can’t reach them. RECOIL was one very good way of reaching them.
There is a whole generation out there whose members like guns and would likely become the Second Amendment leaders of tomorrow, as long as we don't leave them blaming the "fudds" for taking away their voice. By taking an active interest in what happens over at RECOIL, we can ensure that there is a real outlet for those gun owners who are not well served (if served at all) by the existing publications and organizations.
Up until now we've heard only from Jerry Tsai, the editor of RECOIL. FIrst he said that he stood behind what he wrote, but that he simply worded it unclearly. (Remember that one of the reasons he cited for the gun being unavailable to "civvies", and with which he agreed, was that it served “no sporting purpose” and was bad for cops and soldiers - both common refrains of the Sarah Brady crowd.)
When the industry started taking notice he wrote a second "apology" where he claimed that what he printed was just what HK told him. I sincerely doubt that any company the size of HK uses words like "civvies" and "scumbags"; even a first-grader can read the item and see that it wasn't written by the maker of the product. The words were Jerry's, through and through, only this time he claims they really weren't.
The exodus of advertisers was swift; I named some of them on Monday, and in the intervening days many more have jumped ship - including industry behemoth Magpul, who virtually defines the modern concept of "shooting style". If you're aiming at the twentysomething crowd, and you don't have Magpul on board, you're nothing.
Apparently that reality has yet to occur to Joe Galloway, who is the Associate Publisher of RECOIL. He sent this communique (in its entirety) to advertisers this morning:
RECOIL Magazine’s Position:
In light of some of the comments and complaints made about a paragraph in a recent article about the Heckler & Koch MP7A1, Recoil wishes to make the following points clear:
· It is simply not credible for anyone to question Recoil’s support for, and commitment to, the Second Amendment. Recoil is first and foremost a gun lifestyle magazine, aimed at the modern shooting enthusiast.
· The opinions in the paragraph in question accurately reflected those of the manufacturer, and should have been reported as direct quotes. Recoil acknowledges the way the paragraph was written has caused unnecessary confusion.
· Jerry Tsai, a passionate gun enthusiast and the visionary behind Recoil magazine, will remain as editor of Recoil.
We thank you for your support and understanding.
Quite honestly, if you read the article, it was one paragraph that was actually quoted from the manufacturer and we did not state it that way. Recoil has 26,000 likes on face book and the magazine has only been out for three issues and issue number 4 is just hitting the streets. I honestly believe that this will not hurt the magazine. I have not lost anyone as a result of this and do not expect to.
Joe Galloway Associate Publisher 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords Phone 813-675-3493 Fax 813-675-3557 Email email@example.com Assistant: Jennifer Conklin 813-675-3507
Several things stand out. FIrst, Tsai admitted writing and agreeing with what was published in his first "apology". Now his publisher says Jerry didn't write it, an assertion which directly contradicts what his editor said. Then he has the temerity to claim that the magazine "has not lost anyone", despite the number of companies who have publicly cancelled their involvement with them.
As I said on Monday, the new generation of shooters needs their own magazine. This one, bankrolled by someone whose political associations are highly suspect, may not be it. The shooting fraternity still needs a magazine like RECOIL, but it needs to be one which doesn't compromise on the Second Amendment. Could RECOIL become that magazine? I have my doubts, especially after their publisher dug in his heels to support the status quo, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt if they truly repent.
Over the weekend a major firestorm erupted over RECOIL magazine's review of the HK MP7A1. In the article, the editor of the magazine - one Jerry Tsai - penned this:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands.”
Sounds just like something from Sarah Brady herself, doesn't it? Of course it does, and it caused more than a few Second Amendment stalwarts to go nuclear, like in this open letter to RECOIL from Rob Pincus (who first alerted me to the debacle whan I was on the range teaching a Combat Focus Shooting course - ah, the power of the iPhone!):
“DEAR RECOIL MAGAZINE,In reference to: “Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of…”
To say I disagree with your thoughts on the MP7 would be a gross understatement.
In fact, the ignorance of that statement is amazing to me. In case you didn’t notice, the only reason Glocks, M&Ps, and probably most of the guns that are paying for advertising space in your rag are built is to put down bad guys.
People may find “sporting purposes” for them… but gun games aren’t why they exist. If Wired or Maxim had said what you did, I wouldn’t care. You should’ve known better.
The vast majority of firearms that have been designed and built in the history of the tool have been built for defensive or offensive use. Regardless of the intended role, military, law enforcement or civilian, the overwhelming majority of firearms on shelves in gun shops and shown in the pages of your now incredibly disappointing magazine are designed for use by people against people. While the “shooting sports” label may be a banner that has hung over our industry for political and (sometimes) marketing reasons, your young magazine hasn’t exactly catered to the waterfowl or skeet crowds.
Personally, the MP7 is one of the few guns on the planet that I would rush out and pay H&K Retail Price for, if it were ever offered for civilian sale. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting them many times and training teams that use them. It is a great tool, but didn’t possess any magical power that made it reckless, dangerous or inappropriate for any responsible firearms owner to possess…. for whatever reason they desire.
I had high hopes for your publication. Now I expect people to stop reading it, advertisers to fade away and your writers to submit their work to other publications that actually understand the industry they are covering.
-Rob Pincus -I.C.E. Training Company”
For his part, Jerry - sensing an imminent backlash from readers and advertisers alike - came back with what he perceived to be damage control on RECOIL's Facebook page:
Hey guys, this is Jerry Tsai, Editor of RECOIL. I think I need to jump in here and clarify what I wrote in the MP7A1 article. It looks like I may not have stated my point clearly enough in that line that is quoted up above. Let’s be clear, neither RECOIL nor I are taking the stance on what should or should not be made available on the commercial market although I can see how what was written can be confused as such.
Because we don’t want anything to be taken out of context, let’s complete that quote and read the entire paragraph:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands. It comes with semi-automatic and full-auto firing modes only. Its overall size places it between a handgun and submachine gun. Its assault rifle capabilities and small size make this a serious weapon that should not be taken lightly.”
Let’ also review why this gun should not be taken lightly. In the article it was stated that the MP7A1 is a slightly larger than handgun sized machine-gun that can be accurately fired and penetrate Soviet style body armor at more than 300 yards. In the wrong hands, that’s a bad day for the good guys.
As readers of RECOIL, we all agree that we love bad-ass hardware, there’s no question about that. I believe that in a perfect world, all of us should have access to every kind of gadget that we desire. Believe me, being a civvie myself, I’d love to be able to get my hands on an MP7A1 of my own regardless of its stated purpose, but unfortunately the reality is that it isn’t available to us. As a fellow enthusiast, I know how frustrating it is to want something only to be denied it.
Its manufacturer has not made the gun available to the general public and when we asked if it would ever come to the commercial market, they replied that it is strictly a military and law enforcement weapon, adding that there are no sporting applications for it. Is it wrong that HK decided against selling a full-auto pocket sized machine gun that can penetrate armor from hundreds of yards away? It’s their decision to make and their decision they have to live with not mine nor anybody else’s.
I accepted their answer for what it was out of respect for those serving in uniform. I believe that we as gun enthusiasts should respect our brothers in law enforcement, agency work and the military and also keep them out of harms way. Like HK, I wouldn’t want to see one of these slip into the wrong hands either. Whether or not you agree with this is fine. I am compelled to explain a point that I was trying to make that may have not been clear.
Thanks for reading, – JT, Editor, RECOIL
Naturally, this looks-like-an-apology-but-really-isn't-when-you-actually-read-it-and-won't-someone-PLEASE-think-of-our-brave-boys-in-blue did nothing but stoke the fires, causing several prominent shooting industry partners, including Silencerco, ITS Tactical, and Panteo Productions, to publicly cancel all their ads in the magazine.
Tsai, now realizing that the survival of his emerging empire is in serious jeopardy (“Zumboed”, I believe, is the operative term) penned another apology on the RECOIL Facebook page that says he Really, Really Means It This Time:
I’d like to address the comments regarding what I wrote in the MP7A1 article in RECOIL issue 4. First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for any offense that I have caused with the article. With the benefit of hindsight, I now understand the outrage, and I am greatly saddened that it was initiated by my words. Especially since, I am an unwavering supporter of 2nd Amendment Rights. I’ve chosen to spend a significant part of both my personnel and professional life immersed in this enthusiasm, so to have my support of individuals’ rights called into doubt is extremely unfortunate. With that said, I retract what I wrote in the offending paragraph within this article. It should have had been presented with more clarity.
In the article, I stated some information that was passed on to me about why the gun is not available for civilian purchase. By no means did I intend to imply that civilians are not responsible, nor do we lack the judgment to own such weapons, if I believed anything approaching this, clearly I would lead a much different life. I also mentioned in the article that the gun had no sporting purpose. This again, was information passed on to me and reported in the article without the necessary additional context. I believe everything published in RECOIL up to this point (other than this story), demonstrates we clearly understand and completely agree that guns do not need to have a sporting purpose in order for them to be rightfully available to civilians. In retrospect, I should have presented this information in a clearer manner. Although I can understand the manufacturer’s stance on the subject, it doesn’t mean that I agree with it.
Again, I acknowledge the mistakes I made and for them I am truly sorry.
Sincerely, Jerry Tsai Editor RECOIL
Basically, it's an "I'm not a bad guy, just horribly incompetent and lack basic reading comprehension skills" sort of passing-the-buck excuse apology. I find that odd coming from an editor! Having worked for a number of editors, and knowing the hawk-like attention they pay to what comes out on their watch, it seems rather incomprehensible that one would blithely regurgitate a manufacturer's inflammatory talking points while simultaneously adding his own clear and obvious agreement.
Many people, including yours truly, might have bought it - except for this a little bit of information a reader over at The Truth About Guns uncovered: RECOIL is owned by Source Interlink, an investment firm bankrolled by one Ron Burkle. Burkle is described in an article at Mondotimes.com as "...a prominent Democratic party activist and fundraiser. He is a close friend of former President Bill Clinton, and investments in Yucaipa made by Clinton and his wife Senator Hillary Clinton have generated millions of dollars in income for them. “
Now it must be pointed out that I'm not a supporter of either political party; I despise all politicians equally. And, as I've reminded some of my more myopically partisan acquaintances, the "R" in "NRA" does not stand for "Republican." Still, one has to wonder about those ties.
My only knowledge of RECOIL comes from poking around on their website; the editorial direction is much too young and "extreme" for my tastes. However, I think it's important for the shooting community to have fresh outlets like this magazine to which the under-40 generations can relate. What appeals to me, as well as those before me and those just after me, is very different than what appeals to the 25-to-35 demographic. We don't need to push them away with the fuddy-duddies in Guns & Ammo or Shooting Times; they need THEIR magazines, with writers who talk to them in terms they're used to hearing. RECOIL was very obviously aimed at doing just that, and I think it's great - even if I'd never choose to read it myself. (I've got to admire their graphic sense, however!)
But at only four issues into its life, and given the nature of its ownership, I have to wonder: does the magazine really exist to get a certain demographic to think of guns not as something to aspire to owning, but rather to admire from afar in movies and videogames? Has anyone read all of their issues with a keen eye, looking for that kind of subtle editorial manipulation?
Perhaps Tsai's mistake wasn't what the magazine wrote, but rather a lack of subtlety in writing it. Discussion in the comments is encouraged, particularly because I've admitted to having never paid attention to the magazine until now. If you've read RECOIL, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
As you might have heard, the shooting industry suffered a terrible loss: Mark Craighead, founder and owner of Crossbreed Holsters, died unexpectedly on Friday.
Mark was an honest, upbeat guy who was not only a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but put his money where his mouth was when it came to educating people about guns, shooting, and self defense. I enjoyed our interaction during the relatively short time that I knew him, and I'm saddened for his employees and his family - which, from all accounts, were nearly indistinguishable. That’s just the kind of person he was.
The Truth About Guns alerted me last week to the new Taurus ad campaign. It’s the gun industry version of the sappy and vaguely patriotic campaign commercial, complete with an insipid soundtrack and earnest voice-over by the candidate. Well produced, but it’s going to take more than glitzy PR nonsense for me to take Taurus seriously as a defensive handgun maker.
Instead of telling us how they’re going to be great, I’d be more impressed if they just went out and did it. As much as I admire Jessie Duff, her presence doesn’t tell me anything about whether the guns actually work. I am, however, keeping an open mind. With me, it's all about the quality: if their guns get better, I'll recommend them. If not, I'll continue to tell people to stay away from them for any serious use.
The other day over at Forgotten Weapons, Ian wondered why there isn't more garage gun-building going on. Not in terms of putting together Franken AR-15s from parts kits - that's not "building", it's merely assembling - but actually constructing guns from scratch, inventing new ways of approaching the mechanics of firearms function. It's legal for an individual to do (you should research the laws yourself, but it boils down to not building an NFA weapon and not selling what you make), but very few people actually do it.
I really liked that article, and I was stunned to realize that I'd not thought about it before. He's right: this country has a proud history of the lone inventor working in his or her garage, and guns certainly are a part of that history. (To the men that Ian mentions I'll add that Karl Lewis, one of the country's most prolific and yet little-known gun inventors, came up with the idea and early prototypes of what would become the Dan Wesson revolver in his garage.) There are lots of amateur gunsmiths and hobbyists out there with pretty impressive machine shops tucked away in garages and basements, and yet we're not seeing new designs or concepts emerging.
Firearms aren't like automobiles, in the sense that they've become so sophisticated that a single person couldn't possibly design one. Guns, even the most complicated variety, are still relatively simple mechanisms. An individual - heck, even a pair of individuals - would have no problem engineering a new design. Putting one into mass production entails far more people (metallurgists and polymer engineers, just for starters) but prototyping can still be done without hordes of people.
Although he mentions CNC equipment, even that's not needed if you're doing prototypes. The price of manual mills and lathes has dropped like a rock in recent years, to the point that they're actually worth nearly as much in scrap value as they are as working machines. Even a modestly-heeled enthusiast could easily acquire all the equipment needed to craft an idea in metal.
Me? I'm not nearly creative enough. I probably possess the machining skills, but I'm not good at coming up with original ideas. (All of mine look suspiciously like Colt Pythons. Go figure.) Somewhere out there, however, there are no doubt people who can - but for some reason don't. Like Ian, I wonder where they are and what they're doing instead. -=[ Grant ]=-
Not sure how I found this civil war blog (Uncle? Tam? Someone else?), but it has a great article on Moore’s Patent Revolver - the first revolver with a swing-out cylinder (though not quite of the kind we're used to.)
It's also interesting in that it was one of the many guns which violated Rollin White's bored-through cylinder patent. History buffs may recall that White was a Colt employee who first presented his idea to allow a revolver cylinder to chamber metallic cartridges to his boss, Colonel Colt. Colt rejected it out of hand. White knew he was onto something, and left Colt to market his patent.
Messieurs Smith and Wesson, enterprising and astute gentlemen that they were, knew a good thing when they saw it and licensed White's patent. This agreement was really the foundation of their new handgun company, and they used it to produce their first revolver - the Model 1. That patent made Smith and Wesson rich, allowed them to grow like crazy relative to Colt, and should have made White rich too. It would have, if he'd bothered to consider the fine print.
You see, the licensing agreement required White to pursue all litigation against infringers himself. Moore, like many others, used White's patent without license - and White was obligated to go after his revolver and his company. White would sue, win, and then Smith & Wesson would somehow end up acquiring the infringing guns - which they would sell themselves. (I've never read the licensing agreement, so I can't be sure exactly how that transpired, but Moore's case isn't the only example.)
Ironically, Moore's company survived and was purchased by White's old employer, Colt, in 1870. More ironically, while Moore survived White's fortune didn't; his defense of his patent cost him nearly everything he made in royalties.
I'm thinking of a writing a firearms industry soap opera: "As The Cylinder Turns."
As chronicled here on Monday, the McMillan companies were told by a VP of Bank of America that their business was no longer desired by the bank - specifically because they manufactured firearms. Several things have happened since then:
- The story went national on the Cam Edwards and Glenn Beck shows, as well as all over the internet. Everyone, it seems, is talking about this. McMillan has garnered a lot of support, much of it newfound. (I’ve never watched Glenn Beck, but he makes some very good points - particularly about the bank’s possible political motivations. Aside from his obvious partisan stance, some of the things he says about BofA makes one wonder.)
- BofA has posted a spin-doctored and unattributed statement on their Facebook page which suggests Kelly McMillan lied about the whole thing, that they really do support gun owners, and that they support our troops and hire veterans (not sure what that has to do with anything.) The feedback on their statement has been voluminous and critical, as McMillan is a company known for ethical and honest behavior, while BofA is - well, not so much.
- McMillan reports that they've had a number of banks call on them to get their business, and will be making a decision soon. Seems that there are banks which would love to do business with an upstanding manufacturer like McMillan, and they may in fact have a new problem: too many good banks to choose from!
It’s worth noting that this whole thing started on Facebook and is being played out there, which in my mind solidifies the value of social media as both a source of breaking information and a vehicle for grassroots action. I think that’s fascinating.
In case you've missed the flap, last week Kelly McMillan (of the companies which bear the family name) posted to Facebook that he'd been visited by a senior VP of Bank of America, the company that's handled his company's banking needs for more than a decade. Seems that they no longer want his business because he makes evil guns. In Kelly's words (which I copied from his FB page, but I don't think he'll care):
McMillan Fiberglass Stocks, McMillan Firearms Manufacturing, McMillan Group International have been collectively banking with Bank of America for 12 years. Today Mr. Ray Fox, Senior Vice President, Market Manager, Business Banking, Global Commercial Banking came to my office. He scheduled the meeting as an “account analysis” meeting in order to evaluate the two lines of credit we have with them. He spent 5 minutes talking about how McMillan has changed in the last 5 years and have become more of a firearms manufacturer than a supplier of accessories.
At this point I interrupted him and asked “Can I possible save you some time so that you don’t waste your breath? What you are going to tell me is that because we are in the firearms manufacturing business you no longer want my business.”
“That is correct” he says.
I replied “That is okay, we will move our accounts as soon as possible. We can find a 2nd Amendment friendly bank that will be glad to have our business. You won’t mind if I tell the NRA, SCI and everyone one I know that BofA is not firearms industry friendly?”
“You have to do what you must” he said.
“So you are telling me this is a politically motivated decision, is that right?”
Mr Fox confirmed that it was. At which point I told him that the meeting was over and there was nothing let for him to say.
I think it is import for all Americans who believe in and support our 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms should know when a business does not support these rights. What you do with that knowledge is up to you. When I don’t agree with a business’ political position I can not in good conscience support them. We will soon no longer be accepting Bank of America credit cards as payment for our products.
Kelly D McMillan Director of Operations McMillan Group International, LLC 623-582-9635 www.mcmillanusa.com
If you have accounts with BofA, may I suggest that you close them?
It's fun to go back in time and revisit our earlier lives. I can remember leisure suits (though thankfully I was only a teenager when they were popular), when gas prices hit $1 for the first time ("a dollar for a gallon of gas? What's this world coming to?"), the first "brick" cel phones (only the truly important, really rich, or incredibly vain carried them), and looking at computer magazines drooling over 5mb hard disk drives. ("Five megabytes, all in one place!? What a wondrous time to be alive!")
I remember when the first PCs came out with a hard drive as a very expensive option. The Shugart ST-506 drive was 5mb capacity and cost something like $1500; it was soon replaced by the ST-412 10mb drive which was considerably less expensive and thus far more popular.
When MS-DOS v3.0 came out it supported a FAT16 file system architecture, which allowed drive sizes up to 32mb. There was a sudden jump to the larger capacity, and there were several 30mb or 32mb drives to choose from.
Up to then drives for microcomputers were all of the 5.25" size. When 3.5" disks debuted we thought that it was a miracle of miniaturization! Little did we suspect that things would get much smaller and of much higher capacity very quickly. What a wondrous time to be alive!
That was nothing, though. For some time I had a DEC PDP-11/70 in my garage, complete with a DEC RM02 Hard Disk Unit. That hard drive was the size of a dishwasher, weighed over 400lbs, used a removable five-platter disk pack measuring 14" in diameter, and held - get ready for it - a grand total of 67mb of data!
Today I have a couple of 1tb drives in a RAID the size of a box of graham crackers. What a wondrous time to be alive!
Ten years from now I'll probably be laughing at that statement.
Good if it brings new thinking and new dedication, bad if it scuttles existing industry relationships. From what I hear, there's been some of the latter - and aside from their formation of a new shooting team with Jessie Harrison, we've yet to see much of the former.
The TTAG piece is something of a coincidence because just a couple of days ago I was looking at the traffic reports for this site, including the search terms which bring people here. A HUGE percentage of the people who come here from Google do so because of a search about Taurus guns. My piece "Why I don't work on Taurus revolvers" has become the single most-read page on this site.
In fact, if you Google "Taurus gun reviews", this site is #6 in the result. Same for "Taurus revolvers". "Are Taurus revolvers any good" has me in the #2 spot, and "Taurus revolver reviews" puts me in first place!
This shocked me, because when I wrote that piece I wasn't thinking about search rankings - just addressing the very real issues of Taurus quality and why it's not worth my client's money for me to work on the things. The comments on that blog entry are a mix of "I think they're great and you're an idiot" to "you're right and I'll never spend another dime on one of their products."
We don't really know what Google's algorithms for search results are, but one speculation is that they adjust over time to reflect (among a whole host of other things) those sites that are the most often visited for any given search term. If that's true, Taurus definitely has an image problem in the marketplace - an image problem that isn't wholly undeserved.
It should be clear, based on my comments over a long period of time, that I have something of a love-hate relationship with Taurus. I like some of the unique things they do (except the freaking Judge line, of course), but I'm continually let down by their random quality control and indifferent engineering. Their revolvers are probably the best thing they make - I've heard very little other than horror stories about their autoloaders - but even those need serious attention if they're going to be considered in the same league with Ruger and Smith & Wesson.
I hope Kresser can make headway at Taurus, as I'd like to someday be able to brag about having one in my holster.
Last Thursday came the news that Ruger was forced to suspend orders because they were swamped. According to them, in the first quarter of this year (which has ended yet, mind you) they've received orders for over one million firearms. Think about that: one company, in less than three months, pre-sold one million guns.
That's huge. So huge, in fact, that Ruger can't ramp up production fast enough to meet demand, so they're suspending new orders until May. (I feel their pain, or perhaps now they feel mine!)
There's no single explanation for their sudden fortune, other than perhaps uncertainty: economic (we're still in a recession, no matter what the Beltway Boys say); political (it's an election year, and the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue isn't terribly popular with gun owners); and there may be a few people in there who actually believe the Mayan calendar nonsense (in retrospect, I should have written a book on "how to survive the end of the world with your revolver". Bet that would have sold even better than my terrific book!)
As one might expect, Ruger stock was way up on this news (13% on Thursday alone.)
I expect retail prices of Ruger guns to go up as supplies get tight. I'm also hearing rumblings about the beginnings of another ammunition run, so if you plan to take any classes this year (from me or anyone else) now might be a good time to get the ammo you're going to need.
(Editor’s Note: Ed’s back with an incredible article on firearm metallurgy! This originated as a reply to an email from a “DG”. Ed gives some phenomenal information on the metals used at his employer, Sturm Ruger, to build their guns. I think you’ll find it very interesting, if a little complex!)
DG: A toolmaker friend wants to know what types of metal are used in a revolver. Having read your posts, I figured you would probably have the answers. Please feel free to be as technical as necessary...(Editor's Note: remember, folks, he asked for it!)
EH: At Ruger chrome-moly revolver frames are typically 4140LS blended at the mill to specific (and proprietary) chemistry to give the desired structures in the cast parts. Mostly this involves holding the sulphur within very stringent limits which are lower than those used by other manufacturers, and having additional restrictive requirements to eliminate silicates or phosphorous to the extent that they are below the detection limit by x-ray diffraction. There are some other elements which are manipulated to get specific properties related to the casting process which I am not at liberty to discuss, but suffice to say the investment casting process varies depending upon whether you are working with CM (chrome moly) or SS (stainless steel.)
The stainless is vacuum melted and poured under controlled atmosphere, such as in argon or nitrogen, whereas the CM can be poured in ambient air, though oxidation protection is provided by pouring a powdered antioxidant over the open mould sinks after the sprue is full.
All of the steel used at Ruger is ordered in 100-ton heat lots and produced by a continuous casting process which ensures uniformity in the billets produced. The billets are then cropped, and rolled per Ruger's specs.
Cast parts generally incorporate about 50% virgin material, and 50% remelt scrap which results from Ruger's own operations. Scrap is kept separate by machining line and is tagged by heat lot and type of material so heat lot integrity can be maintained as long as they are running that batch. A sample of every lot of material cast in the foundry is sent to the lab for analysis, generally 4 times per shift.
The cast parts are visually inspected, annealed, straightened, then gaged, sorted and either x-ray or ultrasonically tested. Rough machining is done in the annealed state. Finish machining is done after final heat treatment.
Barrels and cylinders are not machined from castings, but are produced from bar stock or forgings, depending upon the gun model. Barrels and cylinders are generally heat treated to Rc35 Min at Ruger, whereas other makes are typically 20-24. Ruger frames are generally Rc 28-35, whereas a lot of S&W frames used in the Model 10 and similar guns won't even register on the C scale, but may be around 80-90 on the B scale.
The stainless material used for revolver frames and cylinders is a 410 series, whereas barrel stock is a modified 415. Lockwork is a 300 series stainless in both blued and stainless versions. Critical parts like barrels and cylinders are 100% Magnafluxed using the wet method with circular continuous magnetization.
After final assembly proofing is done with standard military HPT or SAAMI specification proof cartridges, one per chamber. I might note that some other makers do not proof all six chambers of a revolver, but try to cut corners on the proofing. If all six chambers are not proofed the cylinder is not equally stressed and you may not detect flaws such as secondary piping, or nonmetallic inclusions or laminations which might occur in the melt shop at the steel mill because the fellow cropping the billets was having a "bad hair day".
We set up our steel specs and receiving inspection on barrel and cylinder steel to pretty much eliminate that type of problem by specifying ingot position, and requiring on-line ultrasonic and x-ray testing of the bars, which were also bumper straightened and checked with eddy current for flaws before the mill length bars were loaded onto the trailer.
When we received a shipment we'd take samples, cutting the ends off of a specified number of bars, based on a statistical sampling plan, and run them into the lab to verify the structures and chemistries against the mill cert. We'd send the driver off to a local hotel for a steak and a shower on us while it was going on so he wouldn't be as unhappy if we rejected the batch and told him to take it back (which we did a few times when I was there).
When I was there only two mills, Timken and SKF, were able to consistently produce 4140LS to our specs for cylinder blanks and Mini 14 receivers and bolts. This material is almost identical to Navy-nuclear pressure vessel grade material, and exceeds normal gun-barrel quality. Similarly, the stainless was vacuum melted, argon-oxygen decarburized and ladle refined similar to a Navy-nuclear or aerospace bearing grade of material.
Most of the other makers buy standard AISI grades in gun barrel quality, typically 1137 for shotgun, blackpowder and .22 rimfire barrels and 4140 for centerfire barrels. Most stainless target rifle barrels are made of 415 or 416 series stainless, but both the re-sulphurized CM and the free machining SS (which produce "mirror finish quality") have sulphur or selenium additives to improve machinability. If the distribution of these elements is nonuniform, the clumped inclusions can form stress risers which impair ultimate strength. For this reason they cannot be used in applications such as M14 or M1A barrels which have complex exterior machining which might produce stress risers. Nor can they be used in hammer forging of barrels which will undergo significant reduction and elongation. Generally, steels used for cylinder blanks or for hammer forge barrel applications cannot exceed 0.006% max. S or Se.
We spent a lot of time and money at Ruger developing tooling, coolants and processes which would permit machining to good interior finishes with materials giving the maximum ultimate strength and ductility. We had our own vacuum heat treating facilities in-house for stainless, and gas furnaces for CM.
Some types of stainless, such as used for Mini-14 firing pins and barrels and Redhawk revolver cylinders, would get a nonconventional cryogenic stress relief rather than the usual low temperature (1045-1050 deg F) "bake" to normalize. This, combined with the particular chemistry we used, resulted in firing pins which were file hard but which you could bend into a pretzel shape without any cracks, and barrels you could elevate to cook off temperature with 180 rounds of full auto fire then set up a bullet-in-bore obstruction and fire a proof load in the hot barrel without it bursting. Try THAT with an M16!
We converted entirely to synthetic coolants, such as Trimsol 6-8% concentrate in distilled water while I was there and got all the chlorinated paraffins out of the shop entirely. We ran hourly refractometer readings on the coolant used in the CNC machining centers and had thermocouples at the machining stations to monitor the incoming coolant temperature and the exit coolant entering the scavenger pumps, and fed the used coolant through filtration, centrifuges and heat exchanging equipment before putting it back into the pipeline. We also set up our own water treatment and recycling plant to purify city water to remove the chlorine, because we could not use it to mix machine coolant. This also permitted us to recycle machine coolant water and dispose as hazardous wastes.
For those of you who might have wondered, I spent last week at the annual SHOT Show in sunny Las Vegas. It was a busy week for me, as I had several meetings lined up and those meetings generated still more meetings, all of which turned out to be for the good. In fact, I was so busy meeting and talking with other people that I didn't get to see as much of the show as I'd wanted!
That actually fit in with my plan, as I go to trade shows to network, not necessarily to see new products. From way back I learned that every magazine (and today every blog and discussion forum) will have tons of information on what was new at the show. I could learn all about the new stuff from the comfort of my living room, but I need to shake hands in order to get things done - that’s what a trade show is really for!
This was my first SHOT, and I must say that compared to other (larger) trade shows I've attended it is fairly compact and relatively easy to navigate. The show organizers could stand to do a little more work on attendee comfort - sideline benches and beverage sources were scarce, for instance - but overall it was pretty well set up. (The SHOT Show iPhone app, sadly, was more trouble than it was worth, forcing me to rely on an old-fashioned map that was surprisingly hard to lay my hands on.)
I didn't get there for Monday's media range day, an event which I determined I really didn't need to attend (a view which was reinforced after talking with those that did.) Tuesday was the first day of the actual show, and was primarily spent going to those meetings I'd arranged prior. A couple of those spawned the first of my on-the-fly meetings, wherein someone would say "gee, you should really meet so-and-so" and off we'd go!
My biggest meeting on Tuesday was with my publisher, Jim Schlender at Gun Digest Books. We talked about the Gun Digest Book of The Revolver, of course, but also some future products. I won't spill the beans just yet, but there will be more Grant Cunningham titles to come - along with some other great projects.
Me with Jim Schlender of Gun Digest. I’m the short one with the really cool hat.
(Sadly, I didn't get to meet my editor, Corrina Peterson, who had to stay back at headquarters to mind the store. I'll get a picture with her yet, even if it means flying back to Wisconsin to do it!)
Wednesday was more of the same, and one my favorite meetings was an interview with Paul Carlson at the Safety Solutions Academy podcast. I like Paul's podcast because he always has interesting topics and the production is well done. I'm a big fan, and it was an honor to be on his show. He was working like a madman, doing a half-dozen interviews a day, and you can hear mine at this link.
That afternoon I was able to get out a little bit and see some of the actual show, rather than catching glimpses of it as I passed through on my way to see someone else. I met up with Omari Broussard and Eli Brown of 10x Defense, along with Bryan Collins (a low-key but respected law enforcement instructor who is slowly moving into the private sector) and as a group we went to some of the booths that interested us.
I also got a rare chance to sit down and talk about training concepts with Omari and Eli, who are working on a unique approach to integrated instruction that I think will make some waves in the training community. These guys are smart, organized, and motivated, and I can see 10x Defense becoming a model for the rest of us in a few years.
Thursday morning I got around to see the major revolver manufacturers, visiting with Colt (whose people liked to talk); Ruger (who would talk but didn’t have much to say); and S&W (who wouldn't give me the time of day.) I also checked in at some of the booths that were around them, including that of Honored American Veterans Afield. This is a group that's doing good work with a small budget, and deserves all our support.
I made it a point not to stop at the Chiappa Arms booth, as the grapevine had alerted me that I was persona non grata for daring to point out, in print, some of the Rhino's flaws. I also didn't stop at the execrable GunsAmerica booth, but I did (very discreetly) flip them off as I went past. (Yes, I know it's childish. Yes, I know it's beneath my dignity. Yes, I know they probably didn’t even notice. But it felt so darned good!)
Thursday afternoon was jam-packed: first, I was invited to a meeting of some of the movers and shakers in the training business. A low-key call had gone out to meet up at a specific place and time, and you wouldn't believe the talent that showed up! It was an honor to be invited to take part in that informal but influential gathering. It gave me a chance to meet some of my heroes in the field, including Claude Werner (something of a legend among those whose opinions count) and Dr. Robert Smith of Direct Action Medical Network (who developed the "human weapon system" concepts.) When great minds get together great things happen, and I think 2012 is going to see more than its share of great things in the training world.
One of my Tuesday meetings had unexpectedly spawned another meeting which was scheduled immediately after our instructor get-together. It proved to be extremely intriguing. You never know how such things will pan out, but it might just result in something really cool. I'll let you know more as things develop.
Friday was "shiny rock day", a term coined by Diane Walls (an honest, reliable writer whose work can be seen regularly in Concealed Carry and Women & Guns magazines.) Along with her husband Tom ("Pharmacist Tommy"), we walked around the show without any preconceived plan, but rather looking for things that caught our eye the way that shiny baubles dominate a magpie's attention. We found plenty before the show closed for this year. A long drive home (18 hours!), and here I am!
I'll be updating the blog daily until I get through all of the material I gathered. Coming up this week: yet another gun maker is clueless on the concept; a new line of revolvers from an unlikely place; you won't believe who was showing yet another prototype AR-15; the most impressive autoloading pistol I've seen in years; rifle scopes I'm lusting after; keeping your first aid kit handy; a real Gat; the only 1911 I'd want to own; and more. Stay tuned!
Then, perhaps instead of using GunsAmerica, resolve instead to use one of the quality gun auction sites like GunBroker (my personal favorite) and AuctionArms.
But hey, I’m just a nobody. What do I know?
-=[ Grant ]=-
P.S.: Here’s the link to the original article. You have to read the comments, as Mr. Helinski puts his foot in his mouth more than once. My favorite quote: “You’ve never heard of us, and we are the industry leader in internet readership, after 15 years of hard work and dedication. Why should I have to wait for you to finish taking a video with your phone at range day?” - Paul Helinski, GunsAmerica
I don't know if this qualifies as a rant, but I'm annoyed when a gun is advertised as being "built with [insert well known firearm brand] machinery." Depending on the gun being peddled, you'll hear Colt machinery, S&W machinery, even Beretta machinery.
It's horse excrement.
Colt doesn't make machinery, and neither does S&W. The machines they use are produced by machine tool manufacturers; in the old days, before we allowed our basic manufacturing capabilities to be decimated, that would have been companies like Cincinnati and Monarch. Today that’s likely to be Komo and Okuma.
The cutters those machines use, for the most part, will be made by companies like SGS and Hanita. On occasion certain specialized cutters may be produced in-house, but if they're needed on a production basis the company will draw up the specs and have them made in quantity by a company that specializes in making cutters. Ditto for EDM (electro-discharge machining) tools and electrodes.
What things, aside from their products, will the company almost always make themselves? Jigs, workholders, and certain kinds of molds. Together those are generically referred to as 'tooling', and when people say that a certain gun is produced on 'machines' what they really mean is that they're using jigs that were at one time produced by the named company.
The ironic thing is that tooling wears over time and has to be replaced regularly. A gun that a decade ago might actually have been made on tooling that came from the larger manufacturer almost certainly won't today - the tooling will have been replaced, perhaps more than once, in that time period. The new tooling is unlikely to have been made by the original company.
Tools don't make guns. People do. It's the dedication of the machinists and foundry workers and quality control people that make a gun, not a machine or a jig. The milling center may have once been used by Colt or S&W or Beretta, but today it's operated by whatever company is making the product now. It's their people, their talent, and their management that dictates the quality of the gun you'll get.
Who once owned the machine is as relevant to the gun produced as the previous owner of your car is to your speeding ticket.
My wife and I trekked up to Firearms Academy of Seattle yesterday to spend a little time talking about revolvers, books, and assorted nonsense. Massad Ayoob and Gail Pepin were there, along with Marty and Gila Hayes, Jennie Van Tuyl, and several dogs. We recorded a rather raucous round-table edition of the ProArms Podcast (wherein I actually say some nice things about Taurus, and try to say some nice things about the Chiappa Rhino but fail miserably.)
Marty gave us a status report on the Armed Citizen's Legal Defense Network as well as a sneak peek of what's to come. As I pointed out last week, the ACLDN is unique in the field; it's the only place where the armed citizen can get high-level education and legal assistance in the event he or she is involved in a self defense incident. Glad to hear that they're growing and expanding their programs.
Jennie Van Tuyl and her husband Bill own Rivendell Sales, a rather unique gun store. Among other things they specialize in customizing the Remington 20 gauge autoloading shotgun for defensive use, an activity which I wholeheartedly applaud.
I'm a huge fan of the 20 gauge as a defensive tool. No matter how well you shoot a 12 gauge, you'll shoot a 20 gauge better simply because of the huge reduction in felt recoil. The only difference between them is the payload; they both throw their pellets at the same velocity, it's just that the 12 throws a few more. As Mas Ayoob is fond of saying, if you shoot a bad guy the only person who'll be able to tell whether it was a 12 or a 20 is the coroner, and only then by counting the white specks on the x-ray.
(One point I think is often overlooked: many 12 gauge owners use the lower-velocity "tactical" buckshot loads to help tame the recoil of their gun. It's my firm belief that those loads have less effectiveness than a full-power 20 gauge with the same recoil. Any way you slice it, the 20 gauge is the best balance of lethality and shootability that exists in the shotgun world.)
The Remington autoloaders are slim, trim, light shotguns that are a joy to heft after lugging around one of the same guns in 12 gauge. Many years ago my wife and I standardized on the 20 gauge and picked up a Remington 1100 LT-20 Youth Synthetic model. The youth guns had a shorter stock than the regular line, a feature which both of us appreciate. Since there was no one who really worked on the 20 gauges back then, I installed a 20" smoothbore barrel with rifle sights, reamed the forcing cone, and generally spruced it up as a home defense gun. Today the Van Tuyls can handle all that and more, giving you a superb handling, easy shooting shotgun without having to become your own gunsmith.
Check out their site. (I’m jealous of the wood in their stocks.)
I think, however, that both Tam and pdb wasted a lot of effort actually analyzing the video. They could have simply used my theorem: quality of instruction in a video is inversely proportional to the sound pressure level of the cheesy heavy metal music used on the soundtrack.
I will freely admit that I'm usually not the hippest guy in the room. Still, I can't for the life of me fathom the whole zombie meme in the shooting world.
Shooters talk about the 'zombie apocalypse', discuss guns suitable for zombies, and similar topics. Some of the gun radio shows/podcasts are featuring regular zombie topics, and questions about the best zombie calibers are staples in the gun forums.
I kinda-sorta understand the desire to humorously justify one's acquisitive nature ("but I need this gun in case the zombies come!"), but what I can't figure out are the zombie targets.
Now the big boys have gotten into the action, selling expensive full-color photorealistic zombie targets replete with oozing sores and tattered clothing. (Frankly I think they look like just another day at People of Wal-Mart, but maybe it's just me.) I'm told that they're for fun, a way to enjoy a trip to the range. A game, if you will.
The issue, I suspect, is that I've never thought of guns as objects of fantasy. Either that, or I'm subconsciously compensating for the fact that I didn't jump on this trend early and make a lot of money!
You've probably heard about the flap MKS Distributing caused last week. MKS, a former promoter of Charter Arms, is the primary distributor for Chiappa guns - including the Rhino revolver.
Chiappa disclosed that starting in 2012 all their guns would carry an RFID chip. The chip is attached at the time of manufacture, and presumably contains information such as the gun's serial number, place of origin, lot number, and that sort of thing. Because it's applied at the factory, it can't contain any data on the eventual purchaser.
I can see why Chiappa would want to do this, even if their government wasn't requiring them to: it makes for more accurate inventory of a controlled item. While a barcode on a box ensures that the box is present, it doesn't say anything about the contents. The RFID tag allows inventory of actual units, as opposed to the boxes which surround them. Were I in that business, I'd probably consider something similar to prevent what is termed "leakage" - mysterious disappearances from stock.
RFID inventory tags are not new, but their application to firearms is. It's this novelty, the potential for abuse, and how their distributor has handled the news which is causing problems.
When the news hit the blogosphere, some of which contained rampant and ill-informed speculation, the distributor (through their PR agent - with whom I am familiar and not all that fond) sent out a scathing release belittling not just the public's fears but also the blogger's concerns. It was that haughty and scornful statement which has turned the public against Chiappa and, by extension, MKS. The release, obviously intended to quash rumors, contained some erroneous information of its own.
There are, as I see it, two relevant facts. First, the RFID chip contains information about the gun, and only about the gun. It contains nothing about the purchaser or user. Second, an RFID chip can in fact be read at a considerable distance, although the extent of such reading is a matter of debate. I think it's generally accepted that a read distance of a few yards is easily doable, much more than the “2-3 inches” that MKS/Chiappa insists.
Beyond those two facts, nothing is clear. Could an RFID chip be used in the future as some sort of marker for a concealed weapon? Possibly. Could they be used to track a buyer? That might be a bit overblown, but the technology exists. Is it happening now, or could it in the near future? Not probable. Could legislation be introduced tomorrow requiring all guns without an RFID chip be destroyed to facilitate some draconian tracking scheme? Extremely unlikely. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, mind you, but I don’t think it’s worth your or my time to worry about. At least, not at the current stage of implementation.
It's the attitude, the dismissive manner in which the concerns of the buying public were addressed that's really at issue. Many people are calling for a boycott of MKS/Chiappa for that reason.
I find this amusing, inasmuch as Smith & Wesson - through their owners, Saf-T-Hammer Inc. - foisted a dubious internal locking system on the public and similarly (though far more politely) dismissed buyer's concerns over the efficacy and reliability of the mechanism. Many people, including yours truly, called for a boycott of S&W. It didn't happen, at least to any meaningful degree, and today their business is booming. What's more, you can go to any gun forum and find lots of people who proclaim in the face of evidence to the contrary that the locks are just fine. That’s what happens when corporate blunders are well handled.
People will find a reason to buy what they want to buy; giving them that reason is the job of the PR people, but sometimes that effort backfires - like it did here. Based on my past interaction with all three parties involved, I’m not surprised.
MKS and Chiappa are very small companies and I doubt that they can easily weather the storm that their inept PR has brewed. This faux pas may be the end of their aspirations in the American market, but I think it's a little silly for us to manufacture a reason not to buy their products when the flaws of those products should be reason enough to avoid them.
I've never been much on television commercials; I routinely ignore them, and the most annoying I mute. Such is the case with Larry Potterfield's ads for Midway USA. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a satisfied Midway customer and will no doubt continue to be, but it's just that I can't stand Mr. Potterfield's voice. He annoys me to no end.
However, I think it's worth celebrating the fact that he is among the most generous figures in the shooting industry. He, his wife, and his companies have donated huge sums to the shooting world over the last few years. The latest is a $1 million grant to the National Wild Turkey Federation for a new youth shooting sports program they have planned.
A million dollars. That's a lot of scratch by anyone’s standards, and it's not the first gift he and his wife have given out - to all kinds of shooting activities and organizations. Ol’ Larry may not make the best pitchman in the world, but he's doing right by the shooting fraternity.
This is SHOT Show week in Las Vegas, and you'll notice that I'm not there. I'd love to be, but I've got far too much work to do to justify taking the time off right now. Well, that - and the fact that I spent more money than I should have last year. There are times when being independently wealthy would be a welcome burden!
I'm not alone. At least one well-known gunwriter is also on the sidelines, snowed under by a combination of work and deadlines. That doesn't mean that either of us have to be out of touch with the goings-on, however.
Last year I finally found a legitimate use for Twitter: following what was new and unusual at SHOT. I found out about a number of products that I didn't see reported anywhere but in people's tweets. I also know people who are prowling the show floor, and they're usually kind enough to forward the interesting stuff to me. That is, when they're not attending all of those private parties and digging the latest gossip. Which I'd be doing if I weren't working.
Next year, I'm going to pack up and go regardless of my workload. Of course I said that last year, but this time I really, really mean it. Just like last time.
On Monday I got an email from a reader who alerted me to this press release from the Discovery Channel. Seems they're premiering a new reality series about a Louisiana gunsmithing concern and their day-to-day activities building, selling, appraising, researching, and shooting a wide variety of firearms.
Titled "Sons of Guns", it starts on Wednesday, January 26th. (Hmmm....trying to take a bite out of the Outdoor Channel's "Wednesday Night at the Range", are we?) It sounds interesting, and I'll no doubt tune in - unless it turns out to be a sensationalistic train wreck like Top Shot, of course. In that case I’ll curse their waste of my extremely limited television viewing time!
Though I haven't checked the intertubes for confirmation, I suspect that there's a lot of talk about how this is somehow proof we're winning "the culture war" around guns. Don't get me wrong, I think mainstreaming gun ownership and use is a good thing, but I've always been uncomfortable with the whole premise of the "gun culture." I don’t believe that we should be Balkanizing our country by creating our own subculture, but instead educating the rest of the country that responsible gun ownership and use is an indelible part of our shared American culture.
(If one accepts the notion that a tool can and should become the identity of a societal subset, then why isn’t there a "cast iron frying pan culture" or a "socket wrench culture”?)
Folks, when ESPN finally figures out that POKER IS NOT A FRICKIN' SPORT and instead gives Todd Jarrett and Julie Goloski-Golub a show of their own, then I'll celebrate. Until then I'll simply watch and be happy that someone is catering to our uniquely American interests.
I received a bunch of emails from last week's story on the reintroduction of the Dan Wesson Model 715 by CZ-USA.
Some of them centered around the gun's MSRP, which is reported as being $1200. If the gun is of superb quality, that's not an unreasonable figure. Think of it this way: Freedom Arms has no trouble selling their high-end single actions, and the S&W Performance Center - despite putting out some embarrassingly bad examples - seems to sell all of the expensive revolvers they can produce.
If the new DW is of sufficient quality, the price should not be a barrier except to those who've grown accustomed to the cheap used examples that still abound in the market. A new DW would thus have to be substantially better than the best Monson guns available to justify their price tag. I'm not sure CZ is up to the task.
Another email came from someone who contacted CZ for more details. CZ reportedly said that they're making only 500 of these models, and that they couldn't make any more because they didn't have the blueprints!
The former Serva crew certainly had the plans, and if CZ-USA didn't get them in their acquisition of DW it would be a stupendous blunder. I suspect the truth is a little more pedestrian: CZ still has the former owner's run of 715 frames, which they realized could generate more revenue being sold than scrapped. If the writer of the email is correct in that they're only making 500 guns, this would tend to support my theory.
It wouldn't be the first time. When CZ-USA acquired DW from Bob Serva’s company they trotted out a few large frame models in the odd .460 Rowland chambering - coincidentally, the same chambering that Serva himself had hyped. CZ promised that other calibers would follow but the entire line quietly disappeared.
At the time I suggested the only guns CZ-USA had were those that were in process at the time of the acquisition, and that no others were likely to be made. The passing years seem to have validated that opinion, and I suspect the same thing is being done with this limited run of the 715.
All that aside there is still an opening in the market for a good quality double action revolver, and with the appropriate amount of work the DW could fill that space. As I've said before: it will take some re-engineering of certain parts of the gun, flawless construction quality, and a company that displays a solid commitment to the product.
So far CZ-USA has shown us all but three of those attributes.
I’m actually anxious to eat crow on this, as I'd love to see Karl Lewis' great design back on the market. I sincerely hope CZ-USA steps up to the plate and proves me wrong, but we now have a half-decade of history which suggests they're not going to.
Got an email recently from a fellow who noticed that CZ-USA is once again illustrating new Dan Wesson 715 revolvers on their site. As you may recall, this is an old story; you can read it here, here, and here.
When CZ-USA acquired Dan Wesson in 2005, the first thing they did was promise that revolvers would be an important part of their business. They even showed a prototype "new 715" at SHOT that season. Time passed and nothing more came of the 'new' 715, though they continued to show the prototype.
Fast forward to what is nearly 2011 and they're once again promising revolvers 'any day now'. Pardon my cynicism, but I'm not about to believe anything until I see the guns on dealer's shelves. Even then, if they're not perfect - and I do mean perfect in every way - they'll be too little, too late. CZ-USA dropped the ball, and it'll take a lot more than empty promises to get me back into their court.
The Outdoor Channel hosts a variety of shooting shows these days, and here's our chance to encourage them to show more!
Every year they have a contest, called the Golden Moose Awards (I know, I know) for the fan's favorite shows. Visitors to their site can vote in several categories, including Best New Series, Favorite Series, and Favorite Host. I encourage everyone to vote!
Why? (Other than the chance to win some cash?) Because the staple of most outdoor programming is the old fashioned huntin' and fishin' show. They dress them up with different hosts (why oh why do they always have southern accents?) but the format remains the same. It appeals to a specific demographic, one that despite a lifetime of hunting and fishing I just don't fit. (Fishing on television is substantially more boring than golf on television. Hard to believe but true.)
Outdoor Channel has taken some gambles by lessening their dependence on the blaze orange crowd and putting on some general shooting shows: American Shooter, Impossible Shots, Shooting Gallery, and more. The last couple of seasons they've taken bigger risks with dedicated tactical/training shows: SWAT Magazine TV, The Best Defense, and American Guardian. It's time to show them that we appreciate their programming!
The Revolver Liberation Alliance endorses specific candidates in the Golden Moose Awards. Please go to Outdoor Channel's voting page and cast your ballots for the following:
Fan Favorite Best Overall Series: The Best Defense Fan Favorite New Series in 2010: S.W.A.T. Magazine TV Fan Favorite Hunting Series: - No Choice - Fan Favorite Fishing Series - No Choice - Fan Favorite Host(s): Rob Pincus
You only get one vote (even if you do live in Chicago), so make it count!
Yesterday a gun shop in Portland was treated to a large police response because - gasp! - someone was carrying a gun into the store. We're used to the law enforcement agency of our state's biggest city being in the news, as their overreactions are legendary around these parts, but what really got the chuckle meter going was that it happened at a store of which the local folks aren’t all that fond.
You may think that I’m making things up, but here are a couple of threads on the regional gun discussion forum. Any of you have stores like this in your neighborhood?
Someone sent me this link to a tale of a Ruger Redhawk whose barrel had parted company from the frame. It's an old story; not this particular occurrence, but the problem in general.
Seems that a certain Canadian manufacturer of simulated munitions now has some competition. I've always disliked the existing company's elitist insistence on only selling to police and military buyers, and Speer, the maker of the new product, looks to change that. Their new product, Force On Force, will be sold not just to the public sector but to "professional instructors" as well. They've even got portable enclosed shoothouses available! Cool stuff from a solid, responsible AMERICAN company. (Thanks to Fear & Loading for the tip!)
DPMS was apparently the prime sponsor for a match called the "Tri-Gun Challenge", which was recently cancelled. What's interesting isn't the match, but rather why it isn't going to happen this year. The range on which it was to be held was slapped with an order prohibiting the firing of handguns on the property. When the range/club was founded 30 years ago, they allowed all kinds of guns to be shot. In 1995 they were issued a conditional use permit for a trap and rifle range, and their neighbors apparently are alleging that the shooting of handguns violates that permit!
This is hardly unusual. My wife and I belonged to a gun club a few years back, a club which had been in existence since 1952. The conditional use permit under which we operated stated that no camping was allowed. Once a year, however, the Boy Scouts used the club facilities for a two day shooting party, with a sleepover the intervening night. The kids camped out in the classroom, but a couple of the den mothers brought camping trailers (for obvious reasons.) One particularly nosy neighbor, a recent transplant from another state, spotted the trailers and notified the county. We were hit with a similar order for violating the CUP.
People with an irrational fear of guns will always find a way to cause problems. Don't believe for an instant that because we won in the Supreme Court, the gun prohibitionists have been defeated.
Over the years I've gotten a number of inquiries about becoming a gunsmith. I've dashed off short answers to some, but was forced to ignore many others simply due to the amount of information that the answer demands. Here in full (or as full as I'm going to get) is my advice on becoming a gunsmith.
First let's consider what kind of gunsmith we're talking about. Some "gunsmiths" are really nothing more than parts changers - people who can disassemble a gun, manage to figure out what part needs replacing, order one from Brownell's, and reassemble the gun with the new part. It might even run when they're done! At this level there is very little money to be made; most such people are employed at minimum wage, perhaps slightly better, by sporting goods and "box" stores. They'll usually spend most of their time mounting cheap scopes on cheap rifles - that is, when they're not stocking shelves and attending to other rather menial retail tasks. This is the kind of job that a mailorder "gunsmithing" course qualifies one to hold.
The next step up is the ability to fit ready-made parts and make minor adjustments to actions. If the timing of someone's S&W revolver is off, people at this level can drop in a new hand, do the necessary minor fitting, and hand the customer a gun which functions again. A person with these skills might be able to do simple action work, smoothing out the roughest parts of a trigger, do bedding jobs on hunting guns, or perhaps assemble an AR-15 from parts and perhaps have it function correctly. The money's a little better, but one is still spending a lot of time putting scopes on WalMart rifles. Such people are most likely working for someone else - perhaps a local gun store - because there isn't enough value in what they do to run a specialty shop.
This intermediate level MIGHT be learned via correspondence, IF the person is mechanically inclined, inquisitive about the results, and motivated to buy many broken guns and learn on them. It does require hands-on experience, but the driven person can probably learn on his/her own as long as enough reference materials are procured.
At the top you have true gunsmiths. These are the talented men and women who can make and fit stocks from scratch, who can fabricate metal parts when necessary, who can diagnose complex problems and correct them the first time, who can make a worn out and abused gun look and work like new again. These people can actually make a living as gunsmiths, sometimes a quite decent living, and virtually always work for themselves.
It takes a broad range of skills and interests to be such a gunsmith, though most (like me) specialize in one area. At this level the most important skills are not necessarily gun-specific: machining, welding, polishing and heat treating of metal, woodwork, and finishing for both wood and metal. These are skills that need a certain amount of equipment, and can't be learned from a mailorder course.
Many such gunsmiths acquired knowledge from one of the dedicated gunsmithing schools, though you'll find some very well-known gunsmiths either came from a related field and self taught the relevant firearms knowledge, or apprenticed to a Master in the trade.
I'll confine the rest of my comments to becoming a true gunsmith as I've defined the term. If you're serious about making a living, this is the level to which you need to aspire.
First off, understand that you'll need excellent mechanical aptitude, an inquisitive nature, and a drive to do nothing but the best in order to succeed. Without each of those, you simply won't make it in this field.
If you are starting from scratch, the best course of action is probably to attend one of the dedicated gunsmithing schools. There are perhaps a half-dozen around the country, but the two I'm familiar with are both in Colorado: Trinidad College and Colorado School of Trades. I've met graduates from both schools and have been impressed with their skill and professionalism. This isn't to say that the other schools don't turn out good graduates, only that these are the schools whose graduates are familiar to me.
If for some reason you can't make it to such a school, all is not lost. It will take a little longer, and you'll have to do it piecemeal, but it can be done with resources that are likely to be in your area. What follows will sound roundabout, but should serve to impress upon you the wide range of skills a gunsmith must have.
If you're not mechanically inclined, you'll need to be introduced to the principles of mechanical devices. Auto repair courses are available in every community college and are a great way to get used to seeing how parts interact, anticipating and diagnosing problems, and generally getting comfortable with complex mechanisms. (On a personal note, I find many people today surprisingly averse to getting their hands dirty. Gunsmithing can be a dirty job, and if you're at all squeamish about such things an automotive course would be a good attitude adjuster.)
Many adult education programs across this country feature courses in clock repair, usually taught as a hobby to retired folks by retired watch & clockmakers. These classes have most of the advantages of an auto repair class, along with getting accustomed to working with small parts. Starting this way will put you in good company: I learned my mechanical skills as a teenager when I became a clock and watchmaker, and another gunsmith you may have heard of - Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat - started out as a watchmaker, too.
The next step is to develop some relevant skills in metalwork. The best way to do this is by taking every machine shop and welding class your local community college offers. Learn how to work with metal: forming, machining, hardening and tempering, finishing. If you plan to do serious rifle work, you'll probably need to take classes in woodcarving and fine furniture building too. The things you'll learn in those classes are the things I do every single day, and without that breadth of knowledge I could never accomplish the work that I do. The "gun stuff" is relatively easy in comparison, as long as those basic skills are in place.
If a tool and die making course is available to you, it would be a great advantage to take it.
Once you have those skills in hand, you'll need to get some extensive firearm-specific knowledge. You have several avenues; first, you can attend some specialized (limited duration) classes at the aforementioned schools to learn how to apply those skills to guns. Another avenue is to take classes from a well-known gunsmith. Ron Power and Bill Laughridge, for example, both offer weekend classes on specific topics. Finally, you could apprentice to a master gunsmith and work for him/her on an occasional basis to pick up what you need. (Before anyone asks, no - I'm not currently interested in taking on an apprentice!)
An extremely talented and motivated person could, possibly, get this information from books, but not without the base skills discussed above, and certainly not without mechanical aptitude.
Because most of the good gunsmiths work for themselves you'll need to have some talent in business management and sales/marketing. Since this is a people business, those with unpleasant personalities or poor communication skills will be at a disadvantage. You have to like guns and you have to like gun owners! These days a working knowledge of using the internet as a business tool is almost a necessity, as is a good website.
To get started will require some capital investment on your part. You'll need a suitable lathe, milling machine, welding equipment, a wide variety of hand tools, air compressor, benches, tooling for the lathe and mill, and a seemingly endless list of specialized - and expensive - gunsmithing tools. A skilled machinist (which you should be if you've followed my advice) can make many of them, but there are many more that really need to be purchased. That runs into money!
How much money depends on what you plan to do and how good you are at bargain hunting, but you're unlikely to get in for less than $20,000 unless you run into a string of screaming good deals. (That’s on top of your schooling, of course.) I’ve heard from a couple of gunsmiths who’ve done it recently, and they tell me that two or three times that figure may be more realistic if you’re buying mostly new tools. What you specialize in will have a dramatic effect on your investment.
You'll need to have the resources to make that level of financial commitment, plus the additional resources to weather the inevitable startup phase. Plan on being without a solid income for at least a year as you build your business. Every truly capable gunsmith I've met has done it in a matter of months, but that's not a guarantee that you can or that your market can support such growth. Plan for the worst, and if it doesn't happen so much the better!
Finally, you'll find lots of failed "gunsmiths" in the internet forums who will be glad to tell you how hard the gunsmithing trade is: how expensive it is to get started, how you can't make a living at it, and so on. Keep in mind that you won't find too many successful gunsmiths hanging around those places, because we're frankly too busy to bother!
Yes, it's a tough business. Guess what? All businesses are tough. I've owned a number of business concerns in my life, and helped start several others, and none of them were easy. Gunsmithing is no different. Don't listen to the naysayers who got in thinking it would be a sure thing, who thought that they could succeed despite being ignorant and obnoxious. If you have the skills and the business acumen, if you like dealing with people, and finally if you like guns and shooting, you can be a successful gunsmith. All it takes is hard work!
The Truth Is Out There: I've mentioned Kathy Jackson's CorneredCat site as the best resource on the web for those women who want to get involved in the firearms world. This week on the ProArms Podcast, Gail Pepin interviews Kathy about one of her all-time classic articles: "How to Make Your Wife Hate Guns." The interview is even better than the article, and is a must-listen for any man out there who wishes for his wife/significant to start shooting.
Guys, I'm not kidding - you need to listen to this podcast. Kathy's interview starts about 20 minutes in, preceded by Dr. Paula Bratich talking about concealed carry in Illinois.
Better Late Than Never: Prior to the SHOT show, The FIrearms Blog reported that Ruger was going to show a .357 version of the LCR. It was only slightly premature, as Ruger showed it off at last week's NRA Convention. Not for me, thanks, but I'm sure that there are those who will love it.
Winchester's top sellers:The Firearm Blog reports that Winchester recently released their top five (even though there are six listed!) pistol cartridges. The 9mm is not surprisingly in first place, and that favorite of law enforcement, the .40 S&W, is justifiably in the number two slot. Coming into third place is a bit of a dark horse - the venerable .38 Special.
What's most curious is the .380 ACP in fifth place. According to a Federal rep I talked with a few years back, the .380 wasn't a big seller. If I recall the conversation correctly, they only made a run of that caliber every other year, as they could easily warehouse enough for the intervening period. I suspect a combination of many new guns chambered for the round, and the big buying frenzy that resulted in widespread ammo shortages, conspired to create a pent-up demand. Once everyone has gotten their box (or two) of the 9mm Corto, then sales will drop back down to normal.
A little problem at Gunsite: According to AZcentral.com, a man was shot in the abdomen at Gunsite a few days ago. If you’ve seen pictures of their facility, you’ve seen the shoothouse with catwalks above which allows observation of the proceedings. Apparently a man was on the catwalk and silhouetted by overhead lights; the student saw his outline and shot it. Luckily the man survived the incident and is recovering.
Gunsite says that students are instructed not to shoot toward the catwalk, but the excitement of playing searchg-and-destroy games often leads to instructions being forgotten. If you have a facility in which you've hidden shoot targets, then challenged someone to find and engage those targets (especially under any artificial time constraints), such forgetfulness should not come as a total shock.
Yes, the guy who pulled the trigger is responsible for his rounds, and I am in no way excusing his behavior. However, it's the instructor's job to ensure that the benefit of any training outweighs the risks. I'm not sure what the benefit of having a live observer perched on a catwalk in view of the shooter is, but setting up a bank of monitors and some cameras with 2-way audio capability brings the risk to nearly zero. In this age of cheap, remote-controlled IP cameras, the practice of having people suspended above a line of fire is decidedly antiquated.
SWAT Magazine TV, hosted by the irrepressible Rob Pincus, has been nominated for a Telly Award at YouTube. It's not often that gun-related shows get the recognition they deserve, but in this case we can all help the cause.
I mentioned my Twitter revelation last time, and one of the more active tweeters (twitterers?) during SHOT was 230grain.com. I'd never seen the site, but it has some of the very best coverage I've seen. Not in terms of quantity, but in terms of quality.
Most of the coverage out there is of the "here's a picture, and if you're lucky we'll caption it" variety. 230grain went the extra mile - multiple pictures and lots of informed detail about the products shown.
A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME - Frankly, I've never found much of a use for Twitter - until last week, when I started following tweets related to the SHOT Show. It was one of those 140-character messages that lead me to these:
They're from a company in Turkey called, appropriately enough, handmadegrips.com. The grips are of ebony, while the designs are inlaid metal and mother-of-pearl. While they may not be something you'd want to carry on a daily basis, you have to admire the superb craftsmanship. They'd be great for a presentation piece, or perhaps to commemorate an important milestone. Prices are incredibly reasonable, bordering on a steal.
HUH?? - I'm not quite sure what to make of these. (Now it could be that I've been married too long, but if my memory is correct and my supposition of the target market is accurate, they should have a fur lining...)
NOW THIS I CAN GET BEHIND - I don't own any Magpul products, but their new iPhone case may be my first. Unfortunately it only fits the 3g/3GS, not my Original iPhone, but I've been meaning to upgrade anyhow. As Caleb over at Gun Nuts Media says, "now that there’s an iPhone case that makes hippies cry, I’m all in."
LAUNCH PARTY - The Personal Defense Network held an official launch party at SHOT, and from what I'm hearing the industry response was terrific. If you haven't seen it yet, head on over and check it out. (Hey, join in the new forums while you're there!)
SOMETHING YOU WON'T SEE ANYWHERE ELSE - I conned Gila Hayes into visiting the Chiappa booth, and she managed to get this great shot of the Rhino's open cylinder:
This gives a much better perspective on the cylinder's shape. Note the crane lock sticking down from the topstrap, where the barrel would be on a normal revolver. Also note the unusual design of the ratchet.
(The Chiappa folks wouldn't let Gila dry fire or even handle the gun; the female person holding it is a Chiappa employee. One is left to wonder why an anonymous blogger got to play with it, while a well-known trainer and author - a person who's held highly visible positions in the industry for years - got the cold shoulder?)
The 2010 SHOT Show is just getting started. I've compiled some of the more interesting (to me) tidbits about Day One from around the 'net:
S&W GOES TO THE DARK SIDE: I'm surprised that there's not more noise about the new Bodyguard .38. It's a real departure for S&W, having a cylinder that rotates clockwise like a Colt, an integral laser sight, and an ambidextrous cylinder release. There's a good picture of it at Massad Ayoob's blog.
A DARN SIGHT BETTER: S&W has introduced a version of the 640, one of my favorite guns, with very prominent tritium sights. While I'm relatively agnostic with regards to glow-in-the-dark feature, the large front and deep rear blades sights should erase one of the Centennial's few criticisms. Again, a good pic from Gunblast. (Are my eyes deceiving me, or is there no internal lock??!)
FLYWEIGHT SHOTGUN: Mossberg has introduced the Model 510, which is a very scaled-down pump shotgun chambered in .410 and 20 gauge. According to Mas Ayoob, it "weighs only five pounds, if that." As you may recall I'm a big fan of the 20 gauge, and I'll be interested in taking a look at this. (Mas' picture makes it look tiny, but the guy holding it isn't exactly a lightweight...)
UH-OH: It wasn't all milk and honey for S&W. The FBI arrested 21 people at SHOT, including a S&W sales exec, for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The indictments were handed down on December 11, but only unsealed yesterday. (Interesting choice of timing and venue, don't you think?) Note the second line of the Reuters story: "21 arrested at Las Vegas gun show" Naaah, no message being sent to the masses there...
COLT OPENS THE DOOR??: Check out this little tidbit, courtesy of Massad Ayoob:
"A Colt exec told me that rumors of a new double action revolver from this fabled old company are false…for now. He indicated, however, that both plans and equipment are in place for this to happen, somewhere down the road."
This doesn't sound like the Python is coming back, but it's intriguing nonetheless.
THEY'RE BA-AACK!: The ProArms Podcast gang has returned from a forced hiatus. The servers at Podbean, which had been handling their podcast feed, went south in December leaving ProArms high and dry. It took them some time to get back, but they have a new site (www.proarmspodcast.com) and they're also available on iTunes. You can listen to the stream on their site, or subscribe to the feed - whichever you're most comfortable with.
The newest episode features interviews with two attorneys. One of them, Brian Hallaq, is an acquaintance; he's an interesting guy who went from being an antigunner to owning Norpoint, a range facility just north of Seattle. Definitely worth a listen!
SHOT SHOW OPENS TOMORROW: I only wish I were there! The ProArms team is, and they promise updates on their site. Jeff Quinn over at Gunblast always has good coverage of the show (with lots of pictures), while Outdoor Channel has Rob Pincus there with a video crew. Rob tells me that they plan to have online coverage of the show, as will Down Range TV. Fear and Loading is already there spending money on beer, and The Firearm Blog is trying to crash the best SHOT parties. There are lots of others, of course, but just these should give you enough news to satisfy your curiosity!
TARGET RICH ENVIRONMENT: I'm amazed that people still buy targets these days. There are tons of downloadable and printable targets out there, and here's a good collection of some of my favorites. (If you haven't tried "rimfire tactical" shooting, you're missing out on a lot of fun. Scroll to the bottom of their site for targets for this emerging discipline. The targets have instructions printed on them; try "Know Your Limits" with iron sights!)
The SHOT Show, that yearly orgy of all things that go 'bang', starts next Tuesday. The products shown there will be arriving on dealer's shelves over the coming months, but the ads will show up almost immediately. That's how commerce is done.
It was serendipitous, then, that I recently ran across a site called Vintage Ad Browser. The site collects images of old ads for all kinds of products, including guns and ammo. Just like the SHOT Show, you'll find ads aimed at hunters, collectors, and those interested in self defense:
Take a look - how many do you remember from your youth?
AN ADVENTURE: Spent some time last week working on a project with Rob Pincus. You'll have to wait a while to hear the details, but a good and educational time was had by all. (Yes, Rob, it's still raining here.)
LUBRIPLATE COMES THROUGH: Got an email from Alex Taylor, a District Manager at Lubriplate. They're now selling the superb SFL #0 grease in consumer quantities in their online store! Comes in a 14oz can for $23.01, plus shipping. Glad to see them recognizing the firearms market; now let's see if we can get them to sell their FMO-AW oil in small quantities too!
THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN EVERY DAY: Remington recently announced that they've produced their ten millionth 870 series shotgun. I knew they were popular, but ten freakin' million? I would never have guessed anything close to that. The shotgun, it appears, is alive and well in America.
THIS IS JUST WRONG: I'll take some of what I just said back: certain shotguns are alive, but not well. Apparently trying to out-silly the S&W TRR8, Stoeger recently announced the availability of the Double Defense - a tactical side-by-side shotgun. Yes, a SxS with a fore-end rail. Black, of course. (Folks, I couldn't possibly make up something like this. It takes a marketing department to do so.)
I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW: A University of Alabama prof has claimed to have invented a revolutionary sighting system that promotes "intuitive aim." Knowledgeable readers will recognize the concept as being eerily reminiscent of the Steyr "trapezoid" sights as used on the 'M' and 'S' series pistols, which have been available for a decade now. Hmmm...
I've written about this before, but it's getting worse. All across this country are people standing behind gun counters who need to be taught that women are people, too.
I've lost track of the number of times I've run into a woman who was sold (as opposed to deciding to buy) a revolver for self defense. Now it should be pretty clear to even the densest web denizen that this is a revolver-friendly blog, so it should not come as a shock that I think revolvers are a great tool.
They are not necessarily, however, the right tool. As I mentioned last week, the revolver is the easiest gun in the world to shoot, but the most difficult gun to shoot well. That long, heavy (in stock configuration) trigger requires a certain amount of hand strength, without which the gun cannot be fired.
Herein lies the problem: the female of the species, in general, tends to have less strength in her digits than does the male. It's not unusual, therefore, to find a woman saddled with a brand-new revolver on which she cannot manipulate the trigger. I've seen countless numbers of women who actually have to use two fingers to get the trigger moving!
It's not so much a matter of gun fit (though that enters into the equation far too often), but simply the trigger offering more resistance than a slim finger is capable of overcoming. In reality most women would really be better served with the shorter, lighter trigger action of an autoloading pistol, but the wisdom of the gunstore commando is that autoloaders are just "too complicated for the little lady."
Hey, Bubba, I've got news for you: women actually drive cars these days! Yes, automobiles, with their myriad switches and levers and pedals and buttons. Women have no problem figuring those things out, yet you think they can't handle the concept of a slide stop lever?
The usual rejoinder is that women don't have the upper body strength to manipulate the slide of an autoloader. This is fact turned on it's side to bolster a flawed assumption; yes, women tend not to have our arm strength, but that deficiency can be rendered immaterial through proper technique. It's a simple matter, and nearly any female (and a more enlightened male) firearms instructor can teach it inside of thirty seconds.
This whole issue wouldn't bother me so much - and I wouldn't be writing about it again - but the inferiority attitude is so pervasive that some women are themselves buying into the notion that they're not "capable" of handling an autoloader. I've actually had students to whom I've taught the autoloader manipulation techniques (and who've shot very well with one) go out and end up with a revolver. Not because they wanted one, mind you, but because some dolt behind a counter convinced her that it was all she could handle.
Mind you, I'm not some new-age "sensitive man". I'm as big a neanderthal as the next guy; I believe that women and men are different, and you can thank your favorite deity for the difference! I'm just tired of people assuming that my wife, sisters, nieces, and mother are so stupid that they can't handle a simple mechanical device. I'm annoyed that they are doing their level best to indoctrinate women to this nonsensical point of view, and I'm appalled that it actually seems to be gaining some traction among women themselves!
I don't have a prescription for this problem, other than to continue to educate every person - man or woman - I run across. If that means I repeat myself every so often, I'm willing to do so. I hope you'll forgive me!
Yes, revolvers are wonderful, but they're not for everyone. We need to help people to make intelligent decisions, and if that means they choose a self-shucker, so be it. Heretical? No, just realistic.
Last week I discovered that Massad Ayoob has gotten together with some of his friends and started a podcast. (Yes, that Massad Ayoob; the proud and unrepentant technophobe, the man who has proclaimed - in public and multiple times - that to him the computer is "nothing more than a typewriter with a suppressor." With this project, his reputation as a Luddite may experience a steep decline; when he starts toting around a PDA to check his email, however, I'll know the world is coming to an end!)
Anyhow, the ProArms podcast deals with guns and shooting - no surprise there! It's a roundtable format, with Mas and the crew discussing various guns and shooting topics, interspersed with interviews of industry luminaries. (They've already managed to snag, in one fell swoop, three of the most important women in the defensive shooting world: Gila Hayes, Vicki Farnham, and Kathy Jackson. Those are the kind of interviews that you just won't hear anywhere else.)
Though Mas is obviously the main draw, the rest of the cast are phenomenally experienced shooters in their own right. You may never have heard of people like Jon Strayer or Herman Gunter, but in the southeast part of this country they are well known and respected arms experts. You'll grow to appreciate their informed commentary.
A client recently sent me a brand new S&W Model 25 for some work. As part of my normal checkout routine, I measured the trigger pulls. In single action, it was a nice and crisp 3-1/2 lbs. In double action, it....pegged my digital force gauge!
I had to get out the old mechanical unit to read the trigger pull of nearly 15lbs. Holy Sore Forefinger, Batman! Not only that, but the trigger return feels like a mile of bad gravel road. (Since I live on a mile of bad gravel road, I am something of an authority on the topic.)
Oh, did I mention that this was one of S&W's "Special Edition" Lew Horton models? That's right - S&W apparently doesn't feel that handing them close to a grand for one of their revolvers entitles you to a decent trigger. On the other hand, perhaps I should look at it as a perverse form of job security...
Lately I've been hearing from people who've decided against attending training courses because of the cost of ammunition. If I may, I think that this is a shortsighted attitude!
Yes, ammo prices are the highest they've ever been. Yes, the number of rounds necessary to complete a decent shooting class is a significantly higher expense than it used to be. It's still worth it, and it's a bargain that you should take advantage of.
If you plan to carry a handgun, or if you keep a shotgun for home defense, training - proper training - may make the difference between a successful outcome and a tragedy. Isn't that worth the few extra dollars that the necessary ammunition is going to cost? I sure think it is!
By the time you add up travel, lodging, registration fees, meals, and incidentals, that little extra the ammo costs really isn't a big deal. Spend the money - it's important to you, and to your loved ones, that you not miss that class!
Spent part of last Tuesday at the range, schmoozing with A Famous Gun Writer Who Wishes To Remain Anonymous (hereafter referred to as "AFGWWWTRA".) We tested a few guns, talked about revolvers - the kinds of things you'd expect a gunsmith and a gun writer to do on a range.
AFGWWWTRA happened to have a Ruger Alaskan model in .454 Casull that was being evaluated. Since I hadn't yet gotten the chance to shoot one, I really wanted to see what it was like with full-house loads. I elected to shoot a couple of cylinders worth while AFGWWWTRA took pictures of the whole debacle. (AFGWWWTRA, it turns out, is easily amused by masochistic idiots. I'm sure it was meant as a compliment.)
The first cylinder was fired, sedately, in single action from the 25-yard bench. At that point I was thinking "heck, that wasn't bad. I wonder what it'd be like in rapid fire?" The second cylinder full, standing from about 7 yards, was fired as quickly as I could get the gun back on target between shots.
Just to retain my machismo cred, here I am in the midst of that sequence, the mighty .454 loads in full fireball-producing glory:
Courtesy of AFGWWWTRA Note the flash from the round just fired, and yet the gun is back on target and the hammer is about to drop again. Yes, I am just that damn good! (I must be - I tell myself so all the time!) -=[ Grant ]=-
Well, it's more precise to say that it's time for someone else to make double-action revolvers!
With Colt out of the revolver business, Taurus showing no signs of moving past the low end of the market, Dan Wesson functionally deceased, and Smith & Wesson producing mere shadows of their former greatness, it's time for someone else to step up to the plate. It's time for someone to take over the badly-served upper end of the revolver market.
It's time for Freedom Arms to branch out from making the best single actions to making the best double actions.
Why Freedom Arms? Because they've already proven their ability to make a high-grade revolver. They're used to producing and selling high-end guns, and they know how to make those guns both superbly accurate and incredibly durable. They have a well-regarded brand name, and an established dealer network.
They have everything it would take to introduce a top-flight double action revolver.
It is, admittedly, a small market. The best of anything is always a small market. That doesn't seem to stop Rolls Royce or Patek Philippe, and I don't think it would stop Freedom Arms. There are a lot of people who would have purchased Pythons were they still being made to their former standards, and those would be Freedom Arms' customers.
Poor Dan Wesson. The marque, famed for their switch-barrel revolvers, has suffered through more inept management regimes than your average banana republic (no, not the clothing chain!) Today you can ask ten random shooters about the company, and almost none will know that Dan Wesson is still in business. Their innovative revolvers - the work of the incomparable Karl Lewis - are no longer found on dealer's shelves.
How did we get to this sad state of affairs? To understand, we need to go back to the beginning of the Third Dynasty....
At the time, Dan Wesson was located in Palmer, MA. Production had reached new lows in both quality and quantity, and their strongest market - handgun silhouette shooters - were tiring of their on-again, off again production history. Despite some interesting introductions (a line of fixed-barrel guns and a true small frame concealed carry piece, dubbed the "Lil' Dan",) the company was forced into bankruptcy.
Into our story steps a fellow by the name of Bob Serva, who bought the company and moved it to Norwich, NY.
The problems surfaced almost immediately. The machinery included in the purchase was found to be "worn out", and supposedly incapable of making quality guns. (The irony of that statement will be revealed later.) You'd think that someone would have scrutinized a little thing like that out before writing a check, but no matter - the company invested in some new equipment, and then spent quite a long time resetting the new shop to produce guns.
Let's stop for a moment and review the revolver market at that point in history. Colt, stung by their association with certain anti-gun political elements and fresh out of bankruptcy, had all but abandoned the revolver market - and really didn't seem to care. Ruger was selling lots of guns, but their line was limited and had precious little to offer either competitors or the growing concealed carry market. Taurus was moving up in the market, but suffering from a reputation for having quality control problems (a perception which persists to this day.) The market leader, Smith&Wesson, had problems of their own: an apparently effective grassroots boycott, a persistent rumor that they were a hair's breadth away from bankrupcty, and being put up for sale by their British owners.
The market was in turmoil; it was ripe for a quality product, particularly one with unique features not available anywhere else. With all the competitors preoccupied with their own problems, market share was there for the taking - and Dan Wesson was in a good position to grab some. They had a line of revolvers that was strong, accurate as all get-out, and far more versatile than anything the competition had to offer. In addition, they had the Lil' Dan, which with some attention could easily address the burgeoning demand for concealed carry guns, and a fanatical (though shrinking daily) customer base. (I oughtta know - I'm one of those crazies who loves his Dan Wessons!)
So, with a brand new acquisition, new machinery, and a market ripe for the picking what did the owner of Dan Wesson do?
Right - he introduced a line of 1911 pistols!
The introduction of the 1911 guns seemed to take the wind out of revolver production. During this time, Dan Wesson made only one run of frames for the world's most popular revolver caliber, the .357 Magnum. Quality was so poor that I personally had to return a gun - ordered in for a special client - because the sideplate gap approached .006" in places! The action was awful, and the hammer and trigger had been slapped into the gun with no finish work whatsoever. The production manager apologized profusely, and hand-selected a replacement - which was only marginally better. This is when I learned that all of the frames had been made in a single run in the first year of the company's revived production, and most (if not all) apparently suffered from this egregious fault.
Remember the irony I alluded to? Even the much-maligned Palmer guns - the worst of the lot, made on that "worn out" machinery - had sideplates that fit correctly!
To their credit, they did try - sort of. Dan Wesson placed small black-and-white advertisements in relatively inconspicuous places in the gun magazines. The ads were pitiful: poor design, bad graphics, and too much room taken up with religious symbolism. (Before the hate mail comes in, understand that I have no problem with religious symbols in the right place and at the right time. An advertisement for a firearm in a gun magazine is neither the time nor the place.) The average small-town "nickel shopper" advertisement looks more professional than anything Dan Wesson was able to insert into glossy national magazines.
Magazines weren't the only marketing avenue, however. Recognizing the power of the internet, they put up a website - but it would be a couple of years before they bothered to procure their own domain name, instead using the site under the domain name of their ISP. The site was horridly designed, didn't work on anything other than a 17" monitor, and didn't even have much information. (Hey, I know their product line, and if it was difficult for me to figure out what was what, imagine what a new customer would go through!) They didn't understand what a website was really for: I saw a listing of various new grips that were available, but no pictures. An email to the company netted the information that the pictures were only available in their printed catalog, for which they charged $5! That's what we call "behind the times."
Things weren't much better with industry relations. Gunwriters, love 'em or hate 'em, are how the general public learns of, and forms opinions about, new products. I've heard first-hand stories of Dan Wesson management personally making multiple promises of test-and-evaluation samples to individual writers, but never delivering. With behavior like that, it's no wonder that Dan Wesson remained in a publicity rut.
Once the 1911s started rolling off the assembly line, revolvers took a definite back seat - way back. Parts became hard to get; Brownells even dumped the line, rumored to be tired of non-delivery. What little "innovation" centered around odd and useless chamberings. (Yep, I'm sure that the .460 Rowland - aka .451 Detonics Magnum rebadged to assuage someone's ego - was a big seller. I'm being facetious, in case you missed it.)
I suppose the argument for the switch to 1911 production was because revolvers "weren't selling very well." Of course, given the poor management of the whole mess, one would expect sales problems!
In my mind, the only saving grace during this period were some of Dan Wesson's employees. The aforementioned production manager was pleasant, honest, and seemed genuinely saddened that revolvers had been relegated to the back burner; the gal who essentially ran (and still runs) their parts and customer service operation has always been efficient and helpful (and has something of a following on the internet forums!)
That brings us more or less to the present. Roughly a year and a half ago, CZ-USA somehow acquired Dan Wesson and Mr. Serva took a job with the parent company. (He has since left CZ-USA.) So far, CZ doesn't seem to be all that interested in Dan Wesson revolvers - their website didn't even mention revolvers until just recently, and it's taken them over a year just to make their first .357 gun. Supposedly they are busy doing "market research", which to me means they still don't have a clue what to do with the wheelguns.
CZ, if you're reading this, here's some free advice:
1) Concentrate on building up to a standard, not down to a price. Saying you make high quality products, but not actually delivering high quality, doesn't count. If you need proof that this works, look at the company who took you main market from you: Freedom Arms. (If you need still more examples, Google "Tom Peters". Heck, Google him anyway - you need all the help you can get.)
2) What sells best? Historically, it's been mid-size guns in .357 Magnum. Start there; make 'em better than anything else on the market. Hunting guns in common calibers should be next (the .445 SuperMag, as neat as it is, isn't a common caliber.) You need a concealed carry piece; the market is crying for a good, small 6-shot .357 to fill the shoes of the late and much missed Colt Magnum Carry.
3) "Quality" means some attention needs to be given to the double action lockwork. They aren't smooth or consistent enough, they stack horribly, and their trigger return is sluggish. Spend some engineering money and fix those traits, and don't for a minute think that you can slide by with what you've got now.
4) Forget locks and MIM parts; make them the way the market wants them to be made, not the way some politician deems they should. (There's a big backlash against the built-in locks of your competitors; ignore this at your peril.)
5) You need a presence in competition; be visible in IHMSA, ICORE, USPSA, Steel Challenge, and IDPA. Revolver divisions are attracting more and more shooters; fInd people to sponsor, at all levels of ability. (Quantity counts in this game.)
6) You need actual marketing: proper advertising, editorial content, and a strong web presence. (Your current website doesn't cut it; if you plan to keep the Dan Wesson name, you need to establish a separate domain for it. You'll notice that the Mercedes website is separate from the Chrysler website for a reason.)
7) You'd better come up with an innovative dealer program. No matter how much you advertise, if it isn't on the dealer's shelves - and the dealers don't actively support you - you've lost a sale. (Hint: kiss up to the retail salespeople, not the boss. The guy sitting at the desk in the back room isn't who's selling the things.)
8) Don't ignore the growing women's market, but understand that pink grips and shiny finishes aren't what they want. They are sharp, savvy consumers who have different buying patterns and criteria than men. You need to learn what those are and supply products and services to match. (You have one huge advantage that no one else has, and it has never been exploited by any of the previous ownership. If you can't figure it out on your own, give me a call.)
9) Finally: if you're not going to do it right, don't do it at all - sell the revolver division to someone who will. Dan Wesson and Karl Lewis deserve it, and the legions of Dan Wesson enthusiasts deserve it. Don't let us down. -=[ Grant ]=-