Sell Fewer Guns.

This is how you get analysis paralysis.

I honestly think no one in firearms retail has ever heard of this study or what it means for their business.

In a now famous supermarket study only 3% of shoppers purchased jam when confronted with 24 varieties, while 30% purchased when given only 6. Although the 10 fold increase is interesting what fascinates me are the people not exposed by the raw data.

A good number of those 27% approached the jam section with a particular jam in mind. They knew what they wanted and went to purchase. However, the range of alternatives actually placed doubt in their mind. Was their normal choice of jam the best option available? Should they try something new? These questions created enough anxiety to actually stop them purchasing.

“Am I buying the right gun?” freezes up more first-time gun buyers than anything else. They know they don’t know exactly what makes a good first gun, and when faced with dozens and dozens of choices (and probably some really bad advice from gun store clerks), they go into vapor lock, succumb to analysis paralysis and then require extensive hand-holding and guidance in order to make a purchase.

This presents a problem because the margins on guns are so small that if your salesperson has to spend three hours (or more) over the course of a week or more explaining why Gun X is better than Gun Z, bam, there goes your profit margin. Also, as Tam says, you could toss a Gen5 Glock, an M&P, a P320, an FN 509, a Berretta APX, a CZ P10C and any one of a half-dozen or so other guns into a bag, randomly pull one out, and that gun will work just peachy for your typical gun store customer. The fact is, unless you’re talking aftermarket accessories, they’re really isn’t enough feature differentiation these days to make an influence the customer’s buying decision in any meaningful way.

Sell Glocks. Sell 2-3 “not Glocks,” a value brand (Taurus, etc) and maybe a higher-end brand “cachet” brand like the better SIGs and CZs. Repeat this idea up and down the caliber selection ladder and then turn the money you save on inventory (both guns AND accessories) and employee man-hours into making your store more friendly for today’s consumer.

Show Us Your SHOT.

SHOT Show Registration

After a two year hiatus, I’m headed back out to SHOT in January. This time, however, three things will be different.

  1. No new media meet up. There just won’t be time for me because…
  2. I’m doing something cool with the NRA re: SHOT. More on that later. And also…
  3. For the first time ever, I bought a ticket to the State Of The Industry event on Tuesday night.

All The Feels.

There’s a difference between myself and many of my friends, and most other gun owners out there. My friends and I have taken the time to figure out what we are doing wrong when it comes to marksmanship, and we have invested time and money into solving those problems.

That is a HUGE difference compared to most gun owners. You ask anyone on the range if “they can shoot” and nine times out of ten, the response you’ll receive, is “Sure I can shoot”.

The lack of consistent grouping on their target will tell another story, and if you ask that same person a) what they’re best and b) what they need improving on, 9 times out of ten you’ll get a blank stare, because in their mind, they can shoot, so there is no need for improvement.

That element of “I suck at doing (something), therefore, I am not going to integrate (something) into my teaching, and downplay it’s importance,” is what comes natural to most people. It’s people like me and the other members of the 1% who say “I suck at (something) and I need to train (something) so I don’t suck at it, and let others benefit from my experience.”

The problem is that having the courage to say a) I suck and b ) I need to change that is a rare commodity. We ALL have a tendency towards confirmation bias. We forget that buying decisions (and our measure of the relative value of an item) come first from our emotions. If we *feel* like we’ve got our money’s worth, we like that experience. I’m not like most people: I look for training classes that challenge me and show where I suck because I really want to BE proficient, not FEEL like I’m proficient.

The trick is giving people the feeling of proficiency and then adding in actual proficiency, without destroying their self-worth by telling them how much they suck. Don’t get me wrong, I am ALL in favor of standardized measurements when it comes to firearms training and instructors who forgo the idea of using benchmarks to improve performance are foregoing pretty much all of modern educational theory.

The goal is to create lifelong students of marksmanship, not one-and-done gun owners who either think they know everything after two days of classes, or who are so demoralized by their performance in a class they never set foot in a pistol bay again.

A good percentage of the instructors I know look at firearms training as an intellectual exercise… “In this class, you will LEARN (knowledge) how to draw from a holster and blahblahblah.”

How many of them add in an element of emotion? Can you do that without treading on tactical derpitude territory and claim your students will learn to shoot like a Navy SEAL?

If someone bought a gun in order to FEEL safe, what about your class and how you talk about it enhances that feeling? What detracts from it? Are you even asking those questions of yourself and how you teach?

The Thing Itself.

I subscribed much more firmly to Aristotelean realism than to Platonic idealism. I’m not too concerned about the implications and ramifications of what might exist, rather, I am more focused on the thing itself.

Which is why this piece interested me.

What emotions do you attach to firearms?  Your emotions help determine what an object means to you.

I don’t, for the most part, attach any emotion to a firearm. There are a few exceptions, of course, like the .22 revolver my father-in-law carried or the CZ75 that kicked off my journey into armed self-defense, but I don’t attach feelings to all of the other guns I own. They serve a purpose, and if they didn’t, I’d get rid of them.

There are others who feel different, and that’s fine. There’s a lot of different ways to be human, and as long as we play nice with each other, everything is cool. I’ve just never associated emotions with objects. My self defense guns are an extension of my desire to keep my family safe, and I attach my emotions to my family, not to what keeps them safe. It’s always been about the why, not the how with me.

They Just Work.

Reading the comments to yesterday’s post has been interesting. When I wrote it, I wasn’t thinking of specific hardware solutions, I was thinking about how you relate to the hardware itself.

The original Macintosh was truly “The computer for the rest of us”. It was the first personal computer you could use without having to become a personal computer hobbyist to one extent or another. Yes, people used PC’s to one extent or another before the Mac came out (and I was one of them), but the echoes of previous computer designs made them somewhat less than user-friendly right out of the box.

For example, I made pin money right out of high school setting up autoexec.bat files that allowed the user to launch WordStar or Visicalc or DBIII with one keystroke on startup inside MS-DOS. This was necessary because getting those programs to run (and making your computer DO something) was confusing for anyone who wasn’t willing to put in the time and effort to learn DOS. People were forced to make themselves work the way the computer worked.

That was guns before Glock. Want a 1911? Sure thing. You bought it, and then sent it to your gunsmith so it could run reliably. You needed to know what was under the hood of your pistol or how to run a DA/SA trigger or how to live with the 6 shots in a revolver. There were limitations placed on you by your pistol before you could use it as an effective self-defence tool.

Glock changed that. They just worked.

Glocks Are Macs.

This nice little piece over at Ricochet got my thinking about why I am a such an Apple nerd.

They just work. The Mac was the first computer to not get in your way while you operated the computer.

This is the point where all the Windows nerds chime in and say, “No, thats not true! Windows is just as easy to use!” and yes, right now, it is.

But that was NOT true of Windows until version 3.1.1 came out. In the mean time, CMD-V on a Mac had been “Paste” for years and years, while over in IBM world, it was a different command to Paste on WordStar than it was in Word.

Macs didn’t (and don’t) get in your way.

Glocks are Macs. For the most part, you don’t need to worry about the WHAT of operating your gun, you can work on why you need to operating your gun and how it will affect those around you.

Glocks are Macs.

The thing that REALLY made a computer useful in the home wasn’t the operation system or the hardware, though. It was the 56.6k modem and AOL. We’re concentrating so much on the hardware, we forget what changes the world is how everything works together.

Dear NRA,

You’re talking about your Carry Guard concealed carry insurance rather frequently as of late. You also have had some recent issues with your training department.

Oh, and people aren’t signing up for post-CCW training like they should.

That too.

Here’s the thing: If I’m a safe driver, I get a discount on my car insurance. My homeowner’s insurance is less because I live in a decent neighborhood.I get lower rates for health insurance because I’m a non-smoker with no history of heart disease in my family, and drink alcohol only in moderation.

At this moment in my life, I have over three hundred hours of formal firearms training, and there’s more (a lot more) in my future. I’ve taken a MAG40 and an Andrew Branca class, trained with Leatham and Vogel and I’ve shot dozens and dozens of matches where I need to make snap shoot/no shoot decisions under the (simulated) pressure of a clock and the unyielding gaze of my peers.

With all of this training and a history of safe gun handling under pressure, why don’t I get a discount on my concealed carry insurance?

Based on my lifestyle and training, am I really the same risk to need insurance as some yayoo with a Threeper tat and a “I Don’t Dial 911, I dial 1911” sticker on his car? I don’t think so, but in the eyes of the actuaries behind concealed carry insurance, I am.

Want to make post-CCW training more popular? Introduce monetary incentives into the equation, and watch the signups roll in for BOTH training and self-defense insurance.

Market Forces

I have a good friend who is an outstanding advertising / fashion photographer, and, more importantly, a outstanding photo instructor as well. He can teach you how to see light and use it to your advantage better than almost anyone I know, and he’s been doing this for years and years now. You would think that his workshops, which teach you the advanced fundamentals you need to take your picture-taking to new levels, would be sold out YEARS in advance.

And you’d be wrong.

The classes that ARE getting filled up aren’t taught by him, but rather by hacks who know little to nothing about the technical aspects of photography but they CAN teach you how to take cute pictures of your kid like those STUPID Anne Geddes photos.

In other words, the demand for photo classes about photography is almost non-existent, but the demand for classes that teach you how to use photography to capture an emotional moment is rather high.

Who out there is effectively using an emotional appeal to sign people up for a post-CCW training class? Marketing 101 tells us that we make buying decisions with our emotions first, then justify those decisions with our brain. Is there a way to use this effectively without sliding into “Learn How To Shoot Like A Navy SEAL” territory?

I dunno, but I’d like to find out.

That’s Why They Play The Game

So the NRA decided to cut the post-Vegas gun control argument off at the knees and make a play for national reciprocity instead.

Good. They should. As I said elsewhere, we’re winning now, and that requires different tactics. NOT ONE INCH MORE! was a great order to give the troops at El Alamein or at Stalingrad, but it would kinda suck to hear if you were stranded somewhere on the Tarawa Atoll. Moving forward will require something more from the NRA than just circling the wagons and refusing to move. There are a number of my friends who are saying “Yeah, right, like the NRA is EVER going to get national reciprocity and the SHARE Act passed. They gave up bump stocks, and in return we got bupkis.”

To which I say, if you travelled back in time to 1997 and told gun owners who were suffering under the restrictions of the Assault Weapons Ban, that 20 years from now, they’d be buying $400 AR-15 rifles, $500 AR “pistols” that were effectively SBR’s and that 30 round mags would cost less than $10 apiece, they’d lock you into the looney bin and throw away the key.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and to borrow a line from the best movie of all time, nothing is written.

Let’s see how this plays out.