A Couple Of Quick Product Reviews.

A Couple of Quick Product Reviews.

7″ Tekko Polymer AR15 Carbine M-LOK Rail System*

Advantages: Easy to hold, has rails where you want them, has hand stop
Disadvantages: Not free-floating, little crammed on the gas block
Rating: Five Stars out of Five

Mission First Tactical sent me one of their new polymer forends for review, and I slapped it onto my CavArms AR, replacing the Magpul forend that was already there.

That rifle has always been a bit of a red-headed stepchild: I won the lower off a table at a match, (which is cool), but I’m not that big a fan of fixed-stock lowers. The original purpose for it was a buyout gun, but I replaced it with my more-compact SU-16, so the rifle spends a lot of time in my safe, or else it’s got a .22LR CMMG adapter in it, and I use it as a plinker.

But that hand guard just makes it SHINE. Really like how it looks now. One thing I like about the hand guard is that the Grimlock MLOK slots are up towards the top of the hand guard, away from where your hands are. This allows the lights, lasers and whatnot you add to the rifle to have a clear field of view towards the front, which is a nice (and effective) added touch.

I also like how there’s a small stop at the front of the hand guard to help those of us who use a forward grip on the AR from running our hands in front of the muzzle, which would be… bad. The hand guard comes only in a 7″ length version (for now) and is not free-floating (which makes it slightly less accurate), and the hand guard covers up the first rail slot on my gas block, but other than that, the Mission First 7″ Polymer Handguard is a nice option for your lightweight AR build.

Raven Concealment Pocket Shield and SOF-T tourniquet

Raven Concealment Pocket Shield And SOFTT-W Tourniquet

Advantages: A real, effective tourniquet you can carry with you
Disadvantages: Still takes up a lot of room
Rating: Four Stars out of Five

I’ll have more to say about this setup once I figure how it will work into my casual EDC, but so far, the Raven Concealment Shield does what it’s supposed to do and make the mishmash of gear inside the front pocket into a smooth, contiguous whole.

The SOFTT-W tourniquet, in flat-pack mode, is terrific. It’s even easier to conceal than a SWAT-T, and I’ll be standardizing on SOFTT-W tourniquets in all my various first aid kits.

* Say THAT three times fast…
** FCC Alert: Yes, they sent it to me for review. Are you guys really that clueless?

The Old Abnormal.

The Old Abnormal.

The Assault Weapons Ban was enacted in 1994, just as concealed carry was starting to take off in the U.S. The ban expired in 2004, and three years later, the Obama sales surge started. There’s never been a time when owning an carrying a standard-capacity compact 9mm has been considered “normal”.

We’ve never had a stable market for full-featured AR’s and pistols with a standard-capacity magazines. The size of the market is SO much bigger than it was in 1994, we really don’t now how SELL guns outside of a niche.

For example, I was talking with a local gun range last week about expanding their customer base, and some things we’re looking at is doing events with the local car clubs and service organizations.

Now, I could be wrong on this, and I probably am, but I paid close attention to what the original upscale indoor range, Scottsdale Gun Club, did for marketing before, during and after they opened up, and I don’t recall them ever doing any outreach beyond the shooting community in the Phoenix area before they opened up in 2003. Today, however, there’s Tupperware parties The Well Armed Woman and host of other organizations out there that are specifically designed get people into guns who are not already part of the shooting community.

For over a dozen years now, guns have sold because they COULD be sold. Now, guns will need to be sold on other criteria, and we’re still learning what those criteria will be.

People are buying guns based on their lifestyle. Isn’t time we make shooting guns a part of their lifestyle as well?

The Key Quote

The Key Quote

From an article I linked to earlier today:

“Acting on Jobs’ vision, Macs were setup as task-oriented workstations. Each part of the store would be dedicated to different tasks.”

Have you ever, in your entire life, walked into a gun store where guns and accessories were laid out by TASK, rather than by caliber or manufacturer?

Me neither.

Imagine walking into an electronics store where all the Samsung appliances… TV’s, washers, cell phones, you name it, were lumped all together.

And yet that’s exactly what store after store does in gun retail.


A Gun Store For People Who Don’t Own Guns.

A Gun Store For People Who Don’t Own Guns.

Apple didn’t come up with the Apple Store concept because their retail channel was booming: They came up with the idea for the Apple Store because retail SUCKED for them.

Now, a lot of that suckitude was Apple’s fault: Their product line was confusing, with multiple product lines with features that overlapped from one product line to the other. Retail sales agents struggled to explain why the Mac was worth paying a little more for, and Macs sat unwanted on store shelves as Intel-based PC’s were sold on the basis of clock speed alone.

So Apple tried a “store within a store” concept* at CompUSA (remember them?), and it failed miserably. Having a store of Apple products within a store of Wintel didn’t create a brand, it concentrated all the Apple products in one area where they could be ignored by salesman hell-bent on selling the Wintel machines that they knew.

The salespeople in CompUSA were computer people: They sold the computers that they used, which could be radically different than what the consumer wanted. Apple flourished in retail only when they were able to create a lifestyle brand for themselves versus the hobbyist owner that typified computers up until then.

The salespeople in gun stores are gun people: They sell the guns that they like, which can be radically different than what the consumer needs. They sell guns on both rational arguments, like why 9mm is a better self-defense cartridge than .380 ACP, and irrational, emotional arguments as well, like why Glock is better than S&W**, neither of which is particularly focused on the customer’s needs.

The digital hub concept and the ease of use of the Mac are what made Apple a lifestyle brand, and Apple sold that lifestyle inside a store that reflected who we wanted to be, not who we were. People who weren’t nerds were welcome, because rather than reorganize their life around their computer, they got to experience*** how a Mac could fit into their lifestyle.

That hasn’t happened yet in firearms retail, but it will, and the company that does it will dominate the consumer market for the next twenty years.

* SIG tried a “Store Within A Store” concept. Didn’t work, for much the same reasons why it didn’t work with Apple.
**Both are pretty much equal now. Admit it, Glock fanboys.
** Disney theme parks call their employees “cast members”. There’s a reason for that. Gun stores could learn a LOT from Disney stores on how to extend the brand into retail.

Rebuilding The Levee.

Rebuilding The Levee.

Yes, I saw that NICS checks hit an all-time record on Black Friday this year, but given the deals that were out there, like $250 Bushmaster AR’s and free tax stamps on some suppressors, I’d be surprised if there WASN’T a run on guns this year.

But are profits up in the firearms industry? Well, no. Ruger’s profits are down, sales at Smith and Wesson are slowing, and Remington is an a world of hurt. Pretty much the entire firearms industry bet on a Hillary Clinton win last year, and now channels are overstuffed with distributors urgently trying to get rid of merchandise and gun store owners looking at even-tighter margins on guns.

What happens when things get back to “normal” and AR’s are no longer selling for two and a half bills? What happens when the driving force behind firearms purchases isn’t price or availability of product? From 2007 to 2016, gun sales were easy: All you needed to say was “It’s in stock,” and it sold, and this year, sales were driven on price and pent-up demand from the Obama years.

What happens next year, when features and perceived value drive demand, and gun companies are forced to move product with marketing?

Do they even remember how to do that?

And yes, a good portion of this post is based on a conversation I had with Michael Bane late last week. I’m not being lazy, I’m recycling and re-purposing content from another medium! So there!

Kinda Proud Of This One.

Kinda Proud Of This One.

I was somewhat amazed at the lack of useful neutral information out there about what to look for in a suppressor. Yes, I understand that it’s still a niche market compared to most other firearms markets, but the suppressor business is booming, even if suppressed guns aren’t.

My new article at Shooting Illustrated on what to look for in a suppressor should help you figure out what you want in a suppressor while we wait for Congress to collectively grow a set and make these safety devices easier to acquire.

And if you are waiting to buy a suppressor until the HPA or SHARE Act or some other law to pass that removes the tax stamp and paperwork makes it through Congress, don’t. Both of those bills have provisions for refunding the tax fees from the past few years, so if/when they pass, you’ll get your money back, and wait times for stamps are finally falling, with the possibility of them falling even more next year.

I also wrote something about the Deadfoot Arms folding buffer system, which is not a bad little gadget to have if you’re looking to shorten the overall length of your AR and still be able to shoot it.

Go read them.

Sell Fewer Guns.

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.

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.

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.

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.