Missing The Mark

Missing the mark

Something occurred to me over the weekend.

There’s at least three different options out there for self-defense insurance. I get a discount on my homeowners insurance because I have an alarm system. I get a discount on car insurance because I’m a safe driver.

So why doesn’t NRA offer a discount on their insurance if you go through their Personal Protection Inside the Home class, and an even bigger discount if you go through Personal Protection Outside Home? 

On a related note, why doesn’t the NRA have an affiliate program for their insurance for NRA instructors? That way, the people who teach the classes can do a little bit off of “upselling” to their students, meaning more revenue for their instructors (a good thing) and more money for the NRA (ditto). The NRA has an affiliate program for new member signups and Brownell’s has an affiliate program for NRA instructors, so why not offer one for self-defense insurance as well?

The same is true of Gander Mountain Academy or any other (semi) nation-wide firearms training program. Offer self-defense insurance at a discount to your students because they’re better trained (and hence a lower risk) than the other people buying insurance who HAVEN’T been trained, and bingo, you’ve a new re-occurring revenue stream and a new communications channel! 

There you go, Gander Mountain. Take this idea and run with it. And no, I won’t charge you for the idea. 

You’re welcome.

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Not Cool, Front Sight, Not Cool

Not cool, Front Sight, not cool

A follow-up on my Front Sight experience

I have been getting telemarketing calls once a week from Ignatius Piazza. I have no idea what he’s calling about because I hang up on every single telemarketer that calls me. 

Not. Cool. 

Now, to their credit, I called Front Sight and they removed me from the call list in a minute or two, but robocalling is something I associate with credit card scams and (even worse) politicians. 

And it’s CERTAINLY doesn’t help with Front Sight’s reputation as a marketing powerhouse without actual training, either. 

Rule #1 of repeat business: Don’t piss off your repeat customers. 

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First Impression – Adkal MKA1919

First Impression – Adkal MKA1919

A rare bird indeed showed up at this weekend’s match: An Adkal MKA1919, customized by Firebird Precision for shooting 3 gun. 

Adkal MKA1919

Judging by the few rounds I put through it after the match was over, it’s a viable alternative to the Saiga for a Open Class gun. Aside from a non-reciprocating charging handle on the left side of the forend, the controls were in all the right places compared to a regular AR-15. It also FELT like an AR to shoot, albeit one with a lot more kick than one that shoots .223…

I’ve RO’d two all-shotgun stages in a row at the Mystery 3 Gun, and one thing I’ve noticed is that Saigas are tricky little devils. When they’re good, they’re very good, but when they’re bad, they’re horrid.

The problem is, I’ve seen very few Saigas that were very good. Out of the dozen or so Saigas we saw on our stage over the course of three days, only two were able to shoot 31 rounds without problems. The Adkal? Well, see for yourself. 

It’s a sample size of one, but given the fact than an Adkal MKA1919 is a full thousand dollars less than an equivalent AK-pattern gun, I’d say the Saiga has some stiff competition ahead of it when it comes to box-fed auto shotguns.

Cheap, Fast, Easy (Part Deux)

Cheap, fast, easy (Part Deux)

In part one, we talked about gun reviews versus car reviews. 

I’ll probably never buy a Lamborghini, and even my chances of owning a Mustang are beginning to fade as my kids grow up and bills increase. What matters to me more right now is whether my wife’s Nissan Pathfinder will be as reliable as my old Frontier pickup or what are the long-term maintenance costs of a Civic Hybrid.

The fact of the matter is, most cars are reliable for the first 75,000 miles or so and, with a few exceptions, most guns are reliable for the first 1000-ish rounds (we’ll leave the “break-in” discussion for another day). Because I don’t buy a gun a month, I need to know that what I buy will last, and the 2000 Round Challenge is good way to mimic the life of an ordinary (non-competition) gun and how a typical plinker/CCW gun owner will treat their gun. 

So how do car magazines review cars? 

  1. Define the genre. Fortunately for the car magazines, this has already been done for them. We know (for the most part) what a Grand Touring car is supposed to be like. We know what a minivan is. We know what a family car is supposed to do. Yes, there are cars out there that bend (or break) the rules, but they are dealt with as the rule-breakers they are.
  2. Define what makes one product within the genre better than others. 0-60 speeds don’t mean as much to a minivan test as interior space does, and the amount of trunk space in a sports car doesn’t mean squat compared to it’s time in the quarter-mile. We know and can test for 0-60 and interior volume and slalom
  3. Test within each genre. There is no subsitute for competition, and the value of any given object is ALWAYS tied to similar products. Testing a Dodge Caravan against a Vidper is fun and all that, but testing a Caravan against other minivans is wear the rubber (literally) meets the road.
  4. Reduce the human element. Just like Hamster’s love of all things Porsche, I’m going to come down in favour of CZ’s. Top Gear (and other car-related media) eliminate that variable by spreading out the test across a number of testers, allowing for results that are more than one person’s opinion. 
    Also, be honest about your subjectivity. If you like 1911’s, make sure your audience knows this. I’m not saying lead with it in every review, but be objective about your subjectivity.
  5. Treat first impressions as first impressions, and leave the real test for later. Yes, you’ll see “FIRST LOOK AT THE NEW Z-75 SUPERSPEEDSTER” on the front cover of a car mag, but you’ll also see a follow-up article a few months later when they test it against its peers. The first article is wonderful for people who like new cars, the second is wonderful for people who actually buy them.
  6. Go for the long-term. In any given car magazine, after you’ve waded through the editorials and the cover stories and the endless advertisements for all-weather floor mats, you’ll find the long-term road tests. This is what car owners need: We don’t really care about cars we’ll never own, we care about what we’ll need to do to keep the car we have running. And if it turns out the long-term tests show there might be major repairs in our future, THEN we’ll start to look at all those tests and reviews in the front of the magazine.

Ok, how does this relate to guns?

  1. Define the genre. We know what a compact defensive pistol is supposed to do. We know what a pocket pistol/backup gun is supposed to do. We know why some shotguns are better for trap shooting versus duck hunting. Yes, there are guns that break the genre (the Taurus Judge, for one), but for the most part, we know what task a given gun is supposed to perform.
  2. Define what makes one product within the genre better than others. What are the criteria for a good dailycarry gun or home defensive pistol or self-defense shotgun, and more importantly, how can those criteria be measured so that can make meaningful comparisons within a given genre? Accuracy at X yards is just one of those criteria: What are the other criteria from which to measure success, do they vary from genre to genre, and how can they be measured?
    This is one of the biggest failures I see right now with firearms-related media. I know that if a given car does 0-60 in 6.2 seconds but does 0.5G on skidpad, it’ll be a blast to race off a stoplight but uttterly suck in a corner. Similarly, seating capacity and cupoholders are important in judging minivans: In a sports car? Not so much.
    There are precious few comparisons of similiar performance-based data points in the firearms review business, and further discussion needs to happen about this issue. Larry Potterfield and Michael Bane are on the right track, but more thinking on this line needs to happen in order to create metrics that are portable across all gun genres. 
    One of the advantages of a metric-driven firearms review process is that it will show what the level of dedication is to getting it right. Not everyone can set up a skidpad or a slalom course and not every owns a radar gun, so I (and others) treat a Car And Driver review with more gravitas than other source. Taking the time to invest in such things and using them properly shows a commitment to the cause that others will respect. 
  3. Test within each genre. Can Gen 4 Glocks hang with M&P’s? Is the premium price of a premium brand like Sig or H+K worth it? What is a good, inexpensive gun for trap? Once we’ve defined the criteria, we can test to them and come up with a winner based on the data, not on one person’s opinion.
  4. Reduce the human element. Test across multiple people. What works for me may not work for someone else, but eventually, some form of consensus will be reached. If you’re a blogger, link to other bloggers or sites who’ve reviewed the gun you’re reviewing. If you’re gun writer for a magazine, give someone else some time behind the trigger.
  5. Treat first impressions as first impressions, and leave the real test for later. I agree 100% with Andrew:

    You do a disservice to your readers/viewers (if any) and you take up space in rankings that should be occupied by people like Caleb at RomeoTangoBravo. When he comes across something new, he calls it “(Product) Hits the Shelves” or “(Product) First Impressions.” See? Honesty.

    If I wanted a press release, I’d download from the manufacturer.
    Enough said.

  6. Go for the long-term. Aye, there’s the rub. This will involve acutally owning the guns we review, and not just borrowing from the factory for “Test and Evaluation”. How do we get around that? Links. Post in the 2000 Round Challenge thread. Maybe setup a list much like Jay’s Dead Goblin Count, showing what guns make the 2000 Round Challenge and which do not. Let’s tap into the wealth of gun owners out there that can help the rest of us figure out what is a reliable gun and what is not and use it to all our advantage.

Your thoughts?

Cheap, Fast, Easy (Part One)

Cheap, fast, easy (Part One)

The Vuurwapen (that’s Dutch for “Firearm”, if you haven’t figured it out) Blog lit the candle about the professionalism of gun reviews and others have chimed in, so here’s my thoughts as well. 

The current state of gun reviews (online or not) is something that’s been bubbling inside my head since SHOT, and I’ve come to the conclusion that gun reviews, as they are now, are pretty much useless. 

And I blame myself as much as anyone else.

Let’s break down a typical gun review. It starts with a brief history of the product or the manufacturer, then swings into a paragraph or two about what features on the Überblaster 3000 make it new and exciting (or, alternatively, such a beloved classic). Next is a opinion piece on why that reviewer thought those features were good or bad, and then lastly a trip to the range where they’ll put about 200 or so rounds through it at varying distances and then pronounce (if we’re lucky) that said gun is a good value or if we’re not, they’ll just say whether they like the gun or not. 

What I didn’t learn was a) how it compared to other guns with a similar purpose b) what other people think of it and c) and what the gun is like to own and maintain.

It’s that last point that’s the biggest gap in gun reviews. Gun writing is in a permanent state of ADD: We’re always distracted by the bright and shiny new objects the gun companies dangle in front of us, and we don’t write about what it’s like to live with a gun for a long time. As I said on the post that started this whole thing, 

My main complaint with most gun reviews is they are similar to the car reviews in the auto magazines: “Look, here’s the latest and greatest thing from Detroit/Milan/Stuttgart/, and it goes REALLY REALLY FAST!!!!”

That’s nice, if I have an extra $50k+ to spend on a mid-life crisis. However, I’m more concerned about what a given gun will do over it’s lifetime. I don’t buy a gun a month, if I’m lucky, it’s a gun a year, so I need to make sure what I buy will hold up as an investment, and putting 200 rounds through it tells me squat about what it’s like to live with that gun day in and day out. A pistol that can hold up to a 2000 Round Challenge is much more interesting to me than the last überblaster. 

I’ll probably never buy a Lamborghini, and even my chances of owning a Mustang are beginning to fade as my kids grow up and bills increase. What matters to me more right now is whether my wife’s Nissan Pathfinder will be as reliable as my old Frontier pickup or what are the long-term maintenance costs of a Civic Hybrid. 

The fact of the matter is, most cars are reliable for the first 75,000 miles or so and, with a few exceptions, most guns are reliable for the first 1000-ish rounds (we’ll leave the “break-in” discussion for another day). Because I don’t buy a gun a month, I need to know that what I buy will last, and the 2000 Round Challenge is good way to mimic the life of an ordinary (non-competition) gun and how a typical plinker/CCW gun owner will treat their gun.

Gun reviewers (including me) need to start thinking about what it’s like to OWN a gun and not just what it’s like to BUY a gun. 

Part Two on Monday: Learning from Car and Driver. 

Team. Work.

Team. Work.

Found this over in the comments at When The Balloon Goes Up

With all the team member departures from Glock… and Jessie going to start Team Taurus… maybe it’s time for Team Ruger… 

Which is something I’ve been noodling for a while. Ruger doesn’t sponsor individual competitve shooters. Period. 

Why?

They don’t need to, that’s why. 

There’s two very good reasons for this. The first is that they have a shooting sport all their own and are big sponsors of other matches, which gets their name out there without sponsoring shooters. More importantly, they’re doing land-office business without the expense of sponsored shooters. They don’t need a Rob Leatham or an Angus Hobdell to talk about how their products are just a liiittle bit different than anyone else’s: They just make Kel-Tec ripoffs new products like the LCP and LCR that redefine their marketspace, and not coincidentally, make them a TON of cash along the way. 

And think about it: Is the current drama with Team Glock helping Glock, or hurting them? Is it helping their reputation as a company, or hurting it? 

What’s most interesting about last week’s drama is Jessie Harrison signing with, of all companies, Taurus. Yes, she may just shoot an STI with a “Taurus” rollmark on the slide, but the minute she steps into the box with anything that’s recognizably a Taurus in her holster, Taurus reaps the rewards. The purpose of a sponsored shooter is make money for their sponsors, period full stop. Jessie has proven to be a good spokesperson for the NRA and she’s certain to do the same for Taurus. 

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When “Like” Turns To Love.

When “Like” turns to love.

The Brady campaign currently has 15,766 likes on Facebook.

The Second Amendment Foundation has 9,379. 

It shouldn’t take too much for us to push the SAF ahead of the Bradys. 

If you’re on Facebook, give the SAF a click

And if you’re not on Facebook, you’re missing out on some great deals and giveaways from Atlanta Arms and Ammo, CZ-USA and Brownells, to name just a few. 

Plus you can easily re-connect with friends and family. Yes, there is some siliness on Facebook (no, I do NOT want to play “Farmville”), but that kind of stuff is easy to block. 

And joining just to support the SAF is reason enough. 

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