Everybody Wasn’t Kung Fu Fighting.

Everybody Wasn’t Kung Fu Fighting.

I’m old enough to vaguely recall the explosion of interest in martial arts created by Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, and reruns of “Kung Fu” were a staple of my after-school TV viewing growing up.

And heck, how many strip-mall dojos popped up after The Power Rangers came along?

Why, then, we haven’t had a Bruce Lee / Chuck Norris show up yet to make practical pistol REALLY popular and move it into pop culture? The closest we have come to that is Keanu Reeves tearing it up on Taran’s range, and while that briefly popped up on the pop culture radar, it ended up going nowhere.

Part of the problem is that no one thinks they can land a spinning back heel kick without training, but pretty much everyone thinks they can shoot, and therefore, they don’t need firearms training.

To a certain extent, though, they’re right. People defend their lives with guns everyday without training. Guns were invented because learning to shoot a longbow is tough, as is learning how to fight with a sword. Pulling a trigger or stuffing a slow match into a powder hole? Not that tough. “God made man, but Col. Colt made him equal” is true, but unfortunately, we are all equally sucky with a gun unless we do something about it.

Watching a martial arts movie helps us understand that there is a level of hand-to-hand violence that we can aspire that goes far beyond what we see in a playground fistfight. What can we show the general public that makes them realize that their are levels of marksmanship that go far, far beyond poking holes in a target at three yards?

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?

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!

Hog Wild.

Hog Wild.

Whole Hog

Michael Bane brought up an interesting idea on last week’s podcast: Hog hunting, specifically eradicating feral hogs in the Southeast, has saved the sport of hunting in the U.S.

And he’s probably right.

Getting into hog hunting is really easy, especially for people like me who are middle aged and have never hunted. As I’ve said before, it’s actually easier for my wife and my kids to get into a regular hunting training program than it is for me to get into one.

However, getting into hog hunting is actually pretty easy: I snagged an evening’s trip awhile back to help me evaluate a cheap little IR sight, and there’s two-day classes on hunting hogs available near me as well that I’ll probably take advantage of next year.

And then there’s the simple fact that hogs are an invasive species, and blasting them into oblivion is like fishing for lion fish or hunting for Burmese Pythons: Yes, it’s hunting, but it’s hunting that tries to restore the balance to the ecosystem, and even the most fervent of tree-huggers understands that getting rid of invasive species is a good idea for everyone.

So go out and blast Wilbur into oblivion, and do so knowing that not only are you restoring balance to the environment, you’re also creating an on-ramp for generations of hunters to come.

And organically-grown, free-range, antibiotic-free bacon is just icing on the cake.

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.

‘Tis A Gift To Be Simple.

‘Tis A Gift To Be Simple.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday of the year, because it’s the only holiday on the calendar that is focused on the people around us and the generous gifts we all are given.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13 

See you next week.