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Scrapper
5/19/2009 11:55am,
Gun Snobs-
http://i271.photobucket.com/albums/jj123/jonwaite/TacticoolGlock.jpg?t=1211595270

Is this really necessary?

There is a warped kind of McDojoism in the gun shop as well, my friends.
If you are a regular shooter, you know the routines. The gun shop is more than just a place to buy your equipment, it is the club house, the mead hall, the gathering place for those of your ilk to interact and enjoy the company of like-minded individuals.

Much like any other gathering of individuals, form of sub-conscious a hierarchy begins to form. Those with tremendous skill, or significant experience enjoy a higher stature within the social microcosm.

Unfortunately, there is another way to enjoy elevated social cache at the gun-bunny watering hole: money. The nature of firearms has created a whole level of snobbery that is no different than any other kind.

We’ve all seen it, in many areas of life. I know someone who owns a 2006 Lamborghini Gallardo. This is an incredible machine. It can go 200MPH, 0-60 in 3.1 seconds, and physically looks like an orgasm. It is instant social superiority on wheels. No matter where he goes in this car, he is recognized, elevated, and envied. That’s why he bought it.

Of course, he’s never driven it at 200MPH. There are no roads around him that can support that level of speed. He can’t really take it out in the rain, either; too much torque. Snow? Are you NUTS?!?! If it gets a scratch it costs 30K to fix. His oil changes are 1100 dollars. This may be one of the finest automobiles ever made, it may be the pinnacle of the automotive engineer’s craft, but it is no more (and often less) practical than a ten-year-old Honda Civic.

The need to possess the most impressive piece of hardware is ingrained into us by our own social structure. My friend is cooler than you because his car is cooler than yours. He has the money, so he is more successful than you. He could beat you in a race, so he is a better man than you. I’m sure his dick is enormous.

You can substitute anything for cars in this analogy. Houses, lawn tractors, model airplanes, spouses, televisions, etc all apply. In the firearm enthusiasts’ world, this becomes “gun-snobbery.” The exact same mentality that drives some people to disparage, or disregard another’s automobile encourages them to disregard or disparage another’s choice of firearm. It is important or one firearm to be “better” than the other so that one person can be better than the other.

I work for engineering firms. I deal with numbers, and formulas, statistics and hard data all day long. My father trained me, and he never permitted me to assume or stipulate anything without a number to back it up. The laws of physics and probability are not subjective, and if we accept this, than we can evaluate firearms (or any piece of hardware) without the subjective interference of our social needs.

“I would not trust my life to that weapon!”

This is a statement often hears when one individual wants to diminish another’s choice of firearm. It is a backhanded way of insinuating that brand/model A will suffer mechanical failure more often than brand/model B, and certainly at the moment you need it the most. But how often does any firearm fail? I have spent the last YEAR trying to get customer service data from firearm manufacturers to determine whose weapons fail the most and whose fail the least. Guess what? No one will talk to me. Not one manufacturer will release that data to me. I have sent multiple letters and faxes to Colt, Kimber, Taurus, Smith and Wesson, Beretta, Bersa, Rossi, Rock Island Armory, Springfield Amory and Ruger. Not one response. They don’t want you to know the real truth. Which is this: ALL GUN MANUFATURERS’ BRANDS AND MODELS WILL SUFFER MECHANICAL FAILURES FROM TIME TO TIME.

These are mechanical devices, some of which are very complex. Every make, model, type, and brand will have a certain percentage of weapons that function flawlessly, and some that don’t. That is the nature of mechanical devices. The salient point with respect to cost and quality is whether or not the increase in “quality” (as defined by mechanical reliability) is commensurate to the increase in price. There is no objective measurement for this, but reasonable rough order of magnitude can be applied to at least help us gain some perspective.

Working Method for Analysis

Take your favorite weapon to the range. Bring 500 rounds and go through it all. Document every mechanical failure. Determine the proportion of failures to acceptable performance. I posit that most of you will have no failures is 500 rounds. Even the cheapest weapon made in the world, can probably get through 500 rounds in a day without failing.

So take it up to 1000. Now we are going to start seeing some failures in the automatics. The revolvers are probably still holding out, though. They are more sturdily built and more mechanically simple. Fewer parts to warp, wear, get dirty and break means lower failure rate in ANY mechanical device.

But what is the percentage of failures in these automatics, and why do we care? The worst I’ve ever seen is a Beretta 92F with cheap magazines. After 300 rounds it simply would not feed a full mag reliably. I put its failure rate for 1000 rounds at 25%. Of course, nearly all the failures will have occurred AFTER 500 rounds, but they were still failures. This is not a criticism of the Beretta 92F; which is by all standards a fine weapon. It is an attempt to illustrate that any mechanical device will experience failure under certain conditions. How well does your Kimber function underwater? What is the failure rate of a Ruger p95 when covered in mud? The question is not “will this weapon fail?” but, “Under what conditions will this weapon fail?” That distinction is important.

There is something positively hypnotic about a custom-made, match-grade firearm. It is the weaponsmith’s masterpiece and a tribute to the science and engineering of battlefield technology. The speed, precision, and physical beauty of such a thing is incredible, and expensive. It doesn’t matter how well you shoot, if you have one of these, you are cool. Just by virtue of possession, the individual’s social stock will soar. For the paltry sum of $3000 or more, one for these could be yours!

These are the “Lamborghini’s” of firearms. So let’s compare high-quality 9mm to a cheap, mass-produced 9mm (the 10-year-old Honda civic of guns). This is an experiment I have done myself with a Browning Hi-power and a Hi-Point C9. (It should be noted that I feel the browning Hi-power may be the best 9mm pistol ever produced. If you can find one for fewer than 900 dollars you should buy it immediately.) Let’s assume both weapons are being wielded by competent shooters. At ten yards the Browning will put all of its rounds through the same hole in the paper with blazing speed. The cheap weapon will put all of its rounds in 3” circle at a comparable pace. If you repeat this process for more than 500 rounds, the C9 will start to experience feeding failures as grime builds up on the feed ramp. This is a known condition with the C9. The Browning will probably shoot flawlessly right up until excessive use causes catastrophic mechanical failure.
It is not difficult to see which weapon is of higher quality. Construction, design, fit and finish are all superior in the Browning. There is no debating that. The real question is: “Which one do I buy?” the Browning costs 6-8 times what the C9 costs (I bought mine retail for 168 dollars). The C9 in question has reliably discharged rounds without failure for 400 rounds without cleaning. It has a 0% failure rate at 400 rounds. So does the Browning Hi-Power. The C9 shoots consistent sub-4” groups at ten yards. So does the Hi-Power. Both weapons fit my hand, point well, and shoot well.

As a self-defense weapon, there is a slight advantage to the Browning. Statistically, it is safe to say that the Browning is more “reliable.” For many people, that is all they need to hear. After all, this is your LIFE we are talking about here! How do you put a price on that! Well, how about a cost-benefit analysis? $950 dollars for a Hi-power that delivers possibly a 1 or 2% increase in reliability under normal conditions over its $168 competitor. How many “back-up” guns can you buy for the difference of $782? How much practice ammunition? How many modifications can you do to get that same increase in reliability for $782? A Dremel tool will cost you 100 bucks and with a polished feed ramp that C9 will function flawlessly under most real-world conditions and many not-so-real-world scenarios as well.

This is the honest-to-goodness truth about any mechanical device: They all fail sometime. To make an objective decision, you must determine (or at least make an educated guess based on real research) at what rate the device fails, and under what conditions. If a comparable device has a lower failure rate at a higher price, you must determine if the increase in price is commensurate to the increase in reliability. For most commercially available guns, you are talking about a 1 or 2% difference in reliability under normal conditions. If you are looking for a self-defense weapon, the average gunfight only lasts a few seconds and almost never exceeds 10 or 20 rounds. The average shooter will only put 200-300 rounds or so through their weapon at the range for practice at any given time as well. If the weapon can handle this situation reliably, it should be considered.
Many individuals will look at me askance and exclaim with much gnashing of the teeth, “but you don’t take a chance like that with Your LIFE! Buy the $1500 gun!” To those people, my response is easy. The most reliable firearm in the world is a modern revolver. If you are solely concerned with reliability, than there is no other choice but to carry a revolver. They are also typically less expensive than the firearms the decrier is championing. I have a $300 dollar .357 snub nose with 4000 failure-free round through it. Not. One. Failure. It’s very accurate as well. This is typical for the modern revolver. They are very mechanically simple and they are typically made of far sturdier materials. As a result they are more reliable, safer to carry, and last longer than automatics. Anyone who TRULY believes that reliability is the paramount concern will carry a revolver. Most don’t, because there are other factors to consider. Like magazine capacity, weight, rate of fire, and reload speed. Once we accept that some degree of failure is acceptable (otherwise…get the damn revolver!) we can begin to evaluate what is and is not acceptable at a given price.

Obviously, competitive shooters need competitive equipment. Professional shooters/soldiers/law-enforcement professionals need professional equipment. The subtle increases in accuracy, speed, and reliability that high-dollar weapons demonstrate are far more noticeable to the competitive/professional shooter than they are to the hobbyist. Something that a competitor or professional feels is essential may be completely lost to the casual user; and as such the value of these differences to said user is nonexistent. Don’t pay for them!

Do your homework

A firearm is not a toy. It is a tool for killing. No one should purchase one without doing some homework. Go to the range and rent guns. Find out what fits your hands, what you shoot well, what is comfortable for you. Only then should you look into purchasing. Now go do some research. What brands are considered high-quality? Who do they market to? Read books and magazines, and talk to people at the range that look like they know what they are doing. My personal experience has been that the guy who owns the range or the gun shop is usually very objective. He doesn’t want to sell you something that won’t work for you, and he sells inexpensive hardware just as much as the expensive stuff.

Be careful on gun websites. If you are researching a type of firearm and the manufacturer’s ads all show professional shooters doing professional things, then it is a safe bet that the company is purveying professional hardware. Professional hardware is nice. I won’t mislead you about that. If you can afford it, buy it. However, if you can’t, try to find it somewhere else for less money.

There is a WEALTH of information on the internet in the form of web forums. But be advised there are as many morons (I may in fact be one!) as knowledgeable people out there, and no way to filter them. Many individuals have very strong feelings and opinions about specific brands or makes of firearm, and they may be unable to give objective advice. There also many very experienced and knowledgeable people out there as well. Seek them out, but trust your own judgment. If you have been going to the range, and you have been shooting and reading, you already know what does and does not work for you. This is YOUR weapon and YOUR call.

Conclusion:

Gun snobs bother me. Gun-snobbery is a social construct that fosters the dissemination of misinformation, and treats rumor and anecdotal evidence as fact. This artificial social construct also drives the prices of firearms upwards, when acceptable low-cost alternatives get marginalized. The firearms industry loves this. It creates an environment where a manufacturer with the right marketing strategy can produce a product that offers no real benefit over a lesser-priced competitor for many times the cost. It’s snake oil. If a firearm is a mode of personal expression for you (like a car is to many people) then I completely understand your need for a $1200 handgun. But it is a sad day when the same individual tries to justify this expense by disparaging a perfectly acceptable product. Your Lamborghini is wonderful, but it doesn’t get you to work any more reliably or even all that much faster than my Civic.
http://lundestudio.com/2008SHOTShow/Day3/beretta-92fs-diamond-1.jpg

Personal expression can be fun...and expensive.

As a firearm enthusiast, and owner of several “cheap” guns and several “expensive” guns I can say with absolute confidence that the increase in reliability is almost imperceptible under normal, practical conditions. Does that mean you go and purchase the cheapest thing you can afford? Absolutely not; know the company and the model you are purchasing. But functional weapons of acceptable quality do not have to break the bank.
No matter what “Tactical Ted” at the gun shop says.

Sam Browning
5/19/2009 12:09pm,
This is a great article. And yes there are sometimes factors like crappy magazines for the Berretta F92 which can be avoided by spending more on good magazines. Yup, been there, done that.

1point2
5/19/2009 12:14pm,
As a non-shooter looking into introducing myself to the arms community, this is invaluable "stay away from Weird Bill" advice. Nice article.

Scrapper
5/19/2009 2:16pm,
Thanks guys.

This all started when I had to deal with intense "Taurus-hate" everywhere I went. I just bought the Hi-point, and I am afraid to admit that I am loving the damn thing. Crazy accurate and consistent thanks to the fixed barrel/straight-blowback design.

A little heavy and clunky though.

Scrapper
5/19/2009 5:41pm,
Is there any interest in me doing a comparison of low-budget guns this summer? I think I'll have enough opportunities to try some.

Zendetta
5/19/2009 7:26pm,
I’m sure his dick is enormous

lol, great thread. Gear snobs are endemic - you see the same posing amongst bird hunters and fly fishermen too. If the LARPers knew how the pros talk about them behind their backs, I think they'd knock it off.

omoplatypus
5/19/2009 8:22pm,
my favorite weapons i've ever had access to are the ruger 10/22 and mark 3. right out of the box, no accessories except for glass on the rifle. for more power, the remington 700 chambered in .308, beretta 92s, and remington 870.

all reliable, fun, and functional weapons with pleanty of room to be a tactifag.

Scrapper
5/20/2009 7:30am,
Ruger 10-22 is the best damn 22 rifle ever. I bought one for my nieces last Christmas. I wish I had kept it.

Coach Josh
5/20/2009 8:09am,
Awesome right up Scrapper. I am inclined to agree with you on the points made and how people come to a conclusion on what makes a gun better than another. Generally its price. You hit the bulls eye on that. I generally stick with middle of the road when it comes to buying anything cars, guns, clothes. etc.

Generally I look for the mid ranged priced equipment. This led me to Glocks. I was real happy with mine and loved the way it shot. After using Berrettas, Rugers and S&W I Was really impressed with Glock 9mm. Never got to shoot a Browning put everyone who has one loves it. Star, Tauras and the other knock off lines are perfect to have around if you just want to pump rounds down range every once in awhile or fill a doorway with lead.

It is Fake
5/20/2009 9:34am,
Great article. I try to tell people this, not as well of course, and hope they listen. It is funny how the snobbery hits all types of people from the noob to the professional.

Snake Plissken
5/20/2009 1:06pm,
Good article Scrapper.