Sunday, October 27, 2013

Duty Pistols: Where We Are Now

Sometimes the Intardweb is awesome, sometimes it's clown shoes. One of the times that it's clown shoes is when people start talking about getting out of a particular weapon system because somebody else reported a problem and then some others said they had similar (or sometimes radically different) problems. Here's something that we tend to forget: guns are ALWAYS a law unto themselves. What is needed is a moderately large sample size in order to see any useful data; otherwise, it's just anecdotal comments. Sure, five people saying they bought a particular gun in a particular time frame having similar problems bears watching, but it's not enough to dump everything and go to another platform based on that.

These comments are inspired by the hand wringing and consternation over the Glock and M&P of late. These two platforms especially have a very very large number of guns in duty gun situations, with large metro Police Departments and Sheriff's Offices, as well as high stress users in less well publicized places. They've been tested and proven, in statistically significant numbers, enough to earn the right to be recommended guns. Until HK decides to make a striker fired world beater-and I have a hard time believing they haven't done that yet, it so obvious-the current duty guns are what to look at: Glocks, SnW MnP, Sig Sauer (even if I would rather beat myself in the head with one rather than shoot it) and even a couple Beretta models. The ones that have been tested and chosen for duty use are still the guns to be your life on..adding the HK, because for some reason they don't seem to care a whole lot about getting those contracts, even though they make the most out of the box accurate and durable pistols going overall, even if they are using state of the art of 1981 firing systems.

Here's the thing: those of us who've been shooting the same guns for a long time tend to be somewhat out of touch with what's going on in the firearms market. Once you have the gun and all the support equipment, and maybe one or two spares of the same model (I didn't used to believe in that, but...I currently have three Glock 19's), its rather common to lose sight of what's going on with the rest of the gun buying public. Lots has happened recently: Gun Culture 2.0 has become a major segment of the new gun buying public, there have been two runs in four years on everything with a trigger, and a WHOLE LOT of people that wouldn't "normally" be in the gun owning group are now because they feel a real pressure that their elected officials aren't listening and are thinking about infringing on their right to own, use, and bear arms.

What that does is put a lot of new buyers in the marketplace, and manufacturers are selling everything they put out the door. Something has to give, and often there are changes made to allow increases in production. Whether that's outsourcing to new parts suppliers or changes in QC/QA, those adjustments get made to try to meet demand. Most people shoot maybe a thousand rounds-and probably significantly less- in their lifetime; those that shoot a multiple of that in a year are a very small segment of the market. Even guns that I wouldn't own if you gave them to me will probably stand up to that light firing schedule.

So what we have are guns that are available and durable enough for what they're designed for, even if they'd literally shoot themselves apart if they were taken to a high round count training class. The Intardweb magnifies both successes and failures beyond their actual status frequently. That said, the number of guns being put out are, by a simple function of the number of guns being bought, going to show some problems here and there. No company can make a perfect product every single time; that's just not realistic. As long as that company keeps its failures to a small fraction-the best of them are under 1%, which is pretty amazing all things considered-that's all we the consumers can realistically ask for. Does it suck to have a new gun that doesn't work? Yes, of course it does. But customer service is often stellar in this day and age, and problems get fixed quickly and relatively painlessly.

I heard it put like this recently. Although this is overstating on a rather grand scale, there is a grain of truth to it: "Every gun out there sucks right now." There is no easy to modify, easy to maintain, easy to shoot well, well supported, durable gun that is guaranteed trouble free. So what to do? Choose a gun that is heavily used as a duty gun, well supported with availability of parts and support gear, in a caliber you can get and shoot enough to be proficient, and be done with it. Don't worry about what the buzz is so much as being worried about investing in being a smart shopper. When you're looking for a tool to defend the life of you and yours, that is NOT the time to be an individual.