Thursday, May 22, 2014

Conspiracy Theories, Alien Abductions and Slander

"Ninety percent of science fiction is crap. But that's okay, because 90% of everything is crap."

-- Sturgeon's Law
Attributed to science fiction icon Theodore Sturgeon

I've never been a big fan of conspiracy theories, largely because I don't think most people could pull off a complicated conspiracy on a bet. It follows from that statement that I'm not a big fan of conspiracy theory movies, because I'm not able to suspend disbelief. Add to that the fact that most modern conspiracy theory movies are either wicked capitalist corporations or American veterans plotting this, that or the other Evil Wicked Deed. Which brings me around, in a roundabout way, to another pet peeve...the demonization of business in America. That's largely a function of the progressive Left a part of their core DNA: Government Good/Business Bad, sort of the Norma Jean School of Life.

So, you may ask, What the hell is he talking about?

Well, oddly enough I'm talking about the Remington R51 9mm pistol. Or rather the coverage of the R51 introduction.

The R51 production gun reviews have been, here, and here are samples. The production gun reviews are at odds with the pre-production/prototype reviews (including our own DRTV review by Gary Paul Johnson).

This discrepancy has led to some fairly serious churn on the Internet, from the thoughtful to the perhaps less-than-thoughtful.

Beeause we've run a review on the R51, I feel like I have a horse (well, a pony) in this race, and I wanted to make some points.

• The first is that it's darn fun to slag other people. I say this as a former music critic who once made his living criticizing people more talented than I. At some point through, it is corrosive to the soul of the slagger. All print gunwriters are NOT whores...that should be self-evident. The one writer called out, Richard Mann, for his print review in SHOOTING ILLUSTRATED, Is one of the best in the business. He is a person I go to when I have questions I can't answer. He is an honorable man. Gary Paul Johnson, our reviewer, retired from LAPD, is the co-author of the standard reference text on world assault rifles, has been featured on GUN STORIES for his depth of knowledge,  and is one of my best friends. They are experts. Period.

• All bloggers are NOT the saviors of firearms journalism. There are some good ones whose opinions on firearms I value (Grant Cunningham, Hamilton Yam, Tim Lau and Caleb Giddings come to mind). There are a far greater number of people who do nothing more than increase the "noise" side of the signal-to-noise ratio...readers/viewers are free to disagree, but I have read more crap about guns on the Internet than I'd have believed possible. Hey, because you don't like something doesn't mean it's part and parcel of a massive conspiracy on the part of gun companies! Additionally, My cat Asta has a greater depth of knowledge of firearms design and manufacturing considerations than about 80% of what passes for "criticism" on the Internet.

• The Internet is a wonderful place to grind an axe, so to speak. And at any given point that are a LOT of axes being ground. I once told Washington correspondent Jake Tapper that he should reveal his background in antigun advocacy on any story he did on RKBA. He didn't agree with me. I still believe that we are obligated to reveal our biases, our preconceptions, our set of paradigms that might impinge on what we write or say. Without going into details, there is some of this preexisting axe-grinding going on here, and it is inappropriate (read BEARING ARMS Bob Owens -- another credible voice -- piece here).

• I have said this over and over and over again...we can only review the guns we get. I would say the vast majority of guns I get are production guns, because that's what I'd prefer to review. I have handled a lot of prototype and pre-production guns, and in general I can find something wrong with them. I tell the company involved in the hopes of fixing the problem before the gun goes out to the public.

• It is clear that there was a "slip between the cup and the lip" on the R51. The production guns are having problems that the preproduction protos shown to gunwriters at the GUNSITE Remington event did not exhibit. The idea, however, that Remington somehow conspired to fool "hand-picked gun writers." and foist off a gun that would fire out-of-battery is ludicrous. I'm not a huge fan of the Remington consolidation, but as I said in my comments on a previous post, only a complete idiot would assert that Remington doesn't know how to make guns. Gun companies are not massive conglomerates conspiring to pass crap off on stupid consumers...that is the fetid imagination of those who have seen one too many viewings of Erin Brockovich.

• I am not a fan of the "pay for play" model, e.g. only advertisers are mentioned in a publication or broadcast. None of my productions are "pay for play." Never have been; never will be. It gives my advertising department ulcers! I do, however, favor my advertisers...I would be a fool to do otherwise! All of us work for profit. To the smug morons who say they'll never believe anything in a magazine or broadcast supported by advertising I say, hey, so you have a trust fund, or do you work for a company that provides goods or services to the public? Someone PAYS for your company's goods or services, and that's why you get a weekly paycheck. Capitalism is good, and it works. 

So what happened with the R51? If I was going to bet, I'd say the guns provided to writers at the GUNSITE event were indeed pre-production guns built by Remington factory engineers. The guns that came off the Para lines in North Carolina for production weren't up to those standards. A mistake? Hell yes. A conspiracy? Yeah, right...

Even on the Internet, maybe especially on the Internet, when you accuse respected professionals of unethical behavior, you DAMN WELL BETTER be prepared to cough up the evidence, or it's time for you to fold your hand and find another playpen.


Anonymous said...

Sorry Michael, I did not have time to do more than scan your blog today. I was real busy melting down my R51 to make a new tin foil hat.


Anonymous said...

The "thoughtul" link leads to Grant Cunningham but then so does the "less-than-thoughtful" link.

Personally, I'd like to read the "less-than-thoughtful" critique that MB had in mind.

Ron Larimer said...

I try to follow the if you have nothing good to don't say anything mantra... I've never even mentioned the r51 on my site because nothing about it made sense to me.

Joseph said...

Except that corporations do try and hide flaws in products (cough)GM(/cough). Just because they know how to make a gun, doesn't mean they won't hide something to make a profit.

Select preproduction guns hand built, selected gun writers and then conspicuous absence at an open range day... If they didn't know what a pile of crap they had and try to hide it, they're certainly pretty good at accidentally doing just that.

dranderson007 said...

I don't think all corporations are "evil". However the almighty dollar does drive the machine. With that being said I am sure there are some unscrupulous people in the gun corporate environment as in other areas. Sometimes they just don't want to be bothered by the little guy. It takes the noise produced by people just like you Michael who are in a more visible position to get things done.

A good example is my Springfield XDS. I had sent in warrant info when it was purchased. I was surprised to see that there was a recall issued in a gun article. Was I contacted by Springfield? No. I heard it through the proverbial grapevine. Is Springfield evil? No.
I just think their plate is full and they have better things to do than contact little ole me and say oh BTW that gun you bought from us may not be safe. Hey send it back and we will make it right.

Is that too much to hope for from society? maybe it is? I'd like to think not.

Michael Bane said...

Fixed the wrong link...sorry...


cbryant said...

Not to contribute to blog noise myself, but I think you mean decrease the s/n ratio, as in just make more noise. I didn't think you meant to give them the credit of making things clearer.

Anonymous said...

I'm not especially impressed with the looks of the new Remington.
That being said, any one who judges any product by the first years production doesn't know much about manufacturing.
Not just pistols, ANY product.
Prototypes are essentially hand made items, it takes time to prove programs, fixtures, and methods.
Then it takes more time to find any problems and set up a corrective action program to address them.
I have personally participated this process in guns at Thompson Center Arms,(It's why their .semi auto .22 took 5 years to get to the market ) in Medical devices at another company, and in computer components at still other companies.
Then there was the 1st year Ford Focus I once bought, every 3 months I was getting recall notices, people who bought in the 3rd or later years of production have not had this experience.
Tom Bogan
Laconia NH

DamDoc said...

n/s ratio, then!

David said...

At the NRA show last month, I (pretty bluntly) asked the Remington reps at the R51 display (two different reps on two different days) what was wrong with the pistol.

Both very forthrightly admitted that the first production run of pistols had shipped with out-of-spec slides, as a result of excessive surface prep on the slides before finishing, which took a critical dimension out of tolerance.

They also told me that once the flaw was identified, they stopped production, and stopped shipping the pistols. They said that (at the time of the NRA show) they would have the issue resolved and correct pistols going out in about two weeks.

They said that any pistol found in a shop going forward should be correct, and if it was not, that Remington would make it right.

Now, I don't know enough about their process to know if they were pulling my leg or not. But their response to the question made sense to me, and I felt like they were being candid.

Did Remington maybe get in a hurry to get the gun out, cheaply...and did it bite them in the butt? Yeah, I think so.

Does that mean they and their pistol should be banished forever and ever? Not in my book. I think the proof will be in how well they carry out the fix to what was a rather serious mistake, and I'll give them the chance to do so.

Anonymous said...

Gary Paul Johnston. Johnston. He coined the SWAT term "One Asterisk" when he worked at the Shaker Heights PD.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Oh, well, since I don't have a Horse in this Race, I will say this: Smith and Wesson Sigma.

And yes, I'm old enough to remember how, in the pre-Blog days, when we all went to the Gun Mags to get the latest news, how ALL the Professional Gun Writers SWOONED over that Pistol when Smith invited them to its Unveiling.

And I've saved those magazines, "Primary Source Documentation" as my History Professors taught me.

Then it hit the streets.

So if there's stuff wrong with the R51, at least the Average Guy is finding out about it sooner. And hopefully Remington will get things squared away.

Then we'll either have another Gun to use, or it will end up on the Trash Heap. Because for Capitalism to Work, it takes Buyers as well as Sellers.

And that will tell how the R51 does, not all the Ad Space sold nor Blog Posts generated, but Cold, Hard Cash from the Average Joe. So let's see what happens.

Vince Warde said...

I just wanted let you know that I noticed long before this that you are faithful, first and foremost, to your viewers/listeners/readers. For instance, you mentioned the Mossberg MVP in your last podcast. I have never heard a Mossberg ad on the podcast - I don't even recall a TV ad for them. Additionally, whenever you talk about an advertiser's gun, you always point that out. I really appreciate your honesty - and I want to let you know that I noticed it long before today.

Anonymous said...

I am old enough to recall the countless instances of contrived controversy between Gun Hacks to include various calibers and action types in yester year's gun rags it was so bad that the editorial pages read like a poster for a Professional Wrestling bout and the front page would loudly exclaim the latest broadside against [insert writer's name here] therefore I find it sadly reminiscent that this "Controversy" has erupted, especially since a Rem. handgun is "at the center" which is the equivalent of debating maritime safety using the HMS Titanic as your base line. Gun hacks are not journalists, they are commercial writers doing what their editor tells them to do, that is where their professional ethics begin and end despite protests to the contrary. One can easily lay identical accusations of manifestly biased “reporting” against TTAG’s owner for his outlandish support of the Carracal 9mm even months after it was withdrawn from the Market and production stopped.
This is all about money and egos but mostly money.
Your obedient servant
Anon. Gun Guy

Michael Bane said...

Anon Gun're probably not surprised that I don't agree with you!

Unless you're one of those Silicon Valley millionaires, a hedge fund manager or a trust fund baby, I'm willing to be that you go to work each day. After a specified amount of time, you get a check for that amount of time you worked. Now, does the fact that you sold your time make you a whore?

The only editor who ever told me what to write was a PLAYBOY editor who flatly told me to make the participants in the "Best Ranger" competition "look like the silly overgrown adolescents they are."
Despite a $5K check attached to that story — which I needed very badly at the time! LOL! —I told him absolutely not, explained my reasons and asked for the "kill fee." He agreed, and I never worked for that magazine again.

I would like to note that if I wouldn't sell out for a $5,000 fee, it's highly unlikely I'd do so for the pittance gun magazines pay (that would be why I'm in television...another LOL!). You act like there's big money in this...there isn't, not even on the television side.

And yes, manufacturers do occasionally hide flaws, but that is a LOT harder to do in the gun industry...this is a small industry, and stupid has many long-term ramifications. Secondly, the Internet has changed the ballgame in this (and other) industries. A major recall can significantly damage (or even sink) a company.

Also, as has been noted elsewhere, the manufacturers I know and deal with are ACUTELY aware of the fact that they make a product that might well be used at the worst moments of their customers lives. I have never met anyone in this business who takes that responsibility lightly. One poster mentioned GM...guns are much simpler than cars by a factor of about a thousand. I have no idea how something as mundane as my Honda Element works except on the most macro scale (gas, spark plug, oil, etc.). It is far easier to hide a flaw in a complex machine than a simple one. It's sort of like the difference between "what's wrong with my rice cooker's fuzzy logic panel" versus "what's wrong with my fork?"

And should you hide a flaw in a firearm that directly causes someone's injury or death, kiss your company and everything you have in the world goodbye.

Is there crap out there? Yes, of course. But you've got to go looking for it. Why would I bother? If you as an adult and a person who is considering purchasing a tool to save your or your family's lives can't figure out that the really really cheap stuff is inferior to the more expensive stuff, maybe you should stick to sharp sticks. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I liked the look and ergonomics of the R51. I have not shot one, although I have asked Rem for a T&E.

BTW, Remington is not a sponsor of my shows.


Shredderr said...

As someone else already mentioned, I've always liked the fact that you clearly identify your sponsors and any association you have with a product. In my opinion it adds a level of integrity that is greatly appreciated. If I'm researching a new gun or related product that I want to buy I often look first to see if you, Pincus, Seeklander, or someone else whose opinion I value has commented on the product. Your insights and honesty are greatly appreciated!

bgbeck55 said...

Remington knows how to make guns?
Is that why they've recalled all of their recently made 700's and Sevens? Is that why "Remlins" are regarded as little more than junk? Now we have the R51 debacle.Read Jack O'Connor's "The Last Book" The chapter "Goodies for Gun Writers" is in that tome. Tells one quite a lot about the writing business.

Caleb said...

Thanks for the kind words!

Anonymous said...

Remington brought the 51 to the recent Intermedia Roundtable. No idea if they were hand-selected, fairy-dust coated, or whatever but I was pleasantly surprised. They worked all day, with lots of writers shooting the three samples. When I got to them they were filthy dirty and still ran. Far less recoil than a little 9mm should have, real sights. I didn't like it when I picked it up at NRA, like the ones I shot.

Liston Matthews said...

Unless you are a collector, don't buy low serial # guns.

kata kata galau said...

As someone else already mentioned, I've always liked the fact that you clearly identify your sponsors and any association you have with a product. In my opinion it adds a level of integrity that is greatly appreciated. If I'm researching a new gun or related product that I want to buy I often look first to see if you, Pincus, Seeklander, or someone else whose opinion I value has commented on the product. Your insights and honesty are greatly appreciated!

kata kata cinta said...

I try to follow the if you have nothing good to don't say anything mantra... I've never even mentioned the r51 on my site because nothing about it made sense to me.