An editorial by Paul Mazan.
Old Technology, Stale Designs, Part One
by Paul Mazan
I am getting tired of gun magazines crammed full of stories about AR-15s, 1911s, Glocks and Glock look-alikes. The American firearms industry used to be known for innovation. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case for decades now. New firearm design innovations since have largely come from other countries. The American market is living on old designs and variations. John Browning’s 1911 pistol has been copied and offered by just about everyone who’s ever made a firearm, continues to dominate the American market, and is over 100 years old. Our bolt-action sporters owe their existence to the 19th Century designs of Mauser. The AR-15 design is over 50 years old and its only real competitors, such as the AK-47, are even older. New Glock look-alikes are not innovations, they’re plagiarism. For years, “exciting” new products from the major manufacturers have been limited to equipping their old designs with different stock materials, metal finishes or triggers. Granted, I love the Models 70, 700, 77, 1911, M&P, 870 and 11-87 – but let’s face it, they’re all ancient.
From a gunsmith’s perspective, the stagnation of technology makes life easier. However, it disturbs me that nobody within the industry has a fresh idea. Is it because we don’t attract innovative thinkers or because shooters are resistant to change and companies are afraid to take chances? I suspect it is both. Personal experience indicates most sales personnel in the industry are not shooters. When they come to SHOT Show or NASGW the conversations I overhear are not about shooting, they are about golf. Conversations are often about the industry-sponsored golf outing they attended the day before. As our once shooting-oriented company founders have gotten old and sold out to corporations we have gone from being passionate about firearms and shooting to the corporate passion for profit.
When I first noticed golf becoming the sport of choice among many industry professionals and wondered why they didn’t sponsor shooting events instead, I thought it wise to get them involved with the products they were selling. However, in talking with more of them I discovered these industry professionals simply did not care to attend a shooting venue and wouldn’t show up a day early to do so. While individual entrepreneurs hire people with a passion for firearms, corporations hire people based on previous sales success in other industries. That is the reason there is so little innovation and why we are seeing the gun culture die in the companies that make guns.
Next time I’ll discuss some examples of conversations I have had with reps that illustrate my point. All took place several years ago as I no longer attend the shows but are still relevant.
Read more in our June 2014 issue. Back issues are available.