10 Things I’ve Learned in the Firearms and Defense Industry
This write up comes from a few years now heavily involved in the industry, and looking at things in retrospect during my tenure. I’ve summarized what I have seen down to 10 points.
- Your mileage may vary. It doesn’t matter who you are and what equipment you are using, there is another guy with his friend group that have never seen a failure point with a certain piece of gear. Due to this, and regardless of your experience personally trying to convey to them a poor gear choice will be skewed in favor of their anecdotal statistics. Emotional attachment to gear choices because of money already spent also creates an uphill battle when trying to make your case. Due to this, presentation of data in addition to your own anecdotes goes much farther than “that gear is trash, my choice is better.”
- There is an overarching baseline standard. Leading off what I mentioned above, however much experience a group may have with a certain product, when it comes to defensive, duty, or any hard-use application- there is absolutely a minimum standard of safe and reliable performance. This we know from now decades of collected data, both anecdotal and empirical. This has established a minimum level of acceptable performance across the board on a majority of weapons, optics, holsters, gear etc. on the market.
- Your standard is not my standard. To sidebar off number 2, there may be a minimum acceptable level of performance but beyond that, not every user is going to need the absolute highest tier in any given equipment choice. Overseas service, SWAT, patrol LE, range toys, and home defense are all fundamentally different applications. This is one of the nuances of this industry that are oft forgotten.
- If someone cannot detract from you professionally, they will attempt to do so personally. In this industry I have noticed that there are a lot of personality types and cliques. This leads to disagreements, heated arguments, attempts to discredit, and perceived superiority over another. This causes detraction from the point in discussion, irrelevant statements, and overall reduces the quality of information being discussed. To put it bluntly, the industry is a lot like a high school.
- Emotional attachment is one of the biggest battles when fighting bad information. As mentioned above, we have had decades to refine information- but the other side of the coin means myths have had decades to perpetuate. Attachment to certain techniques, items, or schools of thought create a brick wall that must be negotiated to present a point and have it received well. This also means that data and statements given must appeal the subject of your discussion’s logos, pathos, and ethos if you want to wholly drive a point home.
- Academia doesn’t grant expertise, nor does experience alone. Across the board, predominantly online though, we see many taking information from industry leaders and repeating as their own thoughts, and also making the assumption that this regurgitation of information constitutes a well thought out statement. It can, in some cases, but without the background of ‘why’ to go along with it, these are hollow statements made out of emotional attachment rather than experience and data. Conversely, having experience on one item, class, or school of thought does not make for that one thing to be objectively better for someone because you say so.
- Quantifying your statements is important. This doesn’t mean you have to write an entire thesis highlighting every single little quirk or complaint you have on something, but a short, succinct “this worked for me, this is why, and this is what I didn’t like” will go exponentially further than simply saying a brand name or “that sucks.” Even a short explanation allows for those listening or reading to take in that information as part of building their own conclusion.
- Hype culture is dangerous. Many companies out there are playing into the hype or drop culture. The tactical gear market is as diverse as its end users, but this culture that if you don’t have the latest drop from XXX company then you aren’t allowed in the clique. The issue with this is most of the market presence is online via social media. Those companies building on the drop culture create their own clique, and this is all new shooters see. This creates peer pressure to buy gear that may be objectively subpar for their individual application, and new shooters who don’t know any better are now financially vested into the culture and the wrong equipment, creating the emotional attachment I mentioned above.
- No accepted standard is free from being proved wrong. In several discussions I’ve seen and been involved in, there has been standard practice proved objectively wrong with further study and more modern methodology-predominantly with the medical field. This causes the biggest hiccups when faced with point 5, emotional attachment. Some are resistant to new information because it goes against what they have been taught. This is where both anecdotal and empirical data is important.
- Know when the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. In discussion, argument, gear choice, whatever it may be, there is always a point of diminishing returns. Is your time worth pressing the argument? Have you asked if they are even open to new information? Do you understand their application, or are you projecting yours and ignoring the nuance of choice? At the end of the day, you aren’t spending their money for them unless they asked you to. This also applies to your own selections. If you want the absolute best of the best, go for it. But you can still find a balance of performance and price that will far outlast you and your application.