Category Archives: Consumer Alert!

Pythons Can’t Save Colt

Since Colt’s near-default last month, a lot of gun enthusiasts have been suggesting that Colt has an easy way back from the brink — it could just bring back the Python.

One of Colt's best loved guns isn't made anymore.

One of Colt’s best loved guns isn’t made anymore.

We do love us some lustrous blue, silky-smooth double-actions, we firearms enthusiasts.

First, let’s have some high points from one of the good posts making this argument.

I think the way Colt should solve their money woes is by bringing back the Python.

Today the Python’s fetch ridiculous amounts when you can find one for sale. On one forum recently the asking price was over $4k and it sold within a day.

… they could easily ask $700-800+ with an MSRP of $900-1000+. A blued Smith Model 586 6″ has a MSRP of $839 and would retail for around $750. A blued Ruger GP100 6″ has an MSRP $699 and you might be able to get one for $550. It would take several years for Colt to saturate the market with new Pythons to the point people would say I’ll just go get a 586 or a GP100. Both the Smith and the Ruger are terrific firearms, but you cannot find a Colt and I know plenty of wheel gun enthusiasts who would line up to grab a new off-the-line Python for $800+ and that cycle would repeat until all of us left wanting finally had one in our hot little hand.

Please do Read The Whole Thing™ because we edited it heavily, although we think we represented the argument fairly.

Now, we’ll put on our Master’s Hood (it’s totally a thing) and apply some MBA-fu to the situation. First, the facts:

  1. Colt was in debt $380 million when they defaulted briefly last month. That’s $380,000,000 or… at least 380,000 Pythons if they (a) could sell 380,000 Pythons and (b) could produce them for free and give nothing up to the retail and wholesale trade. 
  2. Uh, that was before their latest loan which kicked the default can down the road, at the cost of more debt, $70 million from Morgan Stanley, some of which is going to pay interest on previous debt, some of which will retire some of the oldest and most urgent debt, and some of which, judging from past experience, will be pocketed by the owners.
  3. While Colt has not released the numbers for 1985-2004, the entire 50-year production of Pythons, most of which took place when revolvers were the preferred police guns and were far more popular than today, has probably produced under 650,000 Pythons. That’s still quite a lot of guns, and a new Python will compete on the market with those as well as with all the other baubles demanding your Gun of the Month Club money.
  4. How unlikely is a $900-1000 street price? The MSRP of the Python when it went out of the catalog was $1,150 (presumably 1999). That is $1,639 in today’s dollars. And Colt was losing money on every one. Colt needs products that are profitable, not loss-producing.
  5. Colt needs not only for each gun to be profitable, but it needs a high profit margin for the company to have any hope at paying down its crushing debt. A lot of precision manufacturing operations have a 10-20% markup. A lot of less ordinary businesses have a 50% gross margin. So when we figure out what it costs to make a Python (we know it would be more than $1,639 without major process changes) we need to plus that up at least another $170 for some profit. We’re now closing in on $2k. Ask yourself — how many $2k handguns do I own? We can answer that question, maybe 2. Collector’s items.
  6. As price goes up, for a gun as for anything else, the size of the market and therefore the sales volume declines. If cars were free, more  people would want Bentleys than a Corollas. But in the real world, C > B in sales volume. This relationship isn’t perfectly linear, but it’s broadly so.
  7. The principal reason for the high price (and therefore, low sales) of the Python at its end was the great many labor hours that went into one. Colt’s UAW member workers are generally much more expensive per hour than most other gunmakers’ workers, but the Python workers were in a different class entirely.
  8. The cost driver for the labor hours was the beautiful and unequalled mirror polish that was put on most Pythons. The reason the Python Blue is so beautiful is not the bluing so much as the incredible metal finish underneath it. This required many hours by specially skilled workers on special (and expensive) buffing wheels. Colt actually ran a sort of polishing academy for select workers, back in the day. You’re not going to get that for $900 in 2014. While CNC can cut metal well, and CNC polishing machines do exist, there’s no substiute for the old Polishing School-trained experts who did the old Pythons, and the big, sometimes exotic-material, wheels they used.
  9. It’s been 10 years since the last Custom Shop Python and 15 since the last production gun. The human expertise that would finish and assemble them is heavily attritted. How many people in your workplace were there in 2004 and 1999?

colt_logo_mFinally, there’s an overarching reason that Colt is not going to look to product to save them. Its leaders are not product guys; they’re not gun guys like you are. They are finance guys, hedge fund guys, and they have a very risky and highly leveraged investment (one that has already made them fabulously rich, and about which they do not care, apart from its ability to make them fabulously richer). So their focus has been on a Hail Mary, longshot very-high-payoff end game for Colt, and it continues to be. The possibilities are:

  1. Going public with an Initial Public Offering (IPO). They lost the window for this which would have been possible in 2012-2013. Now, they would be making the IPO with the burden of all this debt, into a market rocked by media stories (however inaccurate) that the gun industry is dying. An IPO was probably their initial imagined goal when they took the business over in the first place, but now it would fail.
  2. Finding a private buyer, probably another hedge fund. This is a problem given the financials of the company at the moment. While an IPO is sometimes an instantiation of the Bigger Fool Theory, hedge guys think that they’re never fools.
  3. Merging. A variety of the above. Hey, maybe Kahr wants a prestige nameplate?
  4. Continuing to borrow. We were a bit shocked by the terms of the last credit extension because we don’t see how Colt can pay it off. Sooner or later, the music stops. (This is also Bigger Fool Theory in action). And right now, more debt adds more people to the game of musical chairs, without adding chairs. Could this happen for a few more cycles? Possibly.
  5. Landing a Fat Government Contract. This is clearly something Colt managers have invested most of their time and effort in, but they haven’t even been able to successfully defend the contracts they’ve had. This is one of the principal reasons they’re in the hole; they blew the money that could have been invested in keeping them competitive for these contracts and in improving production efficiency, sluicing it out to the hedge fund guys’ pockets instead. They’re learning what HK, FN, Lockheed Martin, etc. have learned, you need to be close to DC and to your K Street lobbyists to make sure the baksheesh you’re paying to Congress gets you cash back. The headquarters of a lot of defense companies founded in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southern California now cluster around the nation’s wealthiest, and most corrupt, urban area. Finally, on this, being good at government contracts makes a company less and less suited for anything else. Over time, government work drives out your ability to compete in a free market and you become a captive of these contracts (look at Lockheed’s failed attempts to build airliners, or the whole history of Booz Allen). Working for the government is also the Bigger Fool Theory in action, because no one of us is as dumb as all of us, channeled through our grifting and gluttonous elected representatives.
  6. Banging out bankrupt. Unless some example of the Bigger Fool Theory is executed, this is in Colt’s future. One iron law of finance is that, in the end, creditors that can’t be paid, won’t be paid.

The fact is, the industry brontosaurs of today are sunning themselves on the edge of a tar pit that’s full of the fossils of the terrible lizards of yesterday. While our focus is usually on the guns, not the business, the guns have to make the manufacturer money for him to stay in business. The guns have to sell for enough for there to be something left over after the lights are kept on, the machinery is paid for, the overhead’s handled, and the skilled workers are compensated for their time. Or the lights go off, the machinery is repo’d or auctioned, the overhead goes unpaid, and the workers drive by a dark plant to go to the unemployment office.

Exercise for the reader: imagine you are CEO/CFO of Colt. Design a plan to retire more than a third of a billion in debt. Colt sales are about $50 million a quarter right now, with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and allowances amortization1 of $6M. Not so easy, is it?

Notes

1. Thanks to Alan H in the comments for the correction. (Makes all the “MBA-fu” noise look pretty dumb now). Just FYI, the reason EBITDA is important is it represents earnings from your actual business, uninfluenced by accounting write-offs that can make your balance sheet look better but don’t actually represent more dollars earned by your business’s activities.

A Slice of SOF History on GunBroker

These pistols for sale on GunBroker come with a rare claim: they were used by one of the nation’s most important special operations units during a period in the mid-oughts when that unit was flat-out in a radical optempo on worldwide CT missions (and other missions as well).  Not just “pistols like these,” but these exact pistols are represented as having been used in that particular SOF unit. They have a letter of authenticity from a former unit member who did have access and placement to know about the unit’s armament initiatives at the time.

sti_40s

And they’re pretty good pistols, but the bid of $6,500 at press time hasn’t broken the reserve. Here’s what the auction says:

Both of these STI 2011 .40 caliber pistols saw actual issue and use in a US Army SOF unit in 2006-2007. One pistol is in 93%+ condition and the other is in 96%+ condition. They are consecutively serial numbered and are quite possibly the only consecutively numbered set to be offered for sale. This consecutively numbered set comes with the following items: *** individual letters of authenticity from Larry Vickers (www.vickerstactical.com) for each pistol— original, unedited versions will be provided to the buyer *** six 140mm 17 round magazines *** one 170mm 22 round magazine *** one issued Surefire X200A light *** issued Safariland 6005 light bearing holster with end user modifications *** two Eagle Industries pistol cases

via US SOF issued STI 2011 pistols. Consecutive SNs. : Semi Auto Pistols at GunBroker.com.

STI no, 1

We did some looking into this and the unit in question did indeed experiment with a batch of 60 STIs in .40 during the 2006-7 time frame. They ultimately decided not to go that way, and returned the guns to STI. Some of them were very worn and beat-up; STI went through them and then sold them as used through their distributors. These two guns have a letter from Larry Vickers of Vickers Tactical, but a lot of the others are out there without any such letter. Not sure why some are authenticated and others are not, but it obviously boosts the auction appeal of the letter-of-authentication guns.

STI No. 2

As far as we know, these are the only operator-used guns from this unit that have ever gotten out, although there may be personal weapons and presentation weapons out there somewhere. Since the Clinton Administration, the military has generally made a practice of destroying firearms rather than letting Americans buy them. Even weapons given or sold to foreign allies are sold with can’t-let-American-civilians-get-‘em strings attached.

These are very good pistols. Unless you’re famous for your shooting, they probably shoot better than you do. With proper maintenance, they’re reliable as a watch. (There were some complaints about environmental malfunctions — i.e., choking on sand — in extreme conditions).

Parsing the redacted letters of authenticity, it’s interesting to see what Larry said, and what he didn’t say. He’s not some lawyer who practices picking his words to mislead, so we may be reading too much into this, but he does say they’re the only weapons sold “outside the unit.” Have some unit members, like generals, been given the privilege of retiring with their sidearms?  We don’t know, and think it somewhat unlikely, but along with some of the best shooters, that unit has usually gotten some of the the best support people in the Army — including the best lawyers. So it’s possible.

One thing for sure: the people who have a lot to say about that unit don’t know, and the people who know about that unit don’t have a lot to say. Which is as it should be.

If you want the STIs, or just to see more pictures,  the auction is here.

(Thanks for the tip off — you know who you are).

On Reaching 200 Megaguns

Well, not megaguns exactly, but 200 mega-NICS-checks. Oy.

You can see the original at FBI, or this image that embiggens for your reading convenience:

NICS-200-million

The NICS check is a slightly off-kilter proxy for new-gun sales, because:

  1. One check can encompass multiple firearms sales. For example, we recently bought an M1 Garand, M1 Thompson SBR, and M1903A3 on a single NICS (still waiting on Form 4 for the TSMG). We picked up a package of 6 Nodak Spud retro AR receivers on a single NICS check, too. So that’s nine guns on two checks.
  2. Some new firearms sales do not initiate any NICS check, in a handful of states where some time of gun license exempts buyers from the checks (because the license is revoked if any NICS-denial event is triggered).
  3. Some NICS checks are not the result of gun sales. This is true in states like Washington that have criminalized sportsmens’ gun borrowing, and in states that run a NICS check for initial or periodic reviews of pistol permit eligibility. (We seem to recall NC and KY are among these states). This distortion can be seen when you look at the by-state figures, which the FBI publishes regularly; if a state’s numbers are much higher than those of comparable states, they’re probably using NICS checks for something other than gun sales.
  4. Many NICS checks are the result of used, not new, gun sales. Please look back at the example in (1) above, considering now that the 9 firearms included only 6 new firearms, across those two NICS events. This is probably the biggest single distortionate factor: with reasonable care, guns last essentially forever, and remain subject to this regulatory burden essentially forever; the Garand and 1903A3 in example 1 were made 60 and 70 years ago, respectively, under Korean and WWII contracts.

You can see more FBI NICS information here and reports here. The only adjusted reports that we know of are made by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and are available to members only (authentication required). The NSSF doesn’t report quite as quickly as the FBI, because it tries to apply statistical corrections for the known distortions; it considers its adjusted reports closer to a count of new guns sold, and its numbers generally run about 70% of the FBI’s gross NICS numbers.

Still, we can draw some inferences from the numbers so far:

  1. There have been 10,000,000 or more NICS checks a year since 2006.
  2. There have been 15,000,000 or more NICS checks since 2011.
  3. It’s highly probable that 2014 will join 2013 with over 20,000,000 checks, although 2014 may not break 2013’s record.
  4. There have never been fewer than a million NICS checks a month since August, 2009.
  5. December is usually the peak NICS month (there are exceptions, especially in years that are supply-constrained during the Christmas season).
  6. There has not been a December with fewer than 1.3 million checks since 2007. We’ll see in a moment why this number matters.
  7. The only Decembers to fall below 1,000,000 were December, 1998, as the NICS system was feebly wobbling into existence as an alternative to the failed Brady waiting period, and December, 2002 amidst the dot-bomb and 9/11 recessions.
  8. The long run of increases over same-month-previous-year was interrupted in the summer doldrums of 2013. (You can see that summer is low period for these checks every year) and this year has been running slightly behind 2013, although a few months have .

Right now, the total stands at 18,658,863 through 30 November 14, which lets us figure out what it would take to achieve prior-year sales.

  • To break last year’s record of 21,093,273, we have to initiate over 2.4 million checks in the month of December. (For nit-pickers, 2,434,410. +1). That’s a big but not impossible goal: the NICS total has beaten that three times, in December, 2012, January, 2013, and March, 2014.
  • To break the arbitrary number of 20,000,000, on the other hand, we only have to initiate 1.3 million checks (1,341,137). This looks like a lock to us.
  • To break 2012’s then-record number of 19,592,303, we’d have to record 933,340 NICS checks. That would betoken a sales collapse to 1998 levels. This (breaking 2012’s record) is absolutely, positively going to happen.
  • If this December’s NICS ties with last December (2,041,528), the whole year would be 20,700,391, about 400k short of an all-time record. (For the pedant, 392,882 NICS short). That sounds like a big drop-off, but it’s actually 1.86%, making the numbers a tie, for all practical purposes.

First Official WeaponsMan Prediction is that 2014 final numbers Beat 2012 for Second Place with over 20,000,000 unadjusted NICS checks.

Second Official WeaponsMan Prediction is that the media — led by the usual suspects who retype gun control orgs’ press releases, and spin for ATF, like Pete Yost (AP), Sari Horwitz (WaPo), Paul Barrett (Bloomberg — at least Barrett admits he’s on the payroll) and the gang — trumpets 2013 not beating 2014 as ZOMG Gun Sales Collapse.

Think about that: Twenty Million is what our best indicator of sales tells us, a number more than 16 of the 17 years on record, and they’re going to tell us the gun culture’s on the skids. (How would any of those media hacks know? It’s not like they expend shoe leather like reporters of yore).

On the other hand, if we beat the WeaponsMan prediction and beat 2013, here’s what those bylined tools will write about it:

”    “.

Yeah.

If you want to frustrate them? There’s never been a better time to buy a gun. Or three (at three different FFLs, naturally. You wouldn’t want them all on one NICS check. That plays into enemy hands).

Hat Tip, Miguel at Gun Free Zone

How to Make People Hate Your Business Today

slickguns_black_friday_screenshotToday is Black Friday, one of the two most prominent shopping days on the American mercantile calendar (the other? Cyber Monday, coming up in three days). It has become a tradition for merchants to offer their best prices on these days, to stand out from the crowd.

For example, almost everybody in the gun world is offering Black Friday deals, and every year Slick Guns.com collects them on a web page. Here’s 2014’s:

http://www.slickguns.com/black-friday-2014

There’s something over 60 vendors on that page. (It’s not complete by any means. We’ve received emails from Wilson Combat and X Products with Black Friday deals that are not represented. But they’re trying). We’re not using it ourselves, because this season is about buying for other people, and our other people don’t want guns and ammo, the benighted souls. But one of the vendors’ results there illustrates the perils of one common Black Friday promotional stunt.

How “Limited Supply Available” Really Works

It’s legal, but it’s a con. It’s a con because it depends on information asymmetry (the seller knows things the buyer doesn’t, in this case) to mislead customers into shopping; vendors with transparency as to stock status can’t pull this off.

Buds black friday loss leaders

 

Let’s look at it from the vendor’s point of view. Since everyone else in the crowd is doing the same thing, it gets harder and harder for any one shop to do so profitably. You can cut your prices as low as they can go — and then still be undercut by someone willing to use a loss leader to lure your customers into his store.

Loss leaders are one way some merchants attract business. Those are products that are sold for less than cost in the hope that customers who buy (1) buy other things in your store as well, while  they’re there, and (2) maybe even become habituated to buying from you. The merchant then gouges the customers who do (1) and (2) in order to make up for his losses on the loss leader.

If you’re not the guy who got the loss leader, you only get the gouge.

Since it’s getting harder and harder to attract business in the buy buy buy chaos of Black Friday, some merchants go for the definitely legal, arguably ethical, and maddeningly frustrating approach of offering only token loss leaders. This lets you attract business to your store (or website), but minimizes your loss. For example, you advertise a $400 pistol for $100, “While Supply Lasts,” and then you have one or two of that unit. (You also recover some of your $300 x #-of-loss-leaders “loss” by expensing it to promotion on your balance sheet, letting you offset profits on your taxes). It’s a bait and switch deal, but it is technically legal (unlike bait and switch where there was no product, which is criminal fraud) because some lucky schmo did get one or two examples of the $99 firearm.

And the dealer almost has to do this, or he’s not going to get diddly for traffic or sales on Black Friday. To some extent, when you’re a retailer, you have to conform to what other retailers are doing, and conform to customer expectations of retailers. So even if you hate loss leaders with a purple passion, you have to at least consider them. What do you say when you get an email from SlickGuns asking what your Black Friday deal is?

Now Let’s Look at the Customer Side of Things

buds_screenshotBut now that we’ve looked at the joy this brings to the merchant, let’s look at how it looks from the customer point of view, remembering that the average customer is not an MBA, not a quant, and not the kind of sharp-elbowed operator that stays alive as a low-margin, high-volume retailer of anything.

Bud’s Gun Shop, a one of those low-margin, high-volume sellers, offered several loss leaders for Black Friday, and they were duly sold out in minutes — before the sale actually began, which makes one suspect the deals went to insiders, perhaps.

Now, we’re going to reveal a great feature of SlickGuns’ black friday reportage: customer reviews. Here are some pull quotes from reviews by real customers:

  • I guses the REAL question is; Will ANYONE ever get one? Even if you somehow paid and think your getting a $49 or $99 dollar gun will it ever show up? How many weeks will you have to wait to get it?
  • Absolute bullcrap bait and switch
  • My list of gun sellers just got smaller again now that Dicks and Buds are forever on my do not buy from list.
  • Should not advertise this if you cant keep your website up?
  • I tried and tried for the last 2 hours and got repeated crash notices.
  • I am very, very disappointed in Buds.
  • This was my first dealing with them and I dont know if I will come back.
  • I guess I will go with my second option J & G Sales
  • finally got two items in my cart at the doorbuster price, but couldn’t check out because the server couldn’t handle the traffic.
  • What a load of crap! After many attempts I had the items in my cart but it would not let me checkout.
  • I have bought several guns from Buds in the past, but they just lost me as a customer after watching this.
  • Bud’s lost a lot of customers during the AR scare, I will have a tough time ever buying there again after this.
  • What a clusterf**k. The sight crashed just prior to 8:00 and is still messed up now at 9:00. I’m going to stay away from these morons.
  • I plan on purchasing many guns in the future but I am going to make it a point not to buy them from buds because of this.
  • If this server was working I wouldn’t be so pissed off. What a joke!
  • This was a bunch of BS, I could have slept in for an additional 1 1/2 hrs before getting ready for work.
  • Same here…I’m convinced we had no chance from the get-go.
  • Here is a good, “How to lose customers through fraudulent business practices.” Was a loyal BUDS customer….will no longer be. Nice work.
  • As fraudulent as they come..
  • Nice, not one of those items ever displayed the sale price.
  • Absolutely absurd! Fool me once…
  • 20 minutes before the sale “started” all the doorbusters were already sold out. i was hoping it said that because they were going to add them at 8 EST, but it never happened.
  • I made an account just for this response. Bud’s is a complete scam. Bait and switch is all they did. Never again will they see any of my money. The people that work there are a bunch of liars and they like screwing people over!
  • I’m usually not on board when I hear people say “bait and switch” after missing out on a deal… but this one was SUPER suspicious lol.. Nobody got one, and those of us who got them in the cart couldn’t check out….

The Facebook comments are similar, although you have to catch them before Bud’s deletes them. One favorites we saw:

  • David T Chamberlin
    Looks like someone attended United Airlines customer service school.

Snork!

Well, there you have it. The 2 or 5 or whatever of the discounted-beyond-belief guns were gone and the servers crashed, and 20 or 50 or whatever would-be deal-seekers are pissed off. Is that a win? We’re not sure. Bud’s might think it is. As a volume seller, they don’t need to care about developing relationships with their customers. They know that many of them are bottom-feeders, “loyal” only to the lowest advertised price. (That’s why you get vendors who sell something for $30 under all their competition, but charge $50 extra shipping and handling)

But it hasn’t been the end of the fury raging in the comments at SlickGuns. Because two commenters taunted that they got their guns, and they didn’t know why all the losers were complaining. Were they shills for Bud’s, or just trolling? Hold that thought for just a second.

A couple other commenters said they did get one of the guns, but other commenters noticed something interesting about the trolls: they had just registered minutes before, and the trolling post was their first and only. Trolls for Bud’s? Trolls just for the sake of being trolls? Either is possible, but some people will believe they were Bud’s all along anyway, and therefore, for better or worse, Bud’s owns them as part of the blowback from this Black Friday stunt.

Finally, we’d like to point out that the guns the Bud’s was discounting were, uh,  totally top-tier. Canik, Tisas, and some no-name shotgun? They normally sell in the $180-330 range to people that are buying styling rather than quality or reputation. “Saving” money on something you would not have bought, otherwise, is not “saving” money, it’s “spending” money.

Only the owners and managers of Bud’s know how their loss-leader scheme is working for them, but from what we’ve seen, loss-leader marketing does less damage to brick-and-mortar store reputation that it does to cyber merchandisers for several reasons.

  1. The Net is necessarily a lower-trust environment than even the most impersonal physical store.
  2. Transparency of inventory. In other words, you can see when the doorbuster specials are gone in a physical store (you also can do it in a well-run cyber storefront; we noticed this at Apex Gun Parts, and Luckygunner’s ammo inventory is usually good.
  3. The shared experience of doorbuster-chasing. If you wait in line all night at Best Buy, you get to know the other people waiting in line with you, at least a little. This builds a sort of social cohesions. Conversely, on the Internet every man is an island at the end of a causeway of internet protocol packets. He has no lateral contact with the other islands, no reason to be in good cheer.

We suspect that some businesses will find that loss-leader doorbusters work, but others will find that they do not. The problem with discounting is that it’s like riding a tiger: once you’re onboard, how do you get off? And there’s always somebody who will trim his margins more by locating in a lower-tax jurisdiction or putting his kids to work instead of paid employees.

Gun Marketing Between the Lines: Taurus, Beretta (Updated)

ITEM: Look Out for the Bull!

A site called Grand View Outdoors has a “review” of the new Taurus Model 180 Curve pistol that could have been written by Taurus’s PR people (maybe it was). (ETA: See UPDATE below). So you see what we’re talking about, here’s Taurus’s promo video:

And here’s Taurus’s web page on the new gun. OK, so that’s the 180 Curve, a melted-looking pocket pistol that’s supposed to hug your body shape and that holds 6 rounds of .380. It has a DAO trigger and the crappy Taurus locking system.

A lot of these details aren’t being mentioned in the stories online here and there, yet they’re easily found or deduced based on stuff Taurus themselves posted. As you can see from this picture, it has an unusual feature for a .380, a locked breech, Browning tipping-barrel style:

Taurus-Curve-180CRV-5Note also the complete absence of protruding sights. Taurus explains that that’s because of their new sight system, which appears to consist of a sort of sight post and crosshairs decorating the back of the gun. Here are two pictures showing that — with no clue as to what it would be like in low light:

Taurus-Curve-180CRV-6

 

Taurus-Curve-180CRV-2

It seems to be held together, in part, by Allen-key screws.

As you can see in the video, it looks like the mag doesn’t drop free. In addition, it has a magazine disconnect (Taurus’s term) or mag safety: mag’s out, can’t shoot. The magazine safety was always a lousy idea, even when it was implemented by John Moses Browning Himself; when Browning put one in, it was usually because a customer or manager made him do it, and he always did it in a way you could pin it out or remove it. (So many have been taken out of BHPs that some BHP owners don’t know that theirs originally came with the unpopular feature).

Shooters seeing the Curve for the first time might be a bit skeptical about how the handgun actually handles. With its weird shape, curved magazine and boxy lines, can the Curve actually shoot when it counts?

That’s a good question. How will they answer it?

After firing several boxes of .380 at an indoor range near Taurus’s Miami, Florida-based U.S. headquarters, it’s pretty clear the shapely Curve has no problem throwing lead down range. Most shooters experienced few if any malfunctions and the included laser sight made hitting the mark a breeze.

If you read that graf between the lines, you see it was a press junket near Taurus HQ, where an unknown quantity of journos collectively fired “several boxes” of ammunition through, presumably, selected “press guns,” and… “experienced few if any malfs…”

Wait, what? Were there malfunctions? A “few” in “several boxes” of ammo presumably provided by the maker of the GD gun? Newsflash: that’s not “carry gun” reliability. That’s more like “the reputation Taurus is really trying to shake.” But “if any”? Well, did the gun jam or didn’t it? And what’s with the mag having to be pulled out of the magwell in the video? Is that intentional (i.e., crappy magazine safety) or unintentional (i.e., crappy QC)?

The article also claims that the mag withdrawal is due to the mag being curved, but the photos with the article (all seem to be Taurus handouts) and the photos on Taurus’s site show that it isn’t; the grip is curved but the mag is not.

Ph_Curve_Back_W_Magazine

But like anything in life, the Curve isn’t going to be everything for everybody looking for the perfect concealed carry handgun. For one, sized similar to a smartphone, the Curve is little (think Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380). If you’ve got big hands and long fingers, the grip is a little tougher to negotiate and the trigger doesn’t break without negotiating a better pull.

via Taurus Bends The Handgun Market With New ‘Curve’ | 2014-11-18 | Grand View Outdoors.

Is it just us, or is that last sentence unintelligible?

And is it just us, or is the writing visibly worse on a lot of so-called professional, advertising-supported sites than it is on private enthusiasts’ sites? Maybe these guys were just having a bad day.

Now, the Curve is priced very low ($392.42 list, suggesting it may sell for around $350), and with its integral light and laser, and small size, our guess is that they are going to sell these by the boxcar load. Will Taurus have QC problems? Only time and a large quantity of guns in the field will tell. Taurus doesn’t have the best reputation in this area (to put it bluntly, they’ve squandered the good reputation they once had). It is very concealable, and it’s probably better to have “a” gun than to go unarmed because it’s not the “right” gun.

If you remember the Remington R51, you might not be the first in line for one of these. Wait and see is a good policy. And a good question to ask the guy at your LGS, when you’re buying any unknown quantity that’s been around long enough to have made some sales: “Have any of these come back for warranty work?” A small shop, the guys will know right away. Big box stores they won’t (and they might tell you whatever they think will close the sale).

So, that’s Taurus and how they got glowing promotional media from someone with scant exposure to the firearm in question. Let’s move on.

ITEM: Beretta publishes video showing jammed Beretta.

Seriously, this is an own goal, or to mix sports metaphors, an unforced error. What were they thinking? Here’s a still from a video clip of infantry officer trainees shooting Beretta M9s, that was included in a Beretta promo video.

Screenshot 2014-11-17 22.01.34

The slide’s jammed about 3/8″ out of battery and has been for about 3.5 seconds at this point. The still is taken from a Beretta promo video, visible at this link at beretta.com.

And at about 5:11 in the video, the soldier in the right foreground fires, and the gun jams out of battery. They cut the video off there, but not before showing the jam.

It’s all part of a new site Beretta has in place to promote the now-venerable M9/M92 series pistols. The site’s a great idea, but they managed to put up a video showing their flagship gun, which hardly ever jams, jamming. What were they thinking?

What these two incidents have in common

The commonality between the Taurus launch with its unknown number of jams, and the Beretta video with it’s visible jam, is that in both cases professional marketing operations went out in public with something that was distinctly off message. Unforced error again. In the first case, Taurus was (mostly) saved by the gun press’s incredible ability to deny or explain away malfunctions happening right in front of their eyes. In Beretta’s? Our best guess is that the video was edited from a pile of b-roll by someone who was a video pro, not necessarily a gun guy or gal, and the four seconds of failure to return to battery were brief enough that Beretta’s gun guys overlooked it until it was up on their website in front of God and everybody.

There’s no such thing as a firearm that never fails, but your marketing materials will be assumed by the public to have been scrubbed of failures, making the escape of failures into the wild doubly embarrassing.

UPDATE

See the response by Christian Lowe in the comments below. Christian was the reporter for GrandView Outdoors, and he provides more detail about the gun, about the range experience (his Curve never malfunctioned, but he thought someone else’s did), and some insight into the process of writing his article. Thanks!

Here’s a Shocker (not): Red Cross Squandered Disaster Donations

Hurricane Sandy press conference, CEO McGovern in front of trucks pulled from relief efforts to be her backdrop.

Potemkin Relief exposed at a Hurricane Sandy press conference, CEO McGovern in front of trucks pulled from relief efforts to be her backdrop.

When someone says non-profit, our impluse is to reach for a revolver. While the term conjures, for many Americans, mental images of saintly do-gooders, the cold hard fact is that the bigger the non-profit, the more the top ranks are Political Class insiders running the soi-disant charity for personal gain.

Take the Red Cross. A recent report from the left-wing journalistic organization ProPublica savages the non-profit for its incompetent and corrupt mishandling of Hurricane Sandy relief.

At ProPublica, it’s baby duck day, but does anybody beyond the down-on-his-cheeks stage remember the ARC’s response to 9/11? It collected a fortune — and sat on it, to the extent that its vast army of headquarters drones didn’t award it to one another. Remember the Red Cross’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005? Neither do many of the displaced and ruined victims, because the ARC sent empty trucks and staged empty press events. Its focus was, as always, on raising money — it raises, and blows, a billion a year, whether there’s a disaster or not.

In fact, the Red Cross brass welcome disasters, because there’s nothing like some photogenic devastation to tentpole a fund-raising campaign.

Hurricane Sandy led to a fund-raising windfall of almost $400 million. But very little was spent on actual relief, something obvious to people on the ground:

“The Red Cross would have been helpful if it had offered food, water, shelter, cleaning supplies, blankets,” says Rich Wieland, whose house in Toms River, New Jersey was flooded and whose neighborhood lost power for 16 days. His first contact with the charity came two months after the storm when Red Cross workers finally called to offer aid. “It was too little, too late.”
Richard Sturiale, who saw the basement and first floor of his home in the Rockaways destroyed by flooding, recalls that “the only Red Cross truck my neighbors or I saw came two weeks after the storm.” In contrast, he says, Mormon and Amish volunteers “appeared at my doorstep offering much-needed help” just three days after Sandy.

There were plenty of Red Cross trucks, but they were assigned at the personal direction of vastly overpaid CEO Gail McGovern for fund-raising PR duty, standing in the background of press conferences.

That’s the Red X for you: jet-setting to the scene of a disaster — for a fundraising photo op.

Yesterday ProPublica was back with news of an employee survey that found that 39% of employees trusted “senior leadership,” i.e. McGovern and cronies, and only 60% were comfortable with the organization’s ethics.

….[The] survey, which was conducted by IBM, notes that other companies scored better on the questions about trust. About 20 percent of respondents at other companies expressed concern about their organization’s ethics, compared with nearly 40 percent for the Red Cross survey

The charity condemned the journalists for investigating it. Earlier this year, they hired an expensive law firm to conduct a scorched-earth fight against disclosing where the Sandy money went (a fight that was partially successful). Spokeswoman Anna Maria Borrego said at the time that information documenting the charity’s penchant for blowing relief money on fundraising and image-polishing activities was…

proprietary information important to maintaining our ability to raise funds and fulfill our mission.

Here’s a link to ProPublica’s complete Red X coverage.

The Red Cross, in fact, as a hierarchical, centralized, command-driven large enterprise is a lot like military units: a lot depends on the character of the person at the top. The last several people at the top have been the kind that ran the org with a view to their personal bottom lines. It shows.

No Easy Day, the Rifle

We received the following advert in the mail. Posted without extensive comment. It doth embiggen with a click:

ned-4

More information, and sales, at this link.

The promised non-extensive comments:

The carbine is made by USM4, which has a dope deal with the Special Forces Association (which is what the Special Forces Outdoors store is, a store where proceeds in part support this fraternal org for former and current Special Forces members). Obviously USM4 and the SFA have cut some kind of dope deal with Mark Bissonnette (aka Owen) as well.

The carbine seems extremely pricey, but it comes as a complete package. The description of all the included goodies is missing from that ad above, but it’s on the website, and we’ll reproduce it here:

Each No Easy Day Special Missions Carbine rifle package is supplied complete with all components installed including a Geissele SSA trigger, Magpul stock and vertical foregrip, Ergo pistol grip, Centurion rail with matching rail covers, AAC flash hider permanently pinned, Surefire M600U weapons sight, L3/EOTech HSS I Holographic weapon sight/G33 magnifier, two Magpul QD sling mounts, two Magpul 30-round magazines, Princeton Tec Remix Pro LED headlamp, Viking Tactics wide padded MK2 sling, and an autographed and serialized ‘No Easy Day’ hardcover book. The package is available in black or digital desert camo finish. Optional equipment ordered with package will be supplied in matching black or camo/tan finish where available.

There’s a typo in that description (the Surefire M600 is a weapons light, not a weapons sight), but if you look you’ll see that that’s a pretty comprehensively equipped rifle. In fact, that laundry list of goodies doesn’t mention that the set comes in a Pelican case (but it does). The Geissele SSA is the semi-auto version of the trigger Geissele provides to certain SOF elements.

Now, how you feel about Mark “Owen” and his decision not to submit his book for prior review (which would, almost certainly, have spiked the book; there’s one set of rules for suits and admirals, and another set for guys whose war involves discharging firearms), will probably color how you feel about this carbine. Given its high price we expect it to be a relative rarity, but it’s unlikely to be a wise investment (bear in mind what we’ve said about guns as investments). In the long run (20 years +) we expect it to appreciate, but probably not when measured in constant dollars or relative to other possible uses of the money.

Update: Further Description of the Kit

Introducing the ‘No Easy Day’ Special Missions Carbine (SMC), engineered to fulfill the demanding requirements of military combat and designed from the ground up by Mark Owen, conceived at the ‘Tip of the Spear’ during his 14-year career as a U.S. Navy SEAL. The No Easy Day SMC is a complete system, developed with the unique knowledge and experience Owen gained from hundreds of special operations missions. Every component of the No Easy Day SMC has been hand-selected by Mark and the rifle is built and assembled to his exact specifications. Everything you need in a package built for action, at a price you can afford.

The USM4 SMC is a strictly limited production rifle destined to become part of history, born out of direct experience at the front line of America’s defense against terrorism. This is your once-in- a-lifetime opportunity to secure a truly military-grade weapon system, in the configuration personally specified by Mark Owen as his rifle of choice for any special combat mission. “The No Easy Day SMC is simply the finest complete weapon system available,” says Mark Owen. “I would have carried this SMC on any one of my combat deployments.”

Comprised of Mil-Spec all-US-made components by premium manufacturers, the SMC features a Colt SOCOM upper and barrel mated to a USM4 billet lower receiver etched with the No Easy Day logo. Equipped with a Geissele SSA trigger, Magpul furniture, Ergo grip and Centurion rail, the SMC is completed with the L3/ EOTech HSS I Holographic Weapons Sight with matching G33 magnifier, Surefire M600U Ultra Scout Light, AAC Blackout flash hider/QD 51T suppressor mount, and a Princeton Tec Remix Pro LED headlamp, the item of equipment Owen would not go on a mission without. A custom- cut Pelican 1750 hard case houses the complete system.

Every system sold includes a personally autographed copy of Mark’s book, “No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden”, serialized to match the rifle serial number.

This limited edition package includes special offers to obtain optional tactical combat equipment including a civilian version of the L3/Insight APTPIAL-C AN/PEQ-15 Advanced Target Pointer/ Illuminator/Aiming laser with both visible and IR lasers; a TNVC/Sentinel Binocular Night Vision System; an AAC M4-2000 Suppressor (subject to NFA regulations); and an Ops-Core FAST Base Jump military helmet. The Pelican case is supplied with cut- outs ready to accept all this optional equipment.

IN OUR CONTINUING EFFORT TO SUPPORT A COMMUNITY THAT HAS ALREADY DONE SO MUCH, A PORTION OF THE PROCEEDS FROM THE SALE OF EVERY SMC PACKAGE WILL BE DONATED TO THE SPECIAL FORCES ASSOCIATION AND THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS CARE FUND.

To this we’d add, why not a SEAL charity? We have been advised that “Owen’s” attempts to donate proceeds to various frogman charities have been rebuffed, in the light of his OPSEC violations. (We initially typed OOPSec, which might have been a Freudian typo).

The Other End of the Beretta Market: Wilson Combat 92G

A few days ago we showed you a Beretta 92 (the 2nd major variant, the butt-end-mag-release 92S with decocking safety) available for short money (<$300). Now, here’s a Beretta that sells for well over $1,000 — but may be worth it to a serious Beretta shooter. First, the eye candy:

brigadier-002

It’s a collaboration between Wilson Combat, who this year have expanded from their legendary 1911 platform to custom work on Berettas, and Beretta itself. Basically, this model puts just about every modification you’d want to on a Beretta 92 (except, perhaps, a threaded barrel; M9s and 92s are a natural-born great suppressor host).

Some features of the limited production Wilson Combat/Beretta 92G Tactical include steel ambidextrous decocker-only levers (G model), enhanced Brigadier slide, a modified M9A1 style checkered frame with accessory rail and rounded trigger guard. This model also features enhanced accuracy with an “Elite” style match grade stainless barrel with recessed target crown, the action features a “D” hammer spring for lighter trigger pulls, and Trijicon dovetail tritium front sight and Wilson Combat rear sight. Wilson Combat G-10 grips, Wilson Combat steel guide rod and numerous other features to enhance performance. The 92G Tactical is finished in Beretta black Bruniton and marked with the Wilson Combat logo and specially serialized to ensure its place in Beretta history.

These include a lot of pretty standard Beretta mods, like the G non-safety momentary decocker, the D hammer spring, and Trijicon tritium night sight. They also tighten slide-to-frame fit, and use a skeletonized hammer. The key components that are plastic on standard 92s are all steel on this one: decocker, trigger, magazine release, guide rod. The guide rod is a fluted stainless Wilson part.

brigadier-001

brigadier-006The “Brigadier” slide has more beef in the locking-recesses area than the standard 92 slide.  You either need the M9A1 rail or you don’t. The barrel is recess-crowned for durable accuracy (left).

The serials of the special Berettas begin with “WC” and are then followed by digits (below).

Although the 92G Tactical has been optimized by Beretta to meet the needs of high round count tactical and competitive shooters, further customization and finish work is available through Wilson Combat.

brigadier-004That’s what the website says, but the customization at present is limited to a mag guide and action tuning.

If you already have a Beretta, and have some decent armorer’s skills, Wilson Combat can supply many of the parts they supply on their full-on custom version.

To help launch the new pistol, a quote from Bill Wilson:

Being a serious Beretta collector, I have always considered the 92G SD the best model ever produced, but almost too expensive and rare to shoot. I feel fortunate to have been able to work with the fine people at Beretta USA to produce a pistol that, in my opinion, is an improved 92G SD. Having Beretta USA build my dream 92 series pistol is awesome and I’m very happy that a lot of people will be able to enjoy this fine pistol model.

If you can’t find a Beretta you like between the two extremes we’ve covered in the last few days, you just don’t like Berettas.

No, really, the SKS is “the Next Garand?”

A headline to that effect — actually in the form of a question — at Shotgun News nearly made us throw something. In which ate-up worldview, on which backwards planet, and in which topsy-turvy, mixed-up, tossed-up, never-come-down belief system is the SKS the next Garand? One of them was a US service rifle for almost 40 years (the National Guard went direct from Garands to M-16s), a frontline service rifle for 21-24 of those years (1936-57/60), has combat cred from two victorious wars, and was described by a legendary (if hyperbolic) general as “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” In addition, it dominated High Power and Service Rifle target shooting for decades, too, even after the M14 and M16 replaced it in the services’ rifle racks. Indeed, the article hits most of these M1 high points. Meanwhile, the SKS had a mere flash-in-the-pan period as a frontline service rifle in Russia, and was even the second banana in its one great war (the Vietnam conflict, where the preferred NVA weapon was always the AK).

Well, SGN’s Keith Wood was looking for a provocative title, and he sure as hell found one. But as we read the article, our seething subsided. Wood wasn’t dinging the M1, and he was talking instead about something where the SKS seems to be emulating the Garand — market appeal. The Garand was for years in very good supply vis-a-vis demand, thanks to the production of millions; but now the limited (if high) production and survival rates are having an impact, as a constraint on supply; ergo, prices rise. Wood thinks that SKSes may see similar price rises, perhaps not soon, but sooner or later. Here’s the crux of his argument:

When I began hitting gun shows with my dad back in the late 1980s, I recall seeing crates of new SKSs, still in cosmoline, for sale at a mere $79 per rifle ($75 if you bought the entire crate). I don’t recall the country of origin of those rifles, but I believe that they were Chinese Type 56s. Even though I probably had the money in my pocket from working odd jobs, the old man wouldn’t let me take one home — “junk” he said (he has one now). Today, a Chicom SKS will run you north of $300. Even adjusted for inflation, the price has more than doubled in those 25 years. “Surplus is drying up” Jacob Herman at Century Arms International told me when I inquired about the overseas availability of rifles such as the SKS. As fewer guns become available, prices will climb — thus, $300+ SKSs.

Though over 6 million Garands were built, not all of them stayed in the U.S. to be sold as surplus. Garands were shipped to armies all over the world where they have sat in warehouses since later designs were adopted by the armies of those nations. For decades, the best place to purchase a Garand has been through the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) — many CMP Garands were sourced from these overseas stockpiles. CMP Garands start at $595 today, and wait times are as long as 9 months. If you don’t want to wait for a CMP rifle, you can buy one off the used market, but be prepared to pay closer to $1000 for a serviceable example. With an executive order preventing many overseas M1s from being re-imported by the CMP, that price is certain to rise further as supplies diminish. Garands are fairly expensive today, but they weren’t inexpensive rifles when they were brand new. The $85 price tag that the Department of War paid for the M1 in the 1940s calculates to almost $1400 in today’s dollars, which means that Garands are actually less expensive today than they were seven decades ago. There was a time though, that Garands were dirt cheap. During the 1950s and 60s, M1 Garands and Carbines were available as surplus for less than the U.S. government paid for them in the 40s. Relatively speaking, the Garand was as available and inexpensive in those days as the SKS was in our recent past.

The heart of the matter is pure economics. You have two rifles that were produced in seemingly endless numbers and sold as surplus for a song. As supplies constrict due to natural or regulatory factors, prices rise. We’ve seen it with Mausers, ’03 Springfields, M1 Carbines, Garands and, yes, even SKSs. Barring unforeseen supplies or future policy changes that will flood the U.S. market with old military rifles, we will see prices of all surplus arms continue to climb. At some point, we’ll likely look back at even today’s high prices longingly as ‘the good ole days.’

We note that SKS prices have already dropped once: when they were allowed to be imported in the 1980s, pent-up demand was quickly sated. Those collectors that had paid handsomely for Vietnam bringbacks (up to $1000) suddenly were looking at the same gun, merely import-marked, with a $139 retail price (or even lower, as Wood noted). If investment is part of your gun-collecting plan, that’ll leave a mark, and the market is always subject to such fluctuations and corrections.

But before you make investment part of your gun-collecting rationale, we have some bad news for you.

A Firearm is Seldom a Wise Investment

Unless your alternative is something like hookers and blow, firearms are generally a rotten investment, and that’s the inner MBA talking, not the gun geek. (The MBA is the one you want to listen to at investment time). Some firearms appear to have appreciated well, when in fact they’ve merely held their value or appreciated slowly. For example, take a nice Winchester-made Garand purchased in 1978 for $600. Today it’s worth $1500. It was originally purchased by the War Department, Wood notes, for $85 (a lot of money, in 1945). So it looks at a glance like the value has more than doubled since ’78, and grown almost 20-fold since its manufacture.

But that makes a common error — it fails to account for the time value of money. And it makes another error — it fails to account for inflation. On inflation grounds alone, firearms are a weak investment. Here’s that M1 Garand example, and a 1980 and 1988 SKS examples to go with it:

Appreciation Original Values 2014 Values
Rifle Year Value …of Gun …of Cash (CPI) …of Cash (Invested) Inflation Factors
Winchester Garand 1978 $650 $1,400 $2,373 $9,744 The gun appreciated, but not in real-dollar terms. In 1978 dollars, the Garand is now worth $384! The Invested column is based on the S&P 500 Compound Annual Growth Rate, adjusted for inflation.NOT adjusted, the results are: $36,569.
Chinese SKS, non import marked 1980 $450 $350 $1,300 $6,597 Investment? You lose money, compared to simply holding even with inflation. In 1980 dollars, this VN bringback SKS is worth $91.50 Not adjusted for inflation, S&P 500 returns $20,048.
Chinese SKS, import marked 1988 $130 $250 $375 $867 In constant 1988 dollars, this gun is about a wash at $124.25.You still would have done better in the S&P 500. Not adjusted, $1,751.
©2014 WeaponsMan.com

The basic calculators we used are the Inflation Calculator at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the stock-market Compound Annual Growth Rate Calculator at MoneyChimp.com.

If you play with these calculators until you understand them, you can save yourself a lot of money on graduate school. Even sophisticated investors often fall into the trap of working in floating rather than constant dollars. (If you want to know how much a gun you bought in 1980 has appreciated, you must figure the appreciation in either 1980 or 2014 dollars, or you’re working with inconstant units and will get a pleasant, but false, number).

Likewise, time value of money is a hard concept to internalize. It’s a measure of opportunity cost; it’s what potential for that money you lose when you invest it in, say, an SKS. You can’t put the same dollar into your brokerage account and your gun safe.

As you can see, an investment in an S&P 500 index fund beats almost any tangible personal property or collector’s item. Most small investors try to pick individual stocks, and wind up not doing as well as an index fund.

However, not everyone has the discipline to invest in an index fund and keep their jeezly mitts off the money for two or three decades. If you are THAT guy (or gal), a safe full of firearms is a sort of forced savings; guns, if maintained, lose their value much less rapidly than other items like cars or home remodeling, and don’t lose all value the way consumption items like jewelry, electronics or vacations do.

X Products AR Can Launcher

There’s modular, and there’s crazy modular. Here’s an AR upper with a twist — it contains a plugged, ported barrel, and launches an ordinary 12 oz. soft drink can out to 100 yards. Coming soon from X Products, you can preorder it (as an upper) now with a $20 deposit.

Can_Cannon_Right_Hand_View_with_Logo

More fun than anyone should have… The Can Cannon is a patent pending launching device that uses a propriatary gas ported barrel and pressure tube to launch heavy, thin wall objects, without burning a hole in them or directing hot gas directly into them. Currently set up for launching full un-opened 12oz soda cans, when used with standard mil spec blanks it can reach an average distance of 105 yards!
Why would you launch a soda can? Because it’s fun! Plus, it’s an incredibly fast and fun decoy to shoot at. Every demonstration leads to more smiles and laughs than any product we’ve ever introduced. BATFE approved design is not considered a Destructive Device or firearm.

via AR-15 Soda Can Launcher – Accessories Launcher – X Products.

Expected cost of the whole thing will be $399 or less (again, this is upper only) and it works with GI M200 blanks.

X Products is, of course, well known for its line of 50-round drum magazines for ARs and various other rifles in 5.56, 7.62 and 9mm. One is shown above in the Can Launcher, and the one below is in a Black Rain Ordnance AR.

X-15_Drum_in_Black_Rain_Rear_ViewThe metallic X Products drums are heavy for a 50-round mag, but reliable (although they can be… selective… about the supposedly-STANAG weapons they’ll work with, X is pretty up-front with this information).

You’re probably wondering a few things. Like: how does X make this work? And how did they get ATF to sign off on this as a non-gun? And we wouldn’t be Weaponsman.com if we didn’t have answers for you.

That big, soda-can-caliber cylinder threads on like a free-floating fore-end, but the barrel of this AR is radically different. It’s short, and ported, and capped. When you drop a can in, it rests on the cap and creates a de-facto high-pressure-low-pressure system like that going on inside a 40mm grenade.

The blank’s high pressure in the barrel exits through the ports into the large area behind the can, pressurizing it and sending the can downrange with a satisfying toonk!

The pressure in the “low pressure chamber” behind the can is sufficient to launch the can.

The ATF, for their part, appears satisfied that the capped blanks-only barrel is not intended for live-ammunition use. (And indeed, if you tried it, you would not be pleased with the result).

There are videos of this in action at the link above. So, how much did we like it? Enough to put ourselves down for one:

order_screenshot

 

We have absolutely no earthly, practical use for the thing (X Products suggests launching decoys for training gun dogs, but our dog only thinks he’s big enough to do that). But we are buying it because it’s neat, it will be fun if we can figure out where to shoot it, and because imagination ought to be encouraged, and we know no better encouragement than the profit motive.