Living with your choices: not all guns are equal, and your safety might depend on being honest about that.

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One-liners, sound bites, and witty retorts are often used to convince others to unthinkingly follow a certain path or belief. When the subject matter is of little import, they are simply amusing. When subjects turn more serious, they impede the flow of vital information necessary to make good decisions. Such is the latest, a hearty retort of “guns break!” when people are faced with evidence (or even the considered opinion) that their choice in safety/rescue equipment might not have been ideal. This seems particularly popular amongst users of 1911 pistols, who often throw this out when it’s mentioned that perhaps their guns are not as reliable as other choices.u

Yes, guns are mechanical contrivances and do suffer failures; it is important, though, to understand the nature of failure before making such proclamations.

Any mechanical device – be it a gun or an automobile – is subject to failure from several causes:

– design flaw
– inferior materials
– construction irregularities
– improper maintenance
– suitability mismatch

Of these, only the last two are within our control – the others are beyond our control. That doesn’t mean we’re at the mercy of the fates, however; the end result can still be affected by the choices that we make.

In order to avoid failure, one would choose a perfect design, made with the best possible materials and showing the highest workmanship. Of course, that can only happen in La-La Land (or the internet!)

In the real world we have to make compromises at all of those points, and it is necessary that we understand those compromises going in. Nothing’s perfect, that’s a fact. From ‘imperfect’ to ‘near perfect’, though, is a continuum: we have bad choices, better choices, and – if we’re lucky – superb choices.

Simply put, there will always be better choices than others for any given criteria. For instance, let’s say that you were looking for a car to get you reliably back and forth to work – day in, day out, with as little down time as is possible. You might succumb to glitzy marketing and pick a Land Rover or a BMW, or perhaps something more pedestrian like a Toyota or a Honda.

Were you to look at reliability rankings for those brands over at Consumer Reports, you’d find the Rover and the Beemer were the least reliable over a large sample, while the Toyota and Honda are rated as the most reliable. (One example from each may be at the far end of the bell curve, but the probability of getting that one is not with you. A sample of one is just that: one.)

Of course, there are other aspects to the choice: comfort, amenities, performance, and (admit it) status which also might figure into the decision. Understand, though, that those cannot be transmuted to the primary criteria: reliability.

In this example, were you to pick one of the first two brands, the likelihood of a failure leaving you stuck on the side of the road increases dramatically. You might be able to fool yourself, but the data says that the Euro-rides will suffer more frequent failures than their Asian counterparts. That is a fact you just can’t sound-bite your way around.

If your co-workers happen to point out that your fashionable wagon breaks down more often than their less ostentatious wheels, how intelligent would it be for you to yell “cars break!” at them? Yes, they know cars break, which is why they chose examples which break less often. Getting mad at them won’t make your car’s repair record any better.

The same is true for firearms and their attendant equipment. Like it or not, there are products which, over time, have proven to fail less often than others. If reliability and/or longevity is your primary concern in a gun-related purchase, you should understand that there is in fact a range from most to least, and make your choice accordingly.

Pretending that there is no difference between the alternatives because they all fail at some point is ignoring reality. As someone once told me: you either acknowledge reality and use it to your advantage, or it will automatically work against you.

Georges Rahbani, ‘The Best Rifle Instructor You’ve Never Heard Of’, has a great way of putting this in perspective: if you’re buying a gun for fun (plinking, target shooting, hunting, competition, etc.), you can be far less demanding about reliability/longevity. A failure in those applications is of minor consequence, and thus you have leeway to factor other criteria into your decision.

If, however, your firearm is a serious tool upon which your life may depend, you need a relentlessly critical attitude toward your choice. Don’t make it on the basis of one-liners heard at the gunshop.

-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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