“Dude, it’s mil spec!” – the fallacy of buying based on who also buys it.

“Dude, it’s mil spec!” – the fallacy of buying based on who also buys it.

I was going to share this with you last week, but then the whole RECOIL mess came up and pre-empted my planned programming!

Over at the Vuurwapen blog is the entry “Why I Don’t Care If Military Or Police Use Certain Items“, and it’s all about the silliness of picking a gun (or anything else for that matter) because a particular police or military group uses it. It’s a good read.

There are a bunch of logic failures associated with that kind of aspirational marketing or consumption, but unfortunately people fall for them constantly:

– Let’s say you’ve got one police agency using a specific gun (like, oh, the Kimber) and you make your decision based on that. What if another agency that picks, say, the HK P7? They can’t both be “best”, so how do you make your choice with such contradictory endorsements? What usually happens is that people actually end up arguing about which agency is the best/toughest/most respected, as if that somehow validates their choice – and therefore yours.

– Use of a specific product by any group isn’t proof that it is superior to any other choice under all conditions. In fact, it isn’t even proof that it’s a superior choice for any specific conditions! The testing and procurement process is byzantine in complexity and subject to many kinds of coercion and meddling, from kickbacks by vendors to top brass intervening in the process to influence the selection of their personal favorites. That a product manages to survive that process isn’t proof of any intrinsic superiority. Our cops and our troops often end up with inferior gear and supplies, but for some reason the private sector looks upon the failures as having the same stamp of quality as the successes. (CLP, anyone?)

– The presence of an NSN doesn’t even mean the product is even being used by the people who are presumably using it. Lots of products that have an NSN aren’t actually wanted or needed by the people on the front lines, but they’re invariably sold to you as being “the choice of our brave men and women!” Look at the marketing of gun cleaning and lubrication products; when any product claims to be in use with Navy Seals, complete with the NSN, it’s probably bunk. And even if it were true, that still doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for THEM, let alone you!

– Finally, remember that the procurement process (when it works) is designed to get a product that is minimally acceptable for its purpose at the lowest cost to the agency. It’s useful to remember what the late, great Alan Shephard once said: “It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.” Not very reassuring, is it?

You need to make your purchasing decisions based on an honest assessment of your needs and the product’s suitability for your purpose, not internet loudmouths going by names like Geck045 who drone on about how their gun “must” be the best because “LAPD don’t buy junk!”

Yes, they do. Very often.

-=[ Grant ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On September 19, 2012