5 July 19

The “Translation”

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”

Saul Bellow

My good friend and colleague, and CEO of Robinson Armament, Alex Robinson, told me in a recent conversation:

“When we conceived the XCR Rifle, we knew the design was sound and the various pieces all shared a competent history, but it took us far longer than I ever imagined for us to learn how to make it!”

Today, the RA/XCR Rifle enjoys a solid reputation and market-share, due in no small part to Alex’s tenacity and his personal commitment to excellence and the advancement of our Art.

With all manufactured products, but particularly with guns intended for “serious purposes,” history is replete with unhappy examples of a brilliant start emerging from the “model shop,” only to translate into a disastrous failure subsequently coming off the production line!

Many, probably most, gun-company CEOs have an extensive manufacturing background.

They’re hired, because they “know how to make things.”

Yet, few are themselves, Operators. Few actually carry a gun (for serious purposes) on a regular basis.

Particularly among my friends and colleagues, there are exceptions. There are a few who are simultaneously involved in manufacturing, and are also competent Operators:

Alex Robinson, Frank DeSomma, Claudia Chisholm, Ashley Burnsed, Justin Moon, Dave Selvaggio, Uli Wiegand, Jeremy Ross, John Ring, Gary Ramey, Ross Botha, Freddie Blish, Cameron Hopkins, Mike Shovel, Justin Evans, Earnest Emerson, Lynn Thompson, Mike Lessman, Steve Camp, Brian Hoffner.
’m sure there are others whom I don’t know personally.

These few combine acumen in manufacturing, marketing, and an intense understanding of the Art, all in one person!

They are ever successful!

When new products miscarry as they get into the hands of consumers, the issues are usually:

1. Inadequate testing.

Also, smug dismissal of test results that do not fit “the agenda.”

More frequent, phoney “tests” deliberately designed from the beginning to conceal flaws.

Even more frequent, “alteration” of test results, again with the devious purpose of forcing “results” into an agenda.

Testing needs to be always thorough, unbiased, relentless, and chips need to be allowed to fall where they may!

Too many CEOs make it known among subordinates that they only want to hear what they want to hear.

Unhappy news, that they desperately need to know (but don’t want to hear), thus often goes unreported!

In testing, when presumptions become mixed-together with conclusions, at the beginning, resulting “data” is garbage, sometimes dangerous garbage!

2. Casual dismissal of consumer comments/complaints.

It all looks great in the showroom!

But, when products finally find their way into “the field,” issues, small and large, invariably become “visible”

Comments from the field, while usually helpful, are often sarcastic, even insulting, and they “hurt the feelings” of manufacturers.

It is always in their best interest for manufacturers to immediately separate “hurt feelings” from critical information!

“Perfect products” are rare indeed, and “tweaking,” necessitated by painful field experience, while annoying, is unavoidably necessary!

3. Pressure to “get the product out the door”

Many a product, on the brink of stellar success, has tanked because it was released too soon!

The UK’s SA80 rifle is a good example.

Rushed into production, it failed miserably when subsequently put to the test during fighting in the Mideast, denials (initially pious, then sheepish) notwithstanding

While incontrovertibly “brilliant” in conception, what ultimately rolled off the production-line was an unreliable, breakage-prone piece of junk!

The SA80, subsequently redesigned and expertly revised by H&K, now actually runs pretty well, but the damage is done!

Its soiled reputation will never be restored.

When guns are subject to hasty, expensive, recurrent, and embarrassing “recalls,” almost immediately after introduction to the market, someone at the top was a little too anxious!

4. Inadequate understanding of the consumer’s needs and expectations.

My interest in confined to serious weapons, intended for serious purposes, and carried by Operators, but I realized there is also a substantial market for “recreational” and other “non-serious” guns.

Of course, manufacturers legitimately cater to that market too!

When a student asks, “What gun should I get?” I invariably reply with the question, “What is it for?”

When he needs a gun to protect his life, I can then get down to serious recommendations from manufacturers I know and trust!

When he wants a gun strictly for recreational, or self-aggrandizement (competition), purposes, I probably won’t be very helpful, and my lack of interest will likely be obvious!

Poor ideas usually fail, and for good reason.

Darwinism is alive and well, and should be!

Unhappily, many a brilliant idea, with unmeasured potential, has ultimately never seen the light of day, due to weak men and subsequent failure of “The Translation!”

“‘Faith’ doesn’t make good science.

Curiosity does!”

Professor Jacob Barnhardt (played by Sam Jaffe) to “Klaatu,” (played by Michael Rennie) in the 1951 science-fiction classic, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”