Don’t Forget That Guns Are Different From Every Other Product That I Can Buy.

If there’s one thing that makes guns different from every other consumer product, it’s that the damn things just don’t wear out. And this lack of product obsolescence, planned or otherwise, impacts every aspect of the gun business and should alert my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community to be careful when they promote policies and strategies that have worked to lessen risk and injury from other consumer products (ex. automobiles) but won’t necessarily work when it comes to guns.

westinghouse             I own a Colt 1911 pistol that was manufactured in 1919.  The finish is perfect and it works flawlessly. I even have about 10 rounds of 45acp ammunition made in 1920 by the Remington factory in Bridgeport, CT in the original 20-round box which was shipped with the gun as a promotion and the ammo still works too. In other words, I am still using a consumer product that was made and first sold almost one whole century ago!

How many cell phones have I owned in the past 15 years? Probably at least ten. How many new cars have I purchased in the past 15 years?  I’m on my fifth one.  How many bags of potato chips have I consumed in the last month?  I’d rather not say.  The point is that virtually everything we purchase either wears out or is consumed and therefore has to be replaced. And the companies which make those cell phones, those t-shirts, those crummy I-Pads and everything else know that if they can get me to buy their product for the first time, they are usually looking at repeat business for the remainder of my life.

Not true with guns.  Last year our friends at Harvard and Northeastern made the astounding discovery that roughly 3% of all Americans owned roughly half of the privately-owned guns. Which works out to an average of 17 guns apiece. But if you buy your first gun in your 20’s and now you’re in your mid-50’s, which happens to be the average age of gun owners today, this works out to a gun purchase every other year.  Which is basically the same rate at which I have purchased a laptop – one every other year. But the laptops are junk, so is my droid, so is my GPS.  They all break or simply one day don’t work.  Guns don’t break.

About five miles from my office is the rubble of a factory, Westinghouse New England, which was built in 1915 and produced nearly 1 million Moisin-Nagant rifles that were supposed to be shipped to Russia during World War I. Then something known as the Bolshevik Revolution occurred, the whole deal went south, and the U.S. government which had paid for the tooling was stuck with the bill. The Feds ended up selling off the rifles as surplus guns to civilians for three bucks apiece. I happen to own one of those guns and it shoots just fine. The factory is rubble.  See the pic above. Get it?

Gun makers have never figured out how to overcome the fact that unless your product needs to be replaced on a regular basis, sooner or later you’ll go broke.  The good news is that every other Presidential administration since FDR has tried in one way or another to get rid of guns. And the political effort to regulate (read: prohibit) gun ownership has become, for the gun business, what product obsolescence is for everything else that we own.

I don’t blame the gun industry for inventing the idea that a gun can protect its owner from crime. Because at least criminal behavior is a constant factor which never seems to go away. So if gun makers can make people believe they should buy this particular product because it’s an effective way to deal with crime, at least there’s a chance that sales won’t collapse even if the current Administration has no plans to take away the guns.

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4 thoughts on “Don’t Forget That Guns Are Different From Every Other Product That I Can Buy.

  1. . I inherited my late uncle’s 1948 Winchester Model 70 (300 H&H Magnum) and three boxes of ammo that look about that old. Although I bought some new Hornady ammo, I shot some of the old 220 grain Silvertips and a few of the 180 grain spitzers out of boxes that look like they need to be carbon-dated. No misfires and the gun shoots better than I do. Of course, the day after I put 25 rds of factory loads through that beast I woke up with black and blue all over my shooting shoulder.

  2. I go back to the 1940’s and like Ralphie I wanted nothing for Christmas than the badass “Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.” It wasn’t that the gun maker made me believe this rifle was the most effective way to deal with crime, but it was because like Mike said in his November 5th post…Why Do Kids Like Guns? Because They Do.
    As early as the 1880’s the Markham Air Rifle Company was adept at selling its weapons. I don’t think it was marketed to deal with crime but because every kid wanted one and they knew it. Oh, also it was vastly profitable.
    That’s America.

    P.S. I still have that Red Ryder, and it works!

    • I think a lot of the kids on my country road in the early sixties had one of the Daisy air guns. My kid brother eventually got my Daisy Model 1894 “Spittin’ Image”, which is what I dreamed about being under the tree (my grandfather had a ’94 in 30/30 that he used to hunt deer). Not sure where my Daisy went after my brother grew up. I think to a nephew. It was just fun. My middle brother has grandpa’s 1894. Still shoots well although I don’t think my brother puts many rounds through it.

  3. I recently had passed down to me a model 1873 Springfield. The SN indicates 1875 as the year of manufacture. I assume that many parts were transferred from the mass produced civil war model 1861.
    Of course it still works. The bore is a little worn, but rifling in those guns was made shallow to begin with.
    I told my uncle, who passed it down, just before he died, that I would pass it to my son when the time came.
    Please don’t expect me to ask permission of the state to own this.

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