Remington Model 700: Perception is Reality, even on TV.

Far be it from me to miss a chance to pummel a dead pony, after TTAG has been all over this story, but having just watched the CNBC hit on Remington, I feel duty-bound to cover this from a decidedly different angle. As in the meta-media one, where we turn our Crimson Trace laser-like focus on to What In The Hell Is Really Going On Here. To wit…

As you might expect of a TTAG scribe (at least I hope you expect this of a TTAG scribe) I watched the CNBC special with a large dose of Show-Me State skepticism (which is difficult, as I’m not from Missouri). But after a careful viewing of the special, I gotta say, I think Remington is doing their very best ostrich impression, and that’s NOT a good thing.

I’ll save you a lot of the build-up and just cut to the chase here – then double-back and tell you why. In my very best “The Butler Did It” detective’s voice I’d say: “They’re all Guilty.” Here’s why:

If you believe the prima facie case that CNBC has built, Remington, in the words of Ricky Ricardo, “has a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.” I typically take little stock in complaints lodged by “experts” who get paid to testify in court cases  – it’s their job to be biased and convincing. I take even less stock in former employees blowing whistles – too easy for them to have an axe to grind. The memos? That’s a whole ‘nuther thing entirely.

Here’s what I think is going on a Remington. I think they made a bad decision back in the 40’s when they could have fixed the trigger problem for 5 1/2 cents per unit. (Note that CNBC didn’t bother to note, however, that 5 1/2 cents in 1948 money is more like 50 cents per unit in 2010 money still not a huge amount, but they never bothered to equate this amount as a percentage increase in the manufacturing costs, which would have been both more fair and more illuminating.)

Once that (bad) decision was made, every problem that cropped up with the trigger became a bigger headache for Remington. If they fix the problem moving forward, they open themselves up for product liability lawsuits for older guns. Every denial and stonewall episode becomes another reason to NOT admit there’s a problem.

In the 80’s when Remington finally redesigned the trigger (using the fix first proposed by the trigger’s designer back before they actually released the rifle), they decided to make BOTH versions and continued to sell the old design right alongside the new one. Why? I suspect it’s because they worry that discontinuing the old version will be seen as an admission of guilt – or will have the unfortunate effect amongst the public where the old trigger design will take on a mystique that it’s somehow better, driving up demand and creating even more liability problems.

But I’m not letting CNBC off the hook either. From the folks that brought you the exploding truck brouhaha, where it was discovered they’d rigged the test with explosives to insure they’d get the result on camera they wanted (this used to be called “cheating” in back in B.C.E. time – the “Before Clinton Era”).

I’m sorry, but NBC and their minions just have zero street cred on the exposé front. Nada. Nuthin.’ Bupkis. Having spent years in advertising, media, and video production, I know a thing or three about how to slant a story to compel, convince, and con All of The People Some of the Time. Edit a few shots here, repeat the same footage over and over there, and pretty soon, it looks like the guys you’re attacking are baby-killing, crack-dealing misogynists who’s anti-Semitic, einvironmentally-unfriendly activities pale in comparison to their off-duty cross burnings and lynchings of pre-pubescent Girl Scouts whilst singing Kumbaya at their local gun range.

Whew! Did I miss any liberal hot buttons? Here’s the problem. Who are you gonna believe – some corporation who’s obviously put Barney Fife in charge of the coverup and Gomer Pyle in charge of quality control, or a bunch of would-be Woodwards and Bernsteins who are more concerned with earning an Emmy than accuracy in reporting?

Answer: I dunno. I think they are BOTH wrong. Which is a problem. I think Remington has a lot of explaining to do on this. Nothing in their response has addressed the two critical issues: IS there a problem (sure sounds like it) and if there is, why haven’t they met the problem head on?

And I don’t know what to think about CNBC. This could be the one time they actually do something by the numbers. But do the math: they constantly display a bias to the left side of the political spectrum, which has historically included a bias against guns. Are they playing fair this time? I doubt it.

Bottom line: there’s something not right here. Until we can get facts from someone a bit more credible than CNBC, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions. But until Remington comes back with something a bit more concrete than “liar, liar, pants on fire,” I’m gonna have to say that things don’t look so good for the big guns from New York State.

comments

  1. "Edit a few shots here, repeat the same footage over and over there, and pretty soon, it looks like the guys you’re attacking are baby-killing, crack-dealing misogynists who’s anti-Semitic, einvironmentally-unfriendly activities pale in comparison to their off-duty cross burnings and lynchings of pre-pubescent Girl Scouts whilst singing Kumbaya at their local gun range."

    If you don't believe Brad, just ask Juan Williams.

  2. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Once that (bad) decision was made, every problem that cropped up with the trigger became a bigger headache for Remington. If they fix the problem moving forward, they open themselves up for product liability lawsuits for older guns.

    Actually, Brad, I don't think this is correct. There is a legal doctrine that precludes using the fact that a manufacturer corrected a defect as an admission that the product was defective in the first place. I can't remember the exact phrasing or terminology (something latin, no doubt) and my law books are at home so I'll have to look it up this weekend.

    The doctrine is in place for obvious reasons: If it were not, manufacturers would have a significant dis-incentive to fix actual or potential defects. Obviously there is a greater good in encouraging product makers to fix defective products than there is in allowing plaintiff's to use that fix as an admission of liability. So I don't think that line of reasoning is going to work for Remington.

  3. avatar Donal says:

    Well, as I mentioned before, I found it fairly convincing when that 98 year-old gun designer says it was stupid of them not to have changed the design. He didn't pile on either. When they asked him about the poor woman whose rifle killed her son, he allowed as she might or might not have had her finger on the trigger, which we'll never know for sure. I've worked at places where the higher-ups did just exactly what was best for themselves, so the basic premise rings true to me.

    In addition, I found it unconvincing when Remington's spokesman went all 2nd Amendment on CNBC. When the media went after Audi, would you have been swayed if Audi claimed the media was anti-driving? When the media went after Marion Barry for buying drugs, he started wearing a dashiki. Did that make him any less guilty? Of course not.

    That said, I agree that CNBC did over-dramatize it. But that's what TV does nowadays.

  4. avatar michael says:

    Well,

    Get your self a 700, a video cam and go out and recreate the problem with the gun……not like you have to go to the moon to look for debris to see if ther really as a landing………leave the politics out of it. If you try to bounce data off your politics to see if it is valid you're wasting everyone's time…..

  5. avatar Kevin says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment.

    To me, it seems that CNBC is either playing it straight (for once) or that they've concealed a lot of evidence in favor of Remington's case. They did, however, sensationalize the whole thing. One thing I noticed was that there was a conspicuous absence in the report of the fact that the woman disobeyed one of the cardinal rules of gun safety: Muzzle control. It's awfully tough to shoot something that the gun's not pointed at. Didn't just happen in the case of the woman either, but also in one of the other incidents they cited.

    So, yes, it's terrible that people have been injured unexpectedly, and Remington may very well be at fault, but I can't help but think that those lives could have been saved by simple education. What a shame.

    1. avatar ken says:

      Remington has a program in place to repair the guns in question, well sort of: http://www.remington.com/pages/news-and-resources

      The argument that if the people used proper gun safety that these fatalities/injuries could have been avoided is flawed. The question that should be asked is if there is a design error that makes even proper gun handling insufficient? I own a 1972 7mm and have always been concerned that one must take the gun "off safety" to unload it.
      If a hunter is unloading a model 700 and points the muzzle away from members of his party, at the ground, in the air, etc and the gun discharges with out a trigger pull, that is a clear defect. The best case scenario is a scary situation, the worst case is someone is killed. I doubt that a "safe" hunter would be willing to accept all the blame if it was his bullet that killed someone in the next camp, if it was discovered that he had been sold a known to be faulty weapon?
      Is there an intrinsic problem in many thousands of rifles? Did Remington know about the problem and fail to address it head on?
      There may also be cases of hunter neglect, and those need to be separated out. Guns are a hot button issue, but we need to look at this the same way we might look at a car maker, toy maker, or any other case of company liability or lack thereof…..

      1. avatar Kevin says:

        That's a good point. I agree that Remington should probably have done more work to correct the problem, and I'm not trying to make less of the defect. However, I don't believe that the people featured were "in the next camp" or hit by ricochets.

        Should Remington own up to and fix any problem? Yes, without a doubt. That safety/trigger modification program they have going is a terrific start. I realize that I get sidetracked by the simple things like the basic rules of gun safety that anyone near a gun should have emblazoned into their heads. The point I was trying to make was that CNBC could have addressed the issue a bit more fairly. I know, it's a pipe dream, but hey, I'd love to see fair reporting from someone. Right now, it's awfully hard to find from either left or right.

        1. avatar captaindigital says:

          That's why TTAG is here.

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