Thanks in no small part to our gavel-to-gavel SHOT Show coverage, TTAG is now acknowledged as the biggest and baddest firearms-related blog out there. Nick and I were a tad surprised (and not a little bit pleased) when we were introduced at a New Media conference as “the really big blogs, like The Truth About Guns” by NSSF rep Mark Thomas . . .

By the time we’d gotten our egos stuffed back into our packpacks we’d learned another factoid, but this one isn’t so copacetic: overall, the shooting industry carries a 40% return/defect rate.

Yup: two out of every five guns that leave the factory are defective in some way. The Armed Intelligentsia has always known that broken-ass guns are a big problem for this industry, but this figure blows me away.

It also makes me as mad as hell. Forty percent? Are you effing kidding me? No other industry could survive with a failure rate like this. We think it’s time we stopped putting up with broken-ass guns and ‘f-you’ customer service policies.

So we’ll keep telling the truth about good guns, bad guns, and all the people who make and sell them. And you’ll know where your shooting dollars should be going.

Recommended For You

51 Responses to NSSF: Shooting Industry Suffers from 4051 Return/Defect Rate

  1. “…TTAG is now acknowledged as the biggest and baddest firearms-related blog out there.

    “Congrats, big boys, you’ve earned it!

    “… two out of every five guns that leave the factory are defective in some way.”

    That sounds crazily high. How did they come up with that figure?

    • That actually doesn’t surprise me. My first two guns ever purchased (this past summer) both had defects. One had the metal on the safety lever snap off while firing it and the other was a lever action from Chiappa and the lever inexplicably jammed shut after only about 20 rounds and was disassembled by a gunsmith who couldn’t find anything wrong with it, reassembled, then jammed shut again. Thankfully the replacement has worked flawlessly (though the forend wasn’t properly fitted at the factory and had to be adjusted).

  2. That’s awful to see. I buy most of my guns used and spruce them up myself so I’ve never really had that problem.
    I know I’d be pretty upset to spend hundreds of dollars on a gun half expecting it to have a major defect.
    The firearms industry has always been a place for quality craftsmanship and good customer service…………now this.

  3. That sounds about right, and so WRONG. I have had to send back a Beretta Tomcat (twice), a Sig 556, and my wifes $900.00 Kimber. For a piece of equipment with fewer moving parts than a hair dryer, this is just stupid. If the manufacturers would just run a full mag through each gun, they would cut this way down. In the case of the Tomcat, Beretta should have bought it back from me. It was a piece of crap that wouldn’t feed any brand of ammo reliably.

    • A fella by the name of Cohen was recently running Kimber and then Sig USA. He has made a name for himself by moving into companies with good reputations in the gun industry and cutting their quality control back and slashing costs in other ways that are detrimental to the product. The result is a company that is riding on its name while more and more customers receive guns that need fixed.

      Vote with your dollars. Only buy guns from manufacturers with sterling reputations so if there is a problem, you know they’ll fix it.

      • My Sig 238 and 938 both needed a trip back to Exeter. My Glock 42 and Dan Wesson ECO 9 mm also went back to the OEM.

        Good out of the box were an FNH FNS-9, Glock 26, 36, Sig 1911 TacOps, Sig P320c, Beretta PICO, Ruger LCR 357 magnum and Ruger SR22. No problem with four long guns.

  4. Congrats on that call out. You guys dont beat around the bush, put out a lot of content and get a ton of hits. I only just stumbled on you a few months ago and have greatly enjoyed the site in that time. Keep up the good work.

  5. While that number is high, I’ve seen slot of people return perfectly good guns for stupid ass reasons that I can correct in about 5 minutes. I have never returned a gun in my life. People are stupid, Most of them. So I’m not surprised by that number at all.

    • Point is Matt, you shouldn’t have to correct a damn thing with a new gun. Some guys could buy a new car and replace a bad link on the timing chain in their garage, most though would get pissed and make the dealer fix it.

      • Yes, but if a headlight went out or you got a flat tire you wouldn’t send it back to the factory.

        Some of the reasons that people send a gun back are crazy. Many legit ones, but if your semi auto happens to have a misfire it may be partially to blame for the ammo, shooter, etc. A car may have had poor gas, neglect, abusive driving, and so on.

        I’ll bet that 20 or 30% is due to people taking apart, poorly maintaining, or cleaning their guns and breaking them somehow

        another 20 or 30% of the returns are due to crappy ammo or improper shooting technique.

        The rest would likely be legit….which I’ll admit is still higher than it should be.

        • Micro fracture in the frame of a Sig P238. Out of spec firing pin in a Sig P938. Glock 42 needed two second generation parts and upgraded magazines. Not DIY stuff.

  6. It sounds correct,given that on any given firearm forum one guy will post that his Brand X firearm is a pile of nonfunctional elephant dung while three of the forums top posters gang post that his gun is ‘the exception’ to the same brands impeccable reputation.

    For what it is worth my Taurus is the most reliable gun I own.The least is a S&W 5906 out for service as I type this.I now buy brand new fireams exclusively unless I know the background of the used firearm’s owner.Either way buying new or used its a coin toss whether a gun buyer ends up with a lemon or a winner;but at least with new firearms the manufacturer is motivated to fix the problem.When my safety broke on my used 9000s Beretta basically laughed and pawned me off to a third party service center.S&W was nicer about informing me that their warranty does not apply to used arms sold secondhand.They did mention that had I been the original owner they would have stepped up and fixed the gun no questions asked,and it is on that basis that I changed my buying habits.On that topic,every other used gun I buy seems to have a problem ,so my used gun statistic is running in the 50% failure rate right now.

  7. I bet Freedom Group owns 40 percent of the gun industry. Cause of the problem found. Bring back the founder of AAC.

  8. I believe it. I have had some bad guns. I think people are better off buying new for the warranty. I will say that at least Ruger seems decent on what customer service I have had from them. Somebody will come forth and flame me now.
    Firearm quality is very uneven. If guns were cars, we would drive Yugos.

  9. With numbers like that I would want to see the study’s methodology before drawing any conclusions.

    That said, I’ve sent 2 revolvers back to S&W for improperly torqued barrels (they acknowledged, I’m not “stupid”) and their service was great, shipped on their dime with fast turnaround time. I also sent back a Ruger 10/22 because the first time I dry fired it deeply peened the breech face (that’s not “stupid”, you shouldn’t over dry-fire a rim fire but you should be able to safely do it occasionally) and Davidsons the distributor took it back without issue.

    I suspect the manufacturers know that most gun owners fire only a couple dozen shots a year and are unlikely to discover defects. The savings on quality control make up for the repairs required by the demanding owners who actually shoot their guns with enough frequency to experience or notice a defect.

    • Ruger’s are (usually) pretty good about dry fire. I think they all use some pin to prevent the firing pin from going too far forward. The Mark series pistols are specified as being ok for dry fire (it’s actually required for take down); I’d think the 10/22 would be the same.

  10. Is this one of those returns per guns sold deal? Seems possible that if they count 10 sales and one of those guns goes back 4 times, that might end up being 40%. From the stories I’ve heard about Taurus returns I wouldn’t be surprised.

    • I know Taurus gets a bad rap, and from their history they probably deserve some of that. But there’s a lot to be said for turning a new leaf, and they now have a much better repair policy: no charges for shipping or repair of a firearm within the first year of ownership. If they can’t diagnose the issue, fix it, and get it back to you within a certain number of weeks, they send you a completely new firearm. No charge. After the one-year period, all you have to do is pay for shipping to the facility. They send it back to you on their own dime.

      I realized that almost every negative response about choosing Taurus over some other firearm was always from someone who admitted to never owning one. They just heard stories and passed it along. Every Taurus owner I’ve ever spoken to (which is in the dozens) has loved their firearm.

      Just offering an observation. I don’t actually own a Taurus myself, either.

  11. The last 5 new guns I have bought have been near perfect out of the box A Winchester BPCR 1885 in 45-90 is as fine as any custom mega buck gun I have ever shot.
    a Taylor Clone of a winchester 1873 in .45 colt while not the tack driver the 1885 is has no faults that I have found
    a pair of Ruger New Vaquaro Single action revilers in .45 colt are also just plain fine guns all of these .45 colt guns have had upwards of 1300 rounds each through them in the last 2 years and they have gone bang every time I fired them (yes I am a SASS shooter and shoot real black Powder in my competition guns so they have had to deal with that as well as he pressure of competition and the fact that I hand load the ammo to boot (thank you Dillon press)
    the only tiny issue I have had with a new gun is with a 10/22 that had a reluctant magazine catch the showd up after about 500 rounds and I put it right with less than 5 min fettling and then totally solved it with the Timiny Trigger for it (which you folks recently reviewed and prompted said purchase…

    and based on conversations with my fellow SASS shooters (aside from those sad folks that have bought new Marlins over the last year) I would put New out of the box defects (in cowboy action shooting guns anyway) at less than 10% and most of those will be in Chinese Shotguns (the copes of the Winchester pump and lever shotguns) my only ‘Black” gun is a Armilite AR 180 I have owned for more than 40 years and I have pit many thousands of rounds of mostly surplus and reloaded ammo through it with out problems so I would not be able to speak to that market as it has evolved over the last decade… but the Italian and Japanese copes of 19th cent US designs that I have seen over the last 5 years have been to a very good standard.

    So I find that 40% number hard to accept

  12. I’ve bought 3 pistols in the last 7 years – Walther PPK/S, Ruger Mark III Target, Ruger SR1911. Never had a problem with any of them.

    For these results to be meaningful they need to be much more granular – manufacturer? model? year?

  13. Thats a very interesting stasticic. From my experence working the retail side of the firearms industry, there is an a high rate of defect, but I’m not sure its quite that high. This may be skewed by the fact that the store I work for carries certain firearms and doesnt deal with some brands at all.

    Quality control in the firearms indsutry is not what it should be, though.

  14. I own a good amount of guns and I’ve never had to return any of them for any reason. I tend to buy top end guns and I’ve been lucky enough to get what I paid for without a single problem. I think forty percent seems much to high because I know plenty of people who buy average priced guns and they may have a problem or two, but not forty percent.

  15. The failure rate seems too high for what you get: a few pieces of machined metal. OTOH, it’s not like at this price point you would have multiple testing points. Nor high volume sales. I think we’re trying to compare guns to appliances (which aren’t doing so hot lately either) and cars. With cars at least, most of the subassemblies are tested at various stages, if not once then multiple times.

    You also tend to pay more for those items. Given the quantities of those sold, I think you can take a guess at what the overhead must be to run a good quality control.

  16. Really? I find 40% hard to believe, because I don’t think I am that lucky. In my household, we have bought new a total of five rifles and four pistols. Total problems? A Marlin 795 needed the sights adjusted (I don’t consider that a defect on adjustable sights), and the extractor spring screw on a KelTec got loose, causing FTE’s. The second is worthy of a trip back, but I fixed it with a few minutes of Googling and some loctite. The used guns we have bought have been trouble free except for needing a cleaning.

  17. “Given the quantities of those sold, I think you can take a guess at what the overhead must be to run a good quality control.”
    Actually, good QC does not increase cost – it lowers it. If QC is part of the manufacturing process things are done right the first time, defects are not passed on during manufacture, and a good product is the result. I don’t have time to cover the entire APICS program here, but trust me. – proper process control saves costs rather than raising them.

    • You’re right, it should–but it takes time and money to set it up. It also takes manpower. I’m not sure how many persons work at any given company, but adding several persons whose job it is to say “look, you’re doing it wrong” is a hard thing to swallow. Especially if it means in the beginning one is going to have a 40% reject rate.

      It’s also hard to ramp up quality. It takes time to absorb the concepts, and impliment them. Look how long it took for Japan to develop it–and then for the Americans to copy it–when it came to automobiles. Quality is not something that just happens overnight. It has to be part of the manufacturer’s culture.

  18. What does that 40% defect rate cover?

    Functional defects? Cosmetic defects? If the tang of my revolver is scratched (under the grips), that’s a “defect” – but one I’m not likely to ever know or care about. On the other hand, if my .45ACP stovepipes every other round (and I’m not limp-wristing it!), that’s a pretty major concern.

    Any sort of breakdown on that figure? What is its source? How was it determined?

    • Good job, Bambi. That’s the way to start minimizing and rationalizing. Anything to defend the guns you love.

      Chris said it right in the post, what in the hell is wrong with those people.

      One thing comes to my mind and that is the insatiable hunger you guys have for your toys. They can’t pump them out fast enough, naturally quality suffers.

      Another is the unscrupulous sales tactics which include the illegal market. Some of that stuff on display in Vegas last week had gangbanger and drug dealer written all over it.

      The biggest thing I take from this incredible story is how powerful the gun manufacturers are. They can get away with murder, so to speak.

      • “Some of that stuff on display in Vegas last week had gangbanger and drug dealer written all over it.”

        Examples please. I’m not saying you are wrong, but I was out of the loop all of last week.

  19. BFD! The COMPUTER INDUSTRY has ALWAYS been that way! FACT: Statistically, 1 outta 3 “components” from PC’s to PArts- will be returned for an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization)…

    Thats 1 outta 3 Monitors, 1 outta 3 Printers, etc…

    U know the MANPOWER (and size of an Accounting Dept.) it takes to spend servicing (diagnosing, taking back, issuing) RMA’s? Its BANKRUPTED MOST PC FIRMS!! TREMENDOUS TOLL on a Small-Biz too , where as much as HALF their day is spent… instead of SELLING!!

    And the FRIKIN CUSTOMERS GET MAD AT US- THE TECHS! Like we make the junk!

    SO dont EVEN start ur whining!!! Been puttin up with THIS attitude for DECADES!! LEARN PEOPLE – U GET WHAT U PAY FOR. or like I advise ALL my customers: IF ITS CRITICAL, BUY 2! Thats all! …subject to HI USE? Buy a 3rd just for good measure!

    LESSONS LEARNED IN A JUNK SOCIETY.

  20. There is something about the 40% figure that strikes me as incorrect. On its face it is far too high to be true. Of the guns I have purchased new over the past thirty five years I have only had two that required being returned. These were two Ruger LCP’s which were part of a factory recall. Assuming I have purchased 50 new guns from the manufacturer guns this would be a 4% return rate.

    At one time I had an small town auto parts store. A customer traded a Nylon 66 with a broken stock for some parts. The stock was shredded and clearly had been abused but the action and barrel were in good shape. I sent it it to Remington and a few weeks later it came back with new furniture. One of my all time best trades.

    The previous posters are correct about good QC being a cost savings. It is also a business saver. If you don’t have it you will be out of business. The degree of fine machine skills that go into making quality firearms is so high that I fine it impossible to believe the defective rate is anywhere close to double digits. Proof is in the tasting of the pudding. How many contributors to this blog have had returns of over ten percent? Of those who have purchased over twenty guns I doubt any have had returns over ten percent. Let us know.

  21. I didn’t know the numbers were that bad, but I’ve known they’re bad. For every handgun I’ve bought in the last few years, the first thing after taking it out of the box is to take it to my gunsmith to have the trigger fixed: creep, stacking, grittyness. No excuse for that, especially when parts are CNC made. Why don’t they make it right the first time?

  22. A CNC machine isn’t usually involved in the production of many trigger parts these days. Many trigger parts are made by “MIM” – metal injection molding. Imagine a metal-based play-dough-like putty being injected into a mold and then heated until the metal “dust” in the “dough” sinters together and you have MIM.

    Google around and you’ll learn a lot more about MIM.

    Now, as to the quality of the resulting MIM parts: They’re good, but not polished-steel good, and to get a really good trigger, the parts which slide over each other until the trigger breaks must be polished to at least a 600-grit type of finish, preferably better stoned with the parts held in a jig to get consistent results, proper angled and true edges. This can be done with either “real steel” parts or MIM parts – they both polish up well. The point is, however, that it cannot be done easily by automation and machines.

  23. My personal return rate the last two years has been about 20%. I only purchase high quality American firearms (which I sincerely hope is not an oxymoron) and the faults have been mechanical, not cosmetic, including three with failure-to-fire defects within 15-150 rounds sent downrange. My personal suspicion is that the gun companies see the current sales boom as rather temporary and are not making the required investment to support high quality increased permanent production levels, instead relying on “band-aid solutions.” The presence of private equity firms as owners (e.g., Freedom Group and Cerberus) may also be a factor.

    To the extent unacceptable levels of defects do occur, I think we must loudly and frequently voice our displeasure. I also think that we should not let the magazine gun reviewers “slide” when they gloss over defects in tested firearms. I see it as analogous to grade inflation in the schools. Once it becomes pervasive, quality falls and people make excuses for poor performance.

    For the record, I’m happy to pay more for American goods and I’d pay even more for best quality. This is one of our founding industries and it would be a damn shame if they can’t restore the luster.

  24. I’d love to see a breakdown in return numbers by manufacturer. For example, I own five Sig Sauer guns and the only problem I had was a P239 .40 that came with two 9 mm magazines by mistake. One call to Sig had two .40 mags coming to me and I was told to keep the 9s for my inconvenience. My experience with the two Springfield Armory XDMs that I bought was also flawless, yet my one Beretta 92A shipped with one out of the three magazines that could not be packed with the full complement of 17 rounds.

  25. I didn’t believe the percentage could be that high. The same week, I bought my first shotgun, a Stoeger P350.

    Now if only it were made so that DIDN’T double feed shells every single time, I could go back to believing 40% must be WAY too high an estimate.

  26. Mine has been about 40% with nine (9) new guns in the last twelve months.

    Ruger SR9c- one temporary problem I fixed with an in depth cleaning
    Ruger LC9 – perfect
    Sig P238 – returned after 300 rnds with fractured frame, replaced by Sig
    Sig P238 – returned with strippped grip screw, replaced by Sig
    Beretta Neos – perfect
    Beretta Nano – FTExtract- return pending
    M&P 9 – perfect
    GSG 1911-22 – perfect
    Kahr PM9 – various malfunctions, incl. nosediving ammo – sold

  27. of the last 13 1911’s from a certain maker to be shipped to us, 11 were either nonfunctional or unsafe, i’m saying dangerous to the shooter and people around him… i won’t even try to list the ruger’s, S&W’s, CZ’s, and marlins that had to be returned due to CS QC… it has resulted in the sale of a lot of H&K’s and OLD S&W’s to people who would never spend that kind of money under normal circumstances… oddly enough we have never had a defective raven or highpoint product shipped to us … weird…

  28. 40 percent is a fairly routine rejection rate for some companies. Some are much better about sending functional guns out the door. I’ve found Beretta and Kahr and post 1999 Colt to be functional right off the shelf while distributors are disgusted by the quality control of the major producer of 1911 type pistols . Some companies routinely send out new models that are unvetted and let the first wave of consumers identify problems in design and execution and the gear up to correct the problems. The whole situation is complicated by a vacation/junket culture within the industry that slows down any response for a significant portion of the year.

  29. I have never had a problem with any new guns bought from a good company such as Glock, Sig, Berretta, Colt, S&W.

    AK’s style guns are almost always perfect. Saiga has great products and a life time warranty to the original purchaser.

    I have had problems with some cheaper guns. Hi Point can give problems if the magazine lips are bent. Cobra and Jiminez are junk, but do have lifetime warranties.

    Taurus and Keltec has been good for me too. On the one or two problems I had, the life time warranty was honored. Even when the gun wad more then 15 years old.

    I don’t know of any industry that gives out life time warranties on guns as commonly as the gun industry.

  30. I bought a remington 887 Nitro Mag Tactical because it had everything I was looking for in a knockaround 12ga. 3.5″ chamber for all those extra little #4 buck pellets, barrel that will accept choke tubes, rail for a light, super cheap, and most importantly whatever they were calling that proprietary plastic no rust coating. The gun consistently fired 2″ high and 2″ left at 15 yards and that was only when I hand fed the chamber because it would fail to feed every third round at best. I have never been more unsatisfied with any single purchase firearms related or not so I sent it back and picked up an 870 marine magnum for a rustproof gun. From all that I’ve read my experience with the 887 seems to be the rule, not the exception.

  31. It all relates to the Economics of the Firearm Industry for the last six years. Demand outstripped supply and corners were cut to meet demand. No one was ready for it at all, Ruger even stopped taking orders when there i millionth order was taken. Since 2009 companies have relocated to better environments and fat with cash. the better ones learned some good lessons, other need to catch up on quality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *