Pistols and Pacemakers — Why I Won’t Buy a New Gun in Its First Year

 new guns

By Ralph

It takes time to get the bugs out of a new product. This is true in the world of guns, cars, computer software, and any complicated consumer or industrial product. Hop into the TARDIS with me and I’ll illustrate my point. In 1983, I bought a BMW 318i. It was a brand new model in its first production year (nominally 1984, but they released the cars early). Mine was number 54 in the production run and probably arrived on the first boat from Bremen, which should have been enough of a warning . . .

The car got a lot of attention from car guys, just plain guys and the occasional attractive person of the feminine persuasion. It also got much unwanted attention from the local constabulary when I depressed the long, skinny pedal a bit too aggressively.

While my driving experience was ten kinds of fun, my ownership experience was not trouble-free. There was an air hose that kept working itself loose on the 318i. The end of said hose fit over a flange. Presumably that flange was there to keep the hose securely in place. Except it didn’t, and when it didn’t the car was impossible to start and would shit the bed at inopportune moments. I finally cured the problem with a two-dollar hose clamp. The hose clamp looked incongruous on such a nice little engine, but I no longer had to worry about the car crapping out when I hit a compression at 95 miles an hour. Subsequent 318i models were fitted with wider flanges, so the hose never worked loose on those models.

Other first year flops include Windows Vista — need I say more? And how about that Medtronic wireless defibrillator/pacemaker that could be switched off remotely by a teenage hacker sitting at his keyboard in Belarus. Now that would have been a real knee-slapper. The GLOCKs with their all new springs didn’t spring, causing multiple FTFs. And let us not forget the late, lamented Caracal C.

Remember RF’s Caracal C? I reviewed it head-to-head against the GLOCK 19 and thought that the compact Caracal was a pussycat. Still, I ventured that I wouldn’t buy a Caracal until it had developed a bullet-proof reputation for reliability.

So, I was not exactly shocked when the Caracal was recalled. The fact is, I never expected the pistol to work properly because it was brand new and untested in the real world.

The Remington R51 may be this year’s Caracal C. As Nick reported, it can easily be assembled incorrectly, causing malfs. Like that hot gal or guy who dumped you for your roommate just before finals, the R51 may leave you just when you need it the most. Even more appalling is that Remmy probably could fix this problem easily, just as GLOCK fixed its problem springs by substituting older models, and the way I fixed my BMW with a cheap hose clamp. I believe that Remmy will fix this issue – eventually.

Buying a 1.0 product turns a purchaser into a beta tester. Which is just fine if we’re talking about a robotic vacuum cleaner, but not so good when we’re talking about pistols and pacemakers.

Ben Franklin once claimed that “there are three faithful friends – an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.” To which I add a fourth – an old gun.

comments

  1. avatar ropingdown says:

    So true. New models of gun and new girlfriends: Relying on either in a crisis is an act of faith or impulse, but not one of wisdom.

    Franklin: Ever apt. He probably said three stupid things in his life, none of which were recorded for posterity.

    1. avatar John L. says:

      Franklin did have one, and it was recorded, but people tend to forget about it because it was overshadowed by concurrent events.

      However, a variant is still in common use today.

      “Holdest thou mine ale and watch keenly whilst I fly this kite…”

      1. avatar ropingdown says:

        Laugh. Even the kite flying made him famous. And proved lady luck was ever on his side.

      2. avatar Robb says:

        You, good sir, shall have a beverage purchased for you should you find yourself in Austin at some point.

      3. avatar Alan Rose says:

        Legend says old Ben had his illegitimate son WIlliam hold the kite string while he stood safe and dry in a barn.

  2. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

    I guess if companies had better product testing programs we wouldn’t need to be so wary of 1st editions, eh?

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Not necessarily. Users can always find new ways to create errors. No testing program can ever be as comprehensive as thousands of drivers, shooters, keyboarders or angina patients wringing out the products for all they are worth.

      1. avatar DBM says:

        Give it to a private in the army. If it can be f’d up they will find out how in record time.

        1. avatar Korimyr the Rat says:

          Funny you mention that. Couple years ago, the Air Force did a comprehensive efficiency study on maintenance costs, testing various points in the supply chain to see where costly errors were coming from. For one of the experiments, they took three standard one-inch steel ball bearings and locked them in a supply closet with a Junior Airman, whose orders were not to touch them.

          At the end of the three days, the researchers unlocked the supply closet and asked to see the ball bearings. The Junior Airman produced them for inspection, and the researchers were shocked to discover that of the three, one was missing, one had been broken, and the third one was pregnant.

        2. avatar DBM says:

          Unfortunately its to close to the truth. I deal with electronic and I was working at a military post. Had a school trained technician helping me and suddenly I heard a WHAM WHAM WHAM. Thats a very unusual sound for an electronics maintenance shop so it took the 3rd wham for me to identify what the noise was. She had gotten the largest screwdriver and ballping hammer from the motor pool to user to pry a stubborn piece off the equipment. Before I could stop her she had inflicted several thousands of dollars worth of damage to the equipment. Seems she hadnt attended class they day they taught everyone to remove the ONE bolt that had to be taken out to disessemble the equipment. That is just one of many stories.

      2. avatar peirsonb says:

        Whenever you try to idiot proof something, inevitably the universe invents a better idiot….

  3. avatar JH says:

    I just posted this (below) in the R51 review thread. Clearly I should wait a year as well.

    +++++++++
    I honestly love where we are in the gun world these days, but I also have much lower expectations. I almost expect to buy a gun and have to break it in an deal with a few little nuances. I am less and less happy with that the more I spend however.

    Examples for me. Glock 19- brass in the face issue. FIXED and Now Flawless. Springfield XDS .45 Recall. Fixed Now Flawless. Ruger New Model Blackhawk – Cylinder spring not strong enough so cylinder falls out with heavy recoil. Fixed and Now Flawless.

    Would I buy a R51? At this point I might wait and monitor what others run into as they start to trickle into the market.

    1. avatar Darth Mikey says:

      XDS fixed now flawless? Every “fixed” one I’ve picked up has a trigger like crushing gravel in a nutcracker. Just yuck. And tragic. It was such a nice gun. (The NM Blackhawk I agree with: I had an early one that ejected the base pin with every shot. No such problems in later ones.)

      1. avatar Ed says:

        Both my 9 and .45 have fine triggers….after I dry fired a few hundred times, I’d argue they are better now than before Springfield upgraded them. This whole, “they broke my trigger” thing is complete and absolute bullshit. It simply isn’t true. It is pure internet hype. However, I will rag on Springfield all day long for how they treated their customers, particularly those who only had one carry gun, during the recall debacle. I’ll never buy another Springfield, that is for certain.

  4. avatar Mike Crognale says:

    “Son, It’s faster horses, younger women, older whisky and more money.” Tom T Hall

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      For me, it’s always been younger horses, faster women, more whiskey and older money.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I prefer women and money. Horses and whiskey I got no use for.

        1. avatar Avid Reader says:

          At my age, 3 of the 4 are ALMOST more trouble than they’re worth. Then there’s money. . .

        2. avatar NavyVet73 says:

          Avid Reader says: “At my age, 3 of the 4 are ALMOST more trouble than they’re worth. Then there’s money. . .”

          Literally LOL! (Why is his the only post on the page without a ‘Reply’ link?)

  5. avatar The Stig says:

    I fully agree with this logic. Of course, I think it makes much more sense to wait until a firearm is in its 100th year. They sure have worked the bugs out of my 1911. Dead reliable. No, really it is.

  6. avatar WildWest says:

    Agreed. It has always been my philosophy to NEVER be the first one on the block with the latest and greatest anything. That plasma TV my neighbor purchased 10 years ago for $8 grand 5 years later cost less than $1,500 and has a better picture.

    1. avatar iaborn says:

      So..the technology got better and cheaper in 5 years? Weird.

      1. avatar John L. says:

        The way I think about it, an early adopter is a beta (or maybe even alpha) tester who’s paid for the privelege of being one.

  7. avatar Randy Drescher says:

    I bought a new Fiat 128SL coupe(first year) & that should probably disqualify me from ever owning a gun. I wasn’t able to pick it up when promised because of a big hole in the cylinder head that allowed oil to pour out. Next the trans, etc. Yeah, let the bugs get worked out, Randy

    1. avatar Martin B says:

      I’m amazed it didn’t rust to shreds before you drove it out of the showroom. They did drive nice though.

  8. avatar Daniel Silverman says:

    Props to Dan for using the TARDIS reference.. 🙂
    That being said, yes we agree 1.0 of anything won’t be perfect, then again it takes people willing to buy 1.0 for them to work out the issues. Simply a sad reality of production in our world.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Dan posted the article. I wrote it. But thanks.

    2. avatar Sixpack70 says:

      I remember how terrified I was as a kid in the 80’s when Doctor Who came on but I still watched it. I get the same feeling now if I buy the first iteration of any consumer product, but I choose not to buy it.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        I thought the Daleks were cute. They kinda reminded me of little, outer space Democrats.

        1. avatar John L. says:

          Or the New Jersey turnpike.

        2. avatar DBM says:

          Or the Garden State Parkway Fridays and Sundays in the summertime

    3. avatar jsallison says:

      Welp, at this point wife-unit 1.0 has gotten past the 23yr stress test and still going strong but in general yeah, I don’t beta test unless ya pay me.

  9. avatar DBM says:

    Don’t forget the 84 vettes. If you didn’t run Exxon Super Premium they died as soon as the lesser gas hit the injector pump. The whole system had to be flushed.

  10. avatar Gregolas says:

    While I generally agree and practice your “wait and see” attitude, Dan, I too, have hopped on a new bandwagon only to find they’re flatter than Barry Manilow.
    Traded my brushed nickel, flawlessly operating Colt Series 70 (bought used) for the magic bean, a shiny, new Randall stainless .45. It literally fell apart in my hands after 70 rounds or so.
    But, I traded it for a first-year, new-in-box Glock 19 in 1988. Its only malfunction to this day is the broken slide stop spring that turned it into a single shot. That was about 6 months in. Glock fixed it and zero malfunctions since. Still my EDC. I guess my story backs up your wisdom.

  11. avatar Ardent says:

    I may have the ultimate iteration of this; a Colt 1991A1, the 80th anniversary edition of a gun made by the same company for that period.

    Of course I don’t always follow my own intuition; I bought BOTH a shield9 and an XDS 9 and had to return both for service in a recall! It’s not a mistake I’ll ever make again.

    It’s not just new designs though, I never really trust a pistol even of an old design until I’ve personally seen it run right for a long time (several hundred rounds at least). I’ve had hang ups with guns that should have been ‘bullet proof’ and even seen quality name guns that had serious manufacturing glitches (like a S&W revolver in which the rifling stopped 1/3 short of the muzzle in what made a dangerous looking ‘wall’).

    It’s not just cars and guns though, smart phones are another source of constant problems in their first iterations and yet people flock to them. At least no one dies when they can’t get mobile email on their smartphone.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Musta been an 80’s S&W revolver.

  12. avatar jz78817 says:

    citing BMW is a bad example. doesn’t matter how many years a model has been in production, you still don’t own one without a warranty.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Even moreso for anything from VWG (VW, Seat, Skoda, Audi). Look at the prices for cars still with warranty and the big step-down to the post warranty cars. It’s not a case of IF but WHEN…

    2. avatar Rob1285 says:

      This man speaks the truth.

      Source – I own an out of warranty E46 M3.

  13. avatar Russ Bixby says:

    All my guns are older than I am, and I’m over 50…

    1. avatar Martin B says:

      My SKS was built in 1957, same year as me. Others are newer, but dirt rock simple. Again, same as me.

  14. avatar Southern Cross says:

    The Germans have a very bad habit of tinkering with products, even after they have gone into production. This can result in early and late versions of the same model having incompatible parts. During WW2 this would result in tanks bring stuck in repair and officers returning to the factory from the front line to personally beg for parts. Probably one reason we won the war.

    1. avatar peirsonb says:

      Having worked with numerous German engineers over the years I can say without a doubt that you are 100% wrong. Their designs are perfect all the time, everytime. If you don’t believe me, just ask them…..

      1. avatar DBM says:

        Ask them about the original brakes for the 500 series. Big car with brakes the size of postage stamps. Didn’t work out well. And since its to expensive to actually make a car in Germany they outsources the parts to 3rd world countries.

        1. avatar peirsonb says:

          Granted, it was way past bed time when I wrote that, but i didn’t think my sarcasm was THAT weak….

        2. avatar DBM says:

          It wasnt. I was bored early this morning and put my 2 cents in.

    2. avatar Martin B says:

      I think the myth of German superiority in philosophy, engineering, public safety and armed forces, was well and truly exploded in that little contretemps.

      The Marshall plan required a rebuilt and successful Germany 2.0, so the spin doctors went at it again, hailing German goods as the best in the business. But the mechanics know different. Rich folks don’t worry about repair bills, but the rest of us…

      The Japs saved us from unreliable, character filled, enjoyable motoring. I miss my Peugeots!

  15. avatar ErrantVenture11 says:

    An old gun is a good friend indeed. Which is why my two carry guns are a Sig P226 stamped “Made in W. Germany” and a S&W Model 36 Chief’s Special so old the parts list in the original box is dated 1961.

    OK, the real reason is that those are the guns my dad gave me…still, I stand by them.

  16. avatar ropingdown says:

    I’m critical of people who buy a new pistol model intending it for protection. Purchasing for novelty is different. I can well remember in high school accepting the fact, in many relationships, that somebody really does have to be first, and it might as well be me.

  17. avatar Accur81 says:

    Some guns are reliable straight out of the gate, and others require fixing. I’ll usually shy away from the first year, but I’ll buy generation 1.0 if I’m feeling sporty. I bought a Ruger SR-556 when it was a relatively new system, and it’s worked like a champ. The Smith 460 XVR was a new caliber in a relatively new gun. No issues with that, other than a front sight which may have been blown off or catapaulted into orbit from a few rounds of Buffalo Bore hot rounds. The Ruger Super Redhawk .454 was a great first gen gun, and I sold it. That was a stupid decision.

    The Ruger 10/22 takedown has been awesome, and that was a new take on an old gun which has worked out just fine.

    The good thing about having a collection (note to NSA: collection is tragically lost) is that the reliable guns you already have give you the freedom to try new things if you so desire.

    For a first time owner / shooter, I’d definitely recommend a proven platform such as a Glock 19 or a Smith M&P.

  18. avatar Samuel Leoon Suggs says:

    Hey the early glocks went full auto sometimes that alone makes it worth it.

  19. It’s a good point the OP is making. It is hit/miss with “first edition” anythings: cars, computers, guns, some would say wives (Robert F?).

    On the other hand, I was captivated by the RUGER SR1911 the minute I read about it and placed an order immediately. Took eight months to get and it functioned flawlessly for me.

  20. avatar Closet Gun Nut says:

    For me the same rule applies to new prescription drugs. The FDA lets some of them go to market too soon.

    1. avatar DBM says:

      Yeah that was started under the Clinton administration when the gay groups and liberals said it wasn’t fair that drugs which could help sick people (especially aids) had to be so strenuously tested. People were dying while the drugs were being tested. Drug Companies protested but did as the gov’t ordered. Compassion on the part of liberals is a killer to everything they touch with it.

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