Mike Smith May Hate Me, But AAC Still Fixed My Can

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I’ve had an AAC 762-SDN-6 silencer since shortly after my first visit to AAC HQ. It was the first silencer I ever bought, and over the last three years I’ve been sticking that thing on every gun I can find. I have probably put more wear and tear on that can in three years than most owners will in a lifetime, and as a result it was in pretty rough shape. The paint on the outside had turned from a flat black to a shiny bronze due to overheating during a 500 round rapid fire stress test. There were some scratches and dings from a certain motor vehicle accident. And while the internal elements were probably starting to see some damage as well, the worst was an external component: the ratchet latch had broken. That posed a unique problem . . .

The ratchet for the 762-SDN-6 can is what’s called a “blind” pin. There’s a hole for the pin to be inserted, but there’s no corresponding pin on the other end to hammer it back out and replace whatever part needs to be replaced. I wanted to try removing the pin myself to replace the latch, but I was talking with another former AAC employee recently and they said the only way to remove the pin was to EDM it out. I don’t have the kind of cash for a wire EDM machine just to replace the pin on a $1k can.

The only option was to send it back to AAC for repair. When the latch started to wear I had asked John Hollister about it, and he said that the batch my can was from had an issue with the toughness on the latch and replacement with a newer better latch would be 100% covered under warranty and completely free — all I would need to do was send it in to AAC for the swap. I should have done it right then but I procrastinated, and it got the the point where sending it back seemed impossible.

See, Mike Smith hates me. Mike is the current head honcho at AAC, and not only had he recently ejected me from their booth at SHOT Show but he had written an official post on AAC’s blog calling me a “mouth-breathing oaf” and our fair publication the “douche about guns.” I have confirmation from multiple sources that Mike has a Photoshopped picture of me in his office with the words “you’re fired.” To be fair, following how AAC is being run into the ground in excruciating detail probably hasn’t gained me many brownie points, but that’s what we do.

With Mike at the helm, I was convinced that sending my silencer in for repair wold be the last I would ever see of it. I wasn’t willing to take that chance so I relegated it to the back of the safe, updated the 762-SDN-6 review to reflect the fact that the latch had worn out and that future buyers should be aware of that possibility, and purchased a new .308 caliber silencer. Two, actually.

A couple days later, Mike Smith himself posted a comment under that review.

Given that you’ve been talking about your worn latch for the better part of a year and never bothered to send it in for repair, I can’t help but think this is just another instance of your bias against AAC. You have as much right as any customer to the lifetime warranty on your silencer. We are still operating in Lawrenceville, and will be for some time to come. If you want to have your latch replaced by Lwarenceville [sic] personnel, send it in. It’s that simple. If you want to hang onto a silencer with a worn latch and use it as a prop for your hit pieces, that’s simple too. All you have to do is call or send an e-mail. If you want to wait until after the move, that is fine as well. The personnel in Huntsville will be more than capable of, and happy to, replace your latch.

To be clear, the latch had been working perfectly through September of last year, so saying I’ve been griping about it “for the better part of a year” isn’t 100% accurate, but I’ll let it slide.

I found it interesting that even though Mike isn’t my biggest fan, he’s so committed to the brand and to making good on AAC’s promises to their customers that he put his personal feelings aside and offered to fix the can anyway. I sent him an email, arranged for an RMA, and mailed off my silencer to be fixed. About a week later, she returned.

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Nick (one of their employees) emailed me a quick note after I had gotten the can back to explain what they had done.

I just wanted to let you know, we were going to replace the latch, but we found that the silencer was on the high side of our run out spec, it seemed the bearing surface was a bit worn. So we just went ahead and replaced everything but the tube. By now you probably have already seen the silencer, but I just wanted to follow up and let you know what was done.

So, not only did they replace the latch, but they actually EDM’ed out the entire core of the silencer and replaced it. That’s a metric ton of work — not an easy task whatsoever — but they did it anyway and didn’t charge me a single cent.

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I have to say, I’m impressed. AAC has taken a bit of a beating over the last few years both from competitors and their own management, and as a result their market share in the silencer world has slipped significantly. But despite the hard times, they are continuing to honor their commitments to their customers and stand behind their products. Even when that means fixing a silencer that belongs to a mouth-breathing oaf who you can’t stand because that’s the right thing to do for the customer.

Mike says that, even after the move to Huntsville, the employees will continue to provide this level of service to their customers. We heard those same claims from Marlin when they similarly moved and, well, that didn’t have a happy ending. They’ve since gotten back on their feet, but not before suffering a couple years of terrible production quality.

Moments like this make me realize that despite all that there are still people manning the machines at AAC who care about their customers, and are doing the right thing. I hope that in the move to Huntsville they don’t lose that spark and enthusiasm, because that’s the only thing that could bring AAC back to prominence.

comments

  1. avatar Red in Texas says:

    Did you really think they would not honor the warranty? Really? Business is business. That you went out of your way to re-hash your less than friendly/professional interactions with Mike Smith, show no class on your part. Ever heard of being the bigger man?

    1. avatar Matt in TX says:

      Did you not read the article? “Ever heard of being the bigger man?” Nick put it out there to be seen. He didn’t lead with his ego, he took an adult stance. Not like your response.

      1. avatar Red in Texas says:

        I read it all, did you?

        “See, Mike Smith hates me. Mike is the current head honcho at AAC, and not only had he recently ejected me from their booth at SHOT Show but he had written an official post on AAC’s blog calling me a “mouth-breathing oaf” and our fair publication the “douche about guns.” I have confirmation from multiple sources that Mike has a Photoshopped picture of me in his office with the words “you’re fired.” To be fair, following how AAC is being run into the ground in excruciating detail probably hasn’t gained me many brownie points, but that’s what we do.

        With Mike at the helm, I was convinced that sending my silencer in for repair would be the last I would ever see of it. I wasn’t willing to take that chance so I relegated it to the back of the safe,”

        It seems our definitions of taking an adult stance are as far apart as the east, and west coast.

        1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

          The article is about how my opinion of Mike Smith (based on our interactions and his public statements about me) didn’t match up with the reality of his professionalism, and giving him some kudos for providing excellent customer service even for someone he reportedly hates.The above quote you pulled is entirely 100% accurate and factual information based on multiple sources and personal experience. It is included because in order to make that point, illustrating the history between us (and especially from my point of view) was important.

        2. avatar Matt in TX says:

          You can cut and paste but you can’t read.

      2. avatar Craig says:

        Problem is Nick already has “issues” with Remington and I think a custom 1911 company. A lot of enemies for a guy who writes “the truth about guns.”

        The gun business is a business but it’s small in terms of the sizes of the companies. People know who runs what. I’d say that making enemies in this kind of business, especially for a guy who’s not yet 30 or barely over 30, is going to be bad long term for TTAG’s business.

        I can’t remember reading about Jeff Cooper or Townsend Whelen or Jack O’Connor having review fights with companies – guys who had been there and done that as writers and in their own private lives.

        1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

          I don’t care.

          I review guns truthfully and factually because they are tools people will use to protect their lives. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I had given a glowing review to something like the R51, and then someone had died because they trusted their lives to that gun in a gunfight and it malfunctioned. I won’t lie or cover up a malfunctioning gun just to make a gun company happy, like some of the old media has done in the past.

          We don’t want to be friends with the firearms manufacturers. We want to hold them accountable. We exist to tell the truth about their guns, good or bad, so that people can make accurate decisions about which firearm to buy and trust. If that makes us some enemies, so be it.

          If you want paid shills for the gun companies, go read any newsstand publication. We tell the truth, no matter whose feelings get hurt in the process.

        2. avatar Craig says:

          The “I don’t care attitude is the problem. It’s not professional, it’s petulant and uncalled for.

          I don’t care myself, because I know I’m a better writer than you. I just can’t tolerate dealing with antis.

        3. avatar Dev says:

          That “I don’t care” attitude is exactly why Nick is a great writer, especially for someone reviewing and offering opinions.

        4. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          “I just can’t tolerate dealing with antis.”

          What are you talking about?

          The entire point of this (The Truth about Guns) brand is to be … wait for it … truthful.

          If someone makes a product with defects — especially significant defects — I for one want to know so that I can make an informed decision. That is the inherent value of The Truth about Guns. I don’t see how being truthful is going to hurt their brand over the long haul. And if someone doesn’t want to do business with Nick some day because he is honest, I imagine Nick wouldn’t want to do business with them.

        5. avatar Johannes Paulsen says:

          A lot of enemies for a guy who writes “the truth about guns.”

          It’s been my experience that people who consistently tell the truth about anything tend to collect a certain class of enemies.

        6. avatar Geoff PR says:

          “It’s been my experience that people who consistently tell the truth about anything tend to collect a certain class of enemies.”

          Oh, yeah.

          Someone once said “Friends come and go. Enemies are for life.”

        7. avatar Dracon1201 says:

          To Nick:

          I really applaud you guys for sticking to The Truth on the firearms and gear you review. The “I don’t care,” to me, is the definition of journalistic professionalism. The ability to tell it like it is seems to be a rare commodity these days. If being paid to, or writing a nice review for the sake of making an entity happy is that new definition, I wouldn’t look at any of those publications twice.

          I think that writing this piece was an extremely adult thing to do. A nod to an enemy who did you good service is a hard thing to do sometimes, but you did it. Just like the Masterpiece Arms affair you guys had for awhile.

          Good job, and keep it up.

        8. avatar Joe Liberty says:

          As long as TTAG keeps giving us the real truth about guns, (the good, the bad, and the ugly) I will continue to read it.
          Is it easier to only give positive reviews and report positive experiences? Absolutely.
          Will you have fewer enemies in the industry? Certainly.

          What keeps me coming back here are the warts-and-all experiences that these guys post about. Damn the torpedoes and keep it up, boys.

        9. avatar Jeremy S says:

          “A lot of enemies for a guy who writes “the truth about guns.””

          As stated by some other folks above, this comment really surprises me. What on earth could you possibly expect the outcome to be when you’re fully honest about products? Products that, in many cases, are loaned to you by the manufacturer for the purposes of seeing them reviewed? When you write an honest, but really horrible review, how do you think that makes the manufacturer feel? What does it do to their business? How they respond is entirely in their court, but a common response is deny, deny, deny, call the reviewer names and throw insults, then blacklist the reviewer and/or the entire publication they work for. You don’t make friends by very publicly airing out problems in a product that is sold for profit. What you DO make is very precisely “a lot of enemies,” should the manufacturers choose to take it personally instead of what it is, honest feedback.

          I try to be very diplomatic in my reviews when I encounter something bad. State the facts, no hyperbole, no insults. Just the truth stated as objectively as possible without blaming or deriding. Still, I’ve been blacklisted by a few companies… and I’ve only written a few negative reviews. It’ll only take a negative review on a product promoted by the wrong person to see that person attempt to besmirch my legitimacy or motives like AAC/Remington and others have tried to do to Nick. Being truthful can really suck. It’s why the “non-negotiable social convention” is to tell little white lies to avoid insulting people. If you were honest with everyone you encountered all the time, you’d have zero friends and people would avoid you like the plague and you probably wouldn’t be able to keep or get a job, either.

    2. avatar Dev says:

      It seems like they went beyond what most companies would do for a warranty repair, i.e. only fix the issue that was the reason for repair.

  2. avatar JohnO says:

    Kudos to Mike Smith on this chapter.

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    EDM? Electronic Dance Music?

    On a side note – Yay for Mike Smith. Let’s all do a reach around for grab a$$ and give him a squeeze and a pat.

    Good for Mike – even though he referred to this site as “Douche about Guns” employing “mouth breathing oafs”

    1. avatar Michelle says:

      Electric discharge machining. Way to do fine cuts without grinding or using friction… Many high end trigger manufacturers use the method as well, precise cuts but lots of $$$ machinery required.

      1. avatar Anonymous says:

        I think I could have removed the pin with some electronic dance music (EDM).

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          Yeah, but at the risk of ear damage and maybe whatever else may happen (bad drugs, getting shot) at the rave…

        2. avatar Grindstone says:

          Just vibrate it out with the bass.

      2. avatar John L. says:

        I would add to Michelle’s excellent description that EDM provides fine, clean, precise cuts; no pressure on the parts from the machining process; and also s–l–o–w if you’re used to more traditional machining methods.

        Then there’s the fact that the electrical discharge part means most machines have the operation taking place in a tank of dielectric fluid, and are thus mostly CNC controlled. So setting up something like Nick’s repair is more prolonged than it might first appear.

  4. avatar JasonM says:

    I had similar great service from them.

    I have a 762 SDN 6 (my first can as well). I had an AAC 51T muzzle brake (the one with two sets of side vents) mounted on my 300 WinMag precision rifle. Apparently the can doesn’t ratchet onto the muzzle brake properly (it fits fine on the 51T Brakeout Comp–the one with one set of side vents and three-prong flash hider), and I didn’t realize it at the time. I didn’t get it ratcheted in place properly, and on my second shot there was a very loud noise and the gun hit my shoulder so hard it pushed me around and the rear scope ring smashed into my nose.
    I looked at the gun and the can was completely gone. I had the whole range to myself, so I unloaded for a cease fire and went downrange to find it. The can had shot almost to the 100 yard line. The last three baffles and the front face had chunks out of them where the round struck. The ratchet mechanism was stretched into an oval and destroyed. I emailed AAC about it and they sent me a prepaid UPS box. I shipped it in, they fixed everything to like new, then shipped it back, all without charging me a thing.

  5. avatar Trone Abeetin says:

    Good customer service is good business. That’s why I love Surefire, they like AAC, just fix it.

  6. avatar Billy the crib says:

    Imo it wasn’t very professional for aac to kick nick out of their booth either. They should prove him wrong via showing him the quality of their products and professionalism.

    I can recall the time ttag visited masterpiece arms. I had thought that company produced nothing but outdated guns but the article written here changed my opinion.

  7. avatar Paladin says:

    Just a point about EDM, you wouldn’t use wire EDM to remove a blind pin, since wire EDM requires that you pass the wire through the part in question. More than likely they’re using graphite electrode EDM, which does not require a through hole.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Sinker EDM should do the trick. Visualize it being somewhat similar to plunge routing…

      http://www.edmmachining.com/sinker_edm.htm

      1. avatar Paladin says:

        That’s pretty much the exact same thing. Graphite electrode EDM works by using a machined graphite electrode and plunging it into the part.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          Ah, cool!

          I like learning new stuff… 🙂

  8. avatar Fred says:

    Wow, I’m surprised they went the extra mile for a high-profile repair order knowing the results would shortly thereafter be published on a site that previously published multiple negative comments. Said no one ever.

  9. avatar Ryan says:

    Good on AAC for the customer service, and good on Nick for acknowledging it. It’d be awesome to see AAC get their act together again. I have no doubt if/when that happens it will be reported fairly on TTAG.

    I have an AAC Pilot 2 suppressor in jail at the moment… good to know I’ll be looked after if anything happens to it.

  10. avatar Jack says:

    Funny. In any other “media” if they had a “journalist” like Nick actually admit to beating up on one company in particular they’d prevent him from reporting on stories relating to the company that he admits to enjoy beating up on.

    TTAG stoops to a new low again. Allowing your writers to openly talk trash about any company reveals an overall lack of journalistic integrity. If I was a sponsor I’d seriously take another look at sending you part of my marketing budget.
    Telling the truth is one thing. being proud that you drag a company through the mud continuously makes you a sad, sad little man.

  11. avatar Joe says:

    Wow. You managed to turn what was truly unbelievable customer service (1 week turnaround is crazy fast) into a hit piece. I think mike has a bit of a point.

  12. avatar CGinTX says:

    I personally think Nick writes what he thinks, and I think he set out to truly give credit where credit was due. That’s how if felt to me…well, right up to the last three paragraphs. If it had ended on “Even when that means fixing a silencer that belongs to a mouth-breathing oaf who you can’t stand because that’s the right thing to do for the customer” he nailed the tone completely. But the last three ‘graphs really kind of twisted the whole thing around. Not 180 degrees, but those 3 ‘graphs added so many qualifiers to the recognition that it negated a bunch of the good things he just said. IMO of course.

    EDIT: I noticed that Nick deleted his reply to Joe, which was what this comment was originally in reply to, in case it seems out of context.

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      That might be what was throwing people off — I was going for a melancholy reminiscence, but I think I missed the mark. I’ve re-worked it a bit, might sit better…

      (Tyler told me to stop posting in the comments section since I was starting to get mad that people were misinterpreting the post. So I yanked the comment, I thought no one saw it. Aren’t you quick!)

      1. avatar CGinTX says:

        Those are the up’s-and-down’s of real time, interactive journalism! You helped the tone with your re-work. I commend y’all for doing everything out in the open. Well, mostly…(where DID that Samuel L. Jackson article get off to…) 🙂

  13. avatar CM says:

    My takeaways? AAC is a stand up company, TTAG tells the truth about guns. Both are uncompromising.

  14. avatar Peter Griffin says:

    It’s Nick’s I don’t care attitude that keeps my bank account low because he gives ACCURATE info on the quality stuff that I continually buy.

    Also, AAC replaced my BCG because the coating failed. They did it quickly with no hassle & I let everyone know how awesome that was.

  15. avatar PeterK says:

    Well good for them. I wouldn’t honestly have expected them to do for you any differently than any other customer, despite any certain unpleasantness. Good to see Mike Smith and AAC seeing that way as well.

    Here’s hoping they survive to do great things.

  16. avatar jake from detroit says:

    Good article. I’ve never thought NL was particularly nasty to anyone he’s written about. So he tells the truth. He provides his own, single data point. That doesn’t mean he’s always right, nor that he doesn’t have bias. But he’s committed to providing his own true view of whatever he is reviewing. And that I give him props for.

    To anyone who thinks he should play nice, bend over and do whatever anyone else wants, take some Midol. Go read gats and bullets, or some other rag that fawns over every piece of equipment regardless of what happens during testing or reviewing. Firearms directly correlate to life and death. We don’t have time for this sissy circle-wank garbage. That’s why I want the truth about guns.

  17. avatar Sheepdog6 says:

    If you aren’t making enemies then you aren’t trying hard enough.

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