Too few guns. Could that be possible?
I don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud here (Can you hear me now?) I’m wondering if our firearms manufacturers are giving us enough choices. Do we Americans suffer from too few options in firearms?
Not Too Few Guns, But Too Many for Anti-Gunners
Hoo boy, already I can hear the anti-gunners screaming. “Too few guns?! Not enough choices?! Are you insane? America is awash with guns. All kinds of guns. Too many guns!”
This anti-gunners stance is predictable. What surprises me is how many hunters and shooters also think we have too many choices in guns and ammo. I hear from them often. They write things like:
“Mauser perfected the bolt-action rifle in 1898! The M98 in 7x57mm are all the rifle you need to hunt anything that needs to be hunted. Why waste your time re-inventing the wheel?”
And: “The 30-06 is the finest, most versatile cartridge in the world and we’ve had it since 1906. Why suddenly do we need all these useless new cartridges?”
And: “My Grandpa’s M700 Remington (Ruger, Winchester, Savage, etc.) has been dragged through the dust, mud, rain, and snow for four generations and never failed, never missed. Who needs all these new rifles?”
And even: “A 30-30 Winchester is all the gun you need to kill anything. Just learn to hunt!”
Too Few Guns or an Embarrassment of Options?
I’ll admit we Americans suffer an embarrassment of firearms riches. We have a plethora of brands, models, and calibers because manufacturers compete for business. That’s a good thing. It creates competition and innovation. Products get better and cheaper even as they make choosing more challenging. Shooters who complain about this should be sentenced to a decade of living in the Soviet Union circa 1970. No need to wade through a long aisle of Remington, Marlin, Colt, Winchester, Uberti, Ruger, Blaser, Weatherby, Sauer, Browning, Savage, Mossberg, Kimber, CZ… And no need to decide among turn-bolt, straight-pull bolt, lever-action, break action, pump action, falling block action, auto-loading action, blind magazine, drop-out magazine, and hinged floorplate. No confusing options in USSR, comrade. Da. Here eez AK47. Take and shut up.
OK, I’ll further admit we U.S. consumers do have a struggle when wading through all the products, claims and counterclaims in our free enterprise world, but that beats having few or no options. I’ll also agree that most firearms makers have plenty of what they call SKUs (Stock Keeping Unit — different unique products manufactures and retailers make, stock, store, and sell.) You’ll see what I mean if you navigate a few gun makers’ websites or leaf through their catalogs. Browning, for just one example, showcases 21 different versions of its X-Bolt rifle in current production. Twenty one! And that’s just one action type! Browning also has the AB3 rifle, the BAR, BLR, BL-22, SA-22 T-Bolt, Buck Mark, and A-Bolt. And, as they say on the TV ads, that’s not all! Do you want that rifle in 204 Ruger or one of 22 other chamberings? Right hand or left? With a 20”, 22”, 23”. 24”, 26” or 28” barrel? Camouflage stock or black or maybe good old fashioned walnut? (Actually, many of these variants are included in the 21 versions as part of their distinguishing characteristics, but I wanted to stir things up a bit.)
If Too Few Guns, Why So Hard to Wade Through Choices?
Any way you look at this, it’s a lot of choices. Especially for a new buyer. How do you wade through all of this? I don’t doubt that some would-be target shooters or hunters just throw up their hands and take up jogging instead. Not only must you decide whether to get a Browning or Weatherby or Mossberg or Rigby or Savage or any of a dozen more brands, but within those brands you have to pick from dozens more options. Would it hurt anything to scale back a bit?
I was going to hold up Mossberg as a brand that has simplified its options because a couple of years back it offered its new Patriot bolt-action rifle with a walnut stock or synthetic stock in about six popular chamberings, all with 22-inch barrels. That was it. Nice and simple. Saved a lot of head scratching. But hold the phone. I just checked Mossberg’s website. They’ve padded their SKUs. As best I can count, the Patriot now comes in 12 different configurations and 12 chamberings from 22-250 Rem. through 375 Ruger. And that’s not counting the upgraded Revere version with highly figured walnut and 24-inch barrels in six calibers. Turn the page and there are M464 lever-actions, MMR autoloaders, MVP Precision rifles, each with multiple stock options, barrels, etc. We’ll ignore the 22 rimfires for now.
On and on it goes with gun maker after gun maker. So back to my original question: do we really have too few guns? Of course not. We might have too many variations, but that doesn’t mean we need to reduce them. Options might be confusing. They might be redundant. But they increase everyone’s chances for finding the perfect fit, the perfect match of action type, stock material, stock shape, barrel length and contour, magazine style and capacity, weight, balance, caliber, and cartridge. And even color. How else do you explain the ongoing success of everything from T/C single-shots to Barrett M82A1 50 BMGs? People want these choices.
It’s human nature to imagine our choices are perfect because they work for us. And it’s probably also human nature to want to impress upon others that they should appreciate what we appreciate. But life and common sense tell us that’s narrow thinking at best. As the saying goes, who appointed you boss of the world?
Double Your Beauty
The double beauty of capitalism and American freedoms is that each of us is free to make choices. Big ones like where we live, who we marry, and what we worship; small ones like what we wear, drive, eat, and shoot. And that freedom to choose results in the creativity and innovation that drives manufacturing and produces this confusion of options. We see it in hair products, shoes, cars, houses, dogs — virtually everything humans touch. Including firearms.
The next time you or anyone complains about too many new rifles, cartridges, bullets, scopes and camouflage patterns, remember this: Innovation and creativity are part of the human animal. Without them we’d still be shooting flintlocks. No, chucking spears. No, throwing rocks and sticks.
Too few guns? I don’t think so.
Author Ron Spomer struggles to keep up with, let alone appreciate, all the new firearms, but he works at it and tries to keep an open mind.