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OSD 191: Business time
The latest episode of the Live Q or Die podcast featured an interview with the CEO of EOTech and a product manager at the company. A few hours in, they get into a discussion of some upcoming night vision products:
The punchline is essentially this:
Now, maybe that’s vaporware. Maybe when it’s actually released, it’ll cost twice as much. Or maybe it’s real. The bigger question is a parallel one: what has stopped products like this from launching years ago?
Jumping back to “OSD 145: Guns, Andy Warhol, and Coca-Cola”, we laid out the idea of a product shifting from being one where more money buys you better quality to one where the best available version is the mass-market version. This comes from Andy Warhol’s quote that “You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.”
So you can think about any product as either having already undergone its Warhol shift, being in the middle of it, or not yet having started it. The examples we laid out were:
Striker-fired polymer handguns (Glocks and similar designs)
Rimfire firearms, for the most part (excluding niche competition target guns)
Most software products and internet platforms
ARs and other common centerfire rifles
Scopes and red dot optics
Night vision goggles
IR devices like the MAWL and PEQ-15
Radios and comms
What do you notice as you move down the list? The “post-shift ←→ pre-shift” spectrum is essentially the same as the “consumer market ←→ government market” spectrum. The less a product is exposed to the consumer demand, the more expensive and less innovative it gets.
You can generalize this to most companies in the gun space. A company’s innovativeness is inversely proportional to how much of its revenue comes from selling to the government. Because the thing that makes you successful as a large government contractor is not high-value, innovative products. You become successful by getting really good at selling to the government. That’s your core expertise. That’s a really impressive skill — it’s a hard job! But it’s not a skill that makes your company useful to consumers.
As more gear moves from being government-only to attracting the interest of the consumer market, companies will find that consumers are much more demanding on product quality and value. That exposes those companies to a virtuous (well, virtuous for consumers) cycle:
Consumers take an increased interest in your product.
Your product improves and/or gets cheaper.
If you fail to complete #2, go out of business. If you succeed, go back to step 1.
Look to see that pattern accelerate as more consumers start buying pre-Warhol-shift products. That’s tough news for old-line companies, and great news for consumers and startups in the space.
This week’s links
Federal district judge in West Virginia strikes down the ban on possessing a gun with a defaced serial number
There’s a lot more to play out here before this would be final. The link above goes to Eugene Volokh’s well-informed analysis.
Reno May video on the subject above. Tbd what California courts think of this. Tldr rifles in California aren’t subject to the AWB if they have a fixed magazine, but the law doesn’t specify where on the gun the magazine must be fixed. So the FIFY fixes a .22LR mag into the pistol grip of your AR.
Speaking of product innovation:
And the best kind of support is to rock some merch and spread the word. Top-quality hats, t-shirts, and patches.
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