OSD 80: Don't play the game, change the game

Losers whine about their best. Winners go home and invent great products.

This week we came across a @mattparlmer thread from July about the state of innovation in the gun industry. The second tweet in the thread caught our eye:

Far and away the biggest problem in the US firearms industry is organizational incompetence. There are tons of companies that make incredibly high-quality firearms, but they operate like the job shops that they are built around. Huge parts catalog, small runs, no standardization.

There’s a reason that we have a page on our site titled “Culture Not Politics”. Here’s that page in full:

The graveyard of history is full of ideas that were right. So it’s not enough to be right. You have to be right and effective. We measure ourselves by our results. “Things would be great if all those people on the other side would just agree with us” is a cop-out, not a strategy. And both sides have used it for too long.

But that shouldn’t be surprising. It’s how politics works. When people are locked into a culture war over what should be normalized vs. what should be stigmatized, what matters is scoring points wherever they can. The logical coherence of the win doesn’t matter, and in fact caring about the reasonableness of your policies is a sure way to lose.

Because while you’re off like Plato finding the perfect law, the other side is either normalizing themselves to escape velocity, or stigmatizing you to extinction. Once either happens, they win and the discussion ends forever.

We’re not here to play the game, we’re here to change the game.

Culture drives politics, not the other way around. Therefore begging partisans to do the right thing is a waste of time.

Historically, it’s rare that opponents of progress change their mind. Progress doesn’t happen by convincing them to switch. Typically, it happens by new facts on the ground simply making the old guard irrelevant. They stay complaining and stay fighting the tide, but ever-more laughably as they fade into the past.

Guns-as-politics is an old-fashioned way of thinking. We believe culture is the highest-leverage point to focus our efforts.

For a long time, gun rights have focused on politics — particularly, on blaming “them” when things don’t go our way. That’s understandable, but it is a loser mentality to congratulate yourself when you win and blame others when you lose. Winners look at themselves in the mirror and ask, “What am I going to do to keep improving?” Then they go execute on that, and win or lose, they do it again the next day, and the next, and the next, ad infinitum.

The most powerful way to spread gun rights is simple: make more gun owners. That’s it. (More on that in our essay “Guns are a virus. But not in the way people think.”) At its core, that’s not a political challenge — it is a product challenge. And that’s good news, because it means it’s all on us. Make great products. Be awesome designers and marketers. Hold the industry — i.e. hold ourselves — to the same quality bar that the best companies in the world demand.

Guns, for all their cultural impact, are still a cottage industry. The entire firearm and ammo industry has about $32 billion in annual revenue. That’s as much revenue as Google makes in ten weeks. Smith & Wesson, one of the best-known brands in the world (in any industry), has a market cap of $1 billion — 0.12% of Facebook’s.

In a sense, this is good news: guns and gun brands are famous and completely pervasive in the culture, despite the surprisingly puny economics. That means they have unrivaled leverage. So it’s on us, as an industry, to turn that leverage into actual excellence. If we focus on innovation and making the best, most user-focused products that it is humanly possible to make, the rest will take care of itself.


This week’s links

Colion Noir on the legal nuances of the Kyle Rittenhouse episode

Colion is a lawyer, and he puts that training to work here. The summary is that we don’t have enough information yet to have clear answers here, but the nitty-gritty details are important to dive into.

The Brownells YouTube channel was on a roll this week

From the Vault: AT4 anti-tank weapon. The nightstand gun where the gun is the nightstand.

From the Vault: Winchester Model 70 Safari Express. “At Brownells, we can have actually have firearms at our desks, and this is my personal desk gun.” –A man speaking about a .458 Win Mag.

Nothing divides voters like owning a gun

Interesting data from the New York Times about how, empirically, gun ownership is the single strongest predictor of voting patterns.

Why I carry a gun

Re-discovered this great 2018 olive branch by David French.

A judge found a California man “factually innocent” of standard-capacity magazine possession for a Freedom Week magazine

The charges against 27-year-old Pheng Yang had been dismissed in June, but the judge’s new ruling allows Pheng to have his arrest record sealed and (after three years) destroyed. As an opportunity to re-link the “Don’t talk to the police” video, note this press release from the sheriff’s office that erroneously charged Pheng with a felony for possessing a magazine:

Prior to the Ninth Circuit's ruling, the Sheriff's office supported “Freedom Week” and would not have investigated this case had the defendant provided the most basic of information, such as a receipt or even the name of the person he bought the magazine from…

In other words, they’d have supported his Second Amendment rights if he gave up his Fifth Amendment rights. No deal.

How T.Rex Arms made their new conference table

First-rate fun with foam.

Larry Vickers with part 2 in a series breaking down the battle at the climax of Saving Private Ryan

Good stuff, following up on part 1 which we linked last week.


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