BREAKING PRODUCTS AND DEADLINES
CONFESSIONS OF A PRODUCT TEST JUNKIE
Ihave a deserved reputation for breaking things. I’m often one of the first folks to get sent prototypes and new products, and a lot of this stems from relationships I’ve had in this industry for almost 30 years. I was taught long ago never to burn bridges, and I’ve tried to live by that advice. I’m humbled that companies let me play with their equipment and report my findings. But a lot of times, I find flaws in products because I use them to their maximum potential.
This month’s article started with testing a digital binocular. It went with me everywhere for two weeks before it started having issues. The issues were compounded the more I used it, until it failed completely. The company overnighted me another one—only to have it also fail, but in different ways.
After far too many hours of testing and photographs, I washed my hands of it and scrapped the project. Over two weeks down the drain. My editor is asking where my overdue article is.
So, I pulled out a backup plan: I would test a new red-dot sight that created a lot of buzz when introduced at SHOT this year. I was quite pleased to be one of the first folks to have it!
I fully expected it to be a bulletproof example of a new generation of sights that others would eventually emulate for a piece of that sales pie. I wanted to show my readers that by me torture-testing it, they could be sure the product would be nearly indestructible.
I thought I would proof-test it using my Freedom Arms model 83 in .454 Casull—a 6-inch, unported early model. Using 31 grains of H110 with a 300-grain Hornady XTP Magnum generates substantial recoil velocity in this middleweight revolver. This is not a gun and load for the inexperienced!
I set up at my local range, the excellent GAT Guns in Dundee, Illinois, with my photography equipment and lights, ready to capture the gun in full, almost vertical recoil. Although it was still a bit dark, I was able to get a few acceptable pictures.
It took five rounds to turn the sight into what sounded like a maraca. I noticed that “shatterproof” did not apply to this application. Five rounds. More time wasted. (Now, my editor is demanding a submission immediately.)
CHECK THOSE SPECS
Both of these companies were pained to hear of these failures and are currently working on fixes to prevent these problems reoccurring before they are released to the consuming public. They also appreciate that flaws were found and improvements suggested.
Sometimes, companies won’t change a product, just the specifications. For instance, “NOT submersible.” It seems like a simple issue to check such a spec, but things often slip through the cracks. Night vision compatibility? I burned the screen in a few PVS-14 night vision tubes, so it sure seems prudent to avoid customer backlash and remove such a statement.
The word, “Picatinny,” is thrown around a lot, and many times, it is not at all true to MIL-SPEC 1913 specifications. Even from the highest company levels, the marketing departments take over, because sales figures are as important as air. Regularly, the recoil lugs on mounts and rings are way too small to fit snugly in the .206 grooves of a true 1903 rail—but they’re still called Picatinny, because that’s what the cool kids want. Some wellknown manufacturers deliberately use small ring and mount recoil lugs so they can be used on Weaver-style bases with a variety of nonstandard specifications.
I’ve put my hands through the pockets of “double-Kevlarstitched” pockets, broken the switches off “tactical” weapon lights and trashed plenty of scopes that were supposedly “airgun rated” because they couldn’t handle the two-way recoil of spring piston airguns.
I HAVE A DESERVED REPUTATION FOR BREAKING THINGS.
A Vortex Razor HD Gen II 1-6x24 in a Vortex Cantilever mount. This combination has never failed the author.
I A Swarovski 8x20 Pocket Binocular and Streamlight
TLR-2. These old friends travel with the author a lot.
The author’s trusted daily carry companions:
a Glock 19 with a Crimson Trace Lasergrip
and Lightguard, along with a Surefire E2D LED
Many folks have borrowed this Trijicon ACOG (TA31DOC) and Docter from the “Ledin lending library.” These
are true workhorses.
The author’s proof-tester (EOTech EXPS-3 on the Freedom Arms model 83 .454 Casull)