Editorial: Cheap, Nasty, Foreign Shotguns

Times have changed when it comes to the basic standards of quality: quality of raw materials, quality of machining, quality of finish, quality of assembly. And, quality control itself. In our quest for the “free lunch,” too often we forget what allows cheap product to actually be cheap in the first place.

Many foreign “companies,” as in China, Spain, and Turkey, do not comport to what North American companies are at all. Rather than being clearly defined “companies,” they are instead often co-operatives, with no clearly defined manufacturing sites, processes, or procedures. Too often, there is no independent system of quality control, for the folks making the parts are often piece-workers and it is up to the machine operator to reject his own parts, cutting his own family income in the process. That is not a prescription of any measurable level of consistency. It tends to retard quality, a form of quality deterrent.

There are also no standards to comport to, for there is no Turkish proof house, for example, and they are not a C.I.P. signatory nation. They need not follow C.I.P. Standards, nor are they members of S.A.A.M.I. And do not promise to follow S.A.M.M.I. / ANSI standards, either. They also don't have OSHA, the EPA, or other costly forms of overhead. Nor do they have anything approaching the American form of product liability to worry about. Products earmarked for export often have no warranty or customer service at all, that is the domain of who decides to bring them over.

To top it off, they are more copyists than innovators, and have comparatively little in the way of R & D costs. All this combines to form an environment of virtually non-existent quality control and highly erratic consistency. The American consumer has voted for a cheap price over everything else, again and again, as opposed to more reasonable, accepted, traditional standards of value.

Much of this has political overtones as well, for Chinese rifles and handguns are under an import ban in the U.S. Yes, they are banned from importation . . . from our biggest trading partner. Turkey is a hard country to figure, for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is on the record as claiming women are unequal to men and that birth control is “treason.” No freedom of the press exists in Turkey, for in 2012, the CPJ identified 76 jailed journalists in Turkey, including 61 directly held for their published work, more than in Iran or China. Dikar of Spain admitted in open court to intentionally, fraudulently applying proof marks to their guns (CVA muzzleloaders) that never so much as saw any proof house, but shipped them to the United States for years, anyway. Russian guns are banned from current importation as apparently we have partly renewed our Cold War genre tactics of yesteryear. That's a conflict with the Second Amendment as well, for the “right to keep and bear arms” apparently now means except for the arms that are arbitrarily banned by our government (or a branch of it) for no good reason.

Over the last few years, I've tested and reviewed well over fifty firearms presented as “entry-level” or “value” guns. There are several reasons why I review them, primarily trying to please readers that want them reviewed and also because my friend Chuck Hawks has such a great disdain for low-level, crude, unfinished product, they wouldn't normally get reviewed at all.

The vast majority of them (there are exceptions) are product that I could not possibly recommend to family, friends, or neighbors for obvious reasons . . . and will not. When you waste money on durable goods that are not durable or functional in a basic sense, you aren't saving a nickel. It is only the desirable guns that retain any residual value, and even casual shooters have learned that the gun itself is, by far, the most economical component of shooting sports.

It is also a nasty trick to pull on a new shooter, for guns that don't function well are huge turn-offs, sucking the fun out of shooting sports in a big hurry. Whether the Winchester 1897 and the Winchester Model 1912 in slide-actions, the Automatic-Five that was designed in 1898 (produced in 1902 onward), or the Superposed, mostly designed by John M. Browning but completed posthumously by son Val Browning, finally introduced in 1931, extremely useful pump-actions, autoloaders, and vertical doubles are anything but new in 2014. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that well-maintained examples of any of these models are both enthusiastically used and sought after over 80 years later.

There have been few bright spots, but they are remarkably scarce. So scarce, that only two shotguns come to mind of Turkish manufacture: the Weatherby SA-08 and the lesser-known Girsan MC312. 2015 looks to be a very big year for shotguns, though, so perhaps the landscape will change.


Copyright 2014 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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