Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Quality matters!

Todays post will be something usually not found in most firearm reviews.  I will be talking about quality defects.  Most reviews read the same, X firearm is the greatest thing since sliced bread and will outshoot anything produced.  Boring and tells me nothing. 
As firearms are mechanical devices you will once in a while have a defect.  Some are minor and easily fixed.  Others are major and warrant a return to the factory.  No manufacturer can have zero defects.  That is impossible.  But all manufacturers should strive to minimize defects.  Rework costs money and therefore profit.  There is also the hazard of perception.  You many have the greatest product every produced.  But if buyers perceive your product to be of low quality and do not buy it, you are done and your business will fail. 

I understand manufacturers are trying to reduce costs as the economy flushes down the crapper.  Thanks Federal Government for the wonderful mismanagement of the economy.  But there is a point cost cutting must stop in order to maintain quality.  If quality drops too far, people stop buying your products. 
And this drop is quality is what I am seeing across the firearms industry.  The next section will outline the defects I have seen. 


The maker of the must have rifle of 2013, the TAVOR.  Yes, this $2000 rifle had issues right of the box.  It would shortstroke.  Shortstroking is when rifle does not have enough gas pressure to push the slide all the way rearward to pick up the next cartridge from the magazine.  So you end up pulling the charging handle each time you want to fire the rifle.  Very frustrating.
After 500 rounds the problem seems to have self corrected itself.  It cycles fine now with no problems.  I’m not sure what was the problem.  It could be as simple as it needed a break-in period.  But 500 rounds is an expensive break-in.  That is 500 rounds that I did not get to train with and practice my skills.  And luckily I did not need to bet my life on this rifle. 
I will not trust this rifle until I have another 500-1000 rounds through it, trouble free.  This is a serious defect of perception.  Luckily I can afford to own more than one rifle.


I recently purchased a model 650.  This is a subnose .357 revolver.  Taurus’s version of the Smith and Wesson model 640.  Everything looked fine when I purchased it.  But went south the first time I fired it.  It turns out the barrel isn’t installed correctly.  The barrel is not fully seated and is crooked.  Since this is a fixed sight revolver, this means the front sight is canted to the left.  It shoots 2 inches right at 7 yards and 5 inches right at 15 yards.  Again, I’m fortunate to have the means to have more than one handgun.  And I have enough experience to compensate for this sight misalignment if I had to. 

What if this is someones first and only handgun?  What if they need it immediately as there was a potential threat?  Do they have the time to return it for warranty work?  Can they live without their firearm for several weeks while it is repaired?  Do they have enough skill and experience to compensate for the canted front sight?  I see this as a potential life threatening quality defect.  This handgun should not have left the factory.  Especially with an obvious and blatant defect.


I recently picked up a Ruger 10/22.  A fun little .22 rifle.  But when I stripped it to clean it, the recoil spring came off the op rod.  The spring should be a captive spring.  The spring should not fly off.  The factory did not put enough crimp on it.  A minor defect and easily fixed by those of us who are mechanically inclined.  Not everyone is mechanically inclined.  Now they have a useless rifle that requires repair.   

Next up in the Ruger line is a model SP101.  A .357 snubby revolver.  I found 2 items on this one firearm.  First, there was a large burr on the frame that was not removed during the assembly process.  It did not affect function, but should have been removed by the factory.  A few quick strokes of a file and the problem disappeared.  Again, not everyone can do this. 
Next, when I pulled it apart to replace the mainspring (poor mans trigger job), I noticed the machining of the internal frame and trigger assembly was rougher than on older Rugers I own.  This explains why the trigger pull was a bit crunchy.
Again, functionality was not affected.  But, my perception of Ruger has gone down a bit.
I have another SP101, an older model.  And when compared side by side, the older model has a nicer fit and finish.  
Definitely, quality is going down, but has not yet affected functionality.


Yes, the all mighty Volquartsen.  Maker of high quality parts for your Ruger 10/22 and MK3 and MK22/45 handguns has sent me some real lemons.  And serious ones that require the parts to be sent back to the factory for replacement.
I purchased 2 trigger assemblies for my 10/22 rifles.  These were advertised as match grade triggers with a 2½ pound trigger pull. 
Both have serious issues. 

The first one had the following problems:
·                Safety does not work.  It will not engage. 
·               The mounting holes were not machined correctly.  When mounted into the receiver, the     
         fit was too tight and caused the bolt to drag.

The second assembly had the following problem:
·                The mounting holes are machined incorrectly and the assembly cannot be installed.      
         You can even see the poor machining in the rear mounting hole. 

These defects come from a company that has a reputation for quality and precision.  Not only are these functional defects, but my perception of Volquartsen has dropped considerably.  Has Volquartsen gone the route of Kimber?  Lowered the quality level to accommodate mass manufacture and then rely on quality of their name to keep business coming in?  I hope not.  Especially when this trigger assembly costs more than the rifle it will be installed on. 
As a Manufacturing Engineer, if I saw this, I would start pulling samples to see if I have a systemic problem.  It is very rare to get 2 assemblies, in a row, that have such serious problems unless there is a deeper systemic issue. 


Am I saying not to buy from these manufacturers ever again?  No!  Any manufacturer can produce defects.  It happens.  I would by these products again.  Do carefully examine your firearm before you purchase.  And make sure they work correctly before you bet anything on them, especially your life. 

What I am seeing is an industry wide drop in overall quality.  Everyone is cutting costs and it is showing in the end product.  What you are buying today is not as nice as a few years ago.
In my opinion it is almost impossible to get this many defects across multiple products and manufacturers.  Except for the TAVOR, all items listed above have been purchased within the last six weeks from multiple gun shops and online retailers. 

Final comments on quality:

Why quality matters?  Because in todays world, everyone and their brother makes and AR-15, or a 1911 or a precision bolt action rifle.  So whom do you buy from?  One factor is who provides the features you want.  But more importantly, who produces what you want, with the best quality for the best price.  I think quality is the more important of the two.  This also extends to customer service as well.  I will pay more for the same product if I get superior customer service.
And on the flip side, you may have the greatest product ever, but if your customer service sucks, I will not buy from you unless I absolutely need what you are selling and there is no one else. 

Quality matters!

By: Mez


Momma Fargo said...

Great post! Quality does matter for sure.

Daddy Hawk said...

Excellent analysis. QC is more about the little details and trends than anything else. Taurus has a reputation for poor quality for a reason. I've had two Tauri that functioned fine during the time I owned them; however, in hindsight, there is no comparison between them and the upper tier manufacture products that I've owned since. Having said that, even those "top name" brands have their issues. My first Glock had a strange "hiccup" in its recoil cycle that I could never figure out. Several shooters had the same result. So, I'm fairly sure it was not "just me" limp wristing it or something. Probably should have sent it to Glock to have them look it over, but I sold it at a time when I needed the cash.