The Column, No. 95:

Cheap, Nasty, Foreign Shotguns

By Randy Wakeman

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 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.

They also are not burdened by 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. 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 is a conflict with the Second Amendment, 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 have 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 disdain for low-level, crude, unfinished product that they would otherwise not get reviewed at all.

The vast majority of these cheap firearms (there are exceptions) are product that I could not and will not recommend to family, friends, or neighbors for obvious reasons. When you waste money on durable goods that are not durable or functional in a basic sense, you are not saving a nickel. It is only desirable guns that retain their value and even casual shooters have learned that the gun itself is, by far, the most economical component of the 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 in a big hurry. Whether the Winchester 1897 and Model 12 in slide-actions, the Browning Automatic-Five (produced from 1902 onward), or the Browning Superposed introduced in 1931, good pump-action, autoloading and vertical doubles are anything but new in 2015. It should not be a surprise to anyone that well maintained examples of these models are sought after and used over 80 years later.

There have been a few bright spots, but they are remarkably scarce. So scarce that only two new shotguns of Turkish manufacture come to mind: 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.

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Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.