Why Most Modern Firearms Are the Lowest Quality Guns Ever Made

By Randy Wakeman

Savage Axis
Basic black Savage Axis, an example of a cheaply made modern hunting rifle. Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.

The vast majority of so-called modern shotguns and rifles sold today are among the lowest quality firearms made in the last century. If you tell a lie long enough, it seems sooner or later people will accept lies as the truth. (A major tenet of all forms of Marxism. -Editor) It is hard to miss, for most guns made today are not built to a standard of quality, they are designed, engineered and made to be as cheap as possible to manufacture.

The problem is, we buy them, although Bic lighters and ball point pens are better finished. Here are some of the biggest lies and marketing distortions.

The Reliability Myth

Modern guns are marketed as being reliable. However, reliable repeating firearms have not been an issue since, for example, the Winchester 1866 lever action rifle and Browning Automatic-Five autoloading shotgun. These are 19th Century designs. The Browning Superposed shotgun and Winchester Model 70 bolt action rifle are 20th Century designs of high quality and great reliability, and the list goes on. Yet, reliability is marketed like it is something new. No one ever wanted an unreliable firearm, not 150 years ago, not 100 years ago and not today.

What has improved is the weak link of reliability: the ammunition. The firearms themselves have rarely shown improvement and most modern versions are downgrades of the classics.

CNC Machining Does Not Equal Quality

CNC machining was news at MIT in 1952. Merely calling something "CNC made" means nothing, for it does not speak to the quality of the tooling, quality of the set-up, tooling wear, or quality of the raw materials. We are too willing to accept a vacuous, vague, meaningless, overly broad term like CNC as somehow meaningful. It really means nothing measurable.

The Stock of Deceptive Marketing

Polyurethanes have been around since 1937. In the 1950s, they became common, supplied by Dow Chemical, Dupont, Monsanto and Bayer.

Yet, all too often excruciatingly cheap, blow-molded thermoplastic gun stocks are deceptively called "composite" or "synthetic." It is hard to overlook these cheesy, flexible, Mattel genre stocks with their unsightly mold lines. While polyurethanes might be fine for milk jugs and garbage can lids, to call them "technopolymers" is insulting. A composite of flexible poly combined with more more noisy, cheap, flexible poly is no composite of anything. It is all from the same molten pot of extremely cheap, melted plastic balls.

Unfinished Goods Accepted as Finished

While we won't tolerate nasty, coarse, unfinished parts on a motorcycle fender or an automobile, unfinished parts and poor finishes are misrepresented as "tactical" or "matte" on firearms. Poor metal finishes are just that, both difficult to look at and an invitation to corrosion. If it saves a few minutes of tumbling in media, it is cheaper and that is the sole reason this poor quality finishing exists.

Certainly, there are good modern metal finishes, such as salt bath ferritic nitrocarburizing. It too has been around since the 1950s. It costs money, though, so its scuff and abrasion resistance, corrosion resistance, lower wear and lower friction is largely ignored. It does not satisfy the primary design parameter of cheapness.

Old Steel Technology Sold as New

In the 1938 S.A.E. Handbook, it states S.A.E. 4140 had been used extensively for rear axles and it was used a decade earlier in the aircraft industry. Even 416 stainless steel, patented by Crucible in 1968, is ignored for shotgun barrels over 45 years later. It isn't cheap enough to work with, apparently.

The problem is, while we say we want steak, what we actually buy is hamburger. It is hard to miss. Take, for example, the T/C Venture, Savage Axis, Browning A-Bolt 3, Remington 783, Tikka T3 Lite and Ruger American. All of these center-fire rifles are clearly, obviously, without exception, downgrades from previous product. All of these companies can do better and have done better. We don't buy quality, we buy cheapness. It is hard to fault companies for giving us what we asked for.

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Copyright 2014, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.