Weak Men & Subsequent Failure Of “The Translation”


Professor Jacob Barnhardt - The Day the Earth Stood Still
Professor Jacob Barnhardt – The Day the Earth Stood Still

Ft Collins, CO –-(Ammoland.com)- The “Translation” “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” ~ Saul Bellow

My good friend and colleague, and CEO of Robinson Armament, Alex Robinson, told me in a recent conversation:

“When we conceived the XCR Rifle, we knew the design was sound and the various pieces all shared a competent history, but it took us far longer than I ever imagined for us to learn how to make it.”

Today, the RA/XCR Rifle enjoys a solid reputation and market-share, due in no small part to Alex’s tenacity and his personal commitment to excellence and the advancement of our Art.

With all manufactured products, but particularly with guns intended for “serious purposes,” history is replete with unhappy examples of a brilliant start emerging from the “model shop,” only to translate into a disastrous failure subsequently coming off the production line.

Many, probably most, gun-company CEOs have an extensive manufacturing background.

They’re hired, because they “know how to make things.”

Yet, few are themselves, Operators. Few actually carry a gun (for serious purposes) on a regular basis.

Particularly among my friends and colleagues, there are exceptions. There are a few who are simultaneously involved in manufacturing, and are also competent Operators:

Alex Robinson, Frank DeSomma, Claudia Chisholm, Ashley Burnsed, Justin Moon, Dave Selvaggio, Uli Wiegand, Jeremy Ross, John Ring, Gary Ramey, Ross Botha, Freddie Blish, Cameron Hopkins, Mike Shovel, Justin Evans, Earnest Emerson, Lynn Thompson, Mike Lessman, Steve Camp, Brian Hoffner. I’m sure there are others whom I don’t know personally.

These few combine acumen in manufacturing, marketing, and an intense understanding of the Art, all in one person. They are ever successful!

When new products miscarry as they get into the hands of consumers, the issues are usually:

1. Inadequate testing.

Also, smug dismissal of test results that do not fit “the agenda.” More frequent, phoney “tests” deliberately designed from the beginning to conceal flaws. Even more frequent, “alteration” of test results, again with the devious purpose of forcing “results” into an agenda.

Testing needs to be always thorough, unbiased, relentless, and chips need to be allowed to fall where they may. Too many CEOs make it known among subordinates that they only want to hear what they want to hear. Unhappy news, that they desperately need to know (but don’t want to hear), thus often goes unreported.

In testing, when presumptions become mixed-together with conclusions, at the beginning, resulting “data” is garbage, sometimes dangerous garbage.

2. The casual dismissal of consumer comments/complaints.

It all looks great in the showroom. But, when products finally find their way into “the field,” issues, small and large, invariably become “visible”

Comments from the field, while usually helpful, are often sarcastic, even insulting, and they “hurt the feelings” of manufacturers. It is always in their best interest for manufacturers to immediately separate “hurt feelings” from critical information.

“Perfect products” are rare indeed, and “tweaking,” necessitated by painful field experience, while annoying, is unavoidably necessary.

3. The pressure to “get the product out the door”

SA80 Rifle
SA80 Rifle : By Stuart Hill – Photo source: http://www.defenceimagery.mod.uk

Many a product, on the brink of stellar success, has tanked because it was released too soon.

The UK’s SA80 rifle is a good example. Rushed into production, it failed miserably when subsequently put to the test during fighting in the Mideast, denials (initially pious, then sheepish) notwithstanding While incontrovertibly “brilliant” in conception, what ultimately rolled off the production-line was an unreliable, breakage-prone piece of junk.

The SA80, subsequently redesigned and expertly revised by H&K, now actually runs pretty well, but the damage is done. Its soiled reputation will never be restored.

When guns are subject to hasty, expensive, recurrent, and embarrassing “recalls,” almost immediately after introduction to the market, someone at the top was a little too anxious.

4. Inadequate understanding of the consumer’s needs and expectations.

My interest in confined to serious weapons, intended for serious purposes, and carried by Operators, but I realized there is also a substantial market for “recreational” and other “non-serious” guns.

Of course, manufacturers legitimately cater to that market too.

When a student asks, “What gun should I get?” I invariably reply with the question, “What is it for?”

When he needs a gun to protect his life, I can then get down to serious recommendations from manufacturers I know and trust.

When he wants a gun strictly for recreational, or self-aggrandizement (competition), purposes, I probably won’t be very helpful, and my lack of interest will likely be obvious.

Poor ideas usually fail, and for good reason. Darwinism is alive and well, and should be.

Unhappily, many a brilliant idea, with unmeasured potential, has ultimately never seen the light of day, due to weak men and subsequent failure of “The Translation.”

“‘Faith’ doesn’t make good science. Curiosity does!” ~ Professor Jacob Barnhardt (played by Sam Jaffe) to “Klaatu,” (played by Michael Rennie) in the 1951 science-fiction classic, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”


Defense Training International, Inc

About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or in-actions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr. Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit: www.defense-training.com

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Tactical ITJTimothy VotawLynn GabehartWild Bill Recent comment authors
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“When he needs a gun to protect his life, I can then get down to serious recommendations from manufacturers I know and trust.

When he wants a gun strictly for recreational, or self-aggrandizement (competition), purposes, I probably won’t be very helpful, and my lack of interest will likely be obvious.”

All competition is here equated to self-aggrandizement, and it is also written as if there is little overlap between the desired features of a defensive firearm and one purchased for recreational shooting. Neither of these claims is remotely true.

Timothy Votaw
Timothy Votaw

One thing is certain here in Farnam’s commentary: We are witnessing the era of weak men, no doubt. Just look at social media, the news, blogs, politicians, whatever and wherever, they’re all around us. I know I am a dying breed, a twice-wounded Marine, who did a follow-on career as a federal protection “specialist” (I’ll leave that to imaginations). . Seems gun-toting is a lifetime thing for some people. And with it often comes something that appears to be increasingly in short supply: Strength. Not the kind you get at the tony fitness centers populated by urban creatures as part… Read more »

Timothy Votaw
Timothy Votaw

…[our] biggest concern.

Tactical IT
Tactical IT

Hard times create strong men
Strong men create good times
Good times create weak men
Weak men create hard times
G.M. Hopf
It seems that we are reaping the reward of the good times that have been left to us by the Greatest Generation. We are now on the downward side of the loop and the hard times are coming.

Lynn Gabehart
Lynn Gabehart

I enjoy reading your writing on firearms. This is a another question that bothers me. I’m 70 yrs old be shooting and hunting from age 8, follow and life member of the NRA. What do you think about what is going on at the top at the NRA and what should be done
Lynn Gabehart
Montrose, CO
[email protected]

Wild Bill
Wild Bill

@John Farnham, You could have mentioned that the “Products Liability” area of the law began with a muzzle loader that malfunctioned. Probable due to insufficient testing or rushing the product to market.


Except for some magnificent double rifles the Brits are not terribly good at developing firearms. The SA 80 reminds me of a Sten coupled with an upside down Bren.


The British SA80 is a good example, but so is the original M-16 first supplied to troops in Vietnam. It seems to never end. When we changed to the M-4 configuration with the “New” ammo for it (M855) in Kuwait/Iraq, we got to experience military R&D (“military intelligence”) at its finest once again.

Constantine Galanopulo
Constantine Galanopulo

Wow! Considering most people who get into the gun culture do so via recreational use and you could care less! AND you would make it OBVIOUS to the student. You need some critical thinking skills about teaching and mentoring new shooters.