Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Book of Numbers

Mike W. has a post up on the decline of QC at SIG and immediately in comments, Bob S. steps up and (rightly) offers the data point that his SIGPro has been 100% since he bought it.

This is my bugbear, my bĂȘte noire, my personal cross to bear on the internets. It's how I got my reputation as a mean-hearted gun snob:
Reader 1: "Hey, what do you think of the Blastomatic, Tam?"

Me: "I wouldn't buy one. They're wretched pulsating balls of suck and fail."

Reader 2: "You're just a (gun snob/Brand Z fangirl)! I've owned two Blastomatics and both have been flawless!"
There could be two reasons for the difference between Reader 2's experiences and mine. The first one is a simple matter of statistics. Say that, in my long, bitter years of exile behind the gun store counters, I sold 500 Blastomatics.

Say that one in four of them had some issue or another: The customer field-stripped the pistol when he got home and found it was all rusty inside. It wouldn't light primers reliably in double-action. The framinator wouldn't wollygaggle right and so the gun didn't run worth a damn until we had the gunsmith look at it. The Super Blasto X model had a reputation for not feeding anything other than round-nosed FMJ that had been carefully lubricated with Vaseline. The rifling looked like it had been chewed by angry beavers and the gun patterned like a cylinder bore at fifteen yards.

This means that Reader 2 has had two happy ownership experiences, which the odds state should be the case. If one in four is defective and bad, you have a three in four chance of getting a gun that at least functions properly and isn't messed up out of the box. Meanwhile, every time I hear "Blastomatic", all I remember is 125 pissed-off customers and the defective crappy guns I couldn't prevent them from buying because I was just a lowly clerk and couldn't keep the boss from stocking that garbage.

The other option is that Reader 2 is the typical American gun owner who gets to the range every three or six months, pops off a box or two of ammo from five yards into a ragged, two-foot pattern stringing low and left from the center of a B-27 target, and goes home. His Blastomatic Match Master might have been engineered to crumble into dust after 500 rounds, but he'll never find out, because by the time he's owned it for a year, it's been superseded in his affections by his new Blastomatic Match Master Plus in the likewise new .401Blasto caliber. (His dealer threw in a Blastomatic hat with that purchase.)

Anyhow, odds are that if you buy a current production SIG, you will have a happy and satisfying ownership exeperience. But once upon a time, it was nearly guaranteed, since before they left the factory, they test fired them to make sure they, you know, worked. But that costs money. You can't charge extra for test-firing a gun, but you can for a rainbow titanium finish.

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said.

erich martell
albuquerque nm

pdb said...

Yes yes yes, sweet zombie Mary a thousand times yes!

Taurus, Bersa, and CZ (to pick three out of the air) have many satisfied customers, but cannot land a major US PD contract. This is A Clue.

Dave said...

Makes me glad my Sig Pro's one of the older ones. Sure, it has the funky proprietary rail I can't really use, but at least it also had QC.

Tango Juliet said...

"Blast-o-matic" always makes me laugh.

Anonymous said...

my last sig was my last sig ever...
even if the CEO responsible for the decline of their QC was publicly tortured and executed for what hes done to the company i would not go back to them...
the 245 i received would not close once the slide was racked...
it seems someone just jammed a barrel into it with no attempt made to fit it...
um, no thanks, if i want garbage i can buy taurus, or rossi, or any other turdworld piece of crap...

Anonymous said...

where can i get dies and reloading data for the 401blasto.. It probably outperforms God's own caliber

Pakkinpoppa said...

But...but...but...
I owned 3 SIGs. 2 228's, and a 226. They were all 3 police trade ins. While nice, they did leave something to be desired, in being a touch big to tote easily under a tee shirt.

Tam, I had a buddy who used to work at a "fun" store, and he offered great insight into things to not buy. Some were surprising, but some not. If I went in to drool, browse, and buy, he'd let me know I really didn't want something if I pawed it too long. And there were certain things that he'd hesitate to pick up off the ground if he was unarmed and needed a blaster.

Plus, I got handy notices if some item came in on trade that I may have been interested in...oh, how the money went...

Snort. Blastomatic.

Borepatch said...

In all honesty, the world has been tragically short of .401 caliber cartridges. It's like .40, only even better!

Tam said...

FWIW, I have never had a bad ownership experience with a SIG. Several 228s, a 229, a couple 230s, a 220 (Browning BDA), a 226... or was it two 226s? A GSR. Anyhow...

'Course, that was all five years and more ago...

BryanP said...

Fair enough. My compromise on that is "good enough for fun at the range" and "good enough for protecting my life." I own guns that fit both description. The best guns go on both lists.

Bob S. said...

Tam,

I piped up because it has been my experience that people unhappy with a product will tell 7 to 10 people but someone satisfied with a product will tell 2 to 3 people.

People posting on a forum seldom tend to repeatedly post "Hey took the Sig to the Range and it worked fine" but the people with problems will report everyone-- that could lead to a false impression on the level of quality.

I think there is a major difference in someone reading reports of trouble in a forum and a professional selling or servicing firearms. That is why I offered my data point.

Bram said...

Well said - I work in a corporate quality department. Quality IS statistics. We measure everything in defects per million opportunities (DPMO). When that number is down into the single digits, we look for the next problem.

I am guessing that after years of test firing products with an insignificant number of misfires, Sig decided it wasn't necessary. Real quality doesn't need inspections. But, it's dangerous to make that assumption when a new product or service is introduced.

Tam said...

Bob S.,

No, no, you were right!

You're not "Shooter 2" by any means, I just included the link because that's what got me meandering down that particular train of thought.

Bram said...

By the way, my pistol groups tend to trail off high and right - before my eyes get tired and they just turn into random scatter.

Robb Allen said...

I'm the 1 guy out of 10 who got a good P3AT. Damned thing has never stovepiped, FTE'd, FTF'd, failed to go *pop* every time I pulled the trigger, etc.

I've got close to 500 rounds through it already, and I hate it more with every trigger pull (in fact, I'm taking people to the range tonight and told them they need to buy ammo if they want to shoot my guns, except for the .380. They can use all of my ammo that they want).

1% of Kel Tec owners get the good guns. Occupy #LowCostPeaShooters.

Jay G said...

And it's Mike W. who's got that piece up BTW...

-Shooter 2

:)

staghounds said...

Most people don't understand statistics.

And there's a pretty good bottom line improvement in outsourcing quality control to the consumer.

Tam said...

Jay G,

Derp. Fixed. Thanks!

Mike W. said...

Yes, who is this "Will" character? :P

Sig as a company is certainly not a big ball of wretched suck & fail, but they're not putting out the quality of product they once were.

Ed Foster said...

Tommy over at Newington Gun Exchange was rangemaster at the SIG school up in New Hampshire until about a year and a half ago, and he tells me the same thing. Supposedly, the new boss has been pushing quantity over quality since the day he walked in.

Which really ticks me off, as one of the few pistols I have ever sold and miss like desperate was an elegant P 210, about as fine a piece of workmanship as I have ever seen. As smooth and accurate as the very best 1911's, and simply a joy to watch and feel function.

O.K., not the best fighting weapon. It needs more cartridge and better bells and whistles to produce good combat ergonomics.

But with good ammo, a total joy to shoot, and a classy example of the gunmakers art.

The people who run SIG should be ashamed of themselves for what they have done to an exceptional product, starting with the P220, an over teutonicized clusterfuck of unneeded kinks, way too many parts, and welded stampings.

Now even that is sliding, as their QC evaporates. Has everybody in the German speaking countries gone nuts? It seems there is a dragrace underway, to see who can make a handgun cheapest, and damn silly things like ruggedness, reliability, accuracy, and natural pointing characteristics.

AuricTech said...

I've heard great things about .404Blasto, but I can't seem to find it anywhere....

1 With A Bullet said...

The last Sig I had was a P226 made in -> West <- Germany. It was reliable and shot like a rifle; I had no problems hitting steel at 50yds with it (single action), and yes, it came with a test target. However, even with the short trigger installed I would occasionally experience 'trigger pinch' when shooting double action so I sold it. Recently, a close friend of mine bought a P238 that had to go back to the factory for 'tuning' before it was reliable. Despite that, I am intrigued by the P938 design that I may take a gamble on one, but only after the mandatory 3-4 year beta period. I'm allergic to low serial numbers on working guns.

Robb Allen said...

AuricTech, I see what you did there.

And I approve.

cj said...

But what about all the rave reviews of, "I-took-it-to-the-range-and-it-shot-a-single-box-of-ammo-with-no-problems-so-it's-the-greatest-gun-ever"? Never mind that one particular new pistol, for example, tends to start seeing problems after around 200 rounds...many shooters will never reach that rate.

One of my new criteria is...would I take it to a class where I'll shoot 600-800 rounds in a few days? Now, for some of the super-micro-types I like, I wouldn't want to do that just for preservation of my digits, but I'd like the confidence that they COULD handle it.

Anonymous said...

The plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

Tam said...

Anon 10:26,

Feel free to elucidate.

Anonymous said...

Yes sample size matters. Working in a higher volume gun store, taking training classes or shooting in competion lets you see numbers and varieties fo firearms.

My boss at the gunstore had 5 or 6 manufacturers that he did not stock, buy or order from. This pissed off some people but he insisted those pistols were just not worth the headaches.

He had two or three that he only ordered because they had good customer service fixing the problems that always showed up. Keltec and Kahr were in that catagory.

Yes you may have got the good Blastomatic 2000 but instead of crowing about it you should be thanking the gods for their mercy.

Gerry

Laughingdog said...

Tam, it would seem to me that Anon 10:26 is just agreeing with your original point.

Brad K. said...

Tam,

Does SIG make a version of the Blastomatic, and can I get one with a rainbow titanium finish?

That sounds like it would look *so* cool. Or maybe a shiny finish in safety-Purple and lime green with a camo pattern of swimsuit girlie figures (like at http://www.morningwoodcamo.com/).

I have rabbits attacking the garden after dark, and I want something that looks really classy to nail a few rabbits and tomatoes for breakfast.

Anonymous said...

"You can't charge extra for test-firing a gun, but you can for a rainbow titanium finish."

Why not? What if test-firing was offered as a factory option? It's common to be able to buy test equipment with or without a traceable calibration certificate, and certification costs more.

DirtCrashr said...

I'm waiting for the Unicorn Sig covered in Celtic scrollwork that fires the .30Rainbow cartridge...

DirtCrashr said...

I'm also waiting for the plastomatic M&P kool-aid to wear-off, but it is being drunk copiously in large cups with Apex written on the side... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Dammit... now I want dies and reloading info on the .30rainbow or does that fall out of the unicorn's ass also

Sometimes I think the comments section is snarkier and funnier than the original post

Mikael said...

DirtCrashr: Based on blogposts(Tam's, among others), if I was moving to the states or some other place that allows carry, I'd go with a Boberg for pocket carry(and something full sized in .45 or larger for IWB, on a theorycrafting level I love the .50GI).

Able said...

My "framinator wouldn't wollygaggle right" either but I got a cream that seemed to solve that particular problem.

It's comments like that that remind me why I visit.

(at least I didn't stoop to commenting on the lubrication, although sorely tempted)

Anonymous said...

There's plenty of abuses of stats in guns.

Start with the 3-round group test you see for long guns as an example.

Now, as to the typical American gun owner: They've been sold BS for decades, whether through stats or idiotic claims.

Examples:

The idea that the Remington 700 action is an improvement over the Mauser 98, Springfield, Win70, etc. It's not. Remington is and has been consistent in seeking ways to make their rifles cheaper and cheaper over the years, eliminating safety features proven to be valuable from the Mauser 98 forward.

The idiotic obsession with new cartridges with dubious purported benefits, when the reality in rifle cartridges is that most supposed improvements over the Mauser 7x57 are marginal, and with modern powders and pressures largely disappear. There's few new developments in handgun cartridges that exceed the performance of the .44 Special, .45 ACP, etc. But lots of people spend their time and money flapping their jaws about the issue.

One could go on for a bit, but that's the truth. Most "new" developments in firearms are twaddle and specious nonsense, breathlessly marketed to the public by liberal arts majors furiously scribbling in gun rags, all posing as the second coming of Jack O'Connor. They're not, and none of them are hawking anything as useful as a .270 Winchester, which was only a marginal improvement over a .30-06.

Les said...

Where can I buy the Max Michel model?

DirtCrashr said...

.30Rainbow *is* an ass-firing, high-fluoroscopy round.

I'm glad I'm keeping the Siglet since it has early toaster-parts from when Iron Toasters ruled the Seas.

Chris said...

I'm one of the lucky ones as far as CZ's go. I have three of them, and no problems with any, except they don't like some brands of hollow-point. (So I don't use those brands for my CZ's. Duh.)

Ed Rasimus said...

Ahhh, so true. Speak badly of someone's pride and joy and you will be chastised even if correct. I've learned to ask questions of gun-shop owners and listen when they speak of quality and preference issues.

I've owned one SiG and two Kimbers, both are well over ten years old and both quite satisfactory, but I've got no delusions that current production from those two massive operations maintain the level of quality they once were noted for.

Now, can we discuss Rhinos and Judges?

Goober said...

I also find myself annoyed with folks that say that you have to be wrong because they can find (or they experienced) one example of product X not being a POS, and therefore that negates everything you've said about it.

A perfect example - you'll find die-hard Ford fans defending Ford's 6 liter diesel engine, production run from 2003 to 2006, fervently.

The thing was a disaster. It was the most expensive engine ever released in the US as far as warranty claims are concerned, and given the history in the US of disasters in the auto industry, that is really saying something. I had a guy ask on a forum that I frequent recently about folk's opinions on the 6 liter, and my response is that I wouldn't let someone give me one, much less buy it with my hard earned money.

It took all of ten seconds for a second guy to respond about how wrong I was and that I was a total idiot because HE had owned one and thought it was fine. I laughed hard when he started listing off the things that had happened to it in the first 60,000 miles, and then wrote off what I would consider to be a list of huge, fatal flaws (the engine had been pulled out of the truck twice for repairs!) as being "no big deal".

gnholb said...

Best Blogtologist on the Inner Tubes.

rickn8or said...

"Sometimes I think the comments section is snarkier and funnier than the original post"

Don't you blaspheme in here!
Don't you BLASPHEME in HERE!

Andrew said...

Wait! I can get a rainbow titanium finish?

toadold said...

I've had very good luck with with a low end 1911 clone. But I don't intend to put a high volume of rounds through it. I wouldn't recommend purchasing one for a service or game gun. The thing I did like was that they included a fired case with it, and so far the importer has been giving good customer service.

docjim505 said...

Bram - I am guessing that after years of test firing products with an insignificant number of misfires, Sig decided it wasn't necessary. Real quality doesn't need inspections. But, it's dangerous to make that assumption when a new product or service is introduced.

I also work in QC. In my career, it has never ceased to amaze me to see production changes without a corresponding changes (read: increase) in inspection until there's a good level of certainty that the change really didn't change the final product quality. Manufacturing people just DO NOT get this concept.

At any rate, how do we KNOW that SIG quality has declined? Is there some unbiased test lab that runs standardized tests on statistically significant numbers of randomly-selected pistols to determine that an acceptable number meet specifications? Or is it a question that "word on the internet" is that the new ones are not as good as the old ones because somebody heard that SIG has made some changes and their new CEO is a dick?

MSgt B said...

Dude, my brother-in-law was low and left the whole time we were at the range last week.

Why?

I'm no good at that whole "You're not holding your mouth right, so you're hitting low/high/left/right"
I point the gun at the middle of the target, relax and squeeze, and...hit the middle of the target.

Do you have advice? (Oracle of all things splodey?)

Goober said...

MSgt B -

Tell him to squeeze harder on the pitol grip with the fingers that aren't pulling the trigger before he squeezes off the round.

The human hand is a miraculously complex system, but one of it's downsides is that the fingers are all sort of connected. The low and left syndrome is caused by him squeezing the trigger with his index finger, and having his other fingers squeeze harder as his index finger does likewise in a sort of mirror effect, changing the grip on the pitol ever so slightly, resulting in a low and left effect.

The way I've trained folks to stop doing it is to consciously hold the grip harder with their non-trigger fingers (I ususally say 50% harder squeeze) than you have to squeeze wtih your trigger finger to make the boom happen. That way, as you squeeze wtih your index finger, your grip fingers are already gripping harder than that and the grip doesn't change.

As they pratice and get the feel for it, and think about it, they will become more capable of de-coupling their trigger finger from the grip fingers, and the problem will solve itself.

Larry said...

Glock 36.

Yeah.

Cafe45 said...

Sad,

I owned a P229 but got rid of it when I decided to drop .40S&W - I purchased that gun back in the mid 90's, and had problems with it feeding - sent it to sig and they fixed it and returned it very very fast - worked perfectly from then on.

I bought a Sig 1911 shortly after they came on the market - it had feed problems, the front sight poped of and hit me in the forehead, and I had to press the pivot pin for the extractor back in every other mag. Sent that one back with a WTF note - they returned it with a fair amount of work done - again flawless.

Stopped buying Sigs - QC sucked - CS was fantastic, but it get's old. Sort of like Kimber, I've owned 5 of them, still have one - the only one that worked reliably out of the box. But it needs work as they never rounded the points on the frame at the bottom of the Mainspring housing to match the mainspring - sharp pointing little suckers turned my palm into hamberger the first time I shot it. I suppose I'll fix it myself and get the frame re-coated.

MSgt B said...

Sounds like good advice.

Hope you'll for give me if I don't tell him I got it from a guy named "Goober".