Posts Tagged ‘Luger P08’
by B.B. Pelletier
Adrian Cataldo Beltran is the BSOTW.
This is the second time I’ve used this title for a blog. The last time was a blog I did back in July 2007, almost five years ago. In that report, I was mostly addressing the expectations of accuracy that new airgunners have and how they relate to reality. Today, I want to look at something different.
Today I want to look at our secret hopes — those unspoken agendas that push us and direct us toward gun purchases that can sometimes disappoint us. I had one of these happen to me just this week.
When I was a boy back in the 1950s, I loved the Winchester model 61 slide-action .22 repeater — what we kids called a pump gun in those days. I loved it because every time I got to shoot one, which wasn’t that often, the rifle spoke to me. It was just the right size, with a slick action that seemed to bespeak rapid-fire accuracy. Since I never shot at anything smaller than a soup can, I don’t suppose that real accuracy ever came into question, but that gun just SEEMED accurate to me.
As a young adult in the middle 1970s, I had the opportunity to buy a 98 percent model 61 that had been produced in 1953. It still had the original box and cost the exorbitant price of $250, but I knew it was worth every penny. I didn’t actually shoot it that much, but I shot it enough to know that my childhood imagination had amplified the rifle’s true capabilities. It was accurate enough for what it was, but it was no tack-driver. Anyhow, the day finally came when I was forced to sell it before I apparently fulfilled my fascination for the gun — because a couple years ago I had a chance to buy another one in very good shape (call it a 75-percent gun) for just $550. This time I could afford the gun, but I didn’t act quick enough and the opportunity passed.
Last week I passed the pawn shop where I had seen the model 61 for sale, and once more the same childish thoughts flashed through my mind. And here’s the point of what I’m telling you. I now own a Marlin model 39A that is even slicker than the Winchester, and a Remington model 37 target rifle whose accuracy can embarrass almost every other .22 on earth. So why does my heart still yearn for the old pump gun that I know can’t compete with the guns I have? I think it’s that eternal desire to return to my childhood!
I had the exact same experience with a Daisy No. 25 slide-action BB gun, only this time I actually acquired nine of the things — all in beautiful, collectible condition. Owning them for over two decades allowed me to purge the demons from my past; and a couple years ago, I started quietly selling off that collection. The void in my heart had been filled.
At one time, I had the itch for a Colt Woodsman .22 pistol, because as a youngster I shot my uncle’s gun and did very well with it at 25 yards. From the prone position with a two-hand hold, that pistol grouped like a fine .22 rifle! But I’ve owned several Woodsman pistols over the years, and the experience has filled that pothole in my character. I know now that a Ruger Mark II can be just as accurate and just as reliable for one-quarter the price.
The longest itch I ever had was for the M1 Carbine, because I still have it even though I own one! I have owned several, and all have been good shooters — if not terribly accurate. But something about the little semiautomatic action that’s still impossible for gunmakers to build (no semiautomatic rifle has ever been made that was as light and powerful as the M1 Carbine) turns me on! I cannot pass one by. It’s as though I need to own them all, even though I have whittled my own “collection” down to just one good gun.
The strangest itch I ever had was for one specific gun. Years ago, I acquired a Trapdoor Springfield rifle that was in NRA antique good condition. It wasn’t anything to look at; but the bore was great, and it was fun to shoot. But I tired of that hard-kicking rifle after many years and eventually traded it away. Then, seller’s remorse set in. A year later, when I saw it up for sale, I bought it back. And I had it for several more years until I traded it away a second time. Then, a couple months later, I learned that the new owner intended selling it because the barrel was too long for him, so I traded for it, again. I also own a really accurate scoped .45-70 rolling block that I shoot all the time, but apparently I cannot stand to not also own this tired-looking old Trapdoor. Like a prized horse that’s been put out to pasture, I guess this one will remain with me until my estate sells it!
The point of this report
What I’m driving at today is that all shooters carry some baggage. For me, it’s the Winchester 61 and the others I’ve mentioned; but for you, a Browning Auto 5 may light your fire, or perhaps you find Lugers fascinating! I know that Mac has a soft spot for any shotgun in .410 caliber. Somewhere on the path of life, we have an experience or even just a fascination, and it starts the pot inside us brewing with lust.
Old B.B. Pelletier still has a couple voids left in his soul besides the Winchester. One would be a beautiful blue H&R model 999 Sportsman .22 revolver. There’s just something mystical about that break-open design that fascinates me! I have the good sense to know that I couldn’t possibly shoot it any better than any other top-quality revolver, but something about it still haunts me. I have never even fired one shot from a 999, so of course the thing is really buried deeply under my saddle! I fantasize about breaking open the action and watching those nine empty cases extract from the cylinder, as if by magic. It’s not a healthy wish, but this one’s on my bucket list.
For some asinine reason, I’m fascinated by the Johnson semiautomatic battle rifle of World War II. They’re all selling for way over $2,000 these days, and good ones go for much more; so this is an itch I don’t ever expect to scratch — but it’s still there. I would probably be underwhelmed by one if I shot it, because I’ve shot the Garand (another itch that has been satisfied many times!), but I guess you want most the things you can’t have.
Oh, and for some dumb reason, I find I cannot look away from an 8mm Hakim battle rifle. I know it’s because I’ve owned so many of the air rifle trainers, but the phrase “the poor man’s Garand” has sunk its hook firmly into my lips. I’ve come very close to pulling the trigger on several fine-looking Hakims in the past but was always put off by their poor bores that resulted from firing corrosive 8mm military ammunition.
In airguns, my secret desire is to own another Sheridan Supergrade multi-pump pneumatic. I owned one years ago and learned that it was no more powerful nor more accurate than a simple Blue Streak, but something about the robust styling of the gun still attracts me. Years ago, I was forced to sell the one I had for economic reasons, so the fascination was never completely satisfied. And I sold it just after the prices began to rise. I told myself I would buy another one when I could, and then I encountered the super-inflationary price increases of recent years.
A couple years back, I had the chance to buy a nice Supergrade at the Roanoke airgun show and I even (momentarily) had the money to buy it! But something inside stopped me from forking over the cash. And that was two weeks before I made the landmark trade for my Ballard rifle — so I guess the still small voice I listened to was the voice of reason that time! I had to use the cash to buy several things that were used in that trade, so it was either the Ballard or the Supergrade.
To quote Minnie Pearl, “I’m done playin’ now!” I want to spend the rest of this weekend reading about what turns YOUR crank!
by B.B. Pelletier
Randy Stratman took this week’s winning photo.
I made a remark in a comment this week that surprised me. Blog reader /Dave asked me to approach Crosman about resurrecting the Sterling rifle and I told him the following:
I doubt anyone will ever make this airgun again. As well-made as it is, this would be a $500-600 air rifle.
It’s sad that it’s just too nice to be made today, but that’s probably why Crosman decided to drop it when they took over. After the initial 300 sold to enthusiasts, they would sell maybe 50 a year. They need numbers of a thousand or more.
I made that comment rather quickly after reading his request; but after I read what I had said, I thought about it for a long time. Is quality really that difficult to sell today?
You might argue that it isn’t and use any one of a number of products to support your point. Rolex has long been a name used to connote quality among watches, though there are other makers like Audemars Piguet and Patek Phillippe whose products are made just as well if not better. And in the world of automobiles, Rolls Royce is the name everyone thinks of when they think of the best.
I could go on, but I’m sure you see my point. So, why do I say it’s difficult to sell quality?
Because it can be.
It’s particularly difficult to sell quality when the brand name is either not known or when the name has been used to brand similar products of a lower quality to benefit from the marketing cachet of the original good name.
What’s in a name?
Take the name Luger. The name Luger was never officially applied to the handgun we all call the German Luger. Lugers weren’t called Lugers — they were the model P08. But the Stoeger Corporation purchased the rights to the Luger name in 1923 and has used it ever since. Ask any gun collector whether a Stoeger Luger is a real Luger, and you’ll get a laugh. Yes, the guns they sell are legally Lugers, but no firearms collector categorizes them that way.
Here is another example. In the 1960s and ’70s, Daisy was very interested in getting into formal target shooting in a big way. One thing they did, and it’s a mistake that a lot of companies make, was to import FWB target rifles with the Daisy name imprinted on them. Those guns sold — not because they said Daisy on the outside, but in spite of it. The Feinwerkbau name was so well-known in the world of target shooting that it negated the Daisy name on the gun. To American shooters, the name Daisy is forever connected to inexpensive BB guns. Hence, the reason Daisy created their Avanti line — to distance their own name from target guns.
Back to quality
But this report isn’t about brand names — it’s about quality and how difficult marketing it can be. Let me illustrate the problem with a couple hypotheticals.
Let’s say Crosman decides to remake the Benjamin Sterling. This time, they’ll “do it right.” They won’t just use a Lothar Walther barrel — it will be a match-grade Lothar Walther barrel. And yes, there is a difference. They have the Sterling drawings, and they decide that much of the gun can be made on a CNC machine — lowering production costs in the end. They currently own several CNC machines, but all of them are operating at full capacity, so this project requires the purchase of a new six-axis, dual-spindle machine that can handle all the machining operations. It will cost them $330,000.
They’ll make the trigger on an EDM machine that they are using only 75 percent of the time, so figure $5,000/month for that. They calculate that the special dies they will need for various small parts like the sights will cost $115,000. The time spent inputting the drawings into the CAD software and debugging each routine will cost another $50,000. And so on. Let’s say that after the miscellaneous tooling gets added in, the cost is up to $600,000. That’s just for startup.
Now, let’s build the gun. The barrels will cost $71 each, unfinished. That’s the price when you buy 1,000 at a time and guarantee at least 5,000 per year. Finishing adds about $8.50. The other raw materials for the action will cost $86, and the additional processing costs on all of them will add $157. The walnut stock blanks will cost $27 each, and the processing costs for shaping, inletting, checkering, sanding, sealing, staining and finishing will bump that up to $49. Add all the material costs together and the labor required to assemble, test and package each rifle and the number comes out at $401 delivered to the loading dock. Crosman adds their markup on top of that, and their top-tier distributors are able to purchase the rifle for $512 (I’m being extremely conservative — they would want to make a lot more than that for an expense this large!). So the lowest street price you will ever see for this new model is $635.
But this new rifle is wonderful! It’s easy to cock, smooth-shooting and has a delightful trigger. On top of that, the finish is flawless and the woodwork is stunning. It compares visually to the TX200, which is a simpler design because of not having the Sterling’s bolt. But the new Sterling is also 11.5 foot-pounds, at best. Think of an 8-grain .177 pellet traveling 800 f.p.s.
Why did they do that? Why would they build a marvelous air rifle like this and leave it anemic? Well, they tried to boost the power, but it required either a larger-diameter piston or a longer stroke. Either modification added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the development costs. You and I look at an extra inch of spring tube and figure five dollars, and maybe that’s all it costs to buy the raw materials, but the cost to redesign all the powerplant parts that have to be changed to accommodate the extra inch is what the manufacturer has to think of. The piston, piston rod, cocking lever link and perhaps other parts all have to be changed just to accommodate the extra inch. And they need a new longer stock blank to hold the longer action, so all that work must be redone, as well. And all those parts have to be entered into CAD software and input into various CNC routines and then debugged, etc.
Now Crosman tries to market this beautiful new air rifle and what happens? They’re met with a hailstorm of criticism on airgun forums all over, telling them what they should have done. And people are leaving snide remarks that say, “If only they built it this way, I would buy two!”
TWO? With over half a million dollars of development costs and a large part of their engineering time invested, they really need to sell more than just two. Or two hundred, or even two thousand.
Before you manufacturing guys jump down my throat, I’m aware that the whole purchase cost of the new CNC machine doesn’t have to be paid off the first year, and yes, they will probably schedule the machine to support other product lines at some point. But when you’re standing before the CEO pitching your “great idea,” these are the kinds of things he’s going to want to know.
Quality lesson two
There’s a better path to quality, however. Let’s say you have a company called Mendoza building airguns for you, and let’s say their guns have some important features. They have accurate barrels and wonderful triggers. One day they send you a rifle that looks like it was designed by Pablo Picasso on an acid trip. But take the barreled action out of the stock, and you have a nice youth-level rifle for a very affordable price.
You get a custom stockmaker to build you one custom western-looking stock for the rifle that you then send back to Mendoza and say, “Make them like this.” You also ask them to leave out the fiberoptic sight elements and eliminate the oil hole on the side of the spring tube. You keep the name Bronco, and add a bucking horse to the spring tube. A new model is born.
This “development” cost only a couple thousand dollars (because of a consulting trip for the designer and several iterations with the manufacturer sending samples back and forth), and you’ve got a spring rifle for older youth and adults that can sell at an extremely competitive price. Why was this so easy?
Mendoza was already making good barrels. They already had a wonderful, if somewhat quirky, trigger reminiscent of the Savage Accu-Trigger. They had superior metal finishing on their existing guns, so nothing had to change. The modifications you made didn’t disrupt their business in a major way. The biggest thing that changed was the stock, but you worked with them to accommodate their existing plant, tooling and personnel. So, after getting a commitment to purchase X-hundred rifles per year from Pyramyd Air, they began production of the new Bronco.
The lesson is that you don’t ask Rolls Royce to make shopping carts and don’t ask McDonalds to cater the Oscars. Quality is hard to sell, but not impossible. If you spend the time and money to build and promote a high-quality product, people will buy your Rolexes. But if Rolex starts making pastel plastic fashion watches tomorrow, or if they outsource their main watch models to China, I give them one year before their name is utterly destroyed.
As a final note, you younger readers may not believe what I am about to say, but when I was a kid in the 1950s, the term Made in Japan meant something was cheap and worthless. When Japanese cars first hit the U.S. shores, they were too small, underpowered (remember the Subaru 360?) and had the dark cloud of Made in Japan hanging over them.
This past Christmas, my gearhead brother-in-law was so proud to show off his new/old Lexus—a 12-year-old creampuff sedan he recently acquired, which his wife wrested away from him the day he got it. This guy who used to restore vintage ’50s T-Birds and Vettes as a hobby now refuses to drive anything that isn’t made by Toyota.
It’s possible to go both directions on the quality highway. Going up can take decades. Going down happens overnight.