by B.B. Pelletier
Today was supposed to be a report on a vintage airgun — the Falke model 70; but over the Christmas holiday, something came up that I have to address: product management. It came to me from several directions. First, blog reader John, who is not afraid to tell us how he feels about anything, unloaded on the Crosman MK-177 multi-pump pneumatic. He pointed out that it could have had a removable fake magazine that would at least serve as additional storage, and the stock could have been minimally adjustable if a little thought had gone in before the molds were machined. I like the MK-177, but I have to agree with John on this. Crosman has shown that they know how to innovate with guns like the M4-177, so why couldn’t they do the same with this one?
Another thing that got me thinking about product management is the current sci-fi battle between DC Comics and Marvel. When I was a kid, DC Comics ruled. They had all the best superheroes such as Superman and Batman…while Marvel struggled along with lame characters like Spiderman and Thor. You may love them today, but that’s my point. Good management by Marvel raised these weak characters up to the point that they now have smash hit feature films and a top-rated one-hour television series, while Superman continues to be revived in the movies in increasingly embarrassing treatments that always miss the mark. And Batman? Let’s not even go there. The only thing DC hasn’t done yet to destroy Batman is to set it to music!
My point is — Marvel managed what they had and turned it into a giant success. DC, on the other hand, took world-class personalities and watered them down until not even their focus groups can tolerate them anymore. These are 2 stunning examples of what product management can do.
Sure, I could have picked on the American automobile industry that once ruled the world, but today is subservient to foreign technology. But that would have been unkind. Besides — we still do make good pickup trucks, though looking at the most recent offerings from Toyota, Nissan and Honda, I don’t know for how much longer. Only Harley Davidson has managed to pass through the netherworld of corporate death to be reborn in products that the world still idolizes.
These examples are all about product management. And airguns are no different.
Here we are on a blog that celebrates daily the best airguns the world has to offer. When a modern airgun is good, such as the TX200 Mark III and the new Walther LGV Challenger, we give it all the credit it is due. In fact, with the Air Venturi Bronco, we demonstrated that an air rifle can be both good and inexpensive. But when airgun companies try to pull the wool over our eyes by telling us that velocity is to be prized over accuracy, or when we have to live with lousy triggers because that’s the way the world turns, we don’t have to take it.
I am the poster child of not taking it! In all my former careers where I worked for others, I rose to a certain level at which I was given a voice, then torpedoed any possible future I had by using that voice. Most people in management do not want to hear the truth. They want to hear that the emperor has beautiful clothes, even when he’s naked. And then they want to get right back to their golf games and whatever else really matters.
The Benjamin Discovery came from my frustration at precharged guns costing too much for the average shooter — especially one who is new to airguns and doesn’t want to make a seriously wrong decision! The Air Venturi Bronco came from a sense of loss of the Beeman C1 carbine and recognizing that an unpopular Mendoza youth rifle contained the seeds of greatness.
Then, there were the UTG drooper scope bases that corrected the severe barrel droop that all Diana rifles (except the model 350 Magnum) seem to have. Before taking that idea to Leapers, I’d discussed the barrel droop issue with the Diana vice president of marketing, who advised me her company saw no problem with how their air rifles were designed. I noted, however, that after several years of having the UTG drooper scope bases correct their droop problem, Diana redesigned all their airguns so the corrective bases no longer fit! Apparently they were paying attention — just not to what mattered!
I always thought that it would have made more sense to just correct the droop problem. People are now scoping their air rifles — something they didn’t do in the 1970s when the groundwork for most of the current Diana breakbarrel rifles was laid.
I could go on and on with more examples, but those of you who understand what I’m saying, get it. And the ones who don’t understand, never will.
But wait — there’s more!
I’m not finished. Because every so often, another really good idea pops to the surface. We have a couple of those bubbling up right now. I’m sworn to secrecy on the details, but there are new things coming out that will set the airgunning world on fire. In fact, these things are so big that they don’t transcend just airguns, they move into the million-times bigger world of the general population. That’s all I’ll say now; but on January 14 — the opening day of the 2014 Shot Show, I’ll show you something brand new. And here’s a really big hint: Some of you will be shocked to learn that you may already have it!
Item 2 is something new from me. A month ago, I was whining to Dennis Quackenbush about my $100 PCP idea and he said, “Let’s do it!” So, we did! And when I say “we,” I really mean him.
I told Dennis I was so tired of pitching my idea for an affordable precharged air rifle to one company after another, only to be smiled at and dismissed, that I wanted to do something about it. And again, it’s Dennis I’m talking about when it comes to the doing part. He caught on right away. Inside of 30 minutes, we designed the gun I’d dreamed about for so many years. A report on that one will be coming up very soon.
There are other projects that are perking along slower; but so far, 2014 is stacking up to be a pretty amazing year for airguns!