Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Handgun Buying Consideration: Manufacturer's Reputation

A prospective handgun buyer may want to consider the manufacturer's reputation when making the decision to buy a firearm. For most people, the purchase of a firearm is not a trivial task. As such, a new buyer wants to ensure that he makes a great purchasing decision to maximize the value received. In many cases, selecting a popular brand via a variety of factors may simplify the purchasing process and the need to do extensive research.

Brand Market Leaders Are A Good Start
In any market for any type of good or service, there are always a few brands that are "top of mind" in the eyes of the consumer. For example, when you think of car rental companies, Hertz™ and Avis™ might 'come to mind first.' Further, if a person was considering the usage of a package delivery service the names FedEx™ and UPS™ may be instantly recalled.

In the world of handguns, certain manufacturers 'come to the mind' of the average person regardless of whether he has any appreciable experience or knowledge about pistol brands: Glock™, Smith & Wesson™, and Colt™.

One ostensible justification for buying models from well known handgun brands is that they are typically well supported in the marketplace. Thus, should a pistol buyer ever desire to also buy accessories especially designed for use with his firearm, he should have no problems finding them at a local gunshop. In constrast, a buyer of a firearm from a lesser manufacturer may have to buy items, such as spare magazines, direct from the factory or Internet specialty shops.

A high level of awareness in the consciousness of the general public is not random. The marketing departments of those aforementioned manufacturers have exerted considerable effort, time, and money to popularize their brands. These brands are heavily promoted in a variety of venues: gun fan sites, gun forums, trade shows, dealership displays, and product placements in feature films.

Social Proof And Handgun Brands
A first-time handgun buyer may be more inclined to consider models from one of those aforementioned pistol manufacturers rather than from a lesser known entity. In the field of psychology, the propensity of a person to do a certain action or to behave a certain way - just because other people are doing those actions - is known as 'social proof.'

In very simple terms, social proof means that in uncertain situations a person will seek out cues or hints as to how he should behave based on the actions of others. To illustrate, there was at one time a very popular commercial that ran on television.

In that ad, which was selling enterprise computing systems, a voice-over at the end stated that, "No one ever lost their job by going with IBM." This ad was playing upon the fears of a corporate buyer making a bad purchase by considering a lesser known provider.

With respect to the purchase of a handgun, the financial stakes are not as high as they could be when buying an online transactional processing program. However, no one wants to make a bad firearms purchasing decision which could be potentially derided and citicized by others.

In a recent CCW Class that I conducted a student brought in a 9mm caliber semi-automatic handgun that was manufacured by Daewoo. Personally, I didn't even know that Daewoo made firearms and was rather interested in checking out her gun. I was careful not to be overly curious.

The last thing that I would want to do as a firearms instructor would be to belittle one of my students. I sensed that this student was a little self-concious about her gun's brand when we talked about better known brands which were well represented by other students in the class.

Thus, social proof can cause many firearms buyers to seek out the opinions of other gun owners who they know and trust. In fact, I bought the very same handgun that my brother-inlaw owned because he was happy with it. Additionally, it didn't hurt that the gun's manufacturer was Smith & Wesson™.

As such, I went to the nearest gunshop and told the dealer what I wanted. No sales pitch was needed. All he had to do was lead me through the piles of requisite paperwork to conduct the transaction.

The Handgun Brand As A Status Symbol
For many people, the goods and services they purchase makes a statement about their personality or their status. This concept exists throughout our society. For example, there are personal or societal reasons why someone would shell out $20,000 for a Herm├Ęs “Birkin” handbag.

Certainly, there are less expensive models of 'arm candy' available from other manufacturers. It is not wrong to buy a pricey purse. It's a personal preference, which may give an indication of one's wealth and perhaps inspire envy in the hearts of others. Whatever the reason, it's okay.

With respect to handguns, there are people who buy expensive firearms as an personal expression of their individuality. For example, Kimber, a well recognized and respected manufacturer of match-grade competition pistols, has a steady and consistent clientelle of persons who eagerly spend as much as $1,000 or more for their products.

For the record, a quality defensive handgun can be bought from a 'known' manufacturer for as little as $400. Thus, it is not necessary to spend a lot of money to buy a means of personal protection. As with the handbag example, it is a matter of personal preference.

The Handgun Brand As An Identity
Many buyers of a particular handgun brand visit and join web sites devoted to a particular manufacturer. These online sites give gun owners a sense of community and belonging. While visiting these forums they are able share their feelings, opinions, original research, comparative analyses, tips, and justifications for not selecting other firearm brands.

For example, the following Internet sites are examples of online communities devoted to a specific handgun brand: GlockTalk, SIGforum, and BerettaGunForum.

A person who is conducting research on which handgun brand to select would be wise to visit and participate in as many of these forums as he can find. There is a wealth of information available on these sites that can help a prospective buyer make a better informed opinion about a specific brand. One word of caution: the opinions expressed on a particular site may be biased. After all, why would a community band together online to complain about a bad purchasing decision.


Bottom Line:
An individual who is contemplating a handgun purchase should consider using the manufacturer's reputation as a criterion. The selection of a popular brand can simplify the requisite research necessary to make a wise decision, as opinions from respected resources - people and online communities - can narrow the mind-boggling array of available options down to a manageable few. The remaining models to be evaluated can be evaluated for purchase based on other purchasing considerations which may include personal preferences and social identification.
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