Early Adopting Idiots, Running Behind the Curve, and the Electric Koolaid Magpul Test
Most of our BreachBangClear readership consists of current and former law enforcement and military members. Those same attributes are reflected in both the authors and ownership—with many of them wearing both hats at some point during their lives. As such, we feel a great burden of responsibility to report accurate results and not sugar-coat anything. This is true regardless if a product comes from a sponsor (you know, the people that help pay our bills) or is purchased completely independently.
It’s not our job to sell you things. It Is absolutely our obligation to bring you the best information we have at the time.
This mindset has likely made a handful of us somewhat less amenable to much of the aftermarket. After all, if we’re talking gear that might be used on the battlefield, patrol beat, or street for defensive use, it pays to be a little cautious. Being a Luddite has its virtues, but also holds obvious downsides. It can lead to institutional inertia and the “because we’ve always done it that way” syndrome. Which would be all fine and good, if that didn’t mean ultimately being well behind the curve at some point. Think: Law Enforcement officers who still carry revolvers for daily duty. Fighting at night without weapon lights or NODs. Relying on tins cans and a string instead of a radio.
Are you old enough to remember the phrase, “An AR is good so long as you remember the ABC’s. That is: Armalite, Bushmaster, or Colt”?
How about, “Any caliber is good, as long as it starts with a 4”?
We can feel the cringe from here.
It’s not Just Guns and Gear
More tactics, training, and procedures changed during the first five years of the War on Terror than in the fifty prior. These TTPs continue to develop to this very day, and no doubt will do so well into the future. That is, until we have an extended period of peace and have to do this shit all over again.
But What Exactly Is ‘The Curve’?
What we call ‘the curve’ is actually the technology adoption lifecycle, which also directly applies to TTPs.
Those innovators and early adopters on the front end are seeking maximum performance, which usually involves more money, time, and commitment. Since we’re talking emerging technology, failure is always a possibility; there is some amount of risk involved. A given piece of technology will hit “mainstream” once it’s proven reliable/effective–and importantly, when the cost goes down. Then people get it for a solution or convenience.
First coined by Geoffrey Moore in his book, The Chasm is a gap that can exist between innovators/early adopters and the majority, provided that a new technology is disruptive or discontinuous. That is, if it rocks the boat too much or only has intermittent progress. There’s a very good example of The Chasm we can look at right now: Red Dot Sights on carry or duty pistols.
Though competitive shooters had been using them for years (if comp shooters are anything, they’re always wanting performance) it wasn’t until the mid-90’s that they were advocated for duty use by Kelly McCann. Somewhere in the 1990’s Iain Harrison, Steve Fisher, and a few others started using them. More early adopters got on the train around 2007. But it wasn’t until two decades after McCann first began advocating them that Glock released the MOS-series and Sig released the P320 RX.
Two things had to happen for the pistol RDS to jump the Chasm: Micro Red Dot Sight technology had to improve, and more people had to see the benefits for themselves. Though we’re nowhere near the “late majority” side of the curve with a RDS-equipped pistol, we’ll get there soon enough.
Where Do You Fit?
For those not on the bleeding edge of the spear, there’s a balance that needs to be struck. You don’t need to be an early adopter of every [supposed] innovation, but you do need to understand that the information and technology curve does exist.
On a unit or department level, where this line falls on the curve is often frustratingly penciled in for you in the form of authorized or issued gear, training officers and other leadership, and SOPs. On an individual level it can and will vary, but it doesn’t happen without one pivotal action:
A circumspect route would be to ask yourself who/what/where/when has used and adopted said new piece of gear or TTP, consider the context, and by what means it applies to your own situation. Give it a go, and make demanding evaluations. But always, always keep in the back of your mind that a good idea or good piece of gear can come from anywhere—not just from the people or companies you covet. Just because you like company X doesn’t mean the product is automatically gold, and just because you hate person Y doesn’t mean they don’t have valid points.
Right now, look back and ask yourself when was the last time you changed your mind about something, and analyze why you did it.
To fight the urge toward rash dismissal, I like to use something I call “The Electric Koolaid Magpul Test.”
Here’s the procedure: Assuming you like Magpul (and if not, insert some company you do like), when you look at something and reject it outright, ask yourself “If Magpul made this, would I still immediately dismiss it?”
If you wouldn’t, perhaps you see some potential that you aren’t acknowledging. It can make for an alluring thought exercise, perhaps with some cognitive dissonance mixed in.
Conclusions and Loose Rounds
Yes of course, companies with better track records of higher quality products are more likely to produce high quality items than some new company with no track record to speak of; that’s why we have to use that thing between or ears. But new companies do come out with decent products, so from time to time allow yourself to be cautiously optimistic. The 2017 SHOT Show is just around the corner, and soon we’ll be inundated with all manner of items–much of it vaporware and more of it ill-conceived. But like scrounging through a thrift shop, every so often you’ll come up with a diamond after going through a box of shit.
As the skeptical maxim says:
Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
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About the Author: A combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Dave “Mad Duo Merrill” is a former urban warfare and foreign weapons instructor for Coalition fighting men. An occasional competitive shooter, he has a strange Kalashnikov fetish the rest of the minions try to ignore. Merrill, who has superb taste in hats, has been published in a number of places, the most awesome of which is, of course, here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He loves tacos, is kind of a dick and married way, way above his pay grade. You can contact him at Merrill(at)BreachBangClear.com and follow him on Instagram here (@dave_fm).