Editorial: Penny Wise, Ammo Round Foolish

Mark J. Pescatore
(Image credit: Future)

Earlier this year, a friend of mine invited me to the shooting range to test out his latest purchase. The experience reminded me that you get what you pay for. Or penny wise, pound foolish. Or fill in your favorite financial proverb here.

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My friend had purchased an inexpensive handgun. No, that’s not right. It was cheap. Real cheap. Despite uninspiring online reviews, despite another friend’s uninspiring first-hand experience with the same model, he was dazzled by the low price tag and that was that.

This is a Pro AV magazine, not a handgun magazine, so I won’t go into name brands or many specifics about the weapon. (I also don’t need anyone to confirm my limited knowledge on this particular subject.) I will say it shoots probably the least expensive round of ammo you can buy, and it was purchased strictly for recreation, not competition or self-defense.

Mark J. Pescatore

This is from one of those old-time photo shoots. I generally don’t wear this to the gun range. Generally. (Image credit: Four Sisters Old Time Photo)

Now, going to the gun range is not what you would call a frequent activity for me. It is fun, though. I get to wear earmuffs (not exactly everyday fashion in South Florida) and fire at targets that look like bad guys and zombies. I figure with a lot of time, the right equipment, and a great deal of disposable income, I could get pretty good at shooting. It’s sort of like the winning formula for golf but with gunpowder.

At the range, after my friend shot several rounds, it was my turn. As I was loading the magazine (in this case, that’s the part that holds and feeds the ammo), I couldn’t help but notice it was plastic. I understand that some modern pistol magazines aren’t made of steel or aluminum, but this one was actually pliable. Call me a diva, but I have a difficult time trusting more than a dozen rounds of ammo to a container that feels less sturdy than what I use to store my homemade biscotti.

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It should not surprise anyone that I was not impressed with his new handgun. I did not much care for the look of it or its trigger pull or even its accuracy. My friend didn’t hate it, but he wasn’t exactly singing its praises, either. By probably any metric a gun expert would consider, it didn’t measure up to the one I rented at the range that day.

Saving money for the sake of saving money at the expense of the user experience is a recipe for unsatisfied customers.

That said, based on a quick internet price check, my friend’s weapon of choice costs about 45% less than the rental. That’s quite a difference. Now, my friend could easily afford the more expensive choice (we’re talking less than $200), but he just didn’t want to spend the money.

There’s the rub, isn’t it? It’s a cheap piece of equipment, but it works. There’s no way it’ll last as long as the other model, but it works now. It’ll likely need to be repaired more often, but it’s not broken yet. It’s not exactly what you want, but it’s better than nothing.

How often do you find yourself explaining to clients why a higher investment up front is worth it? Granted, sometimes making the argument for the WhizBang 2000 over the WhizBang 1995 can be a tough sell, especially when the main difference is a feature that may not be a game-changer. But a WhizBang 2000 over a WizeBong knock-off that won’t put you over budget? That should be a much easier discussion, even when the price difference is substantial.

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When budgets are tight, corners need to be cut. I get that. But saving money for the sake of saving money at the expense of the user experience is a recipe for unsatisfied customers. It’s important to remind your clients there’s a big difference between a bargain and a good value.

Mark J. Pescatore
Content Director

Mark J. Pescatore, Ph.D., is the content director of Systems Contractor News. He has been writing about Pro AV industry for more than 25 years. Previously, he spent more than eight years as the editor of Government Video magazine. During his career, he's produced and hosted two podcasts focused on the professional video marketplace, taught more than a dozen college communication courses, co-authored the book Working with HDV, and co-edited two editions of The Guide to Digital Television.