The Gun That Wouldn't Shoot

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by InTheLight, Apr 11, 2016.

  1. InTheLight

    InTheLight
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    Colt is an iconic American gun company. It has a proud history of invention. It perfected the revolver before the Civil War. One advertising slogan went, "God created man, Sam Colt made them equal." Big words for a big leap for the gun industry. The company also manufactured the famous M16 rifle for the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. The Colt .45 name even inspired a malt liquor.

    But by the 1990s, Colt had fallen on hard times. Gun-control activists were on the march. Lawsuits were threatening gun company profits. Colt was facing bankruptcy.

    And in 1994, an unlikely savior entered the Colt story. Donald Zilkha had a plan to revive the company by doubling down on Colt's history of invention. He was going to build the next great leap forward in firearms: a safer gun. He imagined a smart gun that would only fire for an authorized user.

    It did not go as he planned.

    And nearly two decades later, his story explains why we can have a smartphone that only unlocks with its owner's fingerprints, but we can't have a gun that does the same.



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    This is a podcast from Planet Money about Colt's attempt to bring to market a "smart gun" back in the mid 1990's, and the reasons why it failed. Planet Money is a highly entertaining and educational economics podcast. If you listen to this (it's only 19 1/2 minutes long) after you've heard the introduction try to figure out the reasons why this gun failed. Then continue to see if you guessed correctly.
     
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  2. Rolfe

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    A few reasons as I see things.

    1. Zihlka was not a gun guy with that type of perspective.
    2. He tried to market a product that nobody wanted.
    3. Of course, the main reason is at the end of the podcast.
     
  3. Don

    Don
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    Any summaries for those of us who can't do video due to ISP data limitations?
     
  4. InTheLight

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    A venture capitalist bought Colt Firearms in 1994. He had an idea to create a smart gun that would only fire for the owner who was wearing an electronic device that would enable the gun via a circuit in the gun (user would either wear a wristband or have a key fob device in his pocket.). The guy figured it would solve the problem with parents afraid of their kids finding their guns and with cops worried about perps stealing their gun and using it on them. It sounds like a great plan.

    However:

    1. The gun control advocates opposed it because they oppose any increase in the sales of guns, even safer guns. People shouldn't own guns, period, they said.

    2. The police opposed it because they were worried that there was a small chance that the gun wouldn't fire when they needed it to fire. Big problem for cops.

    3. When they announced the gun they had a huge press conference, public relations event---and the gun didn't work the first time they tried to demonstrate it. Even though it worked just fine in subsequent attempts the damage was done. The Wall Street Journal ran a front page story, "The Gun that Wouldn't Fire".
     
  5. Squire Robertsson

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    It's not a video. It's audio only from National Public Radio. However here's a link to the transcript
     
  6. Rob_BW

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    Colt's problem was that they neglected the civilian market, in much the same way as HK. Colt thought they were safe with their government contracts, at least until Fabrique National grabbed M16 production and started getting M4 contracts.

    The Assault Weapons Ban ended in 2004. Gun sales have been booming for the last 12 years. If Colt is failing it's because the company was run by idiots.
     

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