Dinosaur – being vs. becoming

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Dinosaurs died because they didn’t adapt to a changing environment. At least, that’s what I recall reading somewhere. ‘Dinosaur’ is also used as a term to describe someone who, correctly or incorrectly, tenaciously clings to something that is old or, at least, not very modern. And while ‘new’ isn’t always ‘better’, a lot of the time it is.

I was thinking about Jerry Ahern’s ‘Survivalist’ book series the other day. It was written in the 80’s and he managed to stretch it out through the mid-90’s. No mean feat for a formulaic pulp novel. Ahern’s protagonist was a devotee of 1911 pistols, AR rifles, and Colt wheelguns. High tech for the early Reagan years. What I was wondering was what effect would the current crop of available firearms have if he had been writing that book today. Would the 7-round 1911s be replaced with Glocks holding almost twice that much .45? The Victorian-era lockwork of the Python replaced with the brute strength of a GP-100? The sometimes-finicky AR swapped out for a gas-piston AR or perhaps a Sig 556?

I’ve met a surprising amount of people who seem to make their choices not on objective performance and criteria, but rather on romantic image or historical legacy. More than one person says they want a [insert name of old gun design here] because it’s “blued steel and walnut, not a bunch of plastic and sheet metal”. Never mind that the “plastic and sheet metal” gun may have a much better performance record than the blued/walnut gun.

I’m not immune to this sort of thing either. For a while I figured my Browning P35 was the go-to gun for 9mm. Nowadays I carry and recommend the Glock. Why? Once you get past the “Saint John Browning” sentiment and the “old world craftsmanship” dogma you realize that it’s a 75 year old design that was great when Dillinger was robbing banks but it seems rather unlikely pistol design hasn’t improved since then. (And, yes, Dillinger died in 1934…a year before the ostensible rollout of the P35.) Strip the history and romance from the 1911 guns and pretend they were dropped on the market today. Brand new design. Never seen before. How would the public respond? “Why is there a swinging link on the barrel”? “The lockup is on grooves milled into the slide? Seriously?” “It’s a single-stack magazine?” “It has a manual safety, why is there a grip safety as well?” “That’s a lot of machining involved. Must be expensive.”

But, some people won’tbe swayed. “The Marines carried them at Iwo Jima!” they’ll loudly cry, as if this somehow means that it’s a superior weapon. The Rough Riders went up San Juan Hill with Colt Single Action Army revolvers, so by the same logic the SAA should be the choice of the thoughtful individual. (And yes, I know someone is going to chime in about how they carry a single action revolver as their daily carry gun. Great. Good for you. But don’t think that means it’s a superior choice to some of the other stuff that’s out there.)

As technology changes what used to be perfectly reasonable choices suddenly become also-rans. Take LED technology for instance. I’ve got a half dozen MagLites that use the Krypton bulb. These were pretty much the top of the line in flashlights right up until a few years ago when LED technology caught up and in some cases surpassed the old incandescent flashlights. I can either retain the lights I have now, which will be good but not as good as whats on the market now or I can swap them out for the newer LED lights with all the advantages they bring. This wasn’t a case of being a dinosaur, this was a case of becoming a dinosaur.

Same for load bearing gear. For the last twenty years the ALICE system was what you used. Every Army/Navy and gun show had mounds of green nylon with the clips and wide webbing on it. Then we got PALS and MOLLE webbing and modularity became the new standard in load bearing gear. Is the ALICE stuff no good anymore? Nah, its great..its just not as good as some of the new stuff. I still have plenty of ALICE gear laying around but I prefer the newer stuff for its modularity.

I had a friend of mine who made truly odd choices for bizarre reasons while completely ignoring the obvious solutions. He would reinvent the wheel for five times the original cost. An example: he wanted a .30 caliber semi-auto rifle that could be quickly reloaded. So he spent large chunk of money on a Johnson 1941 rifle. It held 10 rounds of .30-06 and could be reloaded with stripper clips. For the same money he could have had an FAL, an M1A or an HK clone….and have had a better supply of spare parts and accessories. But he was adamant that the .30-06 was superior to the .308 enough that it justified what he was doing. No amount of reasoning would convince him that his choice of the Johnson was just an expensive half-measure. (His other choice for a semi-auto battle rifle was the AG42(b) in 6.5×55….another oddball that would prove to be an expensive logistics nightmare.)

Back to the opening paragraph, Im not sure what to make of people who doggedly stick to the seemingly-unsensible choices. Its their right to own whatever they want, I know that. I think what irritates me is the attitude that they give as they mention their choices. Their gun was carried by guys at Inchon..youre gun is a plastic toy. “Real men carry a pistol that starts with a “4”, etc, etc.”

So I guess my point here is that its probably a good idea to remain objective when it comes to new gear. Sometimes new isn’t necessarily better, but old isn’t always better either…sometimes old is just as good, but sometimes it isn’t. New gear needs to be judged on its merits and not on romantic history or ideological connections. And while I may be guilty of ‘dinosauring’ on a few things, I don’t delude myself andthose around me by saying my [whatever] is better than the newer ones, I just shrug and admit that sometimes personal preference trumps rational decisionmaking.