One of the things I’m called on to do in this curious line of work is try out various items of gear for their manufacturers before they hit the market. These devices are usually given to me with a request to “use it and tell us what you really think.” I learned long ago that if I do, the response I get is often the same as if I’d told someone that their kid looks like a young wildebeest or maybe a manatee.

No, what they want to hear is, “It’s perfect, wonderful, and I shall give it reams and reams of publicity.” As an example, a couple of decades ago a major scope maker came up with a scope with a graphite tube. They claimed, correctly, that it was lighter and stronger than aluminum, wouldn’t scratch, and on, and on.

I put it on a rifle, fired a couple of shots,  and found that I could get the crosshairs in focus or I could get the image in focus but I couldn’t get both in focus at the same time. Not trusting my own senses, I invited a couple of sharp-eyed friends to try and they had no more luck than I did.

I sent the thing back with a letter explaining what had happened, and received an infuriated call from one of the company execs asking who the hell did I think I was and what was this b.s. about their scope? And then silence. The graphite scope disappeared without a trace. The problem was that graphite is light, and strong, and very slippery, and none of the scope’s little innards would stay anchored, and so it came unglued with the first shot.

Other gun writers have had these experiences. In 1987, a bunch of us were herded off to the premiere of a new hunting bullet, and the instant a cross-sectional diagram of it was flashed on the screen the whole room started to cough and snort and fart. The new bullet had a paper-thin jacket and nothing much to hold it together, and it was obvious to us what was going to happen when people started using it on game. And we were right.

And that is why most of us are social outcasts. There are other reasons of course, but that’s the main one.