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User Icon     Posted 7 months ago     by Jim Hook     

All the gear and no idea!

I attended a conference a number of years ago as a vendor of security solutions where the keynote speaker, a senior police officer, made the point to the audience that we needed to make smaller, better, more capable, lower cost equipment. Our products needed to do a lot more for a lot less. I considered his speech for a while and couldn't help take the opportunity to challenge him on it in the bar after the dinner. The thrust of my argument was that if he had a limited budget then maybe there was a better place to spend his funds on which didn't include equipment at all!

The dominance of online retail has never been more visible than since the pandemic lockdown was enforced. We have all seen it grow over the last decade and more with a harsh negative impact on our high streets, where empty shops now line the pavements and only charity shops seem to remain along with some more essential or boutique / niche outlets. Availability and choice has however grown and there's very little that you can't find and purchase sat in front of your keyboard with a few minutes to spare. Its all far too easy to be honest!

In tandem to the online expansion which seems to mirror that of our every expanding universe, technology developments have resulted in the creation of newer, stronger, lighter, cheaper materials. In turn, the previous grades of excellence have propelled upward where a product seen as 'premium' just a few years ago is now regarded as entry level. Our own industry of countryside pursuit equipment is no different. Today's optics operate in near darkness, thermal imaging technology not only exists but is nearly affordable, clothing is lighter, warmer, more breathable and more waterproof than before, rifles and shotgun production has exploited CNC systems to improve quality and reliability, and hunting bows have seen more development and improvements than any other weapon system and bear little resemblance to what people of my age would consider a bow and arrow of the past! What is odd however, is that for many of us, and I count myself in the band of sad individuals, we still feel the need to pay that little bit more to get the best that we can. However, that means that certain products that we deem today as entry level and not worth our investment would have been in our sweet spot of acquisition expectation just a couple of years before so why would we ignore them now? The old adage 'a fool and his money are easily parted' springs to mind. I have to admit I fear I often fall into this category!

Some people believe that having the best of anything will instantly make them better at the activity to which that product belongs. Some make a purchase as a motivation to 'get out' and do 'more' of that pursuit. We are all guilty of something similar to some degree. We see something online, or in a shop, and that little voice starts telling you that you 'need' it! Obviously you don't but its like an itch you can't scratch. It just won't go away until you have made the purchase, inspected the product and then put it away in readiness for the outing where it will return the value of its investment! Tomorrow never seems to come however.

Returning to my chat with the senior police office at the start of this short narrative, I suggested to him that he didn't really need industry to make better products. What he really needed to do was invest his funding into training his staff to be able to get more out of the equipment they already had. I know, not the brightest sales pitch for a product manufacturer, but a fair and honest one for a tax payer! I used the analogy of a master carpenter. Give this person poor quality tools and they will still make you some rather nice furniture. However, give a bad (or poorly trained) carpenter the best equipment money can buy and they will still fail to produce furniture of any note. The same can be said for the alluring products willing us to part with our hard earned cash when 'surfing' the internet. I suggest, on most occasions you would be better off investing those funds in training or simply getting out there to practice the skills which you know need improvement. A more expensive rifle won't make you a better shot. A better pair of binoculars won't help your fieldcraft when stalking onto that deer, and a £1000 tweed suit won't make you hit any more pheasants as they rocket over your head. A few days on the range however, or lessons in fieldcraft and a few days of clay pigeon shooting certainly will!

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