Thoughts on Junk

I like the song Short Skirt, Long Jacket by Cake, which describes a sort of impossibly oxymoronic, yet highly attractive woman. It has many poetic lines like “fingernails that shine like justice, and a voice that is dark like tinted glass.” It is also “family friendly,” as the crooner never manages anything beyond imagining himself approaching the woman at a bank! In a sort of tongue and cheek way, and in reference to the song, I say I want a car with “cheap body, expensive tires.”

The reason for the “cheap” part is that I pass about 100 white-tailed deer per week driving home at night. It seems, no matter how cautious I am, that about 1 out of 10,000 of these deer will hit my car. This is about one deer strike every other year. My neighbors corroborate this reality. Some deer are young and stupid, and some are so hopped up on testosterone they probably mistook my Buick for a rival stag and decided to full on charge at it with antlers down. The upshot is that I have a choice: either drive around cheap, but working, cars that I don’t repair and sell for parts or scrap following major deer collisions, OR I drive around better cars that I pay to have repaired (major body work on cars is well beyond my abilities). I feel the risk is less, since I have less “rolling capital,” with the former. Perhaps I will change my mind someday if I am convinced it is truly worth having the latest safety features in a car. But as it is, I buy cheap used cars (under $2500) and put the saved money towards a set of $400+ tires (I think Michelin Defenders are the best passenger car tire presently made). Most people see this as incongruous, since almost every used car in this price range is rolling on cheap and worn-out tires (if not the space saver spare), and most people would fault rust, a non-working window, no A/C, etc. more than degraded tires.

But tires are THE MOST IMPORTANT part of a car. They are what keep you on the road, what stop you and change your direction. Your engine or tranny can blow up and you just pull to the right and slow down. Your tires burst and you can easily end up dead, or worse, killing and injuring other people. Simply put, a $40,000 Mercedes is a dangerous piece of junk if it doesn’t have decent tires on it. It won’t do safely what it is supposed to do without good tires, while my ancient Volvo, which is worth less than the tires it rolls on, will do what it is meant to do safely with good tires.

But getting people to come around to this is hard. I know people who could easily afford good tires (wealthier than myself), yet drive around on terrible ones because they “want to get their money out of them.” This sort of shortsighted miserliness aggravates me. One of these people I know had a total loss accident three weeks following my warning that his rear tires were bad precisely because he fish-tailed on a wet road. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. There was, however, the substantial loss of a ~$2500 working car and the aggravation of getting a rental and buying a new one. But a life could have been lost here, as it occurred at a relatively busy intersection. And a pair of $100 tires could have prevented the whole occurrence.

Another example of junk nearly messing up lives occurred the last time I went to an open shooting competition, where any person could shoot, and not just members of the club hosting it. There, a doughy middle-aged fellow, obviously quite new to shooting, and sporting some little Kel-Tec 9mm, was getting a jam every third or forth shot or so and then hastily and dangerously turning his muzzle in towards the firing line in a hapless attempt to clear the jams. Though he never trained the muzzle directly on somebody, he was alarming to the point that the Range Officer repeatedly warned him to correct his movement and attempted coaching him. The fellow was contrite and cooperative and obviously aggravated, and the range officer knew his attempt at coaching wouldn’t really help because the fellow needed to spend just another hundred dollars more or so on a moderately priced, but good quality, pistol. A used Ruger, S&W, or Glock semi-auto can be had for the same price as a new Kel-Tec, and new ones costly only a few boxes of ammo more. And think of how bad of an introduction to competitive shooting this guy had. He may never shoot again after being taken by that junk pistol.

If you can afford $250 for a pistol, you an afford $350 or $400 and there are many quality pieces in this price range, while THERE ARE NO QUALITY new pistols in the $250 and less price range (2017)–the laws of economics and engineering prohibit it. Either the design, the materials, or the workmanship must suffer (usually all three) to price it this low. And one can never have pride in such objects. They will always be a piece of junk looked upon as something replaced as soon as possible. They aren’t worth improving with better sights. They aren’t worth putting ammo through. They aren’t hardly worth cleaning in my opinion. Many self-respecting gunsmiths simply refuse to work on them—they aren’t worth his or her time. And they aren’t worth the shooters time, either. I feel like it is this same miserly and shortsighted thinking that leads one to buy one of these junk pistols that leads one to mount $20 used tires on a car.

So please understand that no matter how poor you think you are, you cannot afford a cheap pistol or cheap tires. Save up a few more weeks, or months, or whatever it takes and spend a little bit more for something that will not only be safe for you and others, but be able to do the job it is intended to do. You can’t polish a turd, you can’t sew a sows’ ear into a silk purse, and you can’t turn a Bersa, Kel-Tec, Raven, Jennings, Hi-Point, etc. into a Walther, Colt, Ruger, S&W, Glock, Kahr, H&K, SIG, etc. Neither can you turn a bald off-brand tire into a Michelin Defender. For things that are mission critical, like self-defense weapons (small pistols) and tires for high speed vehicles, spend the money for something of adequate quality!

Truly, the same reality exists for most tools and objects in life. You can go to Harbor Fright (misspelling intentional) and buy some twist drills that aren’t even straight, let alone properly sharpened or hardened. They may be fine for crude, non-critical work (like drilling holes in fence posts) and are so cheap they are disposable, which is a convenience. And if they fail, you just get another. But don’t go drilling into some thousand-dollar firearm with one of those drills to have it break off in the hole! I really recommend saving (never borrowing) and then spending the money necessary for good-quality tools. They always work better and bring more satisfaction to the owner. Sometimes you are surprised by the low-quality tool by “how well it does” but they are never better than the good quality tool. Half the time you end up having to buy the quality tool anyway since the cheap tool can’t do the job right, and in this case the money spent on the cheap tool is mostly wasted (if you are smart, you got a little education I suppose, and that is worth something). Often, the good-quality tool is only a little more expensive anyway. And, sadly, it is fact of life (or death, rather) that someday whatever skill, ability, and experience you have accumulated in life will no longer exist, while at least your quality tools can be passed on. Nobody gets excited about inheriting their dad’s cheap electric drill, but I cherish my grandfather’s Sergeant Parallel Jaw pliers, his Starrett micrometer and Lufkin caliper set, and his Gerstner tool chest. I never met the man, but I know he had more sense than my father in this regard. In the long view, it is a small price to pay for a quality tool, while it can be truly expensive if you go cheap.

This entry was posted in Guns, Home Economics. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Thoughts on Junk

  1. Pingback: The anatomy of my (non-living) Hybrid fence | A Contrarian's Guide to Grass and Guns

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s