Good enough for what is the real question?
- Is your rifle a wall flower that hangs on a wall or sits in a safe only to be brought out at family gatherings or parties to impress people and make you look cool? Or are you an occasional shooter maybe only shooting 200 - 300 rounds a year, trying to put a few not so well placed holes on a paper target, or hoping to get some solid hits on the deer sized target and maybe praying to hit that pesky squirrel sized steel target but you have just as much fun as anyone else on the range?
- Are you once a month type of shooter who shoots well enough to get most rounds on paper and only needs to rebuild target frames once or twice a year because for the most part you can avoid turning them into Swiss cheese? Or are you a dedicated weekend warrior ripping through 200-300 rounds a session?
- Are you a competition shooter blasting away looking for your next gold medal? Or a firearms enthusiast extraordinaire where you dutifully rip through your entire paycheck weekly on ammo in the anticipation of the apocalyptic zombie hoards that are our inevitable future? Perhaps shooting round counts, maybe in select fire mode, that might even make the super ninjas in Delta say "WTF is up with that guy?" Well OK, maybe the super ninjas might actually laugh but none the less you still dutifully beat the ever living piss our of your boom stick on a regular basis?
- Or do you use your rifle for personal or home defense or for duty / deployment applications, where your very life and the lives of others rests on your equipment and your skills with them?
I will also make note that what I define as Category D, does not automatically mean that this puts many of these users in the "high use" category either. Because quite frankly most in LE and even the military might tote a weapon around daily possibly in a vehicle etc, but it does not go bang as often as some would believe, if ever more than just during qualifications.
So lets look at the categories and what rifle will suit their needs or should be looked at to suit their needs.....
These people probably would have so little clue about the weapon platform that the name Oly, Vulcan or Hesse would have as little meaning as Noveske, Colt or Bravo Company. They only know that the Evil Black Rifle has a high CDI factor and it might make them look and feel cool. Just having a rifle in this platform is good enough for them and pretty much any EBR would fill their needs perfectly.
If they happen to have the money and want the best then so be it. But having the "Best" will serve them no better than having the "worst". Unless if that hot chick that they are trying to impress actually knows a thing or two about weapons then having the "best" might impress. However if that hot chick actually knows about weapons, there are probably hordes of guys after her anyway and you had best be a "stud" to even think about impressing her. But if you are clueless about the rifle and if you cant shoot, you are probably a "dud" and not a "stud" in her eyes and won't get to first base with her anyway.
Picking a very average to even a mid level rifle will probably serve you very well in your needs. Even a used mid level rifle in good condition at a good cost is something to look at.
In reality your average to mid level rifle will probably do all that your ever ask of it. However we cannot discount the fact that your probabilities of getting a lemon or having parts fail earlier is increased. This does not mean that weapons in this class are falling apart all over the ranges across America, but to think that anything will last as long as another object made of better materials using higher standards for quality assurance testing and better build methods, is kidding themselves.
Purchasing a mid level rifle may work well, but you should really be looking at picking a top quality rifle from the start. With the pricing at the time of this writing if you pick a mid level rifle, you might actually be a cheap bastard, or too impulsive or impatient and come up with 101 reasons why you have saved $900 and cannot save another $100 or so to purchase a top quality rifle from the start.
Picking a top quality rifle that addresses the most common failure points of this weapon system is a very good idea. Top quality materials, top quality build standards and top quality testing and quality control procedures. In this category, it is common to see people purchase mid level rifles and end up upgrading out of desire or necessity. Invariably many will end up spending more money in the long run then if they would have spent the money up front right from the start. "Buy once, cry once" fits this category well. However having a total failure of the rifle in this category just means that your shooting day might be spoiled. These shooters should be looking into rifles that fit into the Governments Technical Data Package (TDP), often referred to as Mil-Spec standards.
I will again quickly reiterate that those within this category of users may not be heavy use shooting types. In fact, from what I have seen in personal experiences in dealing heavily with these types, is that they may be occasional shooters. They may not even be "gun types". They may be able to qualify with their weapons be it CCW, LE or military but that may be the greatest extent of their shooting time. Hearing someone say, "well my rifle has served me well at work for over a decade" is a bit misleading when they may have only fired the damn thing during quals twice a year if that.
The greatest distinction in Category D is this person has their own life, lives of loved ones, partners, team members, or those they are entrusted to protect, on the line. They need to have that weapon function as reliably as possible, work each and every time with the highest level of expectation for it to do so, be it a several hundred or thousands of rounds. If you chose to own any weapon for defensive purposes, please have the appropriate quality training from a quality instructor and have a practiced plan and be proficient with the weapon.
This category of user cannot afford to have a "cry twice" experience. While we cannot 100% assure that this will not happen, we can attempt to mitigate these possibilities by making sure that we pick a weapon that adheres to a proven standard of materials, build procedures, testing procedures and quality control. Again nothing is a guarantee in life other than death, but cutting down the chances of death by choosing a high quality firearm to rely upon to save your life or the life of a loved one is a good thing. Unless if someone can give me a reason why choosing one of the best isn't a good thing?
IMO, these shooters need to be looking into rifles that fit into the Governments Technical Data Package (TDP), often referred to as Mil-Spec standards. The assurance that I get and my life or the life of my family is worth more than the extra $100 or so that I spent. Is yours? Or do you feel comfortable advocating anything less than this? I sure as heck don't. Not for a measly $100. This isn't brand snobbery either, just common sense and not letting a small monetary value get in the way of logical thinking.
We also need to understand that just because a LE agency, even Federal, picks a certain weapon, does not automatically make it the best. It usually means that it was the more economical option as opposed to what was the best choice for the job. Again, the best choice and "good enough" does not cut it in my book here.
I will close this category with saying that if you do have a rifle that sees home protection or duty type uses, please do a good vetting of that rifle, no matter if it meets TDP or not. Run the rifle hard with rapid fire, heat up the weapon, make the parts work hard for several hundred or more rounds before you trust your life to it.
OK, so what is so important about the Govs TDP and Mil-Spec?
Without getting too heavily into a Mil-Spec argument, I will just say that nothing is truly Mil-Spec, unless if it has been tested by the Government and certified as such. That does not mean that a maker cannot produce a product to meet or even exceed these standards, but unless if it gets that stamped seal of approval from Uncle Sam, it is NOT Mil-Spec period.
OK, so what is the Governments TDP? The TDP outlines what the Government decided was the minimal standards that a rifle in this category needs to meet. It addresses key or critical components that are most prone to failure and outlines a MINIMAL set of standards that need to be met to greatly decrease the chance of a weapons premature failure or to increase longevity. Again I will reiterate that these are THE MINIMAL GOVERNMENT STANDARDS. This will include, but is not limited to, quality of materials used, assembly procedures and testing procedures.
So if a company cannot AT THE LEAST build a rifle to meet these MINIMAL Government standards, what does that say about that company and their product? What kind of materials do they use? What type of testing procedures do they use to assure their product? What type of manufacture or build procedures do they use? What is their quality control standards? What regulates what they build, how they build it and what they build it out of? Nothing really. There is no other standard.
There is no argument that the cost to build rifles to meet or exceed these standards is costly. Materials cost more, it costs more to conduct the testing, it costs more to build it correctly, it costs more to quality control it. I will say that it is much much more costly than the current $100 or so disparity between the makers who produce rifles that meet the Governments TDP and the next level of rifle makers who do not.
So if a top notch rifle costs only $100 more than a rifle than a rifle that literally costs a few hundred less to produce, what the heck is happening here you might ask? Sounds like there are companies who are relying on people who are less informed about the weapon and companies who pray or rely on ignorant consumers.
I know this is not going to sit well with many people as firearm purchases are extremely personal for most people. But the facts are what they are. Either companies build to these standards or they do not. Don't take things personal as many rifles will bring a smile to your face and hours upon hours and thousands of rounds of enjoyment. Just be informed.
We also need to understand that with thousands or tens of thousands of rifles from a manufacturer a sampling of my rifle and my buddies buddies rifle means little statistically speaking. So saying my rifle runs great is wonderful but in reality it means little in the overall picture.
We need to stop throwing around the word Mil-Spec. We need to avoid saying "it has run flawless" without putting into context what "flawless" means in regards to your usage. We need to stop getting hurt feelings and attempting to justify our purchases. Just know what our needs are, our budget and have fun with it. But please, please avoid saying, "well its as good as a Colt or (insert any rifle that meets the TDP)". Unless if it meets or exceeds the TDP, it 99.9% will not be as good as that top of the line rifle. Again, one or three rifles, a sampling does not make.
There is a rifle out there for everyone but the main thing is that we understand our budget and more importantly what our needs are and be realistic about this. Most important is that we like what we have, understand its assets or limitations and have a good time with it!