The Column, No. 147:

Why Firearm Warranties are Worthless

By Randy Wakeman

In a nutshell, firearm warranties are of little value as they are not actionable. The consumer has little recourse, as a practical matter, as a simple lawsuit can run $15,000 to $20,000 in your own state, with costs escalating should you seek relief out of state.

For example, take a look at the Beretta USA warranty.

The Manufacturer warrants that this firearm was manufactured free of defects in material or workmanship; and for a period of one (1) year after date of original purchase, the Manufacturer and/or its local official Distributor/s (as listed here) agree to correct any such defect in this firearm by repair or replacement (at their discretion and, if the firearm is to be replaced, with the same or a comparable quality firearm). The Manufacturer does not warrant the wood (stock and forend), grips or metal finish with respect to finish, matching of pieces, dents, scratches, cut, dings, etc. which are or should be apparent to the purchaser when the product is purchased. It is the customer’s responsibility to inspect this particular product prior to purchase to ensure that it is free from defects or damage. This Warranty is effective from the original retail purchase of the firearm only.” There are worse policies. See . Anyone that agrees to CSMC terms and conditions is just asking for it. It is an embarrassment.

There are a whole bunch of things that are really wrong here, but most people don't bother to read warranties, anyway. It is nonsensically burdensome for “the customer” who is not a gun dealer, not the manufacturer, not the distributor, and not a professional gunsmith to charged with the “responsibility” to go over a firearm from stem to stern. The customer is still the customer and is spending the money, not profiting by the transaction. What is Beretta's responsibility? The dealer's responsibility? How does a factory worker in Italy, Turkey, or Portugal know what “should be” apparent to the consumer in the United States, who may be a first time purchaser?

As it turns out, for the majority of firearms I review, there are defects which are not “readily apparent.” A slightly crooked rib, an off-center bead, a poorly fitted recoil pad, a bubbled-up section of camo, a spot of missing black chrome, mis-marked choke tubes, missing shims, missing magazine limiters. None of these unfortunate happenstances are in the least bit rare. You cannot just eyeball a firearm in a gunshop and know that it is a jam-o-matic or does not shoot to point of aim. It gets worse.

What is, or is not a defect is generally left up to the manufacturer's discretion. Whether you like it or not, the manufacturer's notion of standards applies. Don't like that 8 lb. trigger? Don't like the poor barrel regulation? Don't like the nicks, gouges, and tooling marks? Don't like the 3 MOA groups? Often, that is “within our specifications” and “commercially acceptable.” Of course, “specifications are subject to change without notice.” Could it get still worse? Well, it often does.

Let's say that customer service agrees with you, your gun has defects and is covered under warranty. That sounds promising, doesn't it? It might be, however there is rarely any provision for how long a repair or replacement might take. If it takes a year due to waiting for parts, that's just your hard cheese. Part of this scenario is due to the pressure from the consumer in general, who worships a low sticker price above all else.

Customer Service is hardly a profit center, nor is the large capital investment in spare parts that may, or may not ever be used. Having a well-trained, experienced customer service center and high quality gunsmiths on staff is a large continuing investment, an investment that no one sees at their local pro shop. It is hardly unique to the firearms industry, for the phrase “Due to unusually high call volume...” is more popular every year.

Over the years, it has become apparent to some degree who can answer the phone, and who cannot. Henry Repeating Arms, Caesar Guerini / Fabarm, Savage Arms, Ruger, and others too numerous to mention do a very good job, far above industry averages. We can also compensate by using dealers that that have their own substantial resources, and take pride in servicing what they sell. With Beretta, Cole Gunsmithing is a sterling example of this.

If a gun company cannot so much as answer the phone, applying a healthy dose of skepticism often results in a better buying decision that will make you a happier customer over time.

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Copyright 2023 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.