Over the years I have owned many guns, and many knives. An avid collector of knives since the age of, well, third grade or so, at one point I had a closet full of boxes filled with knives. 7 years of "higher education", and the fact that I had no free tickets to use to pay for the same, did its best to cure me of both my lack of storage space, and the collecting habit, but the fond memories and a few select pieces still remain. My finest memories, without question, are not of the knives. Those memories are reserved for the makers. While there may have been a knife maker along the way that did not have time to talk to a teenager with far more questions than money, I can honestly say I never met him. Throughout my adult years, some truly interesting cats have done their best to enlighten me on the way of the knife, whether it be on construction, materials, or use. More than a few of these gents were members of the Knifemakers Guild. Seeing how that Guild was formed by men like Walter "Blackie" Collins, R.W. Loveless, and their peers, little wonder so many of the present day makers and Guild members are so quick with a handshake, a story or three, and high quality knives at reasonable rates.
On guns, similar story I guess. Hunted from a very young age, collected from the outset, many pieces went to pay for college.
Not all that familiar with the Pistolsmith Guild, perhaps because its members number a fraction of the Knifemakers Guild, thus making it more unlikely to bump into them at gun shows, etc.; perhaps due to the price and length of wait that accompanies many of the Pistolsmith Guild members shops...I don't know.
It seems, bluntly stated, that Pistolsmith Guild members are harder to interact with than Knifemaker Guild members. At least that is my impression, for whatever it isn't worth. I don't know if this is due to an air of "clubbiness" within the guild, or even if it is true...as I said, it is just my impression. The impression is born out of listening, watching and reading, mainly on many various internet gun forums though.
I am certain there are many fine men in the Pistolsmith Guild, and many that are just as colorful as knifemakers, I just wish they would show up on these forums once in awhile, and share their beliefs, their history, and a bit of the passion I presume they must have for their art...and customers.
It seems to me the knifemakers understand that their market IS the customer, not their product. Public relations is just that, relationships with the public. In the knife business it is knife users, gun business, gun users.
Are we gun users more critical of our gun products than are knife users? I don't think so. Go to any of the knife forums and compliment a knife...chances are the maker himself will weighin with a hearty THANK YOU! I know it has happened to me on more than one occasion. Or, be critical of some aspect of a knife, and don't be surprised to get an explanation or a 'send it back and I will fix it' from the maker. Do the same on a pistol forum, chances are you won't hear a peep from anyone related to the product...with exception of others who own it, maybe.
Before writing this I went back and read the post DD wrote about the Vickers' article. Many responded to that post, but if Vickers responded...I did not see it. I for one would love to read what Vickers, Heinie, Garthwaite, Clark, Brown, Weigand, et. al., have to say about why they do something a certain way, why this works and that won't, why they build the way they build, where the passion is in their pistols, without having to buy a magazine to read an article written by someone putting words into the makers mouth.
Maybe many of the questions on these forums don't interest Pistolsmith Guild members, I don't know. But seriously, how interesting can a professional knife maker find questions about the metal he chooses for blades, or where he got that chunck of mastadon, or which grind is better chisel or XYZ?? My guess is, they have answered those questions a million times...but by gawd go to the Blade Show and ask it again and you will be met with an answer like he has waited his whole life for the question. Or at least that has been my experience.
In my opinion, the Pistolsmith Guild has a lot to learn, and most of it could be learned by watching the Knifemakers Guild. Over the years it continues to enjoy an influx of bright talent, continues to expand and its members continue to establish new cutting egdes [no pun intended]. What is the cutting edge from the Pistolsmith Guild, in addition to waiting lists and price? What Guild members are out there answering questions and toeing the thin ice of pistol design, and enhancements? I see some of them branching out into different products, almost to the exclusion of building guns, but where is the blood in that organization that makes the buying public say WOOOOOOOOW?
Where are the cutting edge collaborations that wake people up?
The last 10 years has been a time of great wealth in America. The market has slipped some, but historically speaking we rode / ride the biggest bull ever. Successful times make it is easy to become cocky and lazy...and yes, I speak from experience. Mark Twight really nails this concept in his wonderful book "Extreme Alpinism", and tells how to fight it.
Perhaps the day of many year waiting lists for $4,000-$5,000 1911's will go on forever, but history says it won't. There is a cycle to everything human, including buisnesses of every type. What gets us through the ebb-periods is not a swankier paint job, or a flashier article, it is our relationship with our customer and the loyalty it has produced.
Knife collecting still appears to be enjoying its zenith. Will we say the same about custom pistols in 5 years, or 10?
Sorry for the length of this.