October 17th, 2010

CNBC Attacks Remington in Upcoming Broadcast

On October 20th, CNBC plans to air a television “exposé” about Remington Arms. The hour-long show argues that there may be a safety issue associated with the Remington 700 series of rifles. We haven’t viewed the show yet, but Jim Shepherd of The Shooting Wire is familiar with its contents. Jim, a veteran journalist, recently wrote a cogent commentary on CNBC’s “investigation” of Remington. Given the important insights Jim reveals, his commentary is well worth reading.

Shooting Wire

Yesterday morning, I received a promotional piece from CNBC, touting an hour-long investigation into America’s largest firearms company. The promo piece teases “Remington Under Fire: A CNBC Investigation” a story that CNBC says will “take viewers inside a 10-month investigation of the world’s most popular hunting rifle and examines whether a company has gone too far in protecting their signature product.” That product being the Model 700 bolt-action rifle. With more than five million sold, it is hard to argue its domination of the bolt-action rifle market.

Shooting WireIt’s hard to argue with the idea that a serious safety defect — especially if it was deliberately downplayed-could cause serious repercussions.

Having spent nearly three decades in journalism, when someone says their exclusive “examines” rather than “exposes” — my first impression is always that the story didn’t come to the conclusion they’d presumed, so they’re leaving plenty of wiggle room in the story by “examining the question” rather than “answering it”. That doesn’t say it’s not interesting, whatever the conclusion.

According to the release, CNBC Senior Correspondent Scott Cohn traveled from Florida to Alaska, uncovering numerous complaints about Remington’s 700 model rifle. The most intriguing fact is Cohn’s having “tracked down” 98-year-old Mike Walker, the Remington engineer who designed the trigger for the Remington 700. The report purports to have an interview — and internal memorandums from Walker — that indicate he had repeated safety concerns about the trigger system — even after he left the company.

Video teasers for the program, however, don’t show Walker. Instead, they show Jack Belk “gunsmith, former cop” and expert witness in a variety of lawsuits against Remington. In the soundbite — admittedly designed to titillate, not answer questions — Belk says “no gun should fire unless the trigger is pulled.”

Not exactly the building of a rock-solid case. But in many cases — especially those tried in the fickle court of public opinion — emotion will trump logic.

I’ve not spoken to anyone at Remington regarding the reports — and CNBC says Remington only responded to their interview requests in writing.

For Remington, that’s prudent business practice. From CNBC, it’s couched as to leave the impression that a lack of willingness to go on camera and talk about six decades of business practices indicates there’s something to hide.

That’s not the case — it is impossible for current management to have first-hand knowledge of anything that happened nearly six decades ago. Consequently, when you don’t know what to say, the best thing to say — especially in a television interview — is nothing.

Remington Under Fire is scheduled to air on October 20. We’ll be watching and at that time, Remington officials will be offered the opportunity to respond to the program.

Article © 2010 The Shooting Wire, All Rights Reserved, reprinted with permission. “Grudge Match” graphic created by AccurateShooter.com and not included in original story.

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