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Often in any field of speciality, it is common for many people to speak on the hierarchy of how they would rate relative products. Whether we are at the gun shop looking for a new pistol, or at the department store looking at a new lawnmower, people tend to label some of the available items as “better” than the others. I believe this categorization is completed (conscience or subconscious) by the process of either preference or performance.


One of the definitions from Merriam Webster of preference is “the power or opportunity of choosing”. Preference is the decision making tool that we use when we find a good way to complete a task, or when we have a certain way we like things to be completed. We may purchase a pistol, have success with that pistol, and believe that is the best brand/style due to our limited success. It then seems to be part of human nature to turn to what we know. These could be tritium night sights or blacked-out rear sights. Sometimes one just works better for an individual, but may not be best for someone else. This is simply preference. We then make recommendations for this product due to our belief that this is the best product based on our individualized experiences and beliefs.

An example (and probably a slightly controversial one) is Austria Glocks vs USA Glocks. Years ago there used to be an argument of performance regarding the metal treatment process (Tenifer) for Glocks manufactured in Austria. In more recent years, this process has been abandoned and the similarities are nearly identical. I believe the “Austria” stamp has become more nostalgia than anything, but I have seen many customers walk away from a sale due to the location of manufacturing. They have a strong preference, without any difference in performance (insert hate Mail here).

Many decisions we make when it comes to our outdoorsman purchases, whether we realize it or not, are driven simply by preference. Preference remains rather subjective in nature and is often difficult to quantify.


One of the definitions of Performance from Merriam Webster is, “the way in which someone or something functions”. If we find a product that is reliable, dependable, and functional, it has earned our trust and meets the requirements for performance. Performance is typically not something that can be assessed in the gun shop, but rather is often determined when you hit the field. Performance is typically more objective and not determined by how one feels, but is determined by how the product functions. It is much easier to quantify and makes the lines of quality slightly more clear. Slightly. When you take two pistols out in the field, how do they compare when you run them side by side? What’s the rate of functional failure? Are parts breaking? Is the product subject to temperature swings? What are the ballistic results from testing the product? Most importantly, what is your function for the tool?

There is no denying that in all things in life, there is a Hierarchy of quality. Not all gear has the same level of functionality, dependability, resilience, and durability. Many optics, firearms, accessories, brands of ammunition, knives, etc can all be categorized into tiers. The title of those categories remains to be the subjective piece, but there are tiers nonetheless. We may call them “elite, great, good, fair, not so good, bad, and terrible” and we may even disagree on a tier or two. But for the most part, there is clear separation between elite, fair, and terrible. The classification into these tiers is usually based on performance and consistency.

I believe the difference between products in different tiers are separated by performance. An elite manufacturer for rifles are more reliable, consistent, durable, accurate, and functional than those in tiers below them. They climbed to the top of the tiers by being better and more consistent than the other tiers.

I also believe that the difference between products within the same tier are differentiated by preference. Two products within the “Fair” tier will function similarly when compared side by side but you may prefer the grip, sights, texture, size, or weight based on your preference. The reliability, consistency, durability, accuracy, and functionality are roughly the same, but you have a preference of which product you buy. 

Minus the Factor of User Error

I think it goes without being said, but I’m going to say it anyway. I’m not talking about the exceptional mishap from a great company or one bad shooter with a great firearm. I’m talking about consistent functionality. I had an individual buy a pistol from a top of the line manufacturer and when she was shooting it, she had a ton of malfunctions where the pistol failed to cycle properly. The problem was she was shooting with a “limp wrist” and not keeping a firm enough grip when she shot. This was causing the frame of the pistol to travel to the rear and causing the pistol to malfunction. This isn’t a performance error, this is a user error. Poor mechanics can’t blame the manufacturer. Though this happens more than we all would like to admit. This is why the point of performance has to be looked at along with the point of consistency.

What Should Drive Our Preferences?

When I want to buy a new firearm, I often call my dad and ask for his opinion. One of the questions I often get back is, “What’s your purpose?”. That question has stuck with me since the first time I heard it. A lot of people have blogs and forums filled up where people ask the debating questions “AR-15 vs AK-47”, “ACOG vs Red dot”, or “10.5 inch vs 16 inch barrel” and the list goes on and on. Most of the time it’s difficult to decipher if they are speaking from performance or preference, but the reality of it is, all of these things have a place. I can give an example where each one of these items is better than its counterpart. But the decision is found in the details. What’s the purpose? A knife is an amazing tool. I would need one to open a package, pry open the bottom of a magazine, or cut some paracord. None of these tasks would be well matched with an AR-15. The same is true with the opposite. I would never want to bring a Kabar to a gunfight. Each is an amazing tool, but only when it’s paired with a fitting purpose. Many times when facing decisions, we can narrow down the overwhelming options that lie before us by first determining, what is your purpose? We should let our purpose drive our preferences.


When we are looking for a new piece of gear to add to the collections it is a great idea to do some in depth research and find out what others have experienced. I love learning from other individuals’ experiences and learning about the reliability and functionality of gear. My favorite learning experiences are torture tests to see the extreme conditions that fail to impact the reliability of gear in the field. That being said, when we are looking through our research we need to discern the difference between preference and performance. Many individuals will offer their opinion based on their preference, and we can be disappointed when we discover this after the purchase. We also need to be aware of the fact that our opinion can drive the same with others. When we purchase our piece of gear we need to identify what is your purpose for the purchase, what tier of performance is desired, and fine tune our decision based on our preferences. Once you feel confident in your selection, Elah Armament would be honored in assisting with the rest of the process! Click Here to access our in stock inventory, and God Bless America.