By Richard L. Johnson - 8/18/2013
Smart consumers will frequently shop around before making a major purchase. With the advent of e-commerce, gun owners have an unprecedented ability to compare prices and services online.
Unfortunately, there are also an unprecedented number of people looking to make a quick buck by selling you a counterfeit product that looks like the real deal. Some consumers might unknowingly buy a knock-off thinking it is the genuine article. Others might know it is counterfeit, but can't resist the low price.
Lets take a look at some of the problems associated with counterfeit products.
Potential Problems for Consumers
When looking at $1,200 or more for a Trijicon ACOG, picking up a knock-off for less than $100 is certainly tempting. But, what are you really getting for than incredible markdown?
Counterfeit products are cheaper than genuine articles for a variety of reasons, including:
- the use of inferior materials,
- lack of quality control,
- no (or purely fake) warranty, and
- no actual research and development of the product.
When you buy that sub-$100 knock-off ACOG, it is a safe bet that the glass will not be as clear, it may not hold zero, it is not likely waterproof and it is not likely to stand up to much abuse. When (not if) it fails, don't expect to get any kind of warranty work done.
With no real way of knowing how long, if at all, a counterfeit product will work, are they really a bargain? Even if they work, they aren't likely to be anywhere near as precise as the real deal.
Lost Revenue and Injured Reputations
Counterfeit products don't hurt just consumers. Sales of counterfeit products injure companies that make the genuine article in two ways: lost sales and a damaged reputation.
Lost sales are the most obvious problem. When someone buys a fake instead of the genuine article, those dollars are not flowing into the company's coffers.
That lost revenue helps the company recoup the costs of developing the product, keeping people employed making the item and funding the development of new products. Without profit, there is no incentive for the company to develop future products.
But counterfeit products sold to unknowning consumers potentially hurt a company even more by damaging the company's reputation. If a consumer purchases a fake SureFire weapon light, for example, he or she is likely to comment online and to his or her friends about the inferior quality of the supposed SureFire light. A company is then in a defensive position trying to correct the bad (and erroneous) reputation it did not earn.
Legalities & Lawsuits
There are criminal laws that prohibit the trafficking of counterfeit products and the unlawful reproduction of a company's trademarks. Additionally, there are civil remedies available to companies through the courts.
Unfortunately, many of the people who make and sell counterfeit products are outside of the country and beyond the reach of the US legal system. Knowledgeable consumers are the best defense against these sellers.
Occasionally, entities inside the country will engage in the selling of fake goods. When discovered, these people and companies can face criminal charges and lawsuits.
For example, Magpul Industries recently filed lawsuits against two different entities that were allegedly selling counterfeit copies of the company's MBUS Pro sights. The MBUS Pro sights were announced in April and have not yet been released to the market.
How to Protect Yourself
The first and best line of defense in avoiding buying a knock-off is to use common sense. If the deal looks to good, and is from an unknown source, you should probably trust your gut and pass on the item.
For example, if you find the $800 scope you have been looking at on sale at eBay for $59.99 with free shipping from China, you are pretty much guaranteed it is not the real scope you want.
You should be wary of any unknown dealer that is offering unrealistic discounts or who doesn't have a good reputation within the community. Sites like eBay and GunBroker allow buyers to post feedback on sellers. Read the feedback and see what kind of experiences other people have had. If you see complaints about knock-off products, consider that a red flag and move on to another seller.
Consider checking out The Counterfeit Report. This is a website that details known counterfeit products including those found in the shooting industry. If you see something that might be counterfeit, comparing the item to the known fakes on this site might help you make a good buying decision.
There are many reputable online e-commerce sites that serve the shooting industry, and if you ask around some of the forums or in the comment section below, other shooters will be happy to share their favorites with you.