Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
-Murphy’s Law, wording attributed to Major John Paul Stapp
Yesterday at TFB, we published an article that I wrote about some of the displays at the Kalashnikov USA booth, specifically criticizing the worryingly poor quality of the firearms contained in those cases. Soon after, TFB was contacted by the CEO of Kalashnikov USA, Brian Skinner, with an offer to meet up and talk about it, and I accepted. This morning at the meeting, Brian was extremely forthcoming with details about how and why the weapons were not what they should have been, and gave TFB a look at a properly constructed US-made Vityaz that Kalashnikov USA built over a year ago for comparison.
Brian explained that the KR-9 Vityaz rifles had been improperly made, and that this was not discovered until the weapons’ delivery two days before the SHOT Show. Last year, Kalashnikov USA had early prototype KR-9 and AK-Alfa rifles on display behind glass; Brian’s goal for this year was to have pre-production KR-9 and later prototype AK-Alfas on display where show goers could look at and handle them, with no glass.
However, when the KR-9 rifles were delivered two days before the show, it was obvious that these weapons were too poorly made to be handled by people on the show floor, but by then it was too late to make serious changes to the display. Instead of glass or simply not displaying the weapons (which, given the presence of prototypes at last year’s show, would have raised questions), it was decided to have Kalashnikov USA representatives posted beside the weapons to explain the problems to show goers.
This is a reasonable solution, provided that enough representatives are present to handle the crowds, which when I stopped by their booth was not the case. For whatever reason, I had some trouble finding a representative that was not occupied and, to add to the problem, the announcement that SIG had won the US Army’s Modular Handgun System contract came while I was at the Kalashnikov USA booth, and so I was unable to hang around and wait for a representative to free up.
A situation like the one above is an exhibitor’s worst nightmare, especially one that is already fighting a negative reputation like Kalashnikov USA. However, instead of trying to sweep it under the rug, posture, or any of the other bad responses that companies are prone to do, Brian did exactly what a CEO should do in this situation: He owned up, contacted TFB, and scheduled a meeting in which at no point did he try to brush aside or minimize the problems the weapons had.
I should stress that it takes considerable strength of character to do something like that. The situation went wrong for Kalashnikov USA, and they made mistakes, and yet Brian responded with transparency and humility. It takes a big man who knows himself very well to do that, and I came away from our meeting extremely impressed with Brian’s handling of the situation.
Now, here’s what we should have seen from Kalashnikov USA in 2017: A true replica PP-19-01 Vityaz, not perfect, but certainly getting there: