If you’re on this blog and visit other firearm and self-defense blogs and forums, chances are you have heard the expression “buy once, cry once” before. I’ve even seen it on forums geared toward auto repair, mountain bikes, sporting equipment, etc. The basic gist is that you should, when faced with a purchasing decision between a higher-price, higher-quality item and a lower-priced, lower-quality item, choose the higher-priced one. The rationale for this is the lower-quality item will break or otherwise not fulfill its function, meaning you will then either buy another cheap one to replace it, or move up to the higher priced one after all, either way defeating the purpose of buying the lower-priced one to begin with. I saw this in class once when a student with a Ruger 9mm pistol had used a “generic” nylon thigh holster that routinely dumped his pistol into the gravel! The instructor asked him if he was familiar with the term, “buy once, cry once.” He was not, so I explained it to him. Kudos to the student for being out there and getting some training, but sometimes there is a bare minimum of what is needed.
Overall, I agree with the idea of “buy once, cry once”. But, I am going to present here what will hopefully be a thoughtful argument for something in between the “always buy the expensive, high quality item” and the “buy the cheapest thing possible” extremes.
We must first consider the fact that those of us who buy/use firearms and other self-defense tools and equipment for personal–rather than professional–use do not do so with an unlimited budget. Obviously, we all have different incomes, but for most people, buying these items falls more into our list of “wants” rather than our list of “needs”. Even if we propose that we “need” tools for self-defense, I’m not so sure that everyone NEEDS a Noveske AR-15 with IR and visible lasers, Surefire light, Aimpoint T-2 with magnifier, etc. Barring Mad Max scenarios, most civilians will never use their firearms in anger.
This is all a grey area, of course, because we also don’t want to get caught in the “if we’ll probably never use it, then why get it at all?” mentality. Each of us has to figure out for him or herself what our needs/wants are, and one of the driving factors, unfortunately, is going to be how much money we are willing to spend. I always hate when I see someone advertising something on the forums saying, “I got a speeding ticket, so this new Glock has to go!” Sorry, but you should not be spending money on guns and gear if you don’t have the extra cash on hand to pay for a ticket, or food for your children, or a new tire for your car, etc. My opinion, sure, but you’re here to read my opinions. So there’s that.
Let’s get to the point. I am not made of money. I am a teacher. I do okay financially, but I am not made of money by any stretch. There are those things in this “area” that I feel I need (or want), but I cannot always afford. However, I sometimes regard the utility of these items as very important, so much so that I do not want to wait to save up enough money to purchase them. So in these cases, I do what I simply term “trading up”. An example is in order here.
When I decided to obtain an AR-15, I knew right away that I would want a red dot sight (RDS). An RDS is, in my opinion, pretty much an essential accessory on a modern carbine. When it came time to select an RDS, I really wanted an Aimpoint micro H-1 or T-1. With a mount, these tend to run upwards of $600 which, at that time, I did not think I could readily afford (and still be able to buy a sling, weapon-mounted light, and other things I consider as essential on a defensive carbine). Instead, I went with a cheaper alternative, the Aimpoint PRO. The Aimpoint PRO, while bigger and heavier than the micros, can easily be found on sale for under $400, yet has the same Aimpoint quality and durability and even the same 2 MOA dot.
As time has gone on and I have A) realized other things/features that I wanted and B) saved up more money, I’ve been able to “trade up”. Here is where belonging to local firearm enthusiast forums, or forums like AR-15.com or M4Carbine.net, can pay some dividends. I saved up and was able to buy an Aimpoint T-1 and then sold off my Aimpoint PRO to retroactively fund much of the purchase of the T-1 and mount. Yes, I took a small loss on the Aimpoint PRO. However, I feel like that small loss paid for the time that I had a functional AR set up mostly—if not ideally—the way I wanted it. And I didn’t cry once, let alone more than once!
In short, my thought process has been:
- I want what I want NOW.
- I cannot afford it all.
- I’ll buy used versions or cheaper versions by quality companies
- I will then have the basic elements of what I want, and can test “proof of concept” for certain things.
- As I save up more money, I will buy the versions of the above that I really wanted.
- I will then sell off the versions I no longer need to recoup some of the money I spent.
I have found this to be a pretty effective strategy. When one factors in the deals that can be obtained on some of the forums (as people are always after the latest and greatest and dumping older stuff on the classifieds), it can be effective with all manner of accessories and gear. It’s almost like buying a 2015 car just as the 2016s are being unloaded from the truck. I’ve applied this strategy to weapon-mounted lights, optics, iron sights, mounts, handguards/rails, holsters, etc. My next few articles will illustrate this very concept “in action” with the setups for entire carbines and weapon-mounted lights. See the first of those follow-ups here.
***As always, we welcome your comments/opinions on this and other topics. Do you have any “buying strategies to share? Please do so.***