Clay’s Tale of Two Customer Services

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

S&W Night Guard
The S&W Night Guard I was very happy to find.

Firearm Customer Service

We have one of the oddest reviews you can think of because it isn’t really a gun. It’s gun-related though. Specifically, it’s the customer service experience when your gun no longer goes bang. Two guns in the last two months have failed me either under 500 rounds, or straight out of the box. Which is not exactly a great look for quality control across the industry right now. I should point out, that both of these guns were purchased off the shelf.

So I thought that since I had to get them fixed anyway, why not write an article about it for the customer base that has so far never had this issue? Which is probably most of us. Off the top of my head, I don’t remember ever having to have warranty work on a firearm. Maybe I have been lucky, or maybe that is normal. Either way, it ends today.

Ruger white box
The classic Ruger white box.

Gun Quality Expectations

Before we talk about those specific experiences, let’s talk about what it means. Do I expect, to some degree, quality control to slip during a crisis? Yes, it’s just a fact of life. When the pressure of backorders starts really building, things do fall through the cracks. In the last great gun rush, I was closer to the manufacturing side, as was my wife. In the 2013 crisis, a lot of companies hired a third shift, meaning the machines ran 24 hours a day. Not only was quality control hard-pressed to keep up, but people got a lot less picky about some details. Which has validity. If you were unarmed today, and things were getting really bad, would you want (a.) no gun or (b.) a gun with a tool mark on the inside of the mag well? Yeah, me too.

Now the flip side of that is you are paying a premium for a blaster, it better show up perfect. And it’s a very real problem if guns are scarce, and the one you managed to buy doesn’t work. Reputations are hard to build and easy to destroy, as well as I would be beyond upset if my carry gun failed when I needed it. Provided I somehow lived through the experience.

Revolver Cylinder
6 rounds of big boy 45 ACP

We decided to call up both companies, on camera, just to see how they would deal with the problem. Which is also a pretty cool insight for those of us on the inside of the industry. Do I know, for a fact, that sometimes gun companies cherry-pick the guns they send out to writers? Yes, I do. My wife was actually in charge of that department for a pretty big player, and those guns got quadruple-checked. This is kind of bullshit, but it is how things happen. Do I also know executives at both the companies in question today? Yep, and I have no doubt I could have gotten my problems resolved that way too. But having the time on my hands to wait, I wanted to see how this goes for the average Joe.

The S&W Customer Service Experience

Gun number one was a doozie. You may remember a few months back, I was very excited to have found a Smith and Wesson Night Guard in 45 ACP. That is a gun I wanted for a long while, so I snapped it up at the full price of $1200. I did the review on it, all good, and then my son-in-law wanted to shoot it. We went to the range, and imagine my surprise when the cylinder stopped revolving on his first 6 rounds. As a non-wheel gun guy, I didn’t even know that could happen.

This is especially problematic when we look at the reputation of revolvers. Ask a gun guy to name the top three weapons that will go bang, no matter what, when you pull the trigger. Kalashnikov, Glock, and S&W Revolver are likely to be the answer in some order. Having one quit under 500 rounds is not ideal.

S&W Night Guard barrel
Just right on barrel length

Smith and Wesson customer service was Johnny on the Spot, I will give them that. As soon as they ran the serial number and saw that I was the original owner, even if the Night Guards have been out of production for 10 years, a return label was on the way. I was also impressed that the guy on the phone had a rough timeline, 6-8 weeks. I can’t even really be mad about the 6-8 weeks bit. As revolvers have become less popular, the men who can work on them have become more scarce. In the current world, 6-8 weeks isn’t that bad. But, and it’s a big but, only because I have other guns. I would likely be a lot less impressed if I had saved up for the one and only, and it was going to spend 2 months in Massachusetts whilst I twiddled my thumbs.  

The Ruger Customer Service Experience

Ruger Charger on a stump
Ruger Charger

The next less-than-ideal situation came from Ruger. I have been looking for a Charger for a while and spotted one at my local gun shop. I get it home, pull it out of the box, and the hammer won’t drop. Less than ideal. A quick trip to the Ruger forums, and we discover the problem is most likely that the safety has been installed upside down. And further research shows that while I probably can successfully rebuild a 10/22 trigger pack, I really don’t want to.

Ruger Charger 10/22 Trigger Pack
The trigger pack in question

Once again, this isn’t a huge deal for me in my situation. I have other 10/22 rifles, and swapping the trigger pack immediately solves the problem. But is it a huge deal if you don’t, and this was supposed to go under the Christmas tree for Junior or Sally? That is a bigger issue, and it shouldn’t have happened. Off to Ruger customer service we go.

The first customer service line was broken, which is not a great start. The fortunate thing about Ruger being the biggest firearms manufacturer though, they have several. Prescott failed us, but New Hampshire did not. Customer service was as quick and thorough as S&W, had I been willing to just send the whole gun in. I did inquire if I could send just the trigger back, which they also would have accepted, but I would be on the hook for shipping in that case. Is $9.95 a show-stopper? In principle, it’s $9.95 I shouldn’t have to spend. Or that I could take off of just buying an upgraded BX Trigger. So I’m not mad, but I’m not overly impressed either.

Do things happen? Yes, to be sure. And I’m happy that they are at least getting sorted out. Overall, it could have been a lot worse, no question. But maybe time to take a closer look at spare parts you may need, and spare guns if you don’t have them.

Visit Ruger Firearms

Visit Smith & Wesson

*** Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE! ***

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Scott Couch May 7, 2024, 3:55 pm

    I’ve found Rugers customer service to be excellent. Haven’t had enough S&Ws to use them.

  • Steve G May 5, 2024, 12:10 pm

    I’ll play. The spring for my Sig Cross failed after very little use. CS answered the phone with a person, agreed the FTE was likely a failed spring, and immediately mailed me one free of charge. Should it have failed? No. But it’s a mechanical thing and stuff happens. I have two Cross rifles now and they both operate well.

  • Lloyd Harmon April 19, 2024, 12:48 pm

    I found your article especially interesting as I had the same failure in my S&W 325 night guard. I purchased mine used, but it was very lightly used. My first trip the range I got 3 shots off and the cylinder stopped turning. I was amazed to say the least. I have S&W revolvers that are 75 years old and still function perfectly. I disassembled the revolver and found the hand had broken. I wrote this off to the new MIM parts. I ordered a replacement part and fitted it to the gun. It has been working well with moderate use so far.
    As to S&W’s customer service I have no complaint. They were very helpful getting the correct part to me.

  • Ricky Bobby April 13, 2024, 2:08 pm

    I had a Kimber micro 9 once, that would jam big time the first time at the range. I was shooting quality 9mm 115gr ball ammo. Once, in a great while, it would smokestack jam, but the vast, vast majority of the time, it would extract, but fail to eject, then try to load the next round. Different magazines made now difference, early or late in the magazine made no difference either. It just happened way, way too often. Very frustrating because the only way out was to drop the magazine, then retract the slide to eject the spent case and loose the one it had been trying to feed. Practical advice: Never, Ever try this in a firefight!… If you want to live! Called Kimber CS, no questions asked. They instructed me to UPS the entire pistol and magazines and provided RMA label. They made sure to tell me to drop it off at a certain UPS terminal in my location. I don’t remember, but perhaps 2-3 weeks later, my pistol came home with a print out of what all they had done and three different brands, types and bullet weights they test fired it with. They changed the recoil spring and most of their test loads were 124-147 bullets, plus honed or polished the feed chute. Since then, no problemo whatsoever! But I am shooting heavier bullets in it now. Kimber CS? Top notch in my opinion, no complaints.

  • Tom April 10, 2024, 8:33 am

    I don’t usually post stuff but I like the handful Guns I have and Clay for kickin ass for our country. I bought a brand new stainless takedown last year and had issue’s before the gun was ever fired. I cleaned it before I shot it (idk like your supposed to do…) (with the same shit I’ve used all my life without a problem) and apparently ruger coated their stainless receiver with some kind of clear coat that peeled up like latex paint as soon as the parts cleaner hit it. The ruger customer service experience I had was terrible. Made it sound like my fault and was unwilling to do much. The condescending attitude was rude and annoying. Wanted me to send the gun in (I pay for shipping) to redo at it with their wimpy bullshit coating. Is their stainless steel that shitty where it needs rust protection like that? The inside of the receiver and bolt were coated what a mess it was. Never got email follow ups or anything as promised from the rude condescending asshole on the phone. Anyway it wasn’t worth my aggravation. I soaked the whole thing in parts cleaner, blew it all out with the air compressor, it came out clean and I gave it a hi-po rustolium paint job. I’ll never buy a ruger again.

  • Dlg April 9, 2024, 6:01 am

    Beretta cracked stock 4K gun not there problem and within warranty period… very sad 😢

  • Bob April 8, 2024, 9:39 pm

    Bought a Smith pistol a few years back, with a rebate from Smith. Jumped thru all the rebate hoops, never got the rebate, found out Smith farmed out the rebate to a third party, who treated me badly when I contacted them several times. Called/emailed Smith several times, was told it was not thier problem, they refused help, or even giving advice as to how to deal with the third party. To this day, no rebate forthcoming, and I’m sure never will be. Not impressed.

    • Alex April 8, 2024, 9:55 pm

      I had purchased a Ruger 556 AR style rifle, in the early 2000s. At the shooting range after I shot three fully loaded 30 rounds mag, the rifle’s bolt housing was completely stuck. After a gunsmith took the rifle apart realized that a small spring near the buffer tube had become loosed and made the bolt housing stuck. I wrote a letter to Ruger Firearms CS. They were excellent, the sent me a label to send them the rifle back and sent me a brand new rifle with its carrying case and new magazines. They also told me to keep the magazines and the carrying case from the rifle I shipped back. In other occasions I have written them emails regarding product information and they have quickly responded back to me. As far as I’m concerned Ruger has superb customer service and I continue to support their company.

  • Frank April 8, 2024, 9:18 pm

    Hi, Clay. Thanks for the article. I’ve been pretty lucky when dealing with CS. Thompson Center really did me a solid on an Encore barrel that wouldn’t print. It was aggravating to get a new gun that shot all over the place, especially because I bought it as gift for my father. I ended up speaking with someone in the custom shop who asked me to send the entire gun back (at their expense). They not only cut a target crown on the barrel, but did a trigger job as well. It’s now a real tack driver.

    Many years later, I bought a new Ruger AR 556. This was still sort of in the early years for Ruger manufacturig MSRs. Out of the box accuracy was absolutely horrendous. At 100 yards, the target looked like I was patterning #4 Buckshot. It went to Ruger and came back with a new barrel. They had test fired it, and all was supposed to be good. I put a LPVO on it and went to my “back forty” range. It fired about a half-dozen rounds, then started failing to feed/chamber. I cleaned/lubricated the BCG/locking lugs, swapped mags, etc… nothing helped. After a much more careful examination (this was my first AR) I found there were NO M4 feed ramps cut in the barrel extension. Although I sent a ton of pics showing the back of the barrel extension to Ruger CS, I couldn’t get them to understand the issue. Guess they didn’t know what M4 feed ramps were at CS. The rifle went back to Ruger for the second time. I was beginning to lose patience by this time, and it wasn’t a very good look for Ruger to have the same rifle come back twice in less than month. At least it was fitted with the appropriate barrel extension that time, and was inspected/test fired by multiple folks at Ruger.

    As they were building only M4 variants at the time, I have no idea where the faulty barrel extension came from they had installed the first time the rifle went back, but at least it now functions as designed. I’ve swapped BCGs, buffers, triggers and a few other items to customize, but the gun still won’t pattern worth a crap. I am NOT sending it to Ruger again, I just keep iron sights on it and use it for making noise and as sort of a CQB to 100 yds gun. I tell my “Missus” it’s a “spray and pray” weapon.

  • Shane J April 8, 2024, 4:37 pm

    ” As soon as they ran the serial number and saw that I was the original owner, even if the Night Guards have been out of production for 10 years, a return label was on the way ” HOW DID SMITH AND WESSON KNOW YOU WERE THE ORIGINAL OWNER IF YOU BOUGHT THIS GUN OFF THE SHELF?

    • Frank April 9, 2024, 6:33 pm

      I’m guessing Clay registered the gun with S&W for warranty purposes and his receipt showed the purchase date from the seller. That’s how Smith would have known as they likely have records showing when they first shipped the gun to the dealer.

      I hear you, and am with you Shane, when it comes to Big Brother. A long time ago, I used to think the government at least partially had our interests at heart. Now I hate those bastards, and dream of the day when their lying asses will meet the Creator. I would especially like to see the ATF disbanded and every single one it’s employees shipped off to Rwanda. Perhaps there, they might learn the benefits of owning a capable weapon. All that being said, I don’t think Smith knew Clay was the owner because of Big Brother. I bet he registered the warranty with S&W. Keep the Faith!

  • JSK April 8, 2024, 3:08 pm

    Ruger’s CS has been horrid since the early 80’s, 90’s and obviously still an issue from my personal expereince, Remington was the same. Smith & Wesson has always been and still does give first rate customer service from my expereinces, free shipping back to them with new guns that had issues and fast turn around. As far as gun writers getting cream of the crop weapons to evaluate, always has been that way and that’s why CS is so important for regular Joe’s like us. They used to give the firearms to them or offer them at cost of mfg. depending on circulation popularity of the writer, all marketing so it is what it is.

  • Beobear April 8, 2024, 11:39 am

    Let’s break this down, first you’re unhappy that one of Rugers customer service phone lines was on the fritz when you tried to call. It happens, you tried a different one and it worked just fine. Then you’re unhappy that Ruger will send you a shipping label at no cost for your complete serialized gun but that you will have to pay shipping to send only the unsterilized trigger pack?? Wow, that’s pretty petty. I know for a fact that most companies require you to return the entire gun in order to get a shipping label. This is because when they have a gun returned for repairs, even if it’s just the trigger, they want to inspect the entire gun and record the results for a litany of analytics. We just went through this with Beretta. You seem like you’re a seasoned gun guy so how is this an issue?

    It seems to me that both S&W and Ruger did exactly what they were supposed to do and there’s nothing to write home about.

  • Jim Boswell April 8, 2024, 10:41 am

    I am the owner of quite a few Rugers and have been a past owner of S&W firearms. I have never had to deal with either one’s customer service. But, I have had to deal with Taurus. I have had a number of Taurus products and never encountered any problems until I purchased a Judge Public Defender Polymer. I live in South Florida and I wanted a “truck gun” that would not be susceptible to the environment here. I was never impressed with the fit and finish, but for my purposes I was okay with that. The gun got very little use. One day at the range the cylinder locked up; I was able to empty the ammo but the cocking mechanism was frozen. I sent the gun to Taurus in Georgia where it remained for approximately a year! Multiple emails did not kick start any progress. There website “progress bar” was stuck on “In Progress”. When I finally received the gun, it cycled fine without ammo, but it locked up immediately upon loading. Never even got to shoot it, before it was frozen again. This time I could not even unload the firearm. I gave it to my local gunsmith and told him to keep it!! I think I will pass on Taurus wheel guns from now on!!

  • Robert Lancaster April 8, 2024, 10:10 am

    Good information to have, thanks Clay. I enjoy your articles.

  • Scott April 8, 2024, 9:38 am

    Hilarious. Similar experiences here with both companies and situations. Flawless revolver reliability is a myth and Ruger 10/22’s are sometimes (or often) garbage but Smith & Ruger both took care of me and I respect them for it because I had great customer service from both. I have also had great customer service from Taurus (and funnily enough, less problems with their revolvers) and Sig, and Glock. The Glock problem was my fault (reloads). It all breaks at some point and when you know that the help is there, it is a relief.

  • Pantexan April 8, 2024, 9:34 am

    You only told half the story .
    Did S&W meet the 6 to 8 weeks turnaround time ? Did S&W correct the issue ? Did they tell you what caused the problem ? Was it related to the ILS ?
    What was the Ruger turnaround time ? Did they meet this ? Did they correct the issue ?Did they tell you what the issue was ?
    Who are Junior and Sally ?

  • Bill Armstrong April 8, 2024, 9:28 am

    Need more articles like this on customer service. Never had a problem with Ruger, but the absolute worst is Browning. If you shoot a lot, you will have guns failing, and it’s often after sending a lot of rounds down range. The poor quality control of some of our manufacturers is embarrassing, as is their customer service.

  • Jim April 8, 2024, 7:53 am

    I am surprised that you would have purchased a firearm without, at least, having cycled and dry fired it several times.

Send this to a friend