Smith And Wesson Customer Service Kudos
December 11, 2013
A little while back, my friend John shared the tale of his Arizona elk hunt. In the telling, he mentioned his misfortune with his TC Icon. It seems that the rifle, chambered in 30-06, developed a split along the forearm during some range sessions. As a result, the -06 sat out the elk hunt while John had to make do with the relative lightweight, 7mm-08. It did the job, but an elk can absorb a lot of wallop… bigger is better.
Anyway, rather than throw away a perfectly good gun or spend a small fortune on a custom replacement stock, John did the sensible thing and sent the rifle to Smith and Wesson for repair. Here’s how it went:
Phillip: I don’t really see much complimentary stuff about Smith & Wesson on the nets, so can I tell you and your friends about my recent experience with the company?
Yesterday, the FedEx truck brought my T/C Icon 30-06 back with a new stock, all parts and shipping expenses covered. This is the rifle with the stock that fractured my first time at the range, but which didn’t fail so dramatically that I noticed much besides bad groups and a growing scratch in the wood. It came back from S&W so fast that I didn’t even know customer service had had time to look at it.
I want to tell you my experience with this rifle because I’m so impressed, and I’ll kind of start at the beginning, if that’s okay.
Back in 2007, I was (and still am) very engaged in learning about AGW. NOAA’s predictions do not bode well for Phoenix real estate. Somehow, I came upon a site called Land and Farm and I started looking for land someplace green where rains are abundant.
In the way a lottery ticket will occupy some with hours of dreams – intricate dreams involving tax accountants and family trusts, Land and Farm occupied me for whole weekends. I considered slope, soil, I looked at Google Maps to see if CAFOs sat west or southwest. In my head and online, I designed a home made by Connect Homes, or Method Homes, Home Ideabox, or maybe i-house. I subscribed to ACRES and the Stockman Grass Farmer, I read the whole Wendell Berry catalog.
And, as my imaginary farm came together, as I homed in on certain states and a certain geography, as I diagrammed the fence and cross fence for the pastures, it occurred to me that sometimes, ranchers and farmers need to keep the coyotes out of the chickens. And so, I discovered the online world of hunting commentary and philosophy. I hadn’t picked up Field & Stream in 25 years and I thought Sports Afield was still a magazine. I was gobsmacked by how many people were writing about hunting and sustainability and maybe even more gabbed and smacked by how much quality writing there was – talking to you, Phillip.
At the time, the Winchester Model 70 was dying or dead and Thompson Center had decided to enter the bolt action market with a wholly new rifle, the Icon. It was going to be a tour-de-force of the best designs from hunting and tactical bolt action engineers. It would be more expensive than the other American rifles, except for Weatherby’s Mark V, but it would have a flat bottom receiver, three integral lugs locking into an aluminum brace inside the stock, an integrated Weaver mount, a special rifling pattern, a 60 degree bolt throw, and a carbon/walnut stock that would blow your mind.
But what caliber?
What’s that expression? Beware the person who hunts with one rifle? I don’t remember how that one goes. I wanted to have an all around rifle is what I’m saying. But I had an imaginary farm coming together and those aren’t cheap. And I had a real wife who preferred Chanel to Gucci and Jimmy Choo to Stuart Weitzman, and blah blah blah, materialism. So, I didn’t just want, I needed whatever Icon I bought to do everything.
Enter the Chuck Hawks’ site: I read cartridge comparisons for hours, days, probably weeks. I convinced myself that I was recoil shy and started narrowing down the do-everything cartridges accordingly.
I decided upon the 7mm-08. Many articles sing it’s praises. I won’t. To me, it’s like a Notre Dame quarterback: no need to celebrate, everybody expects greatness; be classy, toss the ball to the ref and jog on.
But Thompson Center did not make the Icon in 7mm-08.
So, I kept reading the net and building my farm in the air about my head. For a year.
Then Lipsey’s, a distributor out of Lousiana, I think, commissioned an Icon in 7mm-08. It had all the special features and the impervious Weathershield metal to boot. And there was joy. I ordered two, one for a client. I took the rifle to the range, and took it hunting, and I showed it to my police clients, and it shot lights out, and I loved it. And my rifle shopping days were put-a-fork-in-it-done.
But then I found GunBroker.com. And Thompson/Center sold itself to Smith & Wesson. And Smith & Wesson announced it was moving Thompson Center out of its forge in New Hampshire and taking it south to Massachusetts.
So, one day late in 2011, I was looking at Gunbroker and some gun shop in Wisconsin had a bunch of new-in-box, New Hampshire-forged Icons, the kind with all the fancy features except the mind blowing stock, and they were priced so stupidly low I figured I’d bid and goose up his eventual sale. Kind of like making the low bid at a charity auction. I wanted the fun of gambling without exposure. But I won.
I was able to send the barrel to Mag-Na-Port and top it with the same scope I have on the 7mm-08 for the rifle’s 2008 retail price. And, since it had the same stock and scope geometry as the 7mm-08, I was still sort of that one-rifle hunter. The wood on it was pretty nice and grainy. It had nice checkering. It’s barrel was black, rather than blue, and matched the scope nicely. It had a Decelerator recoil pad and, with the little Mag-Na-Ports, it kicked exactly like the 7mm-08. The only problem was that the stock broke in a straight front-to-back line under the bolt handle. I figured somebody dropped it while I was away or the zipper on the case had scratched it somehow. I went three times to the range before I realized (thanks to the range master) that the stock wood had become proud along the scratch.
So now, to Smith & Wesson. On October 16 of this year, almost two years after I bought the rifle and eight months after the scratch appeared, I finally understood that the scratch had never been a scratch. I e-mailed in a rush, explaining that elk season was two days away, all about the scratch that grew, the range master asking to see the rifle, and the on-hand gunsmith echoing the range master’s diagnosis. S&W wordlessly sent me a shipping label. There were no questions about how the rifle had been stored since January 2012. No questions about how I’d shipped it to Mag-Na-Port. No questions at all. I drove over to FedEx and mailed it. Several days later FedEx told me it had been delivered. Then nothing. I was sure I’d get a call or an e-mail asking me how many times I’d fired it, whether my safe is humidity controlled, whether I really expected new warranty work two years after buying the rifle. I expected some kind of question making me defend my warranty demand. But I heard nothing till yesterday when the rifle came back with a brand new walnut stock, same checkering, new Decelerator. It might even be a little nicer.
Now, just for the record, the rifle spent its first fourteen months in a safe that has humidity control (Phoenix, Arizona has no humidity anyway) and went to the range only three times after its initial storage. So I had answers had S&W asked, but clearly, getting my rifle right was the concern for them, not my proofs.
S&W has had its PR issues. But not with me.
Thanks, Smith & Wesson. Your customer service is terrific.