The Multitool Fallacy (but wait, there's more !)
First the positive : I carry a small quality multitool (Leatherman Juice CS4) with me and did so for the last 14 years. It has proven to be helpful now and then to do small, improvised repairs. I intend to carry it for another 14 years, since that little thing is durable.
Do I use it for something else than impromptu repairs ? Actually, I do use its perfect-sized screwdrivers to disassemble my cap & ball revolver, and on some other occasions on other firearms. So there's that. For anything else around the house, I have regular tools.
The Mutlitool Fallacy is the belief that all you need is a multitool. Actually, this way of reasoning goes beyond multitools, I will provide firearms and other examples below.
It used to be that useful mutlitools were relatively expensive, there have been improvements to that regard, and there are now good middle-range multitools available (and expensive ones are not necessarily good either).
A multitool is designed for small repairs and its main argument is that it is portable. That's it. In essence, they are foldable pliers with some Swiss knife stuff added wherever there is some space left.
In each functionality, any multitool will always be inferior to an entry-level tool (I'm excluding Chinese crap Tools In Name Only (TINO) here), and a good quality multitool is costing more than the sum of individual tools it encompasses.
This is why a multitool is a niche product. They exist since at least the Roman Empire ( ), so maybe they're also a sign of decadence :) Many people own one, but it should not be considered above its actual usefulness.
The definitive downside of a multitool is that you don't want to abuse them, although tools are made to be abused. If you break you 5 $ pliers you buy another pair, if you break the pliers on your Leatherman (or warp the handles) you can basically toss the thing away.
The “but wait there's more !” in the article's title refers to the kind of feature creep you find of inferior products in a desperate attempt to sex it up to the uninformed and the stupid (spoilers : it
works). Some examples : the tiny plastic magnifying glass or the infamous button compasses that doesn't work.
A firearms equivalent of a multitool is the M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon. It has its use, for instance if you're hiking or you're flying in a small aircraft (who knows ?). The Chiappa X-Caliber weapon sells for 688 $ but it includes eight 12ga adapters for following calibers : .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, .38 Special/.357 Magnum, .40 S&W, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, .410/.45 Long Colt, .20 Gauge
You can buy only the conversion kit for 268 $ ( )
This means the weapon without the conversion kit costs 420 $. I don't say that the weapon is useless, even in a survivalist perspective, but that's a lot of money for a lowly combination hunting gun. For about half the price of the package I could buy a 99 $ Wal-Mart single shotgun and the conversion kit alone, or for under 15% of the price of the package only the single shotgun.
What inspired me to write this article is an afternoon spent at the shooting range with a guy who owns a crappy combination hunting gun that sometimes doesn't break open. It turns out he loses the zero of either his red-dot scope or his hunting scope whenever he switches them. This could be (only partially) mitigated by buying quite expensive scope bases instead of the half-assed entry-level crap he uses.
Side note : actually chinese crap is a blessing for some manufacturers who can afford to decrease the quality of their products because no matter what it'll be better than pot iron products from Confucius Central.
For what he spent one a single “multitool” firearm he could have purchased a scoped break-action rifle for 399 € ( ) and a single-shot shot gun for 179 € ( ) , a total of 578 € (new !) rather than a second-hand combination gun for 700 € and a second-hand 150 € scope and endless frustration.
The final part of this article is about ourselves. As with everybody who lives in a dysfunctional society, Westerners are obsessed with being badasses, which make them automatically wusses in the first place (really it's like that kid who wants to have a toy gun so he can feel powerful).
So we have ludicrous macho stuff like the “Heinlein List” ( ) of stuff a single human being should be able to do, and ending with “specialization is for insects”.
On his list you'll find “program a computer” as well as “change diapers”. If only Billy Mays was still among us he could read that list with an Oxy Clean voice and then add : “but wait ! There's more !” ( )
Yuppie survivalists think they have to do it all by themselves. You can do a lot of low-skill stuff by yourself, and already that is not so easy. Surviving the looming collapse is not about knowing how to butcher a hog or start a fire in the wilderness. At all.
The reality is, we all specialize, and because we specialize, we actually get better at other stuff than people who don't specialize. Having an experience of success in a complex endeavour (setting up a business for instance) teaches you efficiency and also how to subcontract the stuff that is critical to a specialist.
The contrary of that is Bubba, who'll lose his hand because he messed up with the gun and had no notion of what he was doing. In a functioning society, you have a lot of specialists, who do their job well, you depend upon them as they depend upon you. Yes, this sounds a lot like a beehive or anthill. Ask any Heinlein wanabee if he wants to receive surgery from a specialist or a non-specialist.
A society of multitools is going to suck and be frail, a society of dedicated tools is more resilient but less adaptative. It's all about the right mix.