You may have seen the recent news that Amazon is giving refunds to customers who purchased potentially fake solar eclipse glasses to view the eclipse. Many people fear that their eyesight might have been damaged by looking at the sun through these glasses.
Because of the attention that the eclipse got, and because of the potentially serious harm caused by these fake glasses, the story got a lot of attention. However, it’s also highlighted a more serious and ongoing problem with fake sellers on Amazon.
In truth, there have been counterfeit products sold on Amazon since the website was set up. Many sellers make a good living from passing off fake products as real ones. For some items, this is not so much of a problem, because consumers can actually benefit from lower prices.
However, for some products buying fake items can be really dangerous. Nowhere is this more true than for items sold to shooters. If you are buying accessories for your gun, you need to make sure they perform well and adhere to all the relevant standards. Firearms, after all, are inherently dangerous items, and the consequences of your accessories failing can be very serious.
The Scale Of The Problem
The sheer number of fake items on Amazon might surprise you. Amazon tries to keep data about fake sellers secret, of course, and so statistics on the scale of the problem are hard to find. However, some have suggested that over 70% of the products sold by third-party sellers on Amazon are fake.
That’s right, 70%.
The problem is largely contained to third-party sellers. These are users who buy products elsewhere, and then sell them on Amazon for profit. A lot of these users buy their products from Chinese versions of Amazon, like Alibaba or AliExpress, and then list them on Amazon. Many of these products are fake Chinese copies of Western products.
The problem has grown so large partially because of Amazon’s lack of screening for fake products. Setting up a third-party account on Amazon is super easy, and Amazon do very little to vet the people who set them up.
The other problem is that many fake products fall into a legal gray area. If a product is copied in China, and then sold under a similar but very slightly different brand name, the US authorities have no power to stop it being sold in the US.
In addition, fake products can be sold on Amazon as long as they don’t infringe copyright. In practice, what this means is that many products are listed as made by a “generic” brand, and are therefore totally legal.
Amazon’s defense here is that they are merely facilitating people buying and selling products between themselves. In the absence of gross copyright violations, therefore, the responsibility for spotting fake products lies with the consumer. That’s you.
Why It Matters For Shooters
For many products you might want to buy on Amazon, buying a fake item is not going to be a huge problem. In fact, I’ve bought some items that I knew to be fake because they were cheaper, and didn’t have to “perform” particularly well.
For the products I buy for shooting, though, I would never do this. Using a firearm can be safe if done properly, but you need to remember that guns are inherently dangerous, and require respect. Part of this is having the correct, reliable accessories.
The hazards of buying fake accessories for your firearm can be very serious. The one that everybody thinks of first is your holster. It’s true that if your holster doesn’t fit your gun properly, it can potentially fall out, potentially go off, and potentially shoot you.
But there are also more mundane dangers. Bear in mind that there are very strict laws when it comes to eye and ear protection for hunting, and that fake products are probably not going to conform to them. Worse, you might not notice damage to your hearing until it has already happened.
Spotting Fake Products
In some ways, spotting fake products is pretty easy, if you know what you’re doing. If a product is much less expensive than it should be, then be suspicious. If a seller has a low review rating (less than 3.5), be very cautious. And always look for the seller’s name – if it is listed as “generic”, then the product you are looking at is most likely fake.
Remember that every time you go out shooting you are putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation, so don’t compromise on the gear you take with you.