Recently, Gunbroker has been offering trial memberships to a site called Sheepdog Society, a branch of LegallyConcealed which seeks to set up an online resource for all things armed citizen. They advertise videos, an audiobook and articles covering topics ranging from home defense myths to coverage of a SWAT team training. As part of the introductory deal, potential customers get a two-week access membership to the site and for $7-ish shipping you get a free karambit knife. At the end of the two week trial you can keep the knife and choose to cancel or continue the membership at $19.99 per month.
Good, bad, or ugly? Well, it’s a little of all of them…
The Site and Content
Let’s touch on the price point first, because it’s really the point of contention. I pay less for my smartphone plan than they want customers to pony up for accessing their video archive. No bueno, for me at least. I’ve become a fan of Panteao Productions’ work, which comes in at a more reasonable $15/month, and provides a significantly larger archive along with a la carte hard copy DVDs as an option. I don’t feel that any amount of video content can justify the price Sheepdog Society is asking, and frankly their archive consists of about 12-15 hours of content right now (90% of which is one product) which would barely qualify for a single $15/month subscription to me personally.
In the two week trial I watched maybe an hour or two of the available content, chiefly from the Gunfight Survival video package involving instructor EJ Owens working with a group of SWAT officers. Video quality was solid, and the entire production seemed much less heavily edited than say Magpul Dynamics. A negative of this is that it may reflect poorly on their production value to some people, but as a plus I feel it makes the content seem less trumped up or staged.
During the course of my occasional watching over a couple evenings, I ran into a frustrating amount of video problems on their host’s end, typically messages like “there has been an error with the video, please try again later”. This led me to having to reload pages multiple times, pin down the video segment I was on and jump around finding where I left off before the errors. I certainly hope their subscription fees can go towards better video serving. The playlist design of their video player was usable but irritating, as the list would scroll based on your mouse pointer position rather than a normal scrolling content block on the site, and would pop up information when rolled over instead of simply showing video length below the title.
Along with the difficulty in navigating the videos, I was unable to find any of the advertised reports, magazine copies, or anything besides the videos and the mp3 copy of the home defense audiobook. I’m somewhat disappointed to have been unable to sample those, given they make up a good portion of the advertised content with promises of continuing publication of new articles, etc.
Technical issues aside, EJ Owens seems to be a good guy who thinks outside the box. I was impressed by his “morning drill” in which all the SWAT guys who spent the previous day busting their rumps in the shoot house were put on the spot to unpack their gear, suit up and take a shot on short notice under pressure. He was definitely able to flip the switch between hard-ass and putting pressure on the guys and dialing it back to explain the purpose of his drills clearly. His obvious focus on safety was clear from the very start, which everyone in the gun world should appreciate.
At the end of the trial I’ve mostly been left frustrated that the price of admission is egregiously high. I would gladly throw ten or fifteen dollars at them to watch the rest of the Gunfight series and check out the rest of the content I was unable to sample because of my schedule. They’ve got some real potential, but right now their business model is killing it.
Here’s what you get for about seven bucks shipping:
Not very impressive. Everything about this knife screams Wal-Mart or the rotating cheapo knife rack at Tractor Supply Co.
Mystery metal blade, made in China naturally, with cheap plastic scales and an embarassingly dinky liner lock pictured below. The lightest duty knife I own is a Kershaw Chill, the liner of which is approximately 0.040″ thick. The karambit provided by Sheepdog Society is only about eight thousandths thicker.
It should be no surprise that the blade barely has what could be called a sharpened edge, while the grind on the blade is rough and clearly visible. The bevel is grossly uneven and hardly touches the tip and heel of the edge.
All in all, it’s a cheap karambit that you could round over and use for training exercises, probably. Frankly it’s what I expected for essentially free, so that’s fair enough.
I do have one bone to pick though with the way the trial and knife are marketed. If you go watch the offer video here, and you’ll run into a wall of intentionally vague marketing speak when it comes to the knife above. They go so far as to claim that “similar knives” sell for “as much as $129”, which is true insofar as quality karambit knives (or knives in general) are pricey. The implication, however, is that the knife they’re sending to you is in any way comparable to a high quality fighting karambit which could not be any further from the truth.
Another thing to bring up is that Sheepdog Society claims they had these knives custom made. They’re so custom made that the exact same knife is sold as a training aid direct from China via wholesale services such as DHGate under various names including “Fox Claw” and “QTR-Z Karambit”. The only thing custom about it is the cheesy lettering and their logo on the blade.
Finally just to pick on their marketing a bit more, the knife is not in any way “discreetly shipped” because the sender is clearly identified as LegallyConcealed. No one could possibly expect a weapon to be contained in a package sent from LegallyConcealed…
Parting shot: their Move, Shoot, Live video’s digital box art uses the Star Wars title font.
Keep working on it, EJ. Fix the technical issues, revamp the business model, and be a lot more honest about the made in China knives you’re handing out and you’ll draw much more interest. For now though, I’ll stick to Panteao Productions for my gun video needs and spend a whole lot less for a whole lot more.