It's Not The Hands That Hold It
In my conversations about bits and their varying severity, I am often met by the following notion: "A bit is only as harsh as the hands that hold it". I'm here to challenge that phrase.
First, I'm going to say that you cannot judge a piece of equipment by how it behaves in incapable hands. Incapable hands can, of course, lead to damage in even the mildest of bits. This leads me to my second point.
Comparing an inexperienced rider with a mild bit to an experienced rider with a strong bit is comparing apples to oranges. You are not comparing bit strength in this circumstance. You are comparing the ability of the rider. If inexperienced hands were the only factor in bit severity, every beginner would start in a rubber snaffle and progress from there. Clearly this is not the case, which leads me to my third point.
Some bits are inherently stronger and harsher than others. To make this point more clear, I have drawn up a metaphor in the image above. Imagine a chef needs to slice a steak, and is given both a serrated steak knife and a butter knife to do so with. If he were to attempt to cut the steak with a butter knife, he would likely have to apply a massive amount of force to have much effect at all on the meat. Likewise, if he used the steak knife, it would easily cut away what he needed. Hypothetically, he is able to accomplish the job with both knives with different amounts of force. If he had to apply the same force and technique to each knife, however, the steak knife is inherently "stronger" in its meat-cutting capabilities. The same goes for bits. A massively leveraged wire bit is inherently stronger and harsher on a horse's mouth than a rubber French link snaffle, no matter the hands that are holding it.
I hope this serves to clear up any confusion as to how to successfully compare the strengths of bits. As always, helpful and positive discussion is welcome, but negative or hateful comments will be deleted. Thanks!