If movies with a David-beats-Goliath theme were based on reality, Hollywood writers could find a bumper crop of story ideas in gun companies. How do small businesses thrive in the firearm industry? Here the American Dream is alive and well, even after COVID-19, and I caught up to a few of the others and asked them to provide some insight.
Firearm enthusiasts expect top performance from their gear, and those rigorous demands pave the way for small or startup businesses that offer quality products. That’s not to say it’s easy. Profit margins are tight, competition is fierce and there are those unexpected fads/political winds/pandemics that blow in with hurricane force periodically.
Reliability and longevity are weighted heavily when it comes to shooter purchases, though, and experimental and trendy often fail when they meet lead, gun powder and smoke. It’s got to work, regardless of abuse and relative neglect. If a TV goes down during The Walking Dead, there’s always reruns, but there’s no pause button on a handgun that malfunctions during a home invasion.
Companies with the endemic knowledge to keep the enthusiast and their requirements in mind continue to launch and thrive. Here are a few, of different flavors, I caught up to recently.
Greg Bond founded Bond Arms in 1995 when he rolled out a derringer-style handgun designed for bad-breath-distances. His brother, Gordon, bought the company from him and took over in 2007, when it only had three full-time employees. Today’s staff size is almost 30.
Gordon explains part of the reason for the growth is the way they, “Updated features on a very old design that brought the derringer into the 21st Century by making it bigger, with stainless steel, more substantial to handle the bigger calibers, with unique patented safety features…” Add the fact that you can swap barrels to make it into different configurations in multiple chamberings and it’s a rugged, reliable pocket Transformer. The Snake Slayer, “…the first gun we did with our unique extended grip and people loved the way it felt in their hands,” was the big break, according to him.
The company never rests on its laurels, though. It released a new Grizzly in January.
Tactical Walls was founded in 2012 with two employees, a number that has grown to 27. Sales in that time have increased 733 percent.
Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Chris Wood explained a solid understanding of the industry is key. “Tim Matter [founder] and I are both huge Second Amendment supporters and have been active firearms enthusiasts for years,” he said. “This was an industry we felt very comfortable in, even though we weren’t actually making a firearm.”
The success this far hinges on innovation and dedication to customer service, he said, and “I think we have found a number of really elegant and practical ways to solve a problem that a lot of people have had to deal with.” If you haven’t seen their eloquent “hidden in plain sight” solutions, take a close look at the 1450M, the product/service he credits with getting things rolling.
Heizer Aerospace launched in 1962, but it didn’t spin off Heizer Defense until 2011 with 5 staff members. Today more than 75 people work there.
Vice President of Sales and Marketing Eric Polkis explained why the company started making firearms. “Due to the ups and downs of the aerospace industry and the family’s love of firearms, we decided to diversify into the firearms market,” he said. “Plus, our founder, Charlie Heizer—who was raised in Hungary during World War II—saw the effects of firearm confiscation under German and Soviet occupation.”
What sets its guns apart is, “All-metal construction, using aerospace-grade metals, built to aerospace standards,” Polkis said. The Pocket Pistol Family had driven much of the manufacturer’s growth.
Lucid Optics was founded in 2009 by Jason Wilson, the sole employee at the time, and today he’s been joined by another ten or so staff members. Sales growth has averaged 300 percent, year to year, and scopes that’ve primarily fueled that increase are the HD7 Red Dot Sight and the L5 Rifle Scope. “The key for us here at Lucid Optics is quality products designed for shooters by shooters, and customer service second to none,” he said.
The “news of the demise of the American Dream” is greatly exaggerated, even after shelter-in-place orders are lifted for COVID-19. How do small businesses thrive in the firearm industry? These companies shared their secrets to success—with any luck I’ll catch up to a few more in the future.
If you have any tips, share them as a comment….In the meantime, thank you for visiting my website, and I hope you have a glorious day.