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How to fail in the firearms business

It isn’t hard to destroy a business in the current economy, but if you really want to excel at failing, take the example provided by MKS Supply, distributor for Chiappa Firearms.

In one incredibly insulting and ignorant press release, MKS Supply has destroyed any goodwill the company may have built up over the years.

It seems Chiappa was using RFID tracking chips in its revolvers, which brought up privacy concerns for a number of shooters and bloggers. Instead of addressing the issue by explaining the use of the technology and attempting to hold a dialogue with concerned parties, MKS instead insulted those worried about the improper use of this technology by portraying them as unhinged conspiracy theorists:

BOTTOM LINE: The Chiappa PASSIVE RFID can be read ONLY when passed within (2-3 inches) of an active(and powered) reader that is dialed in for the particular long antenna radio frequency of the RFID-this is not random. And it will NOT go into operation for a year or more.

SUMMARIZING: RFIDs have NO power source or GPS locator. Rest assured they are NOT transmitting your identification and location information to a Chiappa Firearm tasked CIA satellite.

RFID Removal: For those still concerned you can simply remove the grip cover and remove the hot glued RFID from the frame in the grip area when (over a year from now) these begin to appear.

Others may prefer to wrap the revolver and their head in aluminum foil, curl in a ball and watch reruns of Mel Gibson’s 1997 film, Conspiracy Theory. Well, that’s a plan too!

As it turns out, MKS was not only arrogant and dismissive, but wrong. Passive RFID can be read from hundreds of feet–or even as far as 1000 feet–not just 2-3 inches as they claimed.

MKS Supply took what should have been a minor public relations headache and turned it to a disaster for both themselves and Chiappa. If I were Chiappa, I’d quickly fire MKS Supply as my U.S. Distributor with an angry and public denunciation, and if I was one of MKS Supply’s other clients, such as Hi-Point, I’d be looking for more mature and stable representation.

MKS Supply has really damaged their reputation here, and with so much competition in this market, I’d be mildly surprised if they manage to survive their flippant dismissal of legitimate customer concerns.

Posted in News.

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FIRST LOOK: New modular double-stack Detonics 1911

click to see full size

You are having an exclusive first look at the fully-functioning pre-production Detonics modular 1911 pistol, featuring a contoured double-stacked grip. The weapon had such a secret development, that this is the first picture of them released.

Posted in Handguns.

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Shooting the Templar Custom MCWS in 6.5 Grendel

We had fun with the 50 Beowulf and the standard 5.56 (actually, 223 Wylde) barrels, but I was most impressed by the chambering I hadn’t shot before, the 6.5 Grendel.

A six inch target at 150 yards is pretty decent for a HWS with 40-year-old eyes, and I hit it with disgusting regularity. I suspect that with a halfway decent scope mounted, I could easily transfer those 150 yard hits into 300 yard hits, and given a larger target, perhaps extend that range even further.

Posted in Rifles, Testing.

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Beating the crap out of a full-auto 50 Beowulf

Bob Reynolds of Templar Custom asked me to bang-test a 50 Beowolf he had to see how solid the new Templar handguard  design was.

I kinda wussed it (even when you are told to do so, it feels wrong to beat the crap out of a $2,000 gun), and well, you can laugh at my n00bness as much as you want.

Cool thing about a full-auto 50 Beowulf? No recoil at all.

Posted in Rifles, Testing.

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An IFAK could save your life

I’ve pushed these before as a concept, and I’m going to keep after it until I’ve blue in the face. Individual First Aid Kits (IFAKs) were developed by the military so that injured soldiers can treat the most common battlefield injuries.

You know who else is around guns a lot? Shooters.

Now, most of us are very careful and conscientious with our firearms, but life is messy, and sometimes bad things happen. It’s blessedly rare, but guns suffer catastrophic failures, and people have lapses in judgement.

So listen the former SEAL medic and the research director.

Who knows… maybe you could be a hero to someone one day.

Posted in Gear.

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Another Fast and Furious smoking gun

An internal ATF email discussing the use of "walked" firearms to support gun reporting initiatives. (click to embiggenate)

This is one of several emails (PDF) released yesterday by Congressman Issa and Senator Grassley showing that senior ATF agents hoped to use the weapons they allowed to be smuggled into Mexico to influence gun policy here in the United States.

William Newell, the ATF attache to Mexico, is one of those cited in the email.

Newell has not gone to Mexico since Fast and Furious broke,  fearing felony arrest and prosecution as an accessory.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Templar Custom Multi-Caliber Weapons System (MCWS)

I made it to the range this past weekend with Bob Reynolds of Templar Custom Firearms of Apex, NC. We were going to abuse the crap out of one of his rifles, and shoot another for a Shooting Illustrated article.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Some of you may have seen me shoot Bob’s six-pound full-auto 50 Beowulf last year on YouTube. It is a monster, to put it mildly, as you might expect from a rifle that is more or less the equivalent of a .45/70 machine gun fired out of a package that weighs about half as much as a Thompson SMG. Why fire a 50 Beowulf with a 12.5″ barrel on full auto? Sir, I submit to you that the answer is “Why not?”

Bob wanted me to take that same rifle and torture test it with the final pre-production sample of his new FastRail. Quick description:

14″ Templar FastRail system

  •  Extruded 6061 T111 aircraft grade aluminum
  •  Center is counter-bored to ensure exact concentricity and alignment with mil standard uppers
  •  14″ hand guard weighs in at 18oz
  •  43-45RC 3 black oxidized Templar barrel nut “3 for this configuration”
  •  1 swivel sling stud
  •  1 case hardened black oxide barrel tool and 5/32 allen wrench

How did we torture test it?

Other than two of us standing on it at the same time (estimated: 400 lbs), Bob nailed the sling strap to the the side of the two-story shooting tower at the range, and proceeded to swing it into the telephone poles that made up it’s base. The aluminum rail chewed up the telephone pole–Bob has some video somewhere of creosote-soaked splinters flying–but the rail suffered no damage other than some scuff marks.

I then repeated Bob’s smash test, and then I loaded the rifle and emptied the magazine. Even after the abuse and  shooting something as intense as a 50 Beowulf, the handguard didn’t move at all.

We them put that rifle away, and broke out the Templar Custom MCWS.

Templar Custom MCWS in "Desert Snake" trim

This rifle is semi-auto, (meaning we can have them) and comes in a package with 3 barrel  assemblies in .223 Wylde, 6.5 Grendel, and 50 Beowulf.

Here’s a photo of Bob about to sight in the EOTech using the 6.5 Grendel barrel. The 50 Beowulf and .223 Wylde are on the bench. I’ll let you guess which is which.

And finally, yours truly being the “bad example,” posing with an empty rifle (by this point we have the .223 Wylde installed) without wearing eye or ear protection.

How did the range session go?

You’ll have to wait until the article posts at in August to find out!


Posted in Rifles, Testing.

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How to market a small firearms industry company on the cheap

I’m not normal a marketing blogger, but I had a fascinating conversation this morning with Dennis Badurina that I thought would be worth sharing with upstart manufacturers in the shooting sports industry.

If you aren’t familiar with Dennis by name, you might have heard of his company, Dragon Leatherworks, which makes a seven-product line of high quality, customized and affordable holsters, including the Talon photo I filched from his site that you see to the left.

Click around the Dragon Leatherworks site, and you’ll see that almost every product has been reviewed by well-known gun bloggers.

Curious about this, I sent Dennis an email last night, asking him how a one-man shop like his can get so many holsters into the hands of so many well-known gun bloggers. Dragon has been around less than two years, but has received a lot of good PR from people who have opinions that matter to gunnies.

Dennis responded by calling me this morning, a bit puzzled by my question, and then after I clarified myself, he launched into a wonderful explanation of how he’d managed to get his name out there, even without a marketing budget. I apologize to Dennis in advance if I forget any of the nuances of our call, but here is is the best my memory serves me.

When he first started DLW and wanted to market his products, he did so by posting in gun forums, but found that the time he spent on those forums just wasn’t a good return on his investment. He was spending too much time he could have used to build holsters trying to get his name out there, and wasn’t generating the business he’d hoped.

Luckily for Dennis, his brother is one of “my people,” a web designer that understood the drawing power of blogs. He helped Dennis build is site, and started reaching out to bloggers that he thought might have an interest in his products, starting with Jay G. of MArooned.  that led to this review, and then another, and before you know it, Dragon Leatherworks was generating decent web traffic and a profit, based solely on the marketing he’s done by having bloggers try his holsters and post their reviews.

I think the first review I saw of a Dragon holster was the one Brigid posted, and the most recent one was Breda’s. It’s the kind of word-of-mouth advertising that sticks a lot better than paid advertising, and in retrospect, it shocks me that more people have gone the route Dennis has with Dragon Leatherworks.

If you have a product you want to market, and don’t have a substantial marketing budget, get that product into the hands of people who can amplify your message. Having a great product is wonderful, but if people don’t hear about it, how can they buy it?

Dennis did his homework, and asked specific bloggers to review specific products that he thought they would appreciate. For example, he would offer concealable holsters to bloggers who concealed carry, but he made sure that when he was talking to outspoken open carry advocates, that they got his OWB holsters.

Note that Dennis targeted his audience; a broadcast approach to anyone and everyone is going to backfire. You’ll either get tepid reviews from people who weren’t all that jazzed about your kind of product in the first place, or you won’t get anything in  response at all.

While not all gun bloggers are interested in doing reviews, and some might be interested in reviewing only specific kinds of products, I think companies would be amazed at the kind of online buzz they could generate by simply taking the time to learn which gun bloggers are interested in which topics, and offering to send them a product for review.

Your investment? The time it takes to find gun bloggers that are most likely to be excited about your product line, and the shipping costs/product costs involved in sending the item out to bloggers for review.

It may sound simplistic, but it is amazing how few industry companies are missing out on using this variant of the tried-and-true, word-of-mouth approach.

Posted in Uncategorized.

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New toy: Eagle by Armalite M15A2

While I really love my BCM Mid-16 Mod 2, I’ve always wanted a full-size AR with the 20-inch barrel. Shooting a full-auto M16A1 at the Lucky Gunner shoot on an occasion (or three) only added fuel to the fire.

I really like the historical lines of the A1 configuration with the triangular handguard, and was in my local shop about to order a Century Arms in that configuration when I happened to glance up and see a $750 Eagle Arms by Armalite M15A2.

It wasn’t the A1 configuration I’d planned on, but the lines of the A2 were very nice, so home it came. Based on what I’ve read from other owners it seems to be a solid, accurate gun, and I can’t wait to get it to the range.


Posted in Rifles.

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ATF’s Melson talks

I’m not quite sure how I missed this, but it seems Congressman Darrell Issa and Senator Charles Grassley have outmaneuvered the Obama Justice Department, and have already interviewed acting ATF director Ken Melson, leading to some bombshell developments, including the revelation that the FBI and DEA were not only a part of the operation, but that they kept ATF in the dark about certain aspects of the operation, and may have even been financing the weapons purchases.

Financing narco-terrorism and providing their weapons with a sometimes literal (if covert) police escort to the border seems like grounds for impeachment and criminal charges in both the United States and Mexico.

Read Issa and Grassley’s July 5 letter to the Attorney General (PDF).

Damning stuff.

Posted in Crime.