What’s up guys, Dave here from F4 Defense.
This is the first blog post of a series I’m going to write about our experiences as a new AR15 Rifle company in the gun manufacturing world, along with the challenges all businesses face and how we navigated our way around, over, or through and position ourselves to enter the market.
The F4 Defense blog will have one purpose: share our stories, knowledge, tips, tricks, pitfalls, successes and setbacks about what it’s like to start a company in the gun manufacturing world. We are in the same position as so many companies before us and feel blessed to be given the opportunity to enter a market that is so important to us personally. I hope you’ll enjoy, ask questions, make comments, and follow along as we write about what we’ve been up to and experienced in the past year, and follow along as we design, prototype, test, market, and release new products leading into SHOT 2018 and beyond.
Where to start?
When researching and exploring entry into this market we did all the textbook business plans, market and competitor analysis, etc. But what we really wanted and needed—was an inside look at the manufacturing of firearms. We researched online, got into SHOT show, started building crucial relationships, and asked a lot of questions. During our research we found that there was very little information on the inside operation in the industry; even something as simple as how they build their rifles. Jon Patton of The Gun Collective fame produced and released the first video that I’ve seen, which details the assembly line at Daniel Defense. We have been building, testing, and shooting the AR platform for years but were still very curious to see how successful companies operate.
We realized that in order to succeed we needed to take a look at how many other manufacturers fabricate firearms in-house. Surprisingly, there were a ton of successful companies that outsource the fabrication of parts. We looked at multiple machine shops that manufacture firearms and took bits and pieces from each one to figure out the best way for us to provide our customers the best rifles possible. From a design and test perspective we have an extremely talented team of engineers; however, we also needed to aggressively attack the machining side of the equation. Even though we are outsourcing to an American OEM, we still sought to learn every possible thing about the entire process.
This blog is designed and intended to bring some of the burning questions I wanted to be answered when starting a new company to the surface so that you can learn from my mistakes and successes. Whether you are contemplating a new business venture, or want a look behind the curtain that is the firearms industry or just curious about the industry in general, then follow along to see our growth and perspective in this industry as a new business.
We’ve put this list together on what we feel are some of the most important steps in the process, but it’s certainly not the only way to build a new company, its just a list of what all companies deal with entering the market.
- Market analysis, product assessment, and entry barriers
- The advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing
- Finding and evaluating a machine shop
- Finding and evaluating an extruder
- Rifle building process, testing, and standards
- Choosing companies to align with and what parts to use that we don’t currently design (i.e. barrels, stocks, grips, etc.)
- 3D Printing in metal and plastics
- Finding a mentor
- Marketing budget and balancing money spent on traditional marketing versus social media
- Research and Development
- Lessons Learned
- Customer Service
As we get going…
As we get going, if there’s something we’ve experienced and can speak to—we certainly will. We would also love to hear your thoughts on the whole idea behind this blog, of sharing our experiences with all of you that either want to enter the market or are just curious of what goes into the startup of a small business manufacturing small arms.
None of this would be remotely possible without living in the greatest country to ever exist. America and its capitalistic backbone allow the little guy to take a shot at success and that’s something we’ve never taken for granted and never will.
In the next post, I’ll write about how we went about finding a machine shop and the obstacles we’ve overcome.
Thanks for checking out our Blog and please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and opinions on any of these topics or any topics not listed.
Dave Fairfax, COO