A few weeks ago, I was flown down to take a tour of the Advanced Armament Corp. factory, meet their employees, and test out their stuff. You’ve seen the results of that trip in the numerous reviews I’ve done over the past few weeks and the videos that I’ve posted. As much as it saddens me to say it, I’ve officially run out of content. There’s no more reviews to do, and no more videos to post. As a capstone to that trip, I’d like to present an interview with Kevin, the founder of AAC, where he discusses his business, their culture, their goals, and their interactions with Cerberus / Freedom Group. The interview lasted over an hour, and I recorded every second of it so I could quote him word for word when it was all over. Now, after many hours of transcription, I present that interview. The thing is MASSIVE, though, so for your ADD pleasure I’ve made the important points bold so you can skip to whatever topic piques your interest. Enjoy!

Kevin: For us, we’re growing 100% and it’s different [from other Cerberus companies] because all of our [expansion] relies on innovation and new products. We don’t sell guns to every gun store in America. 300 Blackout, which has turned out to be one of the biggest things going for this company, which we’re totally excited about, that was sort of an accident. Just like I value the relationships here, I have a personal relationship with everyone who works here, and with our customers on the military and government side it’s the same way. And those relationships lead to new products. They came to us about a new caliber and that’s where it started. The 300 whisper concept, we need to commercialize it and there are some things we need to fix with it. 300 Blackout was..

Foghorn: So how did 300 Blackout start? There were all sorts of calibers for intermediate stuff, 300 whisper has been out there…

Kevin: 300 Whisper has been out there… J.D. Jones… 300 whisper was a brilliant idea, he’s a brilliant dude, shoots really well. I think he’s typical of… There’s a correlation between, to me, his business style and big corporations.

If we want to go back to the beginning, his… I had…

You know, I started this company as a hobby, as something I believed in. The first time I shot a gun with a silencer I was a teenager, I didn’t understand why all guns weren’t suppressed for the military. So I started working on that ever since. I always believed in it. And it was a hobby, and then it got to “well, I’m making enough money, really as much money as if I got a real job,” and so then it was really a way for me… I wanted to accomplish stuff with silencers but I really worked hard because I didn’t want to have to get a job. It turned into something a few years later, […] it’s more money than I ever thought I would make and I wasn’t rich by any means but more money than I ever figured I would make. Then it was way more money than I could get working for anyone, and so at that point I sort of realized that we’re doing things right to some degree, and it would probably take me a while to carve a niche, and we’re going to get silencers in the Army, but I’ll sell the company probably when I’m 60 and retire and get like a few million bucks […], and this is going to provide me and my family with a good life. And then for this 7th year in a row we’ve grown 50 to 100 percent.

Starting about a year and a half to two years before Freedom Group came to me there were a couple other companies that I talked to that were interested in buying the company and one I almost sold to 11 months before I sold to Freedom Group. It was a company, one of the reasons I started our company, a company I really admire a lot, it’s a domestic company, and I just didn’t think it would work out long term because the guy that runs that company is the sole proprietor and he’s a micromanager. I just didn’t feel that that really fits my style that well, and it worked out good because I ended up selling for double 11 months later. So that part worked out good.

Freedom Group I had concerns about because it is a big company, a big corporation and that’s got its downsides. What it did give us was it was an American owned company, which was very important to me, because I really despise the fact that… FN, they make wonderful firearms. HK, they make wonderful firearms. But they’re foreign companies. I love this country, and to me, if you think in like simple terms that everyone can understand, if I get to form my own nation tomorrow and I’ve got people and resources and we grow to be the most powerful country in the world then you become the most hated (like we are) and you’re relying on other countries to make your small arms for your soldiers. It seems like a stupid idea to me. I don’t really like it, and our ownership, Steve Feinberg, founder of Cerberus, was in the 82nd Airborne, is a huge supporter of the military of this country, and it’s also important to him. He wants to make Remington the premiere firearms maker in the world. Remington is probably already that to some degree with hunters and whatnot, but military it’s a bolt-gun/shotgun thing and that’s all Remington really does. His 20 year plan is to make it where machine guns, like FN makes all of the machine guns for this country, where Remington or American companies are doing that. I would love to be a part of that, so that made a lot of sense to me.

He believed, and the guys under him really believe in silencers kind of being the future. We were the first strategic purchase they made, I think, like others they made because he wanted to be the largest AR maker or… Cerberus became very powerful and wealthy by buying companies that were in distress and turning them around. We were the first company (other than his AR companies) where that wasn’t the situation. We were growing 50 to 100 percent a year, the future looked huge for us, there’s not an established market… I’ve been really instrumental and several other people within our industry pushing it to the forefront with the army and really getting stuff to the point where finally silencers are really to the point now where it’s beneficial on every gun. It’s really our job now to educate the military on that and to make stuff small enough, light enough, tough enough, good enough to where every soldier demands to have it in combat, not just like their issued deployment kit or some useless shit that they’ll throw away – ancillary equipment that they don’t want, that they’re not willing to hike up a mountain with.

I was really fortunate to get in well and start supporting some of the tier one groups in this country. All of that stuff trickles down, they’re always 10 years ahead of everyone else, and so it gets to big army. It’s so wonderful having assets like that.

In this country, to me, I’ve always viewed NASA as one of these places too. Don’t look at NASA, as supporting it because we’re sending people into outer space because, while I think that’s cool, a lot of people don’t care about it or understand it. But the technology that, you know, we’re able to harness from that into our daily lives – whether it’s fiber optics or satellite technology or whatever the hell it is – it enhances our life. I, working with those groups and… They’re forward thinking, they have the autonomy to do whatever they want, have whatever equipment that they want, and to them it’s not like… Where if you break it down, this country has like a million dollars into whatever soldier (half a million dollars…) that’s like a number that you can put a dollar figure to where this is what we spend on training, blah blah blah, this is what it costs if this guy gets killed, with these other dudes it’s like 20 million dollars per soldier so you don’t want those guys dying and they get to have whatever they want.

Where we formed a good relationship with them was we won a few contracts and then I was very hungry. We weren’t SureFire or Knight’s Armament, these huge companies that put hundreds of millions of dollars in silencers. I wanted to be the best, and so I had to be more proactive and I had to work with them more and so I bent over backwards working with these groups, and you form these relationships. Organizations that will spend way more on testing than they actually buy because their numbers aren’t that big but they want the best stuff. When we would go there rather than making an excuse when one of our things didn’t work […] we said “okay, we take this testing, you’re letting us be a part of it, we realize where we need to improve and I’ll be back next week with it improved.” That’s why we’ve gotten to where we were. I couldn’t compete with SureFire or Knight’s Armament at their game, we had to be better. There is no way that we can beat SureFire with all the marketing and all the military sales people and all the shit that they have if we are not clearly better.

And that’s where we are; we have not lost a military contract that we’ve competed in that has been awarded in this country since 2006.

We don’t make one baffle design and put a different size through it and make it longer or shorter depending on the caliber. Every gun, every system that we do – and if you didn’t see it I can walk you through and show you examples – we start with “this is for a sniper rifle, give us your list of priorities, what is the most important thing that you want out of this, list them out” and that’s the way we’ll attack this. We’ll make you a silencer that is that. And I think the Titan QD, the .338 silencer, was the first real example of that because that was the first thing we were awarded after we lost a contract in ’06. That really turned the company around. I decided that I have a family now, and […] we gotta make some new stuff. And that’s when we completely redesigned everything. I decided not to hire salespeople, I hired brains and I hired welders. Silvers and Mike Smith came on full time and just brilliant people who only want to make silencers and want to make them the best. And we looked at where SureFire, Knights Armament companies were weak, and if money is not an object how to fix that. That’s where we attacked it.

What I realize is that, if it’s somebody like Robert Silvers who is essentially retired – he makes a lot of money off his art – and he loves the military, he loves firearms, and he wants to be involved. And he makes, you know, probably 1 percent or something of his money from us every year. Not much. And spends 99% of his time doing it because he loves what he’s doing. With somebody like that it’s… I recognize that if I micromanage him and force his thought process he’s not going to stay here. So I assign certain things to him, but overall it’s his job to come up with new shit for this company every year. It’s… A lot of it is unrestrained. He came to me with 300 Whisper. We weren’t working on ammo but it made sense to him. The best thing I’ve ever done was – there’s 20 or whatever 26 people or something like that – and I’m probably smarter than three of them. It’s really the best thing that I did. Lynsey started washing my cars when she was like fifteen and she runs our company. It’s always worked for me… When she got out of college I couldn’t wait for her to get here and that’s really when we turned shit around too. There’s three people who work here that were self-made millionaires before they were 30. You have to want to dominate, and to me our management style is very open minded – I have smart people, I recognize it, I make mistakes with them every day, I give people too much latitude and it bites me in the ass – but at the end I get a lot of stuff done. It’s one problem that I have with Remington that they want to micromanage a lot of shit and I understand that’s their money now and they’re a big company and it’s compliance or HR or whatever, all these other things that we don’t have complete control over.

Excuse me one second.

[Phone conversation redacted]

It’s one thing I struggle with them, and for Freedom Group or Cerberus or Remington, they give us a ton of autonomy. We’re actually under Remington Defense, we’re autonomous to a large degree with lots of things. But of course I always want more freedom and this is a struggle for them, but it’s kinda practice what I preach. It’s not like I want things like I want them to lease me a Ferarri or something, it’s like… I give my employees, and Robert Silver, I give him lots of latitude. He and I butt heads a lot, but I give him lots of latitude but I know he’s brilliant and I really respect him, and he’s not wrong a whole lot. He’s an odd dude, and he’s weird to work with, and he’s strange like most people that smart but I love him, and every year he comes up with an idea that makes this company a million bucks. Every year. […]  It was kind of a struggle when they first acquired us, and then, we had to sort of classify him and they wanted to put him at a certain pay scale and him to report and to be here and all this, and me trying to explain to them that to me, I own this business and I appreciate the money and understand how money is made and it’s like… What is our goal? It seems like the goal is for you guys to micromanage people and my goal is for us to make money. We do that differently than most of their factories, we do it through innovation, and our margin is really great.

And that’s not because silencer margins are necessarily huge, that’s because I was forward thinking. I, and Lyndsay as well, said “OK, we’re making 5,000 silencers a year. We’re going to be making 50,000 5 years from now. We need to be implementing stuff now to be able to accommodate that. So what’s the way to do it?” After you get over the initial investments, which a lot of companies could never afford – whether it’s a quarter of a million dollars or 70 grand, when you’re a small business that’s hard. I never took on financial debt, I always financed it myself. So if we made a million dollars in a year that’s how much shit we’ve got to buy with next year. Because I was afraid of having a lot of debt and overhead, and it’s hard to get a lot of financing when you’re in the gun industry. […] So what’s happened is I’ve made a lot of those initial investments three or four years ago and some of this stuff paid for itself in a few months and some in twelve months and now we just reap the benefits.

So for Rob, they really pressured me to handle him differently, and I refused and that was a good push back that I made, because he gets to work the way that is most efficient for him, and he maintains a great relationship with a guy who runs one of the military groups that we deal with. Them working together came up with .300 Blackout. They had tried .300 Whisper, and J.D. Jones delivered this group a few samples that worked great. They delivered them 30, 7 of them worked. And it was one of these things – getting it SAAMI approved and standards, figuring out how to get the most velocity out of supersonic, making it accurate, making it feed reliably from 30 round mags…

We were working with Bill Wilson somewhat too, and he thought it was a great idea. Then [he] decided “oh, it’s not accurate, I’m going to do my own cartridge.” And he’s doing… Ours is 7.62×35, he went with a longer case – 40. He only cares about supersonic, where our original requirement was it had to be subsonic as well.

I was reading yesterday, like you buy these modified – it sort of gets away from the whole beauty of doing this for an AR-15 in my opinion. His you have to modify the magazines, and will only feed like 15 rounds in a 20 round mag or 20 in a 30 round mag… You know, this was an original requirement.

These were our original requirements for this caliber: Muzzle energy has to equal or exceed the AK-47. .30 Caliber projectile. Use unmodified 30 round magazines to full capacity. Use unmodified AR-15/M-16/M-4 bolt. Gas impingement system. Shoot super and subsonic. And one thing that was nice, but was not a ‘deal killer’, was non-adjustable gas system. Cycle all four ways – subsonic suppressed and unsuppressed, and supersonic suppressed and unsuppressed.

And this is where we’re really going to be able to kick a lot of ass now is our company owns a silencer company, a gun company, and an ammunition company. Remington ammo, not the best reputation in the world. Our shit they do for us is held to a different standards, and we get to spec our own primers, powders, methods of assembly, things like that. And the ammo is great. Remington has always had excellent brass – the brass is twice struck, you can load it to higher pressures, it’s great for reloading… Hornaday makes great ammo, I like Hornaday, but they strike their brass once, it’s not really good for reloading, you can’t load it to as high a pressure.

.300 Whisper, .300 Blackout, the big difference is the throat length. We’re able to load… Basically it’s the difference between .223 and 5.56. With .300 Whisper there is no SAAMI approved chamber specs, so you get shit all over the place. But Hornaday is now making .300 Whisper commercially available in both supersonic and subsonic. And that’s great, great stuff and great idea. They’ve got a 110 grain V-Max bullet that is bad ass on that. But we’re able to load our 125 hotter than that because of our chamber specifications. And so that’s a great thing.

What they’re doing is using a 30 caliber bullet that was pre-existing – 308 – and that is not optimized for an M4 magazine or the feed ramps or feeding in the M4. We ran into that initially with out 123 grain that we recalled… It was reliability… Well, I don’t really know that we recalled it, but we stopped production because of reliability. And so what we did was… The goal of this was to take up all of the length of the magazine. Because when you don’t do that rounds start shifting and there’s your unreliable feeding. So of course the 220 grain bullet does that very easily, the subsonic bullet… Hell, it’s bigger than the case. But the supersonic bullet there would be 3/8 of an inch or more in the magazine. So Rob designed bullets, working with Beauford (who works with the FBI, does all of the ammo testing, most knowledgeable guy about ammo). Worked out the proper ogive for accuracy, reliability for the M4 and all this, and the bullet profile. And we did it with the 220 that are production bullets now that are coming – our 220 ammo. And it is the most reliable that it can be in profile and shape of the projectile. For 30 round mag capacity… I’ve never had a malfunction with the subsonic ammo in my gun. And I’ve shot thousands of rounds through it. And that was unbelievable to me. Everybody always talks up their shit, but I’m from Misourri, the Show Me State, I wanna go shoot.

[…]

Remington didn’t want to do this ammo. We got the military contract, they wouldn’t load ammo for us. We got a million round military contract off rounds Rob loaded in his basement on his Dillon press. And when we got the contract they had to load ammo for us. They wouldn’t do it [before the contract], they thought it was a stupid idea. But then Rob worked with those guys, developing supersonic 125 grain, because we wanted a little more weight than 110 but it’s the exact same bullet profile as the subsonic. So there’s a hollow cavity essentially, and it is AWESOME! So, you get… You can tell by the weight of the bullet that one’s subsonic, and we’re putting a blue lacquer on the bottom of the subsonic so you can tell. But this way they both are as reliable as possible. And so with the throat length that we have we’re able to get better velocity out of that 125 than Hornaday can get out of their 110. That, mixed with our brass being double struck and hardened to take higher pressures. So now, we exceed 6.8 muzzle energy at certain barrel lengths (I wouldn’t say across the board), I think we’ve got more muzzle energy now in an 8 inch barrel, 300 BLK supersonic, than m855 does out of a 16 inch barrel. So we’ve got more muzzle energy in half the barrel length.

It’s not one of the 6.5 or 6.8 or whatever is the flavor of the month where it’s a do-all, kick-ass… From a military standpoint, here is the advantage (which we discussed earlier): all we need is to change the barrel and get the ammo. Non-adjustable gas system… And that’s a huge thing. Nobody works with silencers more than us. Every time I’m working with a company on something, whether it’s LWRC or Colt or FN, whatever it is, if it’s got an adjustable gas system we get halfway through the test and we’re like “holy shit, we didn’t adjust the gas system.” It’s not something that’s really intuitive, you gotta think about having a suppressed system or unsuppressed. If you can get away with a non-adjustable it’s always best. And we’re able to achieve that, and it’s because we did the whole gun; we did the ammo and the silencer so it all works together. Basically, we work enough with all of them so we know the limitations of each part[…].

To me, everyone is going with shorter and shorter 5.56, […] like 10 inch guns. To me, people thinking that 5.56 is a 600 meter gun is fucking retarded. You can shoot it accurately out to that range, but it’s not lethal. The only advantage that 5.56… There’s two advantages, in my opinion, that it has… Well, maybe three let’s call it, 5.56 will have over .300 BLK. The ammo is lighter weight, so you can carry more of it I guess. It’s a flatter trajectory, so if you don’t have a reticule set up for it or you’re using iron sights and they’re not easily adjustable it’s easier to be more accurate at range because of the trajectory (not because the cartridge is more accurate). And then, for the military 5.56 is readily available. Those are the advantages. Here’s a trend that you see in the military: everybody is going to (and it started with these elite groups) short barrel 7.62 guns. They want short barrel 5.56 guns for getting in and out of buildings and vehicles, whatever. Then that makes 5.56 far less effective if they’re using under a 14 inch barrel. It gives you more muzzle flash and blast, it’s loud as shit, blah blah blah. So what they start doing is like all their M110s (they’re doing the M110 upgrade right now. You know, the SASS rifle?) they’re making them 16 inches now, retractable stock. Everybody is using that.

Me personally, I love shooting the M4 because it’s low recoil, the gun is lightweight, brilliant design (50 years ahead of its time I reckon). Best gun out there, we’re not going to replace the M4, we’re not going to do it for 20 years. I like the SCAR, I worked on that program for a long time. I like the SCAR heavy. But the SCAR light, you basically have a gun that’s bigger, heavier, more complex, less accurate than the gun that you’re trying to replace that was designed 60 years ago. So it’s like, why in the hell do we want a bigger and heavier gun? Are you going to go buy a bigger and heavier cell phone next year? Or a laptop? It’s like, that’s retarded to me. Now, if it shoots a more effective caliber, then shit yeah bigger OK. So the SCAR heavy makes sense to me. The SCAR light is a turd for that reason. […] Here, I get all the guns I want free and I shoot M4s gas impingement. I don’t care about a gas piston. I think gas pistons are, especially with 300 blackout, useless to me.

308 guns, they’re all getting short. I love 308 because when you shoot shit it falls down. You hit a man with it, you hit deer with it, you hit a boar with it, you hit anything relative to the size of a man it falls down immediately. And 5.56, I’ve shot a lot of stuff with that and that’s not normally the case. You usually use a few rounds – you just don’t get the muzzle energy. So this is somewhere right in between. […]

What I see with a lot of groups we work with is if they’ve got targets 300 meters and out they’re using their 7.62 gun. Especially now they’ve got a 16 inch barrel and shorter 7.62 guns are not that big. The downside is the recoil is shit on those guns. I don’t care what anybody says, you go shoot an M4 all day someone hands you an AR-10, you know you’re shooting a 7.62. Beyond 300 meters that’s what they use. 300 meters and in there is no reason in the world to use 5.56 over 300 blackout. And especially if you’re using a 10 inch barrel. I don’t even know what the difference is between a 5.56 10 inch barrel and a 300 blackout 10 inch barrel, but it’s ridiculous the comparison. So 300 and in, there is no reason to not use 300 blackout supersonic. And with the subsonic on a 9 inch barrel and our silencer you’re still the size of an M4 and it’s as quiet as an MP5-SD shooting a 220 grain bullet. For some groups we’re doing a shorter barrel a silencer and a compact gun and they’re replacing MP5-SDs with it. And that’s what we’re calling 300 blackout, the receivers are marked with it, it’s a multi-purpose weapon – MPW. Because it’s not a PDW, and I’m not saying it’s super long range, but Leupold has done an optic for it with a custom reticule and if you’re standing at 500 meters I’m going to hit you with it, and so I’m not saying our cartridge is a 500 meter gun but neither is 5.56, and just because you can hit something with it doesn’t mean… With that optic and that reticule in it you can be accurate at that range. You say 5.56 is a 600 meter cartridge then my argument is so is 300 blackout.

As far as the MP5-SD, that’s been the gold standard – that’s what got me interested in silencers. And that’s a 40 year old design at this point. But it’s a 115 grain bullet going at 750 feet per second. So if we’re in a room I’ll kill you with it, if stuff goes bad and it goes out into the street and somebody is a block away with an AK you are screwed. You go from a 115 to a 220 grain bullet with 300 blackout, you go from 750 feet per second to 1,000 feet per second. So you’ve got a bullet that weighs twice as much going 50% faster. The lethality is huge compared to that. And we get 2 MoA accuracy as compared to the MP5-SD gets 6-9 MoA accuracy. So basically if somebody’s 150 yards away from you shooting at you with an AK and you’ve got an MP5-SD you just need to seek cover and hide. Because at 150 meters you hit somebody with that it’s not even going to penetrate them probably. It’s not very lethal.

So those are the design parameters. Recoil with 300 blackout is awesome compared to 308. The only time I’ve noticed a difference between 300 blackout and 5.56 is we did some 175 grain bullets for the Army Marksmanship Unit and that’s for them to shoot 3-gun and it has to make a certain power factor, and so it’s 1,900 feet per second and 175 grain bullet and it recoils. It’s still half as much recoil as a 7.62 but it’s the first time I could tell I wasn’t shooting 5.56. We designed it for a shorter barrel so it’s burning the powder and there’s no muzzle flash even on the first round with or without the silencer.

That’s a really great product and I’m excited about it. I wasn’t sold on it until we actually did it and we started doing a lot of testing here. I get all the free guns and ammo I want and I shoot every week (I’ve got a farm that we’ll probably go to while you’re here) and I don’t even have a 5.56 gun there, I don’t even take one. 300 blackout kills shit dead, and what I’ll do is I carry two magazines if I go hunt on my property or I go do something, I have a magazine of subsonic and a magazine of supersonic depending on what I want. So I just keep one in the gun and I’ve got another one in my pocket.

Foghorn: So what about… I was talking to some of the guys about people that call up asking for, I need a silencer for (blank). So for the civilian market, what’s the number one request that you guys get? I use a silencer for…?

Kevin: You mean, for what purpose? That’s probably a sales guy question at this point, I don’t even know.

I think most of our commercial guys it’s for being able to shoot at the range without ear protection. It just makes the shooting experience more enjoyable. To me, I’ve always thought of shooting as a very social thing, as something I enjoy doing…

I didn’t grow up on a farm where we shot, I grew up in a city and didn’t have a gun until I was a teenager. Which is very different from a lot of kids from Georgia where they grew up in rural areas, where they start shooting when they’re five years old or whatever.

My son, he actually killed a deer when he was six last year. And hunting was not something I was into… I always thought of it as a very social thing because I had a friend who was a few years older than me who got me into shooting, and he and I would go to the range together and stuff like that. I’ve never played golf, but shooting I’ve always associated with as something you do with your buddies on the weekend. And I think the only reason it doesn’t have the popularity of golf is because of the noise – it limits some of the interaction, some of the social interaction that you’ll have when you’re shooting – because you’re wearing the ear protection, it’s just not good. I think shooting is great from a training standpoint – which is commercial, military, police…

When I taught my son to shoot, it was awesome, I was so thankful to have a silencer because here’s what we did. I never pushed him, but you know from the time he was born he loves coming up here and guns, military… And half my buddies are guys we support, he knows them and those are his heroes, and that’s really an awesome thing. He wanted to shoot from the time he was old enough to say it. When he was five, five and a half that summer, I got him an airsoft gun to start teaching him gun safety and all. And I got him a little MP7 because you could retract the stock and it was small enough for him to shoot like a regular rifle. And we went out on the back porch and set up little cowboy and indian plastic figures on the rail and he would shoot those. And it was just like using a silencer because I could communicate with him the whole time, talk to him, I don’t have to yell at him or anything, and he listened to me and understood, and we learned gun safety. So one whole year that’s all we did, airsoft on the back porch. So then this past year in the spring I got him a single shot .22 rifle and I put a silencer on it. And he, uh… We go to the range and… I built one just like it, mine is magazine fed but… And we put our shooting mat down, silencers on both of them, subsonic ammo, put some targets out – close distance like 30 feet or something – and I was able to talk to him the whole time. And just talk to him. He didn’t have to wear the earmuffs, and it eliminated half the recoil (which, on a .22 rifle, isn’t much). There was no sound, there was no recoil, and his marksmanship was so incredible, I could not believe it. Incredible marksmanship. And it’s not because I have this son who is necessarily going to be an Olympic shooter or he’s like a kid genius or something or just born with this natural talent, it’s just that he’s never had to shoot anything that is loud and kicks hard. He’s not intimidated by it. And he did so great, we kept backing out and backing out and backing out and I couldn’t believe it. 50 yards, 75 yards, iron sights, he’s killing stuff. I mean, totally. Any targets we put out he’s just destroying. I’ve got a 1-4 optic on mine, and he’s shooting as well as I do. We put out a golf ball and he hit the golf ball too.

So then last year I was doing some soft tissue stuff using 300 blackout loads, I was culling the deer population on my property, I was going out one evening and he asked to go with me and I asked “well do you want to shoot something” and he goes “well, I dunno, I’ll bring my rifle just in case.” And so we’re watching this spot and about 150 yards away this deer comes out and I say “do you want to try and shoot it?” And he says “no, I don’t think so. Can we just watch it?” So we watch it for 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and one of them starts meandering, eating, gets closer and closer to us and he’s about 70 yards away, and my son asks if he can shoot it. And I said yeah. And he was using iron sights. And he asks “where do I aim?” And I say “well, shoot it in the head.” “OK.” Then he took his time, did everything perfectly, was patient, squeezed the trigger, popped it right in the head. He’s six and a half years old, you know… So he and I, every time we go shooting together, we’re able to communicate and teach him so it’s safer. It’s a lot more enjoyable. My wife, she’s not into shooting (she tolerates it because of me), but we’ve got two ranges at our farm. And if I want to shoot and she’s up there I’ll ask her to go and about 25% of the time she will but only if we’re shooting stuff with silencers. She’s like “if you’re not shooting with silencers I’m not going.”

So I think commercially, that’s kinda it. There’s a cool factor because of James Bond thankfully, but I think most of it is it just enhances shooting. I’ve got a goose problem at my house, I live on a lake and they shit all over the yard and it’s a big mess and one of the geese chased one of my girls last year, so they’re like “KILL THE GEESE DAD!” And, like, I live in a neighborhood, but .22 with a silencer any time of the day… So there’s all kinds of reasons to have it. And most people who are uneducated want to make it sinister, but you think about it it’s like the only thing that makes that much noise in this country that’s sold that is not mandated to have a muffler on it. You go to Home Depot, I’ll show you 15 things they sell that make a lot of noise, every one of them by government regulations have to have a muffler on them. Your car, you have to have a muffler on it or you can’t drive it on a road. So it’s not like I put a muffler on my car to run people over.

It’s not that I think the country is anti-gun, I think that it’s years and years of misinformation. And I primarily blame the gun community. It’s just ignorance. I go into gun stores now, and I talk to somebody who’s owned a gun store for 20 years or worked in a gun store for 10 years and he’s like “oh, you give up all your search and seizure rights if you have a silencer.” And I’m like “no you don’t you dumbass!” Even people who have FFLs, they don’t understand. We did the Accusport show, Accusport is a big distributor and they’re our first big mainstream distributor, and I gave some presentations at their annual show a few months ago, and I was shocked because I didn’t know that there would be that much interest from their dealers. I gave presentations and most of them were introductions to silencers. And there’s a show and you have a booth set up and all this stuff too, and we had someone there running that, and a couple of things really struck me as odd. I was shocked that… 95% of the FFLs, the dealers that were there, they knew our company. And probably 5-10%, when I gave the presentations, realized that they could deal in silencers. And that was interesting to me, that some of these guys had FFLs 30 years, and they didn’t know that all they had to do was pay a $500 tax every year and they could deal in silencers. They didn’t know civilians could own silencers, they thought it was… It’s all this weird gun store cowboy bullshit, where some dumbass that hangs out there or works there [gives out false information]. And it just gets morphed into all this dumb shit and people believe it.

That’s the main thing we’re fighting. In 2000 the NRA had their annual show in Charlotte, and we were a pretty young company then and I bought a table and was setting up to go there and about a week before the show they called me, someone from their executive office, and informed us that we could not set up at the NRA show. And the reason they gave was “we don’t want the news media focusing on your table and putting guns in a bad light.” So I was the first person to get my lifetime membership money back from the NRA, and I was really pissed. But to show how things are changing, at our silencer shoot this year the NRA actually set up a table and came to our event. And now at their federal level and their grassroots (the guy that runs that), they’re willing to help us to create better awareness about silencers and promote them, and get it to where all states are legal for silencers. It seems like a new state opens up every year, we have most of them now. And to get states where we can hunt game animals with silencers. In Europe you can already do it, so we’re not as progressive as we’d like to think.

So the NRA is actually backing us and helping us with these things now which is totally awesome, because Cerberus has committed lots of lobbying dollars to us to try and get things changed. Our goals right now are not the deregulation of silencers, which is pretty much what makes sense (however it’s probably better for our company actually that they’re regulated, it keeps a lot of competition out and keeps the price high). A silencer is classified as a firearm by ATF, and there’s a category called “any other weapon [AOW]” and that’s where silencers should be. And that was kind of a catch all; there’s firearms, destructive devices, and these other things that these categories didn’t catch like cane guns or disguise weapons like a ring gun or a lighter gun or whatever the hell it is, and so that went into any other weapon. And a silencer clearly is not a firearm. I cannot shoot you with a silencer. So, just by definition it’s incorrect and retarded, like me calling you a table leg doesn’t make you a table leg. So we’re trying to get it reclassified as an AOW and that takes it from a $200 tax to a $5 tax, so that’s where it’s huge for civilians. Now, of course the ATF is not going to want that because it’s a revenue generator, so what we’re trying to say now is we can make up the revenue because we’ll sell 50 times more silencers, so you’ll actually end up getting more money.

Another thing is we’re trying to get it to where it’s… It’s like a lengthy background check, it’s 3 months, a pain in the ass now, and making a trust makes it easier because you don’t need local law enforcement and fingerprinting and all that stuff, but what it should be is just like an instant background check like it is for handguns, point of purchase. So our goal is you walk into a store and they have a Colt AR-15 and a SIG 226 with a threaded barrel and an AAC silencer, and you buy the gun and pay the $5 tax for the silencer, you fill out the form and they do an instant check. It could be something based on a social security number or biometrics. The technology is there, and that’s the way it really should be done. Because in the end, the ATF registry where they keep all the records is totally fucked up, they even admitted it in court, and this is a way for it to be automated and quick. because right now it takes us a month to transfer silencers to the dealers or to the government. The way it should be done is they should have a new website and we should log into a secure site and we can register a silencer instantly and then we can transfer it instantly and there’s an approval and everything is 100% right. Right now it’s really ridiculous the way it’s done: we type a form out on the computer, then we have to print it out, mail it into the ATF, it goes through their mail room, it gets sorted to different examiners, it sits on their desk, they look through it, look at it, check the numbers, approve it, put it back in the mail room, and hopefully they mail it back to us. So it’s a huge waste of money for the government, and as efficient as the government is it probably costs them $195 per form, so they’d probably make more money going to an instant automated system and a $5 tax.

So those are some initiatives commercially. We obviously focus pretty heavily on the military stuff; it’s not necessarily where all the love is, it’s just that that’s what brings the best technology and we’re able to bring it to them. There’s stuff that we’ve done for the military that’s on the commercial market that if we did it as a commercial product initially it would be four times the cost. So, there’s that.

For the future, to me… Partially why it’s so exciting to me is that I’m the luckiest dude in the world. I love coming to work every day. I got to sell my company, still work here, and I don’t have to work now and I do, I love it, I love the people that I work with (which is awesome)… I get in trouble at our meetings all the time because with the economy and stuff Freedom Group isn’t doing great I guess but we’re kicking ass. Our biggest problem with Freedom Group is they can’t respond to us quick enough. They fire people, they’re combining factories and stuff now, and we’re growing 100% a year. There’s a hiring freeze, but of course that doesn’t apply to us, but because HR is in that mode when we need to hire someone it’s a pain in the ass right now. Obviously if we’re growing 100% we can’t do it with the people we have now, we’ve gotta have more people. We’ve got awesome people here but I’m not going to ask my dudes to work 20 hour days consistently. That’s kind of a pain in the ass, but as far as the future of the company they ask me a lot. They ask me to lay it out every year and I’m like “well, I don’t really know.” And that makes them very nervous. To me, we have such a great team. I’ve got lots of brilliant people. And it’s like we’re going to continue to make silencers and push this and do these military things and that’s going to be huge. But we’re gunna do, like, a smart dude comes to me with 300 blackout or there’s a new pistol initiative, and when there’s things that come up that make sense that I know we can do I’m gunna jump on it.

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19 Responses to An Interview with Kevin Brittingham, founder of AAC

  1. I had two thoughts last night as I was reading about carbon-fiber yachts while trying to fall asleep (actually three, but one was “I will never be able to afford this carbon-fiber yacht,” so that is not really relevant to this discussion).

    1) I wonder if it would be possible to make a carbon-fiber suppressor (I don’t care what you say, mr. my-company-makes-these-things, I am calling it a suppressor).

    2) What is the reason that cans tend to be long and thin? Wouldn’t an increased diameter enable it to be a little shorter?

    • I’m sure the diameter thing has something to do with being able to use your sights on a handgun, since if they made the can too thick diameter wise you would need really tall sights. If the sights were too tall you would have to deal with sight off-set at close range and since a pistol is a close range weapon to begin with it would hamper its usefulness.

    • I’m guessing carbon fibre is combustable, which isn’t what you need for something that endures a lot of heat and stress. Gasses get trapped and cooled before exiting, and that heat energy is transfered to the can itself. Therefore if using the same materials and one can heats up more than the other, the hotter can is more ‘efficient’. Currently lightweight cans use Al or Ti. Heavy use requires inconel which, from what I gather, is a bitch to work with.

      For rifle suppressors I don’t know. Stuff like ARs which have a relatively tall sights could afford a larger diameter can I guess. Downside is that it translates into a noisier ‘first round pop’. Actually I do wish they made a can for rifle cal similar to the shape of a Mk9K. That would decrease the mount of blowback too. (Another “Ask Foghorn” thing???)

        • Wasn’t aware of that. Good point. Could shoot them an email and post what they say 🙂

      • I’m sure the law of diminishing returns comes into effect at some point as well. Just comparing the specs on some of the rifle vs pistol suppressors at AAC looks like the large bore silencers are about .5 of an inch bigger in diameter, so I’m sure the bigger cans thing has some merit but you can probably only push it so far.

  2. Silencers, suppressors, or whatever you want to call them should be readily available to all legal shooters without having to go through hoops and spending more than the cost of the firearm itself. I’m sure that AAC would agree, since universal availability to legitimate gun owners would enable AAC to ramp up production and take advantage of the economies of scale to drive down costs and prices while driving potential hearing loss out of the sport.

    Indoor ranges would love it, as would outdoor ranges and their complaining neighbors. Safety for hunters in the field would be improved. Most of all, we could sh!tcan those doofy ear muffs and stop looking like a bunch of armed Mouseketeers.

  3. “Worked out the proper O-job for accuracy…”
    He might have meant “ogive” instead of “O-job”. Ogive makes sense given the context.

    TTACer: I’d be surprised if carbon fiber is used in exhaust systems for anything more than cosmetics. In anything made of carbon fiber, the carbon fiber itself is held together with plastic resin, and plastic obviously doesn’t stand up to high heat very well. For an example of how hot suppressors get, see the video from AAC’s Silencer Shoot where they fire a suppressed M249 at night and the suppressor is so hot it’s glowing. A plastic suppressor would either catch fire or sag enough to cause baffle strikes. The other problem with carbon fiber is that it’s brittle, so it wouldn’t withstand the repeated expansion caused by heating and contraction caused by cooling. There’s just no significant gain and a lot of downsides to using carbon fiber for suppressors.
    As for diameter versus length, volume is good, and also big-around silencers can make using sights/optics more challenging, but the biggest reason to find a happy medium between length and diameter is fluid dynamics. Go to YouTube and watch a slow-motion video of a tank firing. The gas comIng out of the barrel is going forward very fast, and most of it doesn’t expand much for the first few barrel diameters of distance. A fat, short suppressor would miss most of the gas, making the increased volume useless. A longer, somewhat skinnier suppressor gives the gases more opportunity to slow down and expand, hitting the baffles so they can work their magic. At least, that’s how I understand it.

  4. Carbon Fiber has been used to make suppressors, most current results are not promising by US standards.

    Outside of the US they should be viable. But within the US it is such a pain in the ass and a large investment a suppressor must be made to last. If you are in a country that does not regulate them and suppressors are sitting in a box of 20 like candy bars by the gun store cash register for the price of a couple boxes of shells then you will see them made in carbon fiber. So what if they disintegrate after a few hundred rounds, you would have gotten your moneys worth. Not the case in the US at this time.

    Agreed that you will not see carbon fiber for semi-auto firearms, due to the heat build up of multiple shots. But for a bolt gun or any application where you are doing slow fire overheating should not be a problem.

  5. Remember, carbon fiber is very light, and is used in heat shields and baffle systems on stealth aircraft to hide the heat signatures of the jet engines. With a proper resin mixture (may contain components such as ceramic particles) it can be very heat resistive. The Apollo space capsules used fiberglass heat shields for re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Don’t underestimate composites.

  6. CCF made a multiple caliber carbon fiber suppressor. It covered 9mm,.40, .45. If you wanted to change calibers, you returned it to CCF and they switched out the baffles. I had the opportunity to handle one and I have to say it was the most elegant suppressor that I have ever seen. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold up due to adhesive failures between the metal components and the carbon fiber tube. CCF repaired a number of them, & admitted there was a problem. I never heard what the final resolution was. They also had an all metal model so hopefully they replaced the carbon fiber units with a metal tube model. The silencer portion of CCF was discontinued, I believe they now make Glock race frames.

  7. There are Formula 1 cars that use carbon fiber brake rotors. Those cars are money-no-object machines and they can use anything they want for brake rotors. It’s not automatically excluded from this application, but the manufacturing cost is probably the main prohibition for a silencer. If it doesn’t really function any better than an aluminum one at five times the price there’s no justification for the price.

  8. One of the most useful TTAG posts during the past 5 years. I still find myself referencing back to this article every so often for all the wealth of information and ideas.

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