Lancer Systems invited a handful of gun writers to join them at Virginia International Raceway to learn about the company and put its products through the paces. Full disclosure: I joined in part because I’m a fan of the firearms-related Lancer products that I had used thus far and I’m surprised they don’t have more traction in the market. Additionally, I also wanted to find out a lot more about Lancer’s other business units and, hey, who could turn down the opportunity to shoot at one of the nicest outdoor range facilities in the country? A few posts will come out of this trip, so stay tuned, but first I’ll take you through a run-down of Lancer Systems as a company and share some of the 2-day experience. . .
Monday afternoon on September 28th, I arrived at Raleigh-Durham where Lancer had arranged a shuttle to VIR for some of the writers. It was raining pretty hard, but the drive was pleasant with views of plantation-style homes in the middle of fields of late-crop tobacco. The driver’s accent was thick as tar and, while I could live in Boston [again] without dropping so much as a single “r,” I do recon the Southern drawl is mighty contagious.
There’s a lot of overlap between “gun guys” and “car guys,” and I’m no exception. We stayed in lodging literally right above pit row, with a view of the front straight.
As long as you’re waking up early enough that open headers and impact guns at 7:30 AM aren’t a bother, it doesn’t get much cooler than this. Thankfully (said with “air quotes”) our days did start early, but most of us managed to forget about that Monday night as we enjoyed some social time with cars, guns…
…and beers in carbon fiber and machined aluminum, rubber-gasketed beer koozies.
Sufficiently introduced, it was off to dinner at VIR’s Oak Tree Tavern, where the Lancer team was either kind enough or cruel enough to sponsor an open bar ahead of an early start to a day of shooting, which to my surprise included a handful of friendly, yet still timed-and-scored competition stages.
Tuesday morning began with breakfast in the classroom facilities of VIR’s Tactical Training Complex. Bill, President of Lancer Systems, walked us through the three business units that coexist within Lancer’s 77,000 square foot, AS9100-certified manufacturing facility in PA.
This division accounts for about 40% of Lancer’s current business.
Lancer makes shielded fiber optics that allow oil drilling companies to actually view inside of exploratory wells. Apparently this allows them to see the oil underground and determine much earlier than usual whether it’s worth pursuing further, saving time and money. The fiber optic must survive 7,500 PSI at 1,800° F for 30 minutes, which was not possible prior to Lancer’s ceramic matrix composite shielding design.
Additionally, Lancer makes wellheads for companies such as Halliburton as well as advanced seals and non-metallic bearings.
This division currently accounts for about 20% of Lancer’s business, but is growing at a very rapid pace.
Lancer manufactures composite parts for helicopters, missiles, and various other applications in which, in most cases, metal parts can be replaced with lighter, stronger, and often less-expensive composite parts. For instance, this composite fin for an air-to-ground (or maybe it was surface-to-air) missile has officially replaced the significantly heavier, more expensive, machined aluminum fins previously in use by one of our allies:
Additionally, advanced ceramic matrix composites can offer extreme thermal and/or electrical insulation. This photo shows some carbon fiber, thermoplastic, and thermoset helicopter components in the final stages of development for a major helicopter manufacturer, and a ceramic matrix composite heat insulation sheet at top:
This is what we’re all here for, right? Small Arms or “Advanced Weapons & Components” makes up the remaining 40% of Lancer’s current book of business.
Small Arms division includes the L5 Advanced Warfighter magazines that we all know and love — these have long-since been my preferred AR-15 magazines and, if memory serves, Leghorn’s as well — the L7 AWMs (AR-10 mags), carbon fiber handguards, L15 and L30 rifle variants, L15 and L30 lower receivers, and a handful of various parts and accessories such as buttstocks, muzzle brakes, magwells, sling mounts, shotgun mag tubes, and more.
One specific question I wanted to ask was the nature of Lancer’s relationship with SIG SAUER. I had become curious after noticing that the right-hand bolt release and magazine release designs that have been Lancer staples for years have started showing up on SIG’s firearms. For instance, on the MPX (for which Lancer manufactures the magazines):
The same mag release is on the MCX and, for reference, here’s a shot of my Lancer L15 lower receiver. Turns out Lancer isn’t manufacturing the lowers for SIG and didn’t exactly license these designs to SIG, but it was more of a gentlemen’s trade. SIG has significant investment in environmental and stress testing facilities that Lancer is now using to supplement what it already owns in-house, and Lancer provides additional value to SIG through the MPX magazine manufacturing program and possibly other, future product development and manufacture. Certainly, Lancer is an industry leader in the world of composites, trick polymers, and hybrid metal/composite parts.
My job at VIR was to gain hands-on experience with Lancer’s offerings, and they did a really great job creating shooting stages and scenarios designed to put various aspects of their products — and some well-known competitors’ products — through the ringer. We shot out to 1,000 yards, we dropped dry-ice frozen magazines onto concrete, we ran magazine change drills, compared muzzle devices, shot for groups, drank coffee, and more.
But the hands-on stuff will come soon. Beth of Grayah Group Communications, who does Lancer’s marketing and PR, had the great idea of hiring a professional photographer (Natalie Cake, who’s also quite skilled behind a rifle) to document the event. This definitely made it a heck of a lot easier for the attendees to concentrate on the shooting experience. Once the action shots come back, I’ll share my experiences — good or bad — with the product line in a couple of future posts…