Kevin Brittingham doesn’t play well with others. But he does play exceeding well on his own. Which is where the once and future firearms industry entrepreneur finds himself after leaving SIG SAUER for greener, less bureaucratic pastures. Kevin’s new, independent venture is a stone’s throw away from SIG in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I spent an hour talking to Kevin about “Q” and his vision for the future. First, a potted history . . .
Kevin started AAC silencers before silencers were cool. He grew the company from a backyard operation into a multi-million dollar business making industry leading suppressors. He sold AAC to what was then called The Freedom Group (now Remington Outdoors) — only to find himself fired from the company he founded.
Kevin eventually landed at SIG SAUER, bringing SIG’s silencer line to market and assisting in the development of several projects. Earlier this year he decided SIG wasn’t a good fit and left to form his own company. He’s back where we started: at the helm of his own small startup firearms company.
“Back in October I was approached by a Texas oil billionaire,” Kevin told TTAG. “He wanted a majority ownership of the new company, but some of the people I wanted to bring over didn’t want that.”
And for good reason. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Kevin tends to become agitated when working for anyone other than himself. His collaborators know this.
“Ethan Lessard [good friend, head of AAC R&D, and the driving force behind the most innovative designs of the last few years] said he’d follow me so long as I had control over the company. I had to ask myself, do I really believe in my ability to execute? If so, then I should put up my own cash.”
Kevin did exactly that, funding the majority of the new company from his personal, post-AAC fortune.
His vision for this new venture: produce the world’s best firearms and accessories focusing on quality, not quantity or making money.
“To me, money doesn’t really motivate me” Kevin remarked.
No surprise there. Following his breakup with AAC Kevin had enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his life.
“All I really want at this point is a plane, and for that I need like $20 million. To me, the difference between $20 million and $90 million doesn’t matter. If I can be the best making the best stuff and make $20 million, or make something ‘good enough’ and make $90 million, I’ll choose to do it right every time.”
The first products slated for production: a set of firearms accessories, followed by a line of silencers for SHOT Show 2017.
“I want to build the best silencers in the world,” Kevin said. “The SIG SAUER silencers are the very best on the market right now, and it’s gunna be really hard to top them. That 762Ti-QD is the best silencer for civilians, period.”
I asked what specifically he would want to focus on improving. The locking mechanism was Kevin’s reply. “SIG SAUER’s locking system is great — people shouldn’t think that this means it has problems. I just think there’s ways to improve it.”
Most companies with that kind of focus would want to immediately invest in manufacturing. Kevin sees it differently.
“Manufacturing in house isn’t interesting to me,” he said. “You lack the ability to be agile. My goal is to make the best products. You can spend money buying machines and hiring people to run them, or you can spend money hiring the best engineers, the best QC team, and the best final assembly team.”
Kevin was spoilt for choice in terms of staff. Once the ground work was in place, resumes started flowing in. Dozens of top industry experts want to be a part of Kevin’s mission to provide the highest quality firearms to American soldiers and civilians. And doing so profitably.
Q’s core group shifted from SIG SAUER. Robby Johnson is the overall VP, Ethan Lessard is in charge of engineering, Lindsay Bunch is VP of operations, and Jessica Gauvin is leading the business development section.
Kevin attributes the strong following to his management style. “You gotta have a team, and you gotta believe in them. My job is to create an environment for these people to excel, and to do it as a team. Not to manage them into the ground.”
As far as the new company’s name in concerned, Kevin’s been thinking about it since the early days of AAC.
“When I started AAC, it was early enough that the domain name ‘aac.com’ was actually available but I wanted something descriptive and powerful, so I went with ‘Advanced Armament’ and bought ‘Advanced-Armament.com.’ It was a pain in the ass to type out, and engraving that whole thing on firearm receivers was annoying.
“This time I wanted something short and simple. I wanted the company to be professional, but I also want it to be young and cool. Something that I could easily stylize and wouldn’t take up much space when engraved on a receiver.”
I pressed Kevin on what the Q stands for, asking if it had anything to do with fictional British spy James Bond’s clever clogs quartermaster. He wouldn’t budge.
“I haven’t told anyone what it stands for, and I don’t think I ever will.”
Ultimately, what Q “stand for” depends on the products it produces. Watch this space.