People will tell David Spector of Radical Firearms that there’s no way he can build a sub $600 AR15 that’s worth a damn.
“Watch me,” he’ll reply, “and I’ll fucking show you.”
Just who is Radical Firearms? They’re the guys who had a couple more CNC machines delivered just a few weeks ago so they can build more sub $600 rifles they claim are as good as boutique rifles — the ones selling for 2 and 3 times that much. They’re the guys who will (rightfully, it seems) boast of having complete quality control over every aspect of their products because they build everything in house: from tip to tail (muzzle device to buffer tube) they build blasters entire. Let’s back up a little bit and talk about how they got to that point.
Hobbies can get out of control (ask any Lance Corporal whose favorite pastime involves nekkid girls, glitter and stripper poles). Sometimes that’s a bad thing. But in the case of a small(ish) rifle manufacturer with the somewhat less than humble (and certainly non-traditional) name of Radical Firearms, it wound up being a very, very Good Thing.
Radical Firearms started up about three years ago in Stafford, Texas, just outside Houston. That evolved to a small retail storefront where a few buddies offered gunsmith services. That storefront then morphed into a custom build shop, where customers had rifles assembled from parts built elsewhere. Those built-elsewhere parts were, at times, less than impressive despite being more than expensive. That got the hobbyists thinking…
“We figured out that high price didn’t equal high quality,” says Dave Spector, managing partner of Radical Firearms. “We were getting high-priced components from big-name manufacturers, to build rifles that cost three to six thousand dollars. And sometimes even the most basic components weren’t right. We’d get parts way out of tolerance, and sometimes we’d even have problems with tolerance stacking, where two parts that fit together were both off. We didn’t want to sell expensive rifles with quality control problems.”
Spector (who’d been running AR Matey), Kyle Richey and the others started calculating. They were pretty sure they could invest in a CNC machine and start cutting components themselves. They took the chance, bought the machine and decided to start by making only gas blocks. Their plan was to sell enough gas blocks to pay off the machine within a year, then see where the business went from there.
They sold enough gas blocks to pay off the machine in 22 days. Today they’re selling over 35 to 36 thousand gas blocks per month, and that number is climbing. Radical’s machines run 24 hours a day, making entire Radical rifles and proprietary components. They have a 3D printer for building prototypes, a Cerakote shop, a small range for test firing, and several CNC machines which they’re in the process of switching out with upgraded versions. They’ve been contracted to make parts for some HUGE weapons companies (but because of NDAs, if we tell you which companies we’d have to kill you). They recently produced what they think is the first left-handed AR-10. Radical has contracts to provide rifles to several major Texas police departments, is the official rifle of the Texas Tactical Police Officers Association, and sells well over two thousand rifles per month, up from 1500 last year.
“We went from one guy in a 400 square foot storefront, to five employees in a three thousand square foot office, to over fifty employees in a fifteen thousand square foot facility, in less than three years,” Dave Spector tells us flatly. He doesn’t seem to be boasting though that’s a helluva lotta growth. “This was a zero-dollar business when it started, now it’s worth 25 million.”
Not bad for some business guys who decided to stick their toe into the gun world as opposed to gun guys who decided to become businessmen.
Those numbers continue to grow…which is why we call this a Small-ish American Business, cuz they’re by no means small. We just like the entrepreneurial spirit — and their veteran hiring preference. And the fact that they’re friends with Leanna Decker, who can frequently be found visiting their facility (and whom you can visit in person next week at SHOT Show if you go by the Radical booth).
How did Radical Firearms get so successful so quickly? Pretty simple. According to Chris Parsons, Vice President of Sales, “We actually give a shit about the products we put out.”
A lot of ‘big shot manufacturers’ are actually just assembly shops,” he continues. “Maybe two dozen rifle companies out of thousands cut their own parts. And those two dozen companies way overprice the parts they make.” Since Radical makes its own everything and sells for a reasonable rather than huge profit, Radical rifles are pretty affordable. Their base model AR-10 (called the RF-10) is on sale for $1200. The base model AR-15s, in several calibers, are on sale for only $500. Suppressors start at $179, among the least expensive on the market.
“The perception of Radical Firearms is that our rifles must be low quality since our prices are so low,” Dave Spector says. “But we make affordable, high-quality weapons.”
They tell us having complete control over their own machines and parts allows them to maintain an absurd level of quality.
“We control the quality of our product because we build it right there. Barrel and muzzle device all the way down, we have less tolerance stacking than most guys do because they’re sourcing pieces from different manufacturers. We cut our parts in house so they fit with each other… you’re not going to find a couple thousandths off here, a couple thousandths off there. You can see the same thing on forging too.”
Dave and Chris gave an example of how they keep prices down: forged components are considered cheap, while parts machined from billet aluminum are expected to be more expensive. But Dave explains, “Billet parts are barely more expensive to machine than forged. And the machining takes maybe three to four more minutes per part. So we can sell a high-quality, usually expensive billet part for just a little more than an inexpensive forged part.”
Radical’s explosive success has allowed them to hire the kind of employees they like most. “About 80% of our employees are veterans,” Chris Parsons told us. “We have a couple of competitive shooters too. And about 5% of us are full-time businessmen only because we’re too busy to shoot.” Radical also sponsors a Three-Gun shooter and donates three to five rifles for charity events every month.
By every measure, Radical Firearms is an unqualified success. Here’s to their continued good fortune, and let’s keep an eye out for cool stuff from Radical in the near future.
And hopefully more Leanna Decker.
Find ’em online here if you want to know more. You can also follow ’em on Instagram (@radicalfirearms) or on Facebook. Note: we haven’t tried RF blasters ourselves yet. We’d be interested in hearing from any of you who have, though. Let us know if they’re as good as they claim (and if you want us to do a review).
See you all after SHOT Show…if we survive it.
It’s a new 1911 for “Cobra” Cobretti.
Join us at Nancy’s Squat & Gobble! (It’s our double dog secret, members-only discussion group.)