“Herbert Hoover used to say there should be a chicken in every pot, well I agree with that, but also would add that there should be a gun in every closet as well.” Those are the words of Marty Daniel, CEO and founder of Daniel Defense, a Georgia-based firearms and gun component manufacturer. In a conversation with Industry Today, Daniel and Jordan Hunter, director of marketing for the company, talk about the history of Daniel Defense, the current success they are experiencing across their product line, and why their success in 2013 has them shooting sky high for 2014. Steve Engelhardt reports.
Marty says the factors surrounding his decision to found Daniel Defense were quite serious, as he notes, “my golf game was really bad and I realized I was coming home much more relaxed after the shooting range than I was after playing eighteen holes.” He says that while going to the shooting range, he fell in love with a particular gun there and wanted to purchase four of them to add to his collection. “Unfortunately, the lowest number the guy would make for me is 100, so I bought them all and sold the other 96.”
Over the years, Marty found strong reception from customers regarding his guns, which were based around assault rifle models, and by 2009, he opened a building and began making guns on a large scale. What began as one man’s hobby, is now a blossoming business that employs over 200 individuals and operates out of two facilities. Trading in the golf clubs for guns appeared to be the right move, after all.
Gunning For Success
In terms of actual rifles, Daniel Defense manufactures a wide range of assault rifle models. Offering several different versions of the M4 Carbine, varying by weight and component design, the company distinguishes itself through the components it builds into these firearms. Their top selling firearm is their V5 lightweight, a version which Marty designed and launched himself. “The idea really came from just addressing the expressed needs of our customers,” he says, adding, “I was asked to create a rifle without a slick top, where people could install their own optic without having to rely on the front sight post and that’s what I did.”
With a number of trademarked rail systems as well, including their Omega and EZ Car designs, the company offers its customers firearm products that are unique to its own craftsmanship, but are also highly adaptable and can be fitted into any commercially available M4 carbine in the market.
And that’s really where the value in Daniel Defense’s products is found, with their wide range of customizable rifles and additional parts that can be added to any of their firearms for customization. “One of the unusual things about the assault rifle market is that you can actually buy a lower receiver from one company and all of the other components from another,” says Hunter, adding, “you can effectively build your own gun based on your favorite components.” Hunter says that he estimates that around 10 percent of the market are these “built” guns, and Daniel Defense contributes to a good portion of that with their line of available add-ons, including barrels, rails, and upper receivers.
Aside from M4 carbines and state-of-the-art add-on components, Daniel Defense also offers pistols, a market that Hunter and Daniel agree is one they are definitely beginning to target more aggressively. “With regards to our pistols, I like to specifically reach out to women and tell them—if you want a gun to protect yourself, I have one that weighs less that my wife’s pocketbook,” he says, adding, “it’s great to have in a home.”
In fact, Daniel points to one specific instance involving a customer—a 72-year old woman from South Carolina—that demonstrates the impact his company’s guns can have on an individual’s wellbeing. “We had this little old lady, living in South Carolina, own one of our guns and we interviewed her to gauge her feelings on gun ownership at her age and what it meant to her,” he says. “She said that given her age and the fact that she lives alone by herself, having a Daniel Defense gun really made her feel safe.”
Hunter says that one of the issues today with the average consumer is that they simply aren’t aware that they can legally own the models of guns that Daniel Defense is designing and producing. “There’s this ignorance to our products that we need to really wash away,” he says, adding, “we are the leader in our industry and yet there are still so many more individuals out there that could benefit from our products and don’t know it.”
In addition to the general public, Daniel says that they do a lot of business with law enforcement and branches of the U.S. military. “One of our initial partnerships that really laid the foundation for our business is our one with SOCOM, which really has blessed us over the years in giving us momentum in the firearm industry,” he says, continuing, “Now, today, whenever they need something, whether it be a gun, component, or assembly, they come to us and we love it, because if anyone deserves our guns it’s those guys.”
Outside of the U.S., Daniel Defense also has a strong partnership with the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense (MOD). “Over the years we became known as the ‘go-to’ company for rails,” Daniel says, adding, “the UK MOD came to us asking for some, and now, today, every single individual in their military carries a gun with our rail on it.”
Daniel says that 2013 was the best year ever for his company, but says the U.S. political scene can impact each year for better or worse, depending on legislation. “Every 3 or 4 years the political environment heats up and the gun market kind of correlates with it,” he says, continuing, “the political drive creates an urgency to go ahead and buy a gun, in the event you won’t be able to later on.”
He says that he estimates over a million assault rifles were bought last year, which leads to an entirely new market of individuals who have seen the guns and want one for themselves.
In serving a wide range of customers, and dealing with high quality, high tech products, the question to be asked is where exactly does Daniel Defense manufacture and produce its wide range of firearm products? Headquartered in Black Creek, Ga., Daniel Defense carries out all of its product assembly and shipping procedures at an additional 90,000 square-foot facility in Ridgeland, S.C. Recently, the company invested $20 million into its facilities, including an eventual 55,000 square-foot expansion to its Georgia office, which Daniel says is a testament to “the fantastic business climate in South Carolina and Georgia, which has really allowed us to grow the way we wanted.”
In terms of actual production, “we start out with a lot of raw materials that we keep in stock, many of which are extruded, forged, or rolled steel, and in regards to them being forged into model, we really use our special blend to create high quality parts that we know will stand up against any test,” Hunter says.
Daniel says that before a new idea or decision can go to their market, the company has “to go through about 200 steps before it gets approval, which has taken us a long way in terms of quality.” Hunter says that while their production process is something they take very seriously and are constantly scrutinizing, perhaps an even bigger strength for them is the relationships they forge with their customers. “We really appreciate our customers and, apart from making an excellent firearm or component, we’re exceptional in our on time delivery, which I’d say is one of the things that really sets us apart,” he says.
Speaking passionately about his company, and industry by extension, Daniel says, “Every single American loves guns, you can see it in our culture across a variety of outlets,” he says, adding, “in our Constitution, and through various amendments and the Bill of Rights, it was understood that in order to protect our right to the freedom to say what we want, we need to ensure that we have the actual means to defend ourselves and our ideas from those who disagree.” With a business based on a group of individuals’ united fervor, a hands-on owner with an ambitious vision, and an increasingly receptive market, Daniel Defense is a name that figures to be around in a big way for many years to come.