October Soapbox – Similar Message, Different Language

I can’t describe the shock I felt when I did my daily audit of our Message Board and found the very new, very active thread which arose from a Soapbox that had been posted over a month earlier.  You’ll have seen the number of comments which were left below the original post – four.  Add to those the direct emails I received – five – and I thought that Soapbox had probably been overlooked by just about everyone, as I often feel.  Usually my Soapboxes don’t deserve much comment.  The current thread suggests otherwise in this case.


I am very sorry about some of the things I said, and not at all sorry about most others.  I am very sorry about the harsh language I used in an attempt to make a point.  I strongly believe in the point about promoting vaccinations, but I am very disappointed in myself for the unnecessarily inflammatory words I used in an attempt to make it and the disrespect it showed.  How I expressed myself was rude and embarrassing.  What hurts most is the respect I’ve deservedly lost amongst so many.  I’ve spent the past 30 years attempting to earn it, and I understand the reaction from those who felt insulted by some of the language of my rant.  I knew at the outset that I risked alienating some, to the degree that it would cost NAA some sales.  That’s OK.   I applaud those who express themselves with their wallet; I’ve done the same.  But I am very sorry to those I insulted.  It was unforgivable and I am profoundly sorry.  I was rude and I apologize.


I’m not at all sorry about the debate between the exercise of individual freedoms, which I embrace, and personal/societal responsibility which I believe in.  While I believe in freedom of speech, I understand, too, that I am constrained from yelling “Fire” in a crowded movie theater.  While I believe in freedom of behavior, including swinging my fists freely, that freedom ends when my body is in close proximity to another.  If you want to stand naked in the rain, knock yourself out, but if you want to do something that increases a threat to someone other than yourself, that’s a different matter.  I believe in freedom but freedom is not without its limits.  My views notwithstanding, you should note that I have not attempted to create a vaccination mandate at NAA.  People who suggest that I don’t understand or appreciate individual freedoms are simply wrong.


I believe that I am largely protected from the risk of serious illness and death by having been vaccinated, and while breakthroughs continue to occur (infrequently), my bigger concern going forward is the likelihood of new, more threatening variants being spawned because we have failed to reduce the susceptible population when/while we had a chance.  That is my ongoing beef with the unvaccinated.


As far as no longer buying mini-revolvers because you don’t like me, that’s your choice.  I don’t think anyone ever made a purchase because they did like me.  My suspicion is that most purchases are made because the product satisfied a purchaser’s wants/needs, which has nothing to do with my politics or intemperate language, for which I again apologize.

“Happy” Memorial Day

First, take a moment to reflect on the meaning/purpose of the day – and then take another one, please.


So, by most accounts, the worst of the pandemic – at least as it relates to the United States – is behind us.  Make no mistake, it is far from over; people are still getting infected and, in relatively few cases, people are still dying, but the frequency of such events seems now to be fading out of the news cycle.  Depending on your state/community, virtually all restrictions have been lifted and life does, indeed, appear to be returning to “normal”.  It’s reported that “most” of us are fully vaccinated (I implore you to do so if you haven’t already) and there does appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I have gotten on several airplanes recently, have travelled internationally and dine out and socialize frequently. I am eager to see many of you at the NRA Show in Houston later this summer and will shake hands and hug almost as often as I did before, but I understand/anticipate that, for many, some behaviors will have changed permanently.


Firearms sales show no sign of waning and while I’m delighted for the opportunities that creates for NAA, I’m troubled by the strength of the market forces which are responsible for that:  the threat of adverse public policy and the continuing increase in social unrest.  I’m both saddened and disgusted by the growing disregard for the value of human life – either one’s own or someone else’s – and the growing lack of simple civility is disturbing.  Taking precautions to defend one’s self or one’s family has never seemed so important or so necessary.  I long for the days when the most frequent target of a mini-revolver was a piece of paper, a snake or other varmint, or a threatening tin can.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the current environment.


While I have never argued that a .22 caliber round exhibits the ballistic performance of most larger calibers, I always argue strongly, loudly and confidently that in threatening situations, be the threat two-legged or four-legged, having a gun, regardless of its size or caliber, gives the carrier a dramatically better chance at successfully defending him-/her-self than NOT having a gun.  More often than not, simply brandishing a gun will likely defuse the situation.  I don’t care what the size or caliber is, if someone points a gun at me, it will absolutely change my behavior.  And in the unfortunate instance that it does not, no one should discount the lethality of a .22 bullet at self-defense ranges.  North American Arms firearms are designed to be carried all the time that it is legal to do so.  They are designed to be purposefully portable – easy to conceal and carry: “Convenient, Reliable, Effective”, as it were.


We continue to appreciate your business and your confidence, and wish you a happy summer and a return to normalcy.

Getting Closer

Well, this Soapbox isn’t going to write itself (unfortunately).  What happened to March?


Like many, I’m beginning to see light at the end of what’s been a very long, dark tunnel.  My wife and I have both received two vaccination shots and, while not bullet-proof, we feel an enormous sense of relief that our risk of being infected by the virus approaches 0%.  Travel is now a possibility for me, where it hasn’t been for almost the past 14 months; my last trip was a factory visit to Provo in early Feb. 2020, and I haven’t been back since.  And what has happened in the interim?  Well, I’ve recruited and installed a new COO, Mike Griffin, a transition that was briefly described in the January 2021 Soapbox.   I feel confident that Mike can make some durable changes to our processes in general so that we can manufacture more efficiently; early signs are hopeful.


I’m going to miss my friend, Ken.  Of course, I’ll still see and talk to him occasionally, but he’s now off on a different chapter of his life.  I wish him great happiness and success; he’s earned it.


I sure am looking forward to returning to my factory and reconnecting with my team.


I care about my customers and I’m sorry if our output is not meeting demand.  We will not compromise our quality standards in the pursuit of an increased volume, but I expect that our deliveries can improve as our processes improve; that’s the plan.


I wish you all the health and safety that I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy for the past year. – Sandy



January 2021 Soapbox – End of an Era

The new year marks one of the most significant transitions in the history of NAA: the departure of Ken Friel as de facto president and COO, and the arrival of Mike Griffin, who will formally assume those roles.  Whew, talk about the end of an age.  To put it into perspective, this November will mark the 29th year since I purchased this business.  Ken began his career at NAA 12 years before I arrived.  41 years of service.  Take a moment to let that sink in.

More than anyone else, Ken has been responsible for what NAA has become.  It began as a 2-model firearms industry “titan” operating in the back bowels of a large, high-precision electro-mechanical engineering and manufacturing firm (think bomb racks, missile rails and the like).  NAA has a very impressive pedigree, designed, engineered and manufactured by the storied team of Dick Casull, the designer of the eponymous .454 cartridge and Wayne Baker, founder of Freedom Arms.  Notwithstanding, it suffered an early history of failed fits and starts before it fell into the hands of the capable but disinterested Frank Talley.  Nurtured largely by the grit and determination of Ken and his business “partner”, the recently-departed Carl Prokop, NAA has since become an industry stalwart, dominating the niche for ultra-small personal protection weapons and enjoying an enviable reputation for product quality and customer service.  NAA looks like what Ken made it, a legacy of which he can be particularly proud.  Fortunately, Ken’s departure is neither abrupt nor complete.  While we have budgeted for a 3-month transition, Ken will still remain in the ‘hood and he has a vested interest in the continuing success of the business.
Ken is being followed by Mike Griffin, most recently VP of Operations or Ft. Knox Security Products.  While only peripheral to the firearms industry, Mike brings with him a skill set that I believe will be of great value to us, which is his manufacturing experience, as well as a new perspective and some fresh energy.  While we’ve been successful in delivering a family of “Convenient, Reliable, Effective” small handguns to a very diverse customer base, admittedly we have done so while leaving an expensive trail of scrap and rework.  Our methods have not been very sophisticated and our “fixes” have not always been long-lasting nor permanent.  I believe that we can do things right – the first time – which will improve our productivity and our output, will help us address/satisfy a backlog which we’ve enjoyed for most of the past 10 years and will enable us to better control our costs and the pressure on our pricing so that our products will remain desirable and competitive.  That’s the plan.

This transition will not be without bumps and bruises but I believe that Ken has left Mike a strong foundation upon which to build and that our future remains bright.  You can send regards to either/both of them at [email protected] and [email protected].

Happy New Year to all.  I wish you and your families peace, comfort and safety.