“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 Ken@NorthAmericanArms.com and Mike@NorthAmericanArms.com.

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

December Soapbox

I’m back! Sadie here and it’s my pleasure to be writing the soapbox this month. While I am extremely surprised that it is already December, I am welcoming the end of this year. Not only the holiday spirit that the end of the year brings, but I am hoping that the chaos of this year stays in 2020 and does not bleed into 2021.

Here at NAA we are as busy as ever and working hard to meet the demand for our firearms. Over the course of this year we have seen a large uptick in sales. As many in the industry know this is due to multiple different things, civil unrest, election year, and the unknown of a pandemic. Each day we have callers asking where they can find our guns, the short answer is, we don’t know. They are flying off the shelves as quickly as we send them out. While this can be frustrating, for us we are grateful, and we hope you know that we are working extremely hard to catch up on the back order that we have and to get a gun into the hands of those that have been patiently waiting.

Since I am the marketing manager, I do want to share with you a new social media campaign that we have started. Each Wednesday we do a #NAAPocketdump highlight on our social media. People share photos of their NAA firearms to social media and tag us or use the #NAApocketdump to be put in for a chance to be highlighted on our page and to win a hat. The rules of the contest are on Facebook and Instagram so be sure to check it out and participate for your chance to win a hat!

This December make sure you get some new grips, a new holster, or some swag for the NAA lovers in family. They make great gifts! I personally hope that you all enjoy this month and get to spend some quality time with you families. December can be a magical month and I hope that you don’t let the pandemic get in the way of that.

October Soapbox- Carl Prokop 10/29/1949 – 09/08/2020

Carl Prokop 10/29/1949 – 09/08/2020

Early last month, North American Arms lost its longest tenured employee, Carl Prokop.  He served our company for more than 44 years.

I would have described his service as “tireless”, but it had become clear for the past “several” years that he was feeling worn out.  On one of my last visits to Provo early this year, Carl indicated that he was hoping to enjoy a long-awaited and well-deserved retirement starting sometime this summer.  Eight grandchildren (and two greats) were waiting.  My General Manager, Ken, convinced him to hang around for another couple of months to help with some other transitional issues we were addressing.  I don’t believe Carl objected too loudly, as I don’t think he really wanted to go.  Figuratively speaking, he died at his workbench.

Carl was at one point responsible for all manufacturing at NAA, a role he held for “decades”.  Carl made it known several years ago that he would be happy to forgo the management/supervisory responsibilities and instead help mentor the flow of promising young gunsmiths who arrived over the years.  As you can imagine, there was almost never an issue he hadn’t seen before, nor was he at a loss for how to fix it.  While he didn’t have a lengthy background of formal training, his skills were acquired and his talents burnished from over 40 years of on-the-job training.  With a product as occasionally idiosyncratic and sometimes as mysterious as the seemingly simple mini-revolver, his experience was literally invaluable.

I considered Carl a friend despite the fact that I knew so little about him personally.  I knew he was a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam.  Our chats consisted primarily of small talk.  He was part of our small management meetings which I attended when I was at the factory, and I visited with him briefly whenever I would wander around the shop floor.  What I did know about Carl was that he was reliable, hard-working, well-intentioned and worthy of the trust that I extended to him, along with Ken, to responsibly and successfully manage my business.  I knew he shared my commitment for quality, and to make NAA the best small firearms company it could be.

NAA is smaller for his absence but richer for his contributions.  R.I.P., my friend.

September Soapbox- Feeling Down But Not Out

I’m writing this morning suffering “mild depression”.  This feeling is caused by several influences.  Where to start?  Let’s try COVID-19. (Or maybe it’s the miserable state of my golf game).

It’s my observation that the myriad of outcomes of this event have been, without any exception I can identify, worse than initially forecasted.  However long you may have thought (or still think) that its impact will last – it has been/will be longer.  However many people you may think will be effected, and to what degree will be the effect – it is more and worse.  However soon you may think a “cure” will become available, it will take longer, it may (or may not) be safe and effective, and it might trickle down to you and me by next summer although, as I’ve illustrated in a couple examples, the smart money sez the likely outcomes will be worse than we imagine even now.

Peripheral to the disease, my already limited confidence in the power of The State has become shattered, due in no small part to the lack of leadership of so many involved in the process and the gross politicization of the information and advice that’s being offered to us in our times of greatest need.  People and agencies in who we should have the greatest respect and confidence too often have been shown to be lacking.  In too many instances, neither the science nor the data are legitimate or trustworthy.

Where I initially thought the devastation to he economy would be swift and catastrophic, I now believe it will be slow and catastrophic.  Many businesses are simply hemorrhaging cash and employees, teetering towards an almost certain collapse.  Unemployment continues to grow and the social safety net continues to unravel.  The hospitality industry is reeling, transportation is on its knees (I expect the failure of at least one legacy carrier), the face of retail is now reflected on your computer screen and commercial real estate is no longer the bedrock that it appeared to be just a couple of years ago, for example.  The buoyancy of the stock market continues to astonish me.  I still can’t imagine what will be the longterm effects of the government’s profligate (but perhaps necessary) spending but I feel certain that there will be some, and they won’t be pretty.  The only thing saving the government from making more bad decisions is its seeming inability to make any decisions at all.

But we can fix that, because we’re facing elections!  WhooHoo.  They can’t come – and go – soon enough.

I can’t recall feeling less hopeful about the prospects of “life” after an election than I do now.  Regardless of the outcome (and how long do you think it will take for that to be determined, and then acknowledged?), I feel certain that the residual acrimony and hostility in our social fabric will reach new heights of toxicity.  It’s crippling and causes many of us to lose hope, and whether that hopelessness stems from your economic circumstances (no job, no prospects), your social circumstances (Black, Hispanic) or from wherever else you may suffer mental anguish, with no faith in the future, decisions and behaviors become compromised, civility and responsibility are jettisoned, and circumstances deteriorate further still.

Please don’t mistake my less-than-positive outlook with whining.  Notwithstanding all of the feeling of doom and gloom that I’m spouting, don’t think for a moment that I don’t recognize that I’m one of the most fortunate people on the face of this earth, for which I express my thanks and gratitude every day.  Admittedly, I’ve enjoyed more opportunities than many.  I have reasonably good health, particularly considering the wanton negligence I’ve shown in attempting to maintain it.  I have a family which I adore and which loves me back.  I have a successful small business that’s been built not by me but by a host of people who’ve I’ve entrusted with its management and who have repaid me in spades with their dedication and hard work.  I feel safe and valued, a feeling I wish everyone enjoyed, and I commit that my individual behavior will be consistent with that goal.

On the business front, please accept my apologies for the delays that many of you are suffering in an attempt to purchase NAA goods.  The times are, indeed, unprecedented and business is particularly brisk.  We commit that every gun which leaves our factory will reflect the quality of “Convenient, Reliable, Effective” firearms you’ve come to expect from us. Thank you for your confidence and your business. – Sandy

PS: While I invite you to leave comments in the space provided below, please instead address them directly to me at Sandy@NorthAmericanArms.com if you want to be assured of a timely, personal response.