Jordan King is a busy guy. A husband and father, King, 27, is a full-time diesel mechanic who just happens to also run a full-time gun manufacturing business, King’s Arsenal. The custom gun making operation in Abilene, Texas, specializes in AR-style rifles. What started out as a hobby working on his own guns has turned into a business, a vocation and a passion for King. Along the way, he’s learned a few things about gun making, regulations and just how the national political climate can help and harm someone in this industry. Gun Digest caught up with King recently—as he was literally driving between jobs, no less—and got the scoop on what it’s like to be a “new guy” in the rifle making business, and going head-to-head with industry big boys like Smith & Wesson.
How did you get introduced to firearms?
I grew up around guns and hunting and fishing—all that good stuff. Got my first gun when I was about 12 years old, a Browning lever action in .223 with a top-of-the-line Simmons Whitetail scope on it, and I hunted with that rifle for a long time.
Still have that rifle?
I do. It doesn’t fit me anymore, but I imagine my son, Stone, will get it and use it one day.
How did you go from a hunter and shooter to someone who actually makes firearms?
About six years ago, I bought an AR at a gun show, a Bushmaster XM15, and took it out and shot it. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. But it just didn’t shoot like I wanted it to shoot. So I took it apart and started tinkering. Anything I could upgrade, I did. Friends saw my rifle and started asking me to help them with theirs. I started doing work on upper receivers on the side. That was when I found out about billeted receivers [receivers milled from a solid block of metal], and I never went back to forged receivers. In 2011, we got our FFL [federal firearms license], and started doing complete ARs and bolt actions as King’s Arsenal.
What’s the most popular rifle and calibers you make and sell?
Our Crown 15, which is our AR15 model. The .300 Blackout is probably the most popular caliber right now, and lots of people come to us for the 6.5 Grendel.
Who are your main customers?
We get a lot of hunters buying our rifles and a lot of ranchers out here in Texas. Good number of 3-Gun shooters, too. And we’re selling our guns all over the country, not just Texas.
What’s your advertising and marketing plan look like?
We haven’t been able to afford much advertising. It’s pretty much word of mouth. People hear about us and find our website (http://kingsarsenal.com/), and we’re on Facebook, too. Facebook’s helped a lot. We have achieved more than 9,000 Likes in just a year.
So business is good?
Bigtime. Because of all this talk about gun control, everybody’s worried, and we’ve sold a whole bunch of rifles recently, and taken orders for a lot more. That’s put our name out there a lot, so we’re getting more interest and more orders all the time. We’re able to do all the work we have now. If we take on your rifle, we will get it done as soon as we can. But I may have to hire some more people pretty soon.
Sounds like it’s time to expand.
With all these new orders and sales, I’d like to take the profits and put it right back into King’s Arsenal and grow. I want to open a store-front operation here in Abilene. Right now, we’ve got a smaller shop, kind of crowded, with tools lying everywhere. But we haven’t expanded because of all this possible anti-gun legislation. It’s just too big a liability hanging out there for me to throw a bunch of money into upgrading. Not until all this settles down. But it does kind of make me mad. We’re so new and we’re in this great place to really take off, and the federal government might shut us right down [with an AR ban].
Is it hard competing with the Bushmasters and Smith & Wessons of the gun world?
They make the same kind of rifles we do. But I think we’re in an entirely different market, and we don’t really compete with each other. We’re making all our guns custom, each one is put together one at a time, no assembly line. So I don’t really see us competing with each other.
What’s been the hardest part of being in this business for you?
Once we got our FFL, we had to learn all the regulations and other stuff that goes along with having one. For a while there, it was pretty hard to get used to all the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] paperwork you had to do anytime you made a rifle. When we first got the FFL, we figured, well, we’d make two or three rifles a year, no big deal on the paperwork. But we’re doing a lot more than two or three rifles now! Lots of paper, and you have to learn how to do it right or you can get in some bigtime trouble!
This article appeared in the March 25, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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