Breakthrough for Minden manufacturer
September 16, 2017
A Minden manufacturer's new proprietary trigger system brings assault rifles as close to full automatic as they can legally get for gun enthusiasts and hobbyists.
That's a big deal in the weapons world, and for Franklin Armory, the development has the potential to drive unprecedented growth for the company.
Fully automatic assault rifles, which fire continuously with a single pull (and hold) of the trigger, are illegal. Franklin Armory's new trigger system is a big step up from semi-automatic, which fires a single round per pull of the trigger. The new trigger, in effect, fires two rounds every time the trigger is squeezed: one round at the pull and one at the release.
Franklin Armory is in the process of finalizing patents for its trigger system that features a three-position switch: safe, semi-automatic, and a new "binary" mode, which fires rounds when the trigger is both pulled and released. The second shot can be canceled by modulating the selector back to semi-automatic.
"In engineering it, we knew we had to do two things," said President Jay Jacobson. "We had to make it selectable so you had traditional semi-auto, but you also had a different type of semi-auto, which we call 'binary' mode. We created a whole new class of trigger system.
"We were the first ones to bring it to market, and the first ones to apply for patents on the selector technology," Jacobson added.
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The trigger fits onto AR-15 assault rifles, and Franklin Armory expects to launch the new system for other models of assault weaponry as well. Jacobson said there also is interest in the binary trigger system from the U.S. Department of Defense that could lead to further growth.
Franklin Armory first set up shop in Minden in 2013 to establish a toehold in northern Nevada because of California's onerous and restrictive regulations regarding assault rifles. Over the past few years, though, the company has found that doing business in the Silver State trumps its larger neighbor to the west.
Jacobson cited lower costs for industrial real estate, energy and housing, as well as a workforce that understands and appreciates firearms, as primary factors that have helped the company significantly expand its foothold in northern Nevada.
Franklin Armory recently leased 9,800 square feet of additional industrial space in Minden and is in the process of building out new assembly and manufacturing lines. The company will lease the space for two years with the option to buy the property. Franklin Armory originally leased 3,800 square feet when it first landed in Minden, but that space has long been insufficient to house its workforce and operations in the region.
The company currently employs 15 people, and that could double once the new facility is up and running by the end of this year. Franklin Armory also operates a 10,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Morgan Hill, Calif., south of San Jose.
While the new trigger system is pushing a lot of the company's growth, operating in a pro-gun state also is helping Franklin Armory flourish. Developing the new assault rifle trigger technology in California would be illegal, Jacobson noted.
"California is a lot more restrictive," he said. "Here, we have the freedom to operate. We are still held to high accountability — every firearm we make must be accounted for — but we have the ability to perform R&D and make machine guns. In California that is completely off the table."
Franklin Armory seeks a senior-level CNC (computer numerical controlled) shop manager to operate the new machinery in its expanded facility. A background in firearms production is helpful but not totally necessary, Jacobson noted.
"It's a pillar position within this organization," he said. "I am just waiting for the right candidate. I have a lot of the machinery in place; it just needs to be finalized by that individual to conduct the workflow accordingly. They must have the ability to organize workflow and programs, manage personnel, and figure out the material requirements.
"Having the machinery set up, with a qualified individual managing it and a team of people, we will be able to turn things around quicker," he added.
Franklin Armory's primary markets are dealers and distributors throughout the United States (all firearms sales must go through a local Federal Firearms Licensed dealer). The company earlier this year received sales tax and business tax abatements from the Governor's Office of Economic Development to purchase the new manufacturing equipment that it is setting up in the additional commercial space in Minden.
"The governor's office was very gracious in working with us so we could grow in Nevada," Jacobson said. "We have another facility in California, but we prefer to invest here."
Lisa Granahan, economic vitality manager for Douglas County, said advanced manufacturing companies such as Franklin Armory help diversify and stabilize the county's workforce and economy.
"One of the county's economic vitality projects is to accelerate advanced manufacturing — we want this sector to grow," Granahan said. "We have a team that does outreach to local manufacturing businesses to assist with supply chain, workforce and infrastructure issues, and we partner with the Northern Nevada Development Authority to assist with state incentives, marketing and attraction. The county is very optimistic about the growth of future manufacturing jobs as many of our existing manufacturers, like Franklin Armory, are indicating plans for future expansion."
Although Franklin Armory still manufactures most of its parts in California and assembles weaponry in northern Nevada, things continue to shift in favor of the Silver State, Jacobson said, mainly because of California's stiff regulations regarding assault rifles.
"This is a fabulous area to grow in with a great body of veterans to draw qualified personnel from," he said. "The county government is very pro-business, not just with Franklin Armory but everybody else.
"We have great products we are bringing to market. There is a good workforce here, and the cost of living is great. It is a fabulous place for work, recreation and family."