Interviewed: Faxon Firearms' Bob Faxon

Faxon Firearms is known for its quality barrels, but there’s more to the company than that — a lot more.

Interviewed: Faxon Firearms' Bob Faxon

The DIY AR-15 market has become huge, with estimates that in the last 10 years, as much as 20% of AR-15s owned were built from bare lower receivers. With that growth in the customization, upgrade and DIY build market, we have seen a number of manufacturers emerge with rave-worthy, unique products. Faxon Firearms is one of those brands that has become widely recognized and respected across the industry as producing affordable barrels that deliver consistent high quality and accuracy. We had an opportunity to talk with Bob Faxon, the President of Faxon Firearms, about the Faxon Story.


TR - How did Faxon Start?

Faxon - Well, if we go way back, we have to say it all really started in 1978, when my older brother wanted to work on and repair cars and needed a building for a then-small but growing business. My father was involved, and they purchased a 4,500-square-foot building. A funny little loop in our history was the former building owner was Wycolt Arms, who made muzzleloader barrels. Along with the building, my father negotiated and closed the sale with the caveat that the deep drilling gun barrel machine and also a little metal box of 3x5 index cards of the customers were included. My father handed that box to my brother Dave and said, well, if things get slow, you can drill some holes. We continued to evolve the automotive business over nearly a decade, but it was that gun drill machine that started us on a path of industrial drilling, deep hole drilling — and that evolved into the very unique machining capabilities we have today.

For about the next decade, our focus was tier-one automotive, where we kept growing the business to the point we had moved and grown to a 165,000-square-foot facility on 10 acres. The market and economy changed, and to stay relevant and in business, we changed with it, looking for new customers. That journey took us into oil and gas, medical, defense and aerospace production. Once again, our unique capabilities around deep hole and industrial drilling helped us to grow during a difficult time in the economy.

Around 2012, the market and economy changed again, with our customer production slowing to the point we needed to find something to keep the machines running and our people busy. We looked at all types of different things but wanted to manufacture products that mattered. Discussions around our love for firearms led to me attending SHOT show, thinking we were going to set the market on fire with the best and highest-quality AR and AR parts. Instead, I was shocked and really, truly humbled by how many very high-tier products there were, backed by other machine shops with deep machining experience.

So, we really started to rethink how we could come to market and differentiate ourselves with something that could show our capabilities, innovation and value. After watching a History Channel show that talked about the top 10 best firearms of all time — the AR and AK were ranked number one and two — we thought if we could combine the best of both guns, we could both show the industry we knew guns and showcase our capabilities.

The ARAK21 was designed literally over a kitchen table in just a few hours. The ARAK upper combines the best of the AR ergonomics with the long-stroke gas-piston-driven AK platforms, all on an AR-15 lower that is field-caliber-convertible in two minutes. We even designed a unique rectangular bolt carrier for smoother metal-on-metal fit to reduce lubrication needs. We joke that it took two minutes to draw up and one year to actually shoot the final version 21.

The final monolithic design worked fantastic and delivered a convertible 7.62x39 and 5.56 NATO platform. By version 21, we had a great, refined product, and as a result ,we named it the ARAK21. At that point, all the pieces of a firearm business started to come together for us, including our capabilities to produce a highly technical firearm with our own components, including our own barrels that relied on all of our precision deep hole drilling experience.


TR - What did the release of the ARAK21 do for Faxon?

Faxon - The ARAK21 really showed that we were investing into the industry with a product that showcased our unique capabilities and design innovation. We did not just want to be seen as another parts manufacturer — we wanted to show that we were innovative and could offer the industry something unique. That led to us offering barrels, and the rest of the history is what people know us for now — primarily as a barrel maker. The funny thing is that our first piece of equipment was that old gun barrel drilling machine, and here we are today.


TR - How special is your deep hole drilling experience?

Faxon - It is pretty special. Today we make exceptional barrels, and the consistency and accuracy is all due to our ability to drill a straight hole in a barrel blank. To give an example of our precision, we can drill a 2-foot-wide hole up to 33 feet deep in steel stock. We can hold a tolerance of .010-inch on a 120-inch-deep hole — in our industry, that is a unique machining capability.

Beyond hole drilling, we have other unique capabilities. We actually have parts involved in the landing on the rover on Mars. We made a lot of parts for the biggest automotive brands in the business. It really is the most gratifying to take raw materials and turn them into parts. At one time, hand-finishing would offer the best finish, but today, our technical machining capabilities can deliver consistency and precision statistically beyond hand-finishing, all with exponentially higher production level. We even have one lathe that is 7 meters on centers and can machine the really big stuff.


TR - What is the product breadth today?

Faxon - Beyond the ARAK21, we offer a Faxon FX-19 Glock-compatible pistol, our own AR-15 rifles and pistols, AR-15 and AR-10 barrels in over a dozen calibers, 10/22 rimfire barrels, pistol barrels for Glock, Sig and S&W, slides for Glock and S&W, mag wells, magazine extensions, and a large variety of AR parts. We focus on being innovative with every product, all the way to items like our lightweight bolt carrier group or even our slimline muzzle devices.

We want customers to be very pleased with Faxon products and have a pleasing ownership experience. We strive to have customers really enjoy the Faxon product experience, and that means they didn’t pay too much for more than they needed or too little and end up with lower quality. That has really led to a unique take on the design of our products that is different from much of the military-design-focused AR products.


TR - Faxon has offered some really unique products.

Faxon - I think part of that is our vertically integrated capabilities combined with our attention on innovation — we are a manufacturer at heart. We are not just buying barrel blanks. We start our barrels, as an example, from 20-foot raw bar stock — nearly every one of our products are machined in-house. We also have all the various quality and process certifications and accreditations, plus we have a huge expanse of capabilities. Our focus with our now widely known pencil barrels was that not all customers really want to have heavy mil-spec barrels, and wouldn’t it be nice to have a lightweight barrel that is just fun and accurate while not being tiring to shoot for an afternoon? Through our in-house stress-relieving process, we have a set of ultra-lightweight barrels that perform really well. The pencil barrel was a hit, but we had a lot of customers that wanted something just a bit heavier and stiffer, and our unique lightweight Gunner profile was born. We now offer 5R and standard button rifling, a multitude of calibers, and both standard and match-series barrels. We also added premium finishes such as gold and limited-edition rainbow PVD coatings.


TR - How did the pistol barrels come about?

Faxon - It was a natural progression from our AR barrels, and, naturally, the Glock barrels made the most sense to start with. It was the same thing with the 10/22 barrels. We just saw this as something fun for customers that would be a great shooting experience.


TR - How has Faxon Firearms expanded today?

Faxon - We have actually split Faxon Firearms into its own division, which is now in its own location, with all firearms and component manufacturing and shipping in one facility. The new layout allowed a lot of optimization for the processes in the firearms business and a tremendous increase in capacity. It allows them to focus on the firearms side of the business instead with better customer and dealer support. We work with dealers directly to satisfy dealer needs first before any website sales. It is important that we maintain and support dealers before we address the customer’s direct needs.


TR - Where do you think the industry is going?

Faxon - I think the industry is going to stay strong and have a lot of faith that politics are not going to drive the AR-15 out of peoples’ hands. I believe in our country that was built with firearms as part of our heritage and don’t believe that regulations driven by emotion will progress. From a production perspective, I hate the emotional demand. It forces people to buy based on availability vs what they really want. It really breaks my heart to hear people saying they are buying guns because of safety. We are just so passionate about firearms and feel it is a right that we should never apologize for.


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