Post Nov 18, 2016 by HMGTravis
First off I want to say thank you to each and every one of you for being one of our great customers or even just showing interest in our company. We appreciate your patience thus far and even more so thank you for having faith in our small company to deliver a product that has already caused large ripples in this industry. I want to start things a little differently by adding a bit of personality and add a name to the person behind the message. Most of you may not know who makes up our company or who it is replying to your messages and emails late at night and in the wee hours of the morning when normal folks are sleeping. My name is Travis Willey and I am the new Operations Manager here at Hill & Mac Gunworks. I have been with the company for a little over a year now but have recently moved into this spot, and thus getting the chance to communicate with the most important driver of this company: You the customer. Some of you I’ve spoken with on the phone and via digital means, for those I haven’t had the pleasure of speaking with please feel free to reach out at any time as I always make myself available to answer any questions or calm any concerns!
Now that the small house keeping details are out of the way lets dive into this month’s Newsletter. I will apologize in advance this update is going to be a somewhat lengthy message to you but going forward I hope to make them more short and concise and of course media heavy! I realize that there has been a continual lack of communication on our part in regards to not only the STG but the CETME-L and our other product offerings. Did most of you know that this company was founded making rifle and pistol rated reactive steel targets and continue to produce them? I take full responsibility for this issue and I am working to change this going forward.
Let’s start with the CETME-L’s. Some of you may know that we did a limited run of 100 of these rifles. These started out strong and then we hit a HUGE road block. Our supplier of receivers effectively dropped the ball on both the quantity and more importantly quality of the stampings. This caused us to shift gears 6 months into an already delayed project and design our own flats from scratch. Yours truly ran the press on almost half of them. Simply put they look gorgeous. By making our own flats we are also able to control the supply of them and realized that there was a potential to offer a builder’s kit to our customers that have had a parts kit laying around for years (More info on this to follow further down). Once the flats were in house we hit the ground running and began cranking them out as fast as possible. This was not without its own delays: Sand blasting cabinet quite literally exploding after running 10 hours a day for 15 days straight (I never want to prep another parts kit again), Parts catching fire while tig welding due to excessive cosmeline used in the decommissioning process (this was after soaking in degreaser for 24 hours and a good sand blast), and my favorite the constant inconsistencies in the original parts causing issues we could have never predicted(We found a few bolt carriers that had HK93 locking pieces instead of original CETME ones…..). All that said we finally got them finished. A few long days of inhaling chemicals and scalding myself with boiling water later and we had the rifles coated. Painting, final assembly, boxing and finally shipping to customers happened earlier this month. Everyone that ordered a CETME now has that in their possession and thus far we have heard nothing but rave reviews on the quality of the build. This was a pivotal point for our company as this solidified our position as a firearms manufacturer!
As I said with the CETMEs by developing our own receiver we suddenly had access to as many of them as we wanted with an incredibly short lead time. This spawned the idea of “What if we made a builder’s kit?”. And a builders kit we made! Our engineer (singular, we only have one who has designed everything to this point) came up with a bending jig that would allow the end user to fold a receiver into the proper shape without the use of a press. This coupled with the availability of quality weldments and 922R compliant parts (disconnector and flash hider), also designed and manufactured by us, allowed us to get these into the hands of the home builders in staggering numbers. I’ll be honest I could have never predicted the popularity of a CETME home build kit but I have been pleasantly surprised. This continues to become one of our most popular items to date! The biggest question I receive about these kits is
When is my builder’s kits going to ship?
Soon….. I have everything in stock right now besides the parts kits (Both L and LC) and barrels. In fact, everyday there are receivers, weldment sets and bending jigs that leave our shop. The fact of the matter is the parts kits have been on order since early summer and have yet to be received. I cannot give a better explanation for the delay other then they have not been delivered to us yet. Once this happens we are in business. As far as the barrels go: There aren’t many companies making HK style barrels (specifically companies that have the tooling and the know how to cut flutes into chambers). The initial solution was take HK93 barrels and have them turned down to the correct profile of the CETME. The issue here is cost and time, not to mention the thread pitch would be different then the already hundreds of flash hiders we have in stock. It is more cost effective and makes more sense for us to cut proper barrels (like the 100 we used on customer rifles) for the build kits. The good news is we have a supplier who looks promising and we are in the beginning stages of QC’ing the barrels made by them. I am hoping to be able to release these barrels by the end of the year, but again I will only do so if I find them 100% up to standard.
The response and feedback on the flats and weldments has been awesome. I love seeing customers builds come to completion. If there are any of you out there who have completed a build, please send me pictures of it!
As I mentioned before we are also a manufacturer of reactive steel shooting targets that are both rifle and pistol rated. They are made of AR500 and everything is produced in house. Those of you who aren’t familiar we offer 4 basic shapes (2/3 IPSC, Mini Popper, 8” Round and Tombstone). We also offer a few custom shapes: A full size IPSC Flapper target which has swinging plates at both the A & T zone positions, a 2/3 IPSC target with a swinging plate in the A zone (titled our spinal flapper), and finally our newest target a Dueling Tree! This has been tuned for pistol use at close distances as a friendly competition and training target. The dueling tree can also be used at longer ranges for precision rifle work.
Now the update everyone has been waiting for. You may have read this update thus far and are saying “Yea CETME’s are cool, wow didn’t know you guys made some awesome targets, and wow Travis you talk way too much but when are we going to hear about the STG”. It is no secret to everyone that this project has been continually delayed over the last year. The truth of the matter is these were unforeseen delays for a multitude of reasons. I am not here to give you excuses and I take full responsibility for the fact that the rifles are not in your hands. When we launched the announcement of the rifle last year we could have NEVER guessed how popular it would truly become. Our expectations were shattered the first day of SHOT Show and quite honestly continue to be shattered on a weekly basis. Because of this we were woefully ill prepared for the number of firearms we needed to make. We had a number and your response in pre-orders forced us to add a 0 onto that number. There have been many points along this project where we thought we were there. We thought we had it, and as we would begin the process of testing to ensure we truly did have it we would discover something new that needed to be tweaked. That is the fun of R&D…. Little changes here and there, more testing, more changes etc etc. Along with tweaks to the design (while maintaining the awe and look of the original as closely as possible) we experienced numerous logistical issues that has required some fancy footwork to say the least. Taking a facility that was just big enough for 3 people to produce and sell steel shooting targets and then attempt to convert that to 5 people building and selling close to 1000 guns a year is a hell of an undertaking. More often then I would like to admit we have had the “uhhhhh how are we going to fit that in the warehouse” (kind of like when you’re told 40k pounds of steel is soon to arrive in 30 foot lengths and you’re barely able to move about the back as is).
Thankfully these are solvable problems. We are in the process of moving to a substantially larger production facility which will allow us to store more machinery and more raw material on hand leading to shorter lead times and more guns out the door. We are streamlining our production process and I am doing my best to ensure we are running far more efficiently than we have in the past. Unfortunately, none of that makes up for time you have waited for a rifle. Going forward as I stated before I am making it a point to make myself substantially more availible and be there for each and every one of you to ask questions for or even be that punching bag if you feel the need to express your disinterest in not having something that you pre-ordered (I survived 4 years being chewed out in the Marine Corps, I promise I can handle it). I am in the process of developing a multi part video series to document the production of the rifle and put some of these issues I have described above in perspective and show you what it has been like trying to make this rifle. We are accomplishing something that was last done by a nation putting forth a war time budget with countless engineers and they still came out with a product that had inherent issues and flaws. It may sound like a cop out but we are doing our very best with what we have.
As it stands the current priority of orders is California customers out the door by December 21 to ensure they have the rifles before their new legislation is passed banning the ownership of an STG. I am also hoping to couple the very first orders in with these and at the very least have them out in January. Everyone else will follow soon after. Except for California, I cannot and will not promise you a date that I can deliver on. This has happened to you continually over the last year and I do not intend to lead you on further. The good news is that once we are completed our move and production is ramped to 100% we will be able to produce enough guns fast enough to fill orders very very quickly. In short they are coming. I cannot give you a definitive date yet because I do not have one. My job is full of attempting to turn uncertainties into certainties and I am doing my best to make a ship date one of them. The first question I know I will get is something like “Are you even going to make them?” or “Are you just stealing our money to start a bakery instead?”. YES, WE ARE MAKING THE STG. We all at HMG have spent waaaayyyyyyyyyy too many hours welding, filing, drilling, assembling, pressing, polishing and not sleeping to not bring this rifle to the market (no we are not starting a bakery). Up to this point you all have demonstrated an amazing amount of patience with our company as we move from being nobodies in this industry to someone that’s rubbing shoulders and turning heads with the big guys. I personally appreciate the faith you had in us when you pre-ordered your STG. I ask that you continue to have that faith and trust that we will deliver. Ask the CETME customers, yes it took substantially longer than anticipated but the result was one of pure gold. I can retain you as a customer and win you back with a phenomenal product that has been delivered late. I cannot however retain you if I rush something to you that makes you despise our rifle. These things take time unfortunately. This is not an AR or a striker fired polymer pistol. Making parts is not just putting them in a machine and pressing a button. We are working as quickly as humanly possible to bring these rifles to you, but I refuse to rush the process. We have one shot to get this right. I realize this may upset some and may not be the answer you want to hear but that is the answer regardless.
Thank you all again for being amazing customers thus far. Without you we would not be where we are today and far too often it is easy to forget that. I personally make it my goal to respond to each one of your messages, Facebook comments, emails and phone calls. Please feel free to reach out to myself at any time and I will do anything and everything I can to assist you. As I said going forward expect much more communication from us. I look forward to the future and I hope you all do as well. SHOT show is just around the corner, come visit us in booth 720. I would love to shake some of your hands and put a face with the voice or the email address.
Until Next time…