OK, so I decided to interview myself. Not because we don’t have plenty of excellent people to interview, or a ton of interviews already done that we could post. We have met some amazing people: average by most mainstream standards, but exceptional by the real standards which the readers of this blog base their opinions.
The Conservative Libertarian who lives in Minnesota and is outspoken about the dangers we face as a country, not because he heard something cool, but because he lived through former regime changes and knows history repeats itself.
We haven’t posted others yet, like the Woman gun lover who does it all, running a blog and building a social medium for female shooters around the globe from her home in Idaho.
Then there is the guy who has invented 8 separate wildcat cartridges, who is now writing the book on P.O. Ackley, perhaps the greatest gunsmith of his generation, and the best since John Browning. A Gunsmith (our interviewee) who knows just about everything there is to know about dialing in ballistics and achieving perfection in cartridges.
How about the guy who makes $150,000 double rifles, renowned for their build quality and capability?
The Special Forces operator who has seen more in a month of combat than most people will see on the news in their entire life.
NO. I decided to interview myself for you all, because I feel like we have begun to build a sort of connection in our social media interactions and maybe you’d like to know the reasons I do what I do, and what I personally think. I’m not asking you to like me, but certainly let me know what you think.
It’s a lot more difficult to remain unbiased and ask pertinent questions when you are interviewing yourself, so bear with me.
What’s your deal Ben?
Well I’m a classically trained chef, with a risk management job during the day, and a passion for writing about guns and the firearms industry by night. I never could get behind the idea of settling on any one thing, one purpose during life, I try to be a renaissance man I guess. I am or have been a Father, Brother, Son, Husband, Boyfriend, Gunsmith, construction foreman, Sales executive, Insurance analyst, Human resources consultant, writer, expert witness, Law Enforcement and Military contractor, and a few other things. Some say: “you are good at a lot of things” I say, I’m the best at everything I do, because I don’t settle. The truth? It’s debatable to my level of success; it depends on who you ask.
Tell us your journey through the world of guns.
I started working with my grandfather (rather watching him work) at around 11 years old in his workshop on guns. He was a first generation gunsmith, self taught, and I was one of many of his apprentices. I picked it up quickly, but he kept me humble, and finally around age 14 I started making some real headway in the gunsmithing trade and the custom world. Many of the things I did were 1911 modifications and sporterizing of military surplus stuff, as well as some of the AR-15 mods and drop in parts, and a lot of slight fitting. It wasn’t until I was about 18 that I really started doing anything special.
For years we worked on the idea of the business, until, right before we were about to change direction and really make it commercially viable, he got sick with cancer, and died in 2000. Right before his death I became very jaded on the industry, the greed of clients I thought of originally as friends; people who would lie about face to face “agreements” with my grandfather for cut rate prices, or even those lying about which guns were theirs.
Eventually I left the industry to focus on raising a family and avoiding idiot gun guys.
It wasn’t until I realized I was an idiot gun guy that I got the bigger picture. I was desperately trying to get back into the gun industry and out of my tired and boring job (more on my “job” later), even though the vast majority of people would say my “job” was neither tired, nor boring. The problem was: everything on the internet in the “mainstream channels” was incomplete, uninformed, or written by hired writers with little real world experience. Enter www.netgunsmith.com. The website is in its infancy, but already it’s become a powerful website and hopefully helping people to look outside the mainstream ideas about guns, politics and gunsmithing to something that’s infinitely more attainable, interactive, usable and informative than anything else out there. If you knew what I had to put up and just haven’t had the time to do, you’d be floored, I can’t wait as the next several months wind down and some of the really quality content gets put out to our readers.
I am currently bringing to market the years of technical expertise I have, and will be trying to introduce a couple of weapon systems to the military and civilian market over the next decade, something I was about to do when I left the industry around the time of my grandfather’s death, a life changing event for me. It’s time for the world to see that innovation exists, even in Southern California, in the gun industry.
What bothers you still about the gun industry?
The rote ritualization of it. Sure, everyone can exercise their unique take on things, and be creative, but there is an awful lot of redundancy and mainstream ideas at the forefront of the industry. I mean how many things can we attach to an AR-15? I can think of ten more interesting rifles to mess around with. We truly are a plug-and-play generation. I would rather spend the rest of this decade educating people on my website about how to modify their OTHER guns, than develop the next big “killer app” for the AR-15. It’s tired. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the AR-15/M-16/M-4, but it’s not the only thing out there.
I will give you a perfect example: I walked into a gun store in southern California yesterday and the only thing on the wall was “black tacticool guns”, nothing else in the place. They were packed: people buying things, showing off their guns, asking minimum wage gun “experts” what to do to improve functionality and being sold on ever more products. What happened to helping without having to sell someone on something? Oh, yeah, you can’t make money that way. It’s so commercialized. In some ways it’s good, take the media attention we get now that we would never get ten years ago, or the acceptance of self defense as a real option, or even the questioning of government that is helped along by the ability to still buy a gun and exercise our rights. Along with that though, is a disturbing trend in the gun industry: mediocrity, redundancy and less innovation. Only a handful of companies still do the thing that made our industry so great. Companies like HK, Sig, Barrett, Ruger, Kel-Tec; these guys are innovating, no matter if you like their offerings or not. Many other manufacturers are piggyback companies, exploiting trends.
What are you working on then, since you despise the copycats of industry?
Haha, well you caught me red handed. I guess there is a bit of hypocrisy in my own words: currently I’m designing a one off build based loosely on the HK P7 M8 but in .45 caliber (it’d be 10mm if I thought I had a chance in hell to make the functionality perfect in such a small gun). I’m also working on my own tactical design of a two barrel shotgun with exposed hammers in ten gauge for specialty applications, which sounds ridiculous perhaps, but the innovation is in the projectile and the delivery mechanism. I am also modifying a Sig P220 Stainless Steel Elite to chamber and reliably fire a 10mm cartridge. I got the idea from a customer of Bruce Gray, who is a well known and very innovative gunsmith, someone I admire. I have for years had a design for a super lightweight anti material and sniper rifle in a large caliber, that I STILL think I can build to a gun that weighs less than 15 pounds. I have a design for a shotgun that doesn’t have felt recoil. I have a design for a completely modular weapon system that can use all of the NATO rounds with only a bolt and barrel change, which is a QD system. All need extensive development still, but there is nothing like them on the market currently, and I think my vast experience in other industries puts me into a unique class of innovator, and allows me a lot more potential to actually achieve these goals. I also don’t need to make money from day one of their development, because I have a different profession. It’s just a matter of time. I’m confident in my ability to design something that has never been done before, who knows, maybe someday I’ll be remembered in the industry for achievements that don’t yet exist on my resume.
Man that’s tough, I probably have fifty. I really like the HK P7M8 and the USP. The Sig P220. The MP5 10mm, the 1911 of course is up there. I love the big boys like the Barretts, and other large caliber stuff. The Lever action .45-70; the list goes on and on. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the Mauser bolt action and the Husquvarna revolver, and the LeMat. I love me some Benelli M3’s, the Merkel line, and The Browning BAR. I’m diverse, I can see the beauty and intelligence in just about every design. I could do this for hours naming guns. There’s no real answer. I even like Glocks, Kel-Tec’s and the Ruger Mk 2 I have personally shot over 300,000 rounds through without a parts replacement of any kind aside from a firing pin, that I messed up, trying to modify it (this is a pistol that I no longer own). Put me in front of a gun, and I can appreciate it. Special mention to the Sig P210 Legend (the modern man’s version of an incredible gun, the original P-210)
What do you carry?
HK P7M8 on a daily basis; 1911 that I made myself for carry; Sig P220 Stainless; Glock 23 done up right; interestingly enough I heavily modded a Phoenix Arms HP-22 and fell in love with it; occasionally also carrying it. I’m about utility not necessarily beauty or price.
Coolest thing you’ve done with a gun?
I have built $10,000 custom guns, some probably costing even more, but the coolest thing I have done (aside from my designs I have yet to try to build) is shooting a Benelli M1 8 times on three separate targets before the first spent casing hit the ground. I was shocked that after the last shot on target, I then heard a rapid succession of spent shells hitting the range floor. I counted my shots and counted the shells. Yup. 8. I was impressed. Haha, the readers probably think I’ve lost it now.
First word of advice to a new gun owner?
Just because you have a gun doesn’t make you safe: get some real training, practice and understand your firearm. Buy more ammo than you think. Treat it well. Change the oil and kick the tires often. Don’t be afraid to exercise your right to buy and own while you can. Get involved in the gun industry at some level.
First word of advice to an aspiring gunsmith?
Read my tutorials! No really: don’t underestimate the power of comparison. Look for what it’s supposed to be and visualize how you can make it work the same way. Comparison is a huge part of general gunsmithing. Once you feel comfortable in identification and comparisons, pick a niche and get to work making it happen.
What’s life outside of gun stuff like for you?
I’m a writer, I constantly have music and football on around me (football like kick the ball with your feet). I’m a big fan of the Arsenal Football club in London. I co-founded a group called the San Diego Gooners, a fan club with a good sized following. I love politics, but my girlfriend hates them, so we constantly debate what we will watch when we’re at home. I have two perfect children who are constantly on my mind, and a 7 year old that I essentially raise, who I enjoy a great relationship with. I love good food, and write reviews on yelp, as well as visit high end restaurants like The French Laundry, etc. I’m a food snob.
What about work?
I’m a Risk management Executive for a company which helps develop risk mitigation techniques and security plans for domestic companies operating in war torn countries and unstable regions of the world. I also do analytical work for risk management programs for less exciting clients. I am an Insurance producer and Risk management consultant. Boring I know.
I write a lot on the prepper industry, survival skills, off the grid living and in the military and law enforcement space. I have ghost written 4 books published by two major publishing houses and 1 independent. I am currently authoring my first book which will feature my name on the cover. There are three others in manuscript form being shopped currently. I am launching three websites this year in addition to www.netgunsmith.com I want to be able to spread the information I have built over the course of my lifetime to this point, as I feel much of the content online is too generic for most intelligent readers.
Are you a prepper yourself?
Absolutely, everyone should be prepared for some things. I won’t go into detail, but I am launching a book about practical survival later this year, and I will be giving away some copies to dedicated readers of the www.netgunsmith.com website.
Tell us the challenges of starting a website when you are an “expert” at something other than starting a website?
Well, there are a lot of balls in motion so to speak. I can see why a lot of people fail to make a real commercial impact on the internet. People don’t accept anything less than the best, google doesn’t accept anything less than unique, search engines don’t factor much at first and advertising needs to be kept in check. At first I had an overzealous team of people helping with formatting and the wrong ad code got put in place. I had to take the site offline to get it fixed.
First of all, you can’t write for search engines, because people won’t like it. The internet is built for mediocrity: click throughs. The goal is to get people to click on ads next to your content, so you can’t write good enough content to satisfy the reader. Luckily I don’t care as much about ad revenue as I do about writing engaging copy. www.netgunsmith.com is also not in an industry with a lot of ads geared towards readers of content, so I can still write well, give more information than most sites, and pay for my servers. By the way, you can’t get rich quick on the internet quite like people think you can. It’s a myth. I work 35 hours a week at a regular job, and 55+ on the www.netgunsmith.com website. And I have yet to see any money from it. In fact my costs (without including my labor and time) haven’t even been covered. At this point it’s a labor of love, and an outlet for entertainment for me.
You need to constantly market your brand, not let it suffer in quality, pay for writing or expect to take a ton of time writing content and interact with the people who read your site. Enjoyable because I meet some incredible people and I get to do something I love: share information. The marketing stuff is a bit tedious and I’m sure the readers hear a lot of redundancy, but it’s all worth it in the end if I know that someone is getting something out of it. It’s a lot tougher than I thought it would be.
You said “outlet for entertainment for you” in the above answer, does that mean that you get some satisfaction or benefit out of it that isn’t obvious?
I meet some of the coolest people in the world on the internet. I don’t think I have been as interested in people ever before as I am now. When you can sit for an hour and ask them anything and be surprised by the answer they give, it’s truly freeing. I love to interview people and see what they think. It’s amazing to see what people love, hate or trust. It’s amazing to see that no matter what side you line up on, there are some true patriots in this country; people who love this wonderful place as much as I do, and who respect the men and women that have protected our freedoms from our lifetimes and those that precede us. I get immense satisfaction in hearing that I am not the only one that thinks the way I do. I get almost as much satisfaction hearing why I’m an idiot for believing what I do, because in everyone there is truth and potential, no matter what they champion. Man, I sound like a bleeding heart liberal, which I AM NOT. Regardless, this is incredibly satisfying to me to be able to interact with the readers, fans and followers of my work.
What do you listen to all day while you’re working?
Pandora. Football. Talk radio. CNBC. It depends on my mood. Everything from Spanish Pop music to country, to blues and Rock and Roll, to top 40 stuff. Mostly conservative talk radio; mostly Arsenal Football; mostly the hot women on CNBC, otherwise I’m just a mute watcher of TV. It’s basically a ticker tracker for checking out big stories in the corporate world.
What specifically is on your list of “to listens”?
Hah, most people will shake their heads, I’m super eclectic in my music tastes.
Fun-We Are Young
Gym Class Heroes-Ass back Home
Mana-En El Muelle de San Blas
Mana-Arde El Cielo
Linkin Park-Bleed it out
Eric Clapton-Wonderful Tonight
Creedence Clearwater Revival-Fortunate Son
I could name a hundred more, but it’d be pointless, nobody cares what I listen to…
What are you reading?
All great books thus far. I like to multitask. I can function constantly with the TV on, the cell phone blaring music and typing stories…watch out for typos, sorry about that…
What is your political affiliation?
I’m a strongly right winged conservative, but I can bend a bit on social issues that are reasonable. I am a constitutional conservative essentially.
What candidate would you be voting for?
I grew up Mormon, so most would think Mitt Romney by way of the empathy vote, but I would vote for Romney specifically because I don’t think anyone else will get the nod, or be able to perform well in a general election.
If I had my choice it’d be a Romney/Ron Paul ticket with Romney staying away from Paul’s foreign policy, and adopting his no waiver attitude. Never happen, but I would love to see it.
In fact I’d vote for Ron Paul, if I could ever get behind his unbelievable foreign policy thoughts, but I won’t ever be able to get behind them unfortunately. He is rock solid on everything but that.
Santorum is the obvious Conservative play, but I can’t believe he keeps talking on subjects sometimes. Someone should tell him to shut up occasionally.
Gingrich is decent for guns, but I just can’t support some of the muckraking he did to get support. I’ve never particularly disliked Newt; I just don’t see him as presidential.
In the end, I will vote for whoever can win against Obama. I think we are entering a pivotal phase in the gun rights scenario, and an incumbent democrat with guys like Raum Emmanualle, and stories like the recent school shootings and the other tragedies in the mainstream, is very dangerous to our constitutional rights. The second four years of an eight year stint are always dangerous, and the fact that we have a borderline socialist in office isn’t helping.
You tweet and post a lot about military and veterans…
I get teary eyed and choked up when I hear Lee Greenwood’s Proud to be an American, I feel proud when I hear stories of courage under fire and true freedom fighters in the wars around the globe. If I am anything, I am a patriot. You could take nearly anything away from me, but don’t try and tell me that my country isn’t great and don’t try to spit on the graves of the brave soldiers who have kept us free. Don’t try to convince me that war is bad, when men who are braver than you or I will fight because they know the importance of being American, regardless of their personal views towards war. Those who don’t support our troops, our activists and our veteran organizations are not Americans.
I would die for your right to vote, to practice your religion to make your own choices and I will champion those who feel the same way, many of whom died JUST for THAT. They deserve our respect, no matter what we believe in our hearts about the direction of the country. Every one of those men and women following blind orders like sheep, is themselves a shepherd to our freedoms and our abilities. The responsibility falls on their shoulders to carry out our missions, because no one else will step up. Life is too comfortable behind a pc screen trash talking these brave warriors. The least I can do is promote the image of these people who don’t know me, but fight for me.
What’s your fear for 2012?
My fear is that we will endure another disruption in our normalcy for whatever reason and still not be prepared. DO what you can to be self sufficient, it’s not as tough as you think. Mayan Calendar, Smayan Palendar, it doesn’t matter what it is, believe it or not, things are going to happen, be ready to protect your family, and free up valuable resources to those who cannot do the same for whatever reason. Somewhere in the last 65 years we lost the ability to be self sufficient, that’s sad, because that’s why we are the greatest nation on the planet and why we cannot be ruled by anyone but our own people.
Even if it’s just stockpiling water and a bit of food, do it. Don’t forget to keep your powder dry.
The Zombie Apocalypse and Zombies in general?
Haha. I’m a weirdo like that. I love some Hollywood Zombies. But in all actuality, I see the Zombie apocalypse as a regular and mainstream situation taken to the extreme. Any time there is a mob mentality and a chance for casualties, that is a potential catalyst for the “Zombie Apocalypse” sure, I like to watch stuff like The Walking Dead, and the George Romero Style Zombies, but the Real Zombie Apocalypse is an event like the Los Angeles Riots, the London Riots, the Aftermath of Katrina, etc. etc. This stuff will happen. The Zombie apocalypse is a time when masses of people are unprepared to deal with an untimely event, and as a result, major casualties can result. Sure, we come together as a community, but in a bad enough event, it’s the mob against the prepared civilian: be ready for the “Zombie Apocalypse”.
The Zombies section is for those who actually love the Hollywood Zombies.
What do you want people to know?
Well, since I’m the guy who does the interviews, I’m sure I have a platform to vent/share/speak my mind, quite often, but I want people to know this now: What you do is important. Who you vote for is important, THAT you vote is important. We are not another country, we are not made to follow; we are made to lead. We are made to make the rules; we became a nation at the most pivotal moment in history because freedom, democracy, faith in God, loyalty and fearless men and women were needed. We are The United States of America, and we are the best the world has to offer. Taking nothing away from other countries, we have the most opportunity to be and do, of any nation. Do not go blindly into the night, shine a beacon for the rest of the world to see that we are not a bunch of milquetoasts, whiners, or weak people, we are strong and proud and capable. DO NOT be led by idiocy, rebel against it by casting your vote, and standing up for the right. Be an American in every sense of the word and do not tolerate mediocrity.