Erie company takes aim at weapons market
There's a decent chance that if you walked up to a U.S. soldier fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, some piece of equipment on his rifle would be stamped with the words, "Boulder, CO."
But Magpul Industries, a growing manufacturer of injection-molded plastic parts primarily for use on the AR-15 weapons platform, isn't actually located in Boulder -- rather it's a few hundred yards from the Boulder County border in Erie.
The company's head honchos know this geographical fact, but they like the bit of irony that comes from a weapon-gear manufacturer operating so close to the liberal stronghold of Boulder."We put Boulder, Colorado, on everything that we make, and really that's just a slap in the face to the hippies," said Drake Clark, senior director of sales and business development for Magpul.
Hippie-slapping aside, Clark is dead serious about what Magpul does.
The company was founded in 1999 by former Force Reconnaissance Marine Richard Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick moved to Colorado after leaving the military, taking from his experience as a soldier the idea for a piece of gear that many soldiers improvised using duct tape.
Fitzpatrick dumped his savings into patenting a piece of molded rubber that attaches at the base of rifle magazines and allows shooters to pull them from storage pouches more easily -- thus, the Magpul was born.
"The theory behind the products we come up with is basically that we find out what soldiers need to make their job easier," Clark said.
Skip ahead a decade, and the company has blossomed into a 100-employee operation that manufactures and assembles more than 60 plastic parts for various weapons, including state-of-the-art rifle stocks, grips, magazines and gun sights.
Headquartered in a nondescript warehouse off East County Line Road and Austin Avenue, Magpul is headed by a group of veterans representing every branch of the American military, a heritage they take seriously when designing their products.
"We build these products to put in the hands of the men and women who protect the freedom of our country," Clark said. "The money that we make coming from the sale of our products (to civilian markets) goes back into making better products for the warfighter, period."
Clark said the company has seen explosive growth in the past five years, though he declined to offer specific revenue figures.
The scope of the company's potential can be seen in its latest foray into firearm design. In a move away from making parts and pieces, Magpul recently completed the design of its Adaptive Combat Rifle -- the first fully functional assault rifle taken from concept to market by the company.
"We started out making this little rubberized grip for your magazine, and now we're developing full weapon systems," Clark said.
The rifle's design has been sold to Remington and Bushmaster Firearms International, which will each produce a version of the ACR; Remington for the military and Bushmaster for civilian and law-enforcement markets.
In early 2010, the ACR will be entered into trials for a new military standard-issue rifle to replace the longtime M4 and M16 rifle platforms. If the ACR is selected, it would have immense implications for the local startup.
"Every rifle they sell is going to need these plastic parts," Clark said, and Magpul would be the exclusive provider.
Clark said he sees the company's potential as nearly limitless, with possible expansions into other industries that require durable plastic parts.
"In 10 years I would foresee Magpul venturing way past the firearms realm and getting into other industries that get our feet wet," he said.
But for now, the company is content with stickin' it to the liberals.
"We're fairly proud that we can be amidst a whole bunch of hippies and we can build gun parts that say Boulder on them," Clark said.