Words By: Wally F. Photos By: Wally F. / RWA
……….In a non-descript industrial/commercial business park in the north end of Calgary, Alberta, Canada is the home to probably the best kept secret in Canadian firearms manufacturing. The catch is though, they have been around for decades.
……….Gord, Kevin, and Barry are the trio behind what is now Range Warrior Accessories (RWA). Three very driven individuals with extensive backgrounds in manufacturing, design, and production. It was very clear out of the gate though that Kevin was the firearms subject matter expert. With years working behind the scenes in the Canadian firearm scene with a number of well known companies, he is a man that knows what he is talking about.
……….The sister/associate company to RWA is a full production facility that makes anything and everything. In 2015 when the bottom fell out of the oil and gas industry and other manufacturing shops were shutting down, the trio wanted to keep their operation up and running and decided to dive into designing, and manufacturing guns parts. Their prime motivation for it, is something that all Canadian firearm’s owners have seen time and time again, a low (or no) supply of quality Canadian made parts north of the 49th. Parts being imported in from the United States are always in scarce supply, very expensive, and rarely available due to the dollar exchange rate, shipping, ITAR, etc… Inventory is spotty at best, just ask any dealer in Canada about trying to get product from G-Code, Agency Arms, SAI, Noveske, etc… It is frustrating, but the bottom line is that Canada is a very small niche market for firearms related products so mass inventory up here is not a reality.
……….Hence RWA was born, to fill in the gap in production. Brakes, rails, rings, parts, etc… are always out of stock online from the U.S. Breaking the raw numbers down, RWA can produce parts at a fraction of the cost because they can design, manufacture, and have QA/QC done in-house in Canada to easily meet or exceed the quality coming out of the U.S. And still make a profit…that’s right, at a fraction of the cost.
……….Muzzle brakes, rails, scope rings, etc… They already have a fairly large stock of all these products manufactured and ready to ship. The problem is how do you get your product out the door and have people buy into it when nobody knows who you are yet? Their answer was ‘let’s design and build something new but familiar, something that people will feel comfortable with’. An AR180B build, but just the upper. No messing with lowers and getting FRT’s and dealing with a traditional long turn around time from the RCMP firearms lab to approve and classify a lower, which could go sideways. That’s not to say that they couldn’t design and build a lower, they did that just to prove they could, but never pulled the proverbial trigger on it for all the reasons I just stated above.
……….Enter NoDak Spud. They already have AR180B lowers for sale in Canada with an FRT. RWA bulk ordered a significant quantity of their lowers, which drew obvious attention. From there conversations were held between NoDak and iRunGuns about putting together a deal to sell a complete rifle online. For RWA this is a stepping stone to getting some initial awareness of what they can do and what they can offer.
……….Fast forward to the 2018 AACCA Calgary Gun Show held every Easter Weekend. The largest gun show in Canada was the perfect opportunity to debut their AR180B upper mated with the NoDak lower. People had no idea who RWA was and how they got an AR180B built so fast and so refined. Kevin said that this was something he had thought about in December 2017 and decided to put it on the drawing board. Thru their 21,000 sq foot production facility, a production model was ready go for the Easter show that already had a few thousand rounds through it along with destructive testing, independent MPI, and their in-house QC/QA. Keeping in mind all this was done in the space of 3 months. Not resting on their laurels of their original AR180B upper design, Kevin and his team set out to improve on the initial design and added features, most notable in my observations is a fully machined 4140 steel last round bolt hold open lever.
……….The buzz had started. The photos and video I took from the show made their way around the Canadian gun forums, and social media, generating talk. A lot of it being who the hell is RWA? What do they know about guns? How reliable is their AR180B build? It’s how much?! To Kevin, Gord, and Barry it accomplished what they set out for; the publicity was good, and their product was top quality.
……….The truth is they have another half dozen possible firearm designs in the hopper ready to go if they really wanted to go all in with the firearms manufacturing game. It was just by chance they went with the AR180B design first. Obvious parallels are being drawn between RWA’s build and Kodiak Defence’s WK180C rifle. Is it a competition? Is RWA just riding the current trend of pushing out firearms like Maccabee, BCL, ATRS, Maple Ridge, Blackleaf Industries and others? The team is quick to note that they never wanted to be a rival of any sort with their AR180B build. In fact they just wanted to see if they could turn around a concept to production rifle successfully in the same manner that they do with their ventures in oil and gas, automotive, and industrial manufacturing where time and money is measured in weeks and months and dollars spent are in the six digits.
……….RWA has much larger ambitions than a single rifle build. In fact if they only sell 100 or 50 or 10 rifles they couldn’t care less, those rifles are already built. They just wanted proof of concept, proof of performance, and proof of quality. The longer I speak with Kevin and the team the more I realize that they are just like every single firearms owner in Canada. They love the sport, the culture and they want to help support the industry as whole. They envision their operation to be a go-to all Canadian source for supply or parts and manufacturing for gun companies across Canada, independent from American supply trends, ITAR, and general lack of caring from our neighbours to the south when it comes to firearms support.
……….Part of RWA having a low profile is that they have the ability to work with any company to supply parts in shortage to any other manufacturer without the perceived notion of favouritism, when there is none. Their shop is one of the largest I have ever seen and can turn around quality parts in bulk in a heartbeat. RWA has in fact already helped out other firearms related companies in Canada without bluster or credit because they understand that the Canadian firearms community is small and that we need to help each other out if we are to flourish in what is essentially still a cottage industry. They are more than willing to help out anyone, and everyone, and that really is their ultimate goal. While some may see this with suspicious and weary eyes, this is a business model they already employ with their associate company and other non-firearms related clients and one of the reasons why their operation is thriving where other have folded and closed up shop.
……….The name of the game is modularity, quantity, and quality. RWA’s stock pile of parts for their AR180B build is impressive, and I’m sure they only showed me a small portion of what they have. They started this venture with the idea that it should start with RMA and support first and work their way outward to the rifle. Manufacture a supply of replacement parts first and then get the rifles out the door. In addition to manufacturing all the legacy parts for the original AR180B they also have a stock pile of their improved and enhanced parts, keeping in mind that everything they make is backwards compatible and that they would have lots of parts in supply. So whether you need a firing pin, a low profile gas block, a piccatinny rail, scope rings, operating rods, etc… they will manufacture it in house, and not just one or two, but hundreds at a time because that’s where they can drive the price point down, charge less, and still allow RWA to keep their roughly two dozen employees working.
……….To say that RWA is understated would be an understatement. They don’t announce a product until they’ve produced multiple versions and copies of it, and tested it. In the case of their AR180B, they had already brought four of them to the Calgary Gun Show and put at minimum 2000 rounds down range with them before people knew it even existed. They don’t rest on their laurels either, even based on feedback from the Calgary Gun Show they have already made improvements on the current design, and due to the modularity of the build, it is very easy to make better parts and improvements that will benefit the end user and is backwards compatible.
……….They stand behind the quality of the build and are willing to let the rifle speak for itself. They are very transparent and open about their operation and what they are doing. They basically gave me full access to their facility and answered all the questions I had, they have nothing to hide. Really the rifle is just a marketing tool (and a really really good one at that) to get the RWA name on people’s minds. Their real passion and ultimate goal is to supply and support all Canadian gun manufacturers from mass producers, to boutique gun houses, to mom and pop builders, to the enterprising firearm enthusiast with an idea….with highly refined, quality designed, and well built products in bulk for whomever is willing to work with them. The rifle itself is just a brilliant bonus for Canadian gun owners. This business model has worked very well for RWA’s associate company and is one of the reasons why they have succeeded where many others have failed.
Reporting for TV-PressPass