....at that time there was a void that was created by the legislation of 1968
that banned the import of small handguns. And my father recognized that, and
decided that he should start producing a similar type of product because there
was an available type of market for him. And he became involved in designing
and manufacturing and used a facility that he owned from the aerospace industry
to leap into this industry. And he did very well.
Over [the] course of twenty-five years he built approximately 3 million of one
particular handgun. And that handgun was the Raven .25 caliber pistol. And
very few handguns that have ever reached one million in production. Especially
one model without changes.
Q: Why don't we know him (your father)?
Jennings: Well, our family was very quiet. We've been very quiet all of
our lives. And we don't want recognition. We just want to be in business and,
you know, manufacture, sell guns, and make a living like anybody else. Our
dream was, you know, to be successful in business which we've been. And we
didn't want to be political....
Q: Why do you want to be so private?
Jennings:...We're just ordinary people living ordinary lives... We're
just minding our own business, and concentrating on manufacturing sales of
firearms. It's a legitimate business. It's an interesting business, and we
enjoy it. Each of my family members either participate in their own business or
participate in businesses that I'm associated with.
It's been handed down-- this is the third generation, I'm the second
generation, my children are the third generation, and my children and my
ex-wife Janice Jennings own the Bryco Arms Facility. And they have
manufactured about two million handguns since 1988. And they are very
successful in what they do. My purpose of involvement is I purchase these
firearms and distribute them throughout the United States, and I also export
firearms....Our main stay is selling within the United States...European and
South American markets are opening up quite rapidly at this point. I have
reason to believe that our sales will probably be 50% export within the next
year and a half.
Q: What has your family's contribution been to the gun industry?
Jennings: I think our main contribution has been that we have supplied
millions of firearms legitimately to the vast population of the lower income
groups. And by supplying these firearms at affordable prices, we've filled the
void that the other American manufacturers had failed to do so for many
Q: How many guns has your family sold...
Jennings: Oh, I would take a guess of upwards of ten million.
Q: So, the gun industry has been very good to you?
Jennings: It's been excellent to me. Right now it's not excellent but
in the past it had been. Experiencing the results of the gun legislation that
was passed three years ago. The assault weapons ban, which has tremendously
modified the licensing scheme that was established in 1968. It made it more
difficult to get licenses for dealers. It put fear into the public that was
purchasing the firearms. It made confusion between police departments and
federal agencies on what the regulations really said.
The laws were poorly written and subject to interpretation. And as a result,
many people that wished to buy firearms decided that it was not in their best
interest. The laws intimidated many purchasers. They felt that it was just
another way of the government interfering in their private lives and as a
result of that they elected to not purchase firearms.
The less expensive firearms companies suffered the most. The more expensive
companies did better. Many cities and states put taxes on the transaction.
Sometimes you would buy a gun for seventy or eighty dollars and your tax would
be fifty additional dollars. And the tax was designed to create background
checks and arrest records for the potential purchasers. We have reason to
believe that none of that money was ever used to do background checks. The law
did not provide for a background check, it provided for the ability to do the
background check. So many cities decided it was a nice way to create tax
revenues. And as a result people weren't interested in paying a fifty dollar
tax on an eighty dollar gun. But if they were buying a five hundred dollar
gun, and it had a fifty dollar tax, it seemed a little more fair.
Q: One thing that's interesting is that your family is so completely
associated with [this industry]...you founded.. you developed...you really
largely control this industry. You own many of the companies that produce the
affordable handguns...Why is it that your family controls it so much?
Jennings: Well, we have very small margins. What we do is we've made
our livings by volume not by margins. Margins have been good in the early
'80s. They were good in the late '80s, but in the mid '90s they are nearly
nonexistent. The concept of making three or four dollars a gun in profit that
you can keep is the goal of some of our competitors. We can't function on
three or four dollars a gun. We need to make you know, maybe twenty-five or
thirty dollars so that we can support the gun throughout its life expectancy,
which is a very long time. Life expectancy of a firearm can be hundreds of
years. Where it's not, it's not a consumable; it just goes away six months
after you purchase it.
Q: When you mean support it, you mean pay for litigation that comes from
Jennings: Well, I mean support it by replacement parts, warranty
repairs, and litigation. One of the biggest problems of the firearms industry
circles around product liability insurance.
Q Is the litigation connected to gun manufacturing just the cost of doing
Jennings: Yes, it's a very large cost of doing business. That cost is
an unforseen number because of the number of years that you need to support the
insurance for that product. Even though you may have sold the gun last year or
two years ago, you may be facing litigation and product support fifteen or
twenty years into the future. And even if the company is no longer building
firearms in quantities, let's say it's, downsized to where we're at
today, we still have to have enough capital available to support the product
liability, litigation and claims.
Q: Talk about some of your guns.
Jennings: Well, this is a J-22 pistol. This is a little .22 pocket
pistol. It's very small and it's the same category that the Raven pistol was.
This was the pistol that I designed myself when I left Raven. And what this is,
it's a reproduction of technology that has existed throughout the century. But it was redeveloped into modern manufacturing. This pistol, we've probably
built about two million of these since, since it was originally designed and built. A little .22 pistol. Very similar in size
and shape to what my father had done in his .25 caliber line. This is what
started my company.
Q: It's interesting. You broke away from your dad's business, started up
your own...company, competing with him.
Jennings: No. I'd never competed with him. My father was building his
line of guns, and he was very well-established, and he had saturated what we'll
call the .25 caliber market. And he had a price point that he was at. And
that price point, his selling point, was... in the low thirty dollar range.
When I came out with this gun, I did not compete with him. But I complemented
his line, because this gun went on the market at like forty-seven dollars, which is 35 percent higher than his. And it was in a different caliber. So when I introduced this gun, his sales did not waver. They did not fall.
They did not change. But what it was my product that I was proud
to introduce. And he and I ran parallel companies. And we remained friends
and happy with each other.
This gun [is] just fractionally larger than the
little .22...This is a .380 caliber pistol. And it's basically the same
design, only it's been beefed up, it's been strengthened. And it also became
extremely popular. This is one of our better products. People like it for
self-protection, because it's large caliber. But it's also fun to shoot, you
know? It has quite a whop, makes a lot of noise, and it's fun.
And again, the reason this gun is popular is because it's priced for the
working class citizen. It's priced affordably so people could afford to buy
the gun and the ammunition without spending over two or three days wages. Many
guns of this caliber cost a week's wages. It costs, you know, three hundred
dollars. This gun here would retail today at about maybe a hundred and
twenty-five, a hundred and thirty dollars. An excellent value.
Q: Your guns sell for a lot less than a Colt or a Smith & Wesson. How
are you able to do it so cheaply?
Jennings: Well, Colt and Smith & Wesson has an older philosophy than
ours. And theirs is to manufacture the gun and then finish it independently
one by one using filing and fitting. When we design a part, we design it so
that the part is universal between all of the firearms that are identical to
it. So if we make 500 firing pins, it will fit in 500 guns, and they're
totally interchangeable between each other.
Now, Smith [& Wesson] may not have that luxury because they're using
machining centers, they're using heavy castings. They're doing a different
process. They're using a lot of steel, they're now converting a lot of
plastic, because technology is overcoming their processes. Our processes are
now going towards the Smith & Wesson, towards Smith & Wesson's design.
And someplace we're going to meet in the middle. They're coming down to our
price ranges, and we're going up to their price ranges.
Q: Doesn't that cost you an enormous amount of money?
Jennings: It costs a lot of money. It costs a lot of research. But if
you could amortize that money over the vast volumes of firearms that we've
produced, it becomes cost-effective...This gun is still made out of zinc. But
it's long, it's heavy, and it's a .22 caliber...this is a much more
sophisticated gun with more features. The tooling for this, the modifications,
is several hundred thousand dollars. But we've already paid that. And this
So, if they change the laws to where this gun here would be illegal, we now
have this one to replace it with. And this is a standard firearm for a
sportshooter. It's a .22 caliber target pistol. They can't call this a "junk
gun." They can't call it a "Saturday Night Special." They can't call it
anything except a sporting pistol. It has no other purpose except for
And this puts our company in a different light. It puts us in the light of
being in the family shooting arena. And we've created rifles. We have a youth
rifle of .22 caliber. We have this .22 caliber sporting rifle. And we're
gonna have a whole new generation that kids that remember Jennings as the first
gun that they bought. The gun that they learned to shoot with. And the gun
that they learned to shoot with may be the gun that they purchase as an
adult, that they keep at their home.
Q: You seem to be on a crusade, almost.
Jennings: This is the gun that I'm hoping that the young people and the
shooting enthusiasts will buy. Because it's a target gun, it's fun, it's
inexpensive. This gun retails at a hundred and sixty-nine dollars. And that
is a bargain in this firearms market. I expect that this gun will probably
sell three or four thousand units a month. This one particular gun.
Now, many, many people will buy this gun, love it, and eventually they may say,
"Well, I want a larger caliber gun." And then they will come in and they'll
buy one of our larger guns. This gun here... is a nine millimeter gun.
Now, it shares a lot of the other features. It's got the adjustable sights.
It has a general look. But this particular gun is a nine millimeter version.
And it's very powerful. It has a staggerbox magazine with thirteen rounds.
And this gun here is designed not for sportshooting as much, but for personal
protection. It's a very powerful firearm.
Q: How much does it cost you to comply [with legislation] per gun?
Jennings:...We're complying with the requests of these anti-gun
individuals early, so that we can alleviate their argument that our guns don't
comply. So every firearm that we're building now is on the agenda to be
converted to comply with any and all new legislation that is considered...It
may only cost a dollar to comply, per gun. But the tooling is quite
significant. Now, the tooling was designed to be universal between all the
models of guns. For example, if we built the adjustable sight system, that
cost us about $50,000. But now to put that on each of the guns, it may only be
a few cents per gun. And we're real happy to introduce adjustable sights. If
they're not a safety feature, as the government may represent, but it is a
convenience item, and it is a sales tool. And people do enjoy adjustable
Q: A lot of people see the proliferation of guns-- legal and illegal. But
it is the illegal, criminal guns that scares people the most. And then they
see that you've created millions of guns and made them available to people very
cheaply, inexpensively...And they think that you have somehow contributed to
Jennings: Oh, I don't think we've contributed to any problems. Like any
company in the United States, we have the right to produce firearms to people
that can legitimately buy them. And we've been doing this for twenty-five,
thirty years. It's an important aspect of our country that everybody gets to
buy products, not just the privileged people. And our products have always been
priced and produced in quantities so that everybody can afford to own our
products. The concept that our guns would be used more in crime is incorrect.
Our products are used the same as anybody else's products.
Q: So, you say that there's no difference between the likelihood that one of
your guns would end up in a crime and a Smith and Wesson would end up in a
crime. That it's just "a gun's a gun" in terms of its likelihood to be used in
Jennings: Well, actually, I believe that maybe some of the other
companies may have higher rates than we do. Our guns have traditionally been
light, small caliber guns, and they're not really the type of gun
that one would use to intimidate or scare a victim. But a large gun, a very
large gun would perform that task better. And therefore the criminal element
has chosen large frame guns for that purpose. More so than our small
Q: What about [Lorcin], which is one of the few companies that isn't somehow
connected to your family.
Jennings:...Well, when Lorcin came into business, he did the appropriate
things. He manufactured a gun, he sold it, and he did not violate any of laws
that we were aware of. So, unfortunately we ended up with a very aggressive
competitor. And his actions have always been legitimate, however very harsh at
times. And he has kept the market, and inexpensive handguns, artificially low
for at least three or four years.
Q: What do you mean artificially low?
Jennings: I mean that there is a level of profitability that needs to be
sustained over the long-term in order for an industry to be healthy. This
industry has become unhealthy over the last three or four years because of
competition keeping the prices very, very low in the inexpensive handgun
market. And, most of these activities were created by the Lorcin company; their company logo is "The world's most affordable guns." And he stands by
that strongly and as a result of that the industry has not been able to go
forward and maintain profitability.
Q: I guess there's a general impression out there that some people feel that
you're about volume, making as many guns as possible, making them as cheaply as
possible. And you are less concerned about the gun once it leaves the site.
Jennings: Well, we've been at this so long that we're real concerned
about the gun leaving the factory. When the gun leaves the factory it has to
be right, it has to be correct, and it has to be appropriate for its usage. If
it is not, our long-term success is very short-lived. The people that come
into the industry and produce junk will be out of business in four to five years
from the time they start. That's how long litigation takes.
Now, we've been doing this for many, many years. We're still in business
because we're responsible. We're taking care of our customers. We're building
the appropriate products, and they are safe and reliable. So, we're not having
those types of problems.
Q: There is this general impression out there that the guns that you
produce, are more likely to show up in crime than other higher end guns, more
expensive guns. Why do you think that impression is out there?
Jennings: Well, the impression [that] is out there is wrong. The
impression is created by misinformation that has been circulated. That
misinformation started probably about six or seven years ago and that
misinformation has been repeated, and repeated, and repeated. Once the
misinformation was created, we've been unable to stop the proliferation of that
misinformation from continuing. Still to this date, they're quoting ten year
old statistics and most people believe that these statistics are current and up
Q: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms says that the guns from
Southern California -- from the less expensive handgun manufacturers-- are
between three and four times more likely to show up in a crime, or more likely
to be traced than a more expensive gun? Isn't that proof that your guns
somehow are more associated with crime?
Jennings: Well, you know, we had heard this and about three months ago
took some actions to run an investigation ourselves. And what we did was we
purchased from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms a complete unadulterated computer
list of every trace that they had ever produced up until the end of 1996. It
was a vast file and it was on an old style computer tape disk. They were
fourteen inch diameter reels with magnetic tape on it that runs on a mainframe
We took those disks and we sent them to [an] outside service company and we had
those transposed into modern legible CD disks that work in PC computers. And
we hired a company to take and review those statistics. And the statistics
that that company has supplied us do not support nor do they match up
with the official statement that ATF has been making.
We are very suspect of the information ATF has been supplying, and the records
that we have created from their database clearly do not support their theory
that our guns are used more in crime.
Q: What have you done about it?
Jennings: Well, at this point we've taken all other data from their
computers and we have analyzed it and...we have processed it in our computers
and we've asked it precise questions.
And the questions that we have asked it are questions that the media has always
purported. "How many times are your guns used in crimes versus the old line
And this computer data has been very clear and very precise. It appears to be
And if that data is correct as we reviewed it, I think that ATF has been
providing a disservice to the media in providing erroneous information based
upon political activity.
Q: What would happen to your business if the current Saturday Night Special
legislation that Barbara Boxer is sponsoring was enacted?
Jennings: Part of me would say that it would increase my business quite
handsomely because the competitors would go away, the prices would stabilize.
We have taken measures at the Bryco factory to create the engineering and the
tooling to create the products that would then become legal.
The difference between our current products and our new products are small and
subtle yet very effective in complying with the new laws as she's purported
Q: A lot of people are read this legislation and it sounds like they are
just trying to help you make your guns safer. What's wrong with that?
Jennings: Oh, there is nothing wrong with anybody asking us to make our
guns safer. The problem is that the legislation that is being proposed has
nothing to do with safety. It only has to do with size, weight, and cost. If
a gun is larger or if it weighs more, those are not safety issues. And if it
costs more that is not a safety issue.
An adjustable site has nothing to do with the safety of a gun. The addition of
a target trigger has nothing to do with the safety of a gun. The materials of
the frame or the melting point of the frame have nothing to do with the safety
of it. Safety is inherent in the design of the firearm. It is inherent in the
care of manufacturing.
The first and most important thing about safety is having manual safety.
Having drop test safeties. So, that if you drop the gun it may or may not go
off. Making sure that all your characteristics of the firearm are safe by
nature and by having a legislative group say, "Well we don't think your gun is
safe because it's not six inches long," or "We don't think it is safe because
it is not heavy enough." Or having them say that "We don't think it is safe
because it doesn't cost enough." These are absolutely wrong.
In fact, we would even propose to Congress legislation that would have to do
with true safety measures.....the kind that will keep accidental shootings from
happening or injuries that are caused from defective merchandise... I stand by
the fact that we've been in business for three years. We're doing a proper
job. Our guns are safe.