SilencerCo exploring ‘electro-optics’ with new research division (VIDEO)

One of the fastest growing companies in the country, SilencerCo, will be indulging in other aspects of the firearms world with its new “skunkworks outfit” in Austin, Texas.

The SilencerCo Weapons Research aims to create products that are often unobtainable because the technology doesn’t exist or they’re far too expensive, said Josh Waldron, SilencerCo’s chief executive officer.

“We’re working on a lot of electro-optics. Heads up display kind of stuff,” Waldron said and listed night vision and thermal vision optics as examples.

“We’ve actually started an electro-optics division” he said. “We have eight engineers that we’ve hired, so basically everything is designed and assembled all from our facility in Austin.”

When comparing the endeavor to other companies that specialize in electro-optics and innovation, like the floundering TrackingPoint, which is also based in the Austin area, Waldron stressed the word “practical” to describe SilencerCo’s approach.

“TrackingPoint had a great product … (but) they just kept adding features and adding features and never really got a product to market, and the product was just extremely expensive,” Waldron said about the company’s struggles.

“We’re just going to be more practical about what it is that we’re doing and how it is that we’re doing it, so that they’re commonsense products that everybody is going to be excited about and they’ll be affordable,” he said. “A TrackingPoint rifle was not affordable — it was $25,000 or $30,000 — that was a big hurdle.”

“Launching this first product is going to be a big deal and set the pulse for where we’re going,” he said. “We’re already working on our next products and hopefully we’ll have more information at (the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade) Show.”

Waldron said other products, which he didn’t want to discuss prematurely, will follow a natural progression and there’s plans to market them much like they’ve done with silencers. SilencerCo launched in 2008 and early on marketed the products by way of advocacy and eduction.

“When we started in ’08, nobody had really heard about silencers let alone thought that they were legal and look at it now,” he said.

In 2011, SilencerCo launched the website called “Silencers Are Legal” to explain the process for buying a silencer and also a map of states where the items are legal or illegal to own. Earlier this year that effort evolved into the “Fight The Noise” campaign, which opposes the strict federal regulations that make it difficult to buy a silencer and it also promotes the items as safety devices.

And the efforts seems to be working. Over the past few years, more and more states have adopted pro-silencer laws that allow shooters to use silencers for hunting and other shooting activities.

Silencers have become the fastest growing segment of the firearms industry. From 2014 to 2015 alone there’s been a 39 percent increase in silencer registration, according to data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives.

For three consecutive years SilencerCo has been named in Inc Magazine’s list of top 5,000 companies in addition to ranking 19 for Utah companies and 10 for the Salt Lake City area. The magazine ranked SilencerCo for pulling in $16.6 million in revenue and adding 120 jobs in 2014.

But unlike hundred million dollar companies like Sturm, Ruger & Company or Smith & Wesson, SilencerCo has had a much more organic approach to research and development, Waldron said.

“We’re all shooters, we’re all hunters — everyone that works for me — we’re always out in the field, we’re always doing things and there’s those moments where we say ‘you know what would be really nice right now,’” he said.

“Those big companies, man they’re just, they have all of these guys that just sit around and analyze what’s going on and try to figure out trends and that’s not what SilencerCo has ever done. We don’t care about what’s going on. We create the trends. We create the market … and that’s why we’ve risen so quickly.”