Saturday, January 4, 2014

Jesse James Firearms Unlimited JJFU Face to Face Interview

Jesse James Firearms Unlimited JJFU Face to Face Interview
For those long time Major Pandemic readers you know my editorials take a meandering path dependent solely on where my feet happen to be planted at the moment my happy go lucky attitude leads me.... today for example I found himself interviewing the one and only famous custom bike builder Jesse James at his home and shop in Texas about his newly launched JJFU firearms company.
ABOUT JESSE JAMESOne of the things I learned quickly about Jesse was that he is nothing like what I expected. I expected intense craziness the way the media has portrayed him, however Jesse is a quiet private guy with no attitude or visions of star personality grandeur.  He jokingly refers to himself as just a “Glorified Welder”.  At no point did he ask if we were done yet, look at his watch, start motioning to his PR assistant to remove the asshole in front of him, or start texting or talking on his phone... he gave me his undivided attention. I limited my time to an hour because we all have things to do, however he noted I could stay longer and asked that I follow up via email and keep in touch to keep the conversation going. We have had a few emails kicking accessory ideas back and forth. In the end, I walked away shocked at how nice and polite this infamous celebrity was.

He lives far away from the bustle of Austin down a set of Texas backroads that more closely resemble a maze than a roadway. Once I was buzzed in through the gates, I drove by several workshops with custom bikes and cars in various states of build squirting out of them and was greeted by a parade of bull dogs; a breed Jesse has fallen in love with.  Honestly his place is surreal, like a biker and vintage car Disneyland. As I walked up to the main workshop I couldn't help but drool and gawk at every work of automotive and chopper art I passed. A look closer and you realize that this is not a showcase of collections but an artist studio of projects still in process... each was art still in motion in some way not quite done yet.
Arriving at the main workshop, I found Jesse James talking to a vendor about new CNC machines to support the JJFU firearms line. You have to understand that his workshop is not just a welder and a couple bending machines. 
It is a huge shop with a vast depth of capabilities with layers of shop equipment collected over the years ranging from old cast iron vintage twelve foot presses to modern steel brakes, mills, lathes, and welding equipment. When asked about the facilities, he said jokingly "Yeah, I think I have enough capabilities to build a space shuttle, but I really need more CNC capabilities".  
This is where West Coast Choppers lives now and where Jesse still builds custom choppers and now firearms by hand. It was not a team of shop guys hopping around Jesse to knock out rifles and bikes, just Jesse’s hands building the choppers and firearms. JJFU may grow, however he wants his hands on every product going out the door.
The shop was my dream garage complete with the parts and pieces of about twenty motorcycle motors and frames and dozens of various firearms and related parts. Even from a common sense preparedness perspective, the ranch is set up to be partially off the grid with wind turbine power for most of the base lighting power with his only real dependance being propane. Jesse even has a gun range on site for firearms testing.
JJFU FIREARMSLooking over his JJFU prototypes one thing was very clear. Even if Jesse were to use $400 worth of clearance AR15 parts, Jesse would still build a rifle with more precision than I see many manufacturers slapping together rifles these days.  Jesse was using that same eye for detail on his JJFU firearms that he uses on his choppers. Perfectly aligned handguards and gas blocks, pins which were set with care without receiver scratches. These are all the little things that make all his JJFU AR15  and 1911 models better than the sum of the custom parts.  Add in the custom touches and you have a very fine firearm with cool twists.
The reasons for his detail are simple, he is an artist not a manufacturer.  The guy is clearly smart beyond “the cool factor” with concepts such as a patented sin wave suppressor technology. The patented supressor design was tested to be 10db quieter than competing models and is fully field serviceable.
Jesse noted “I am not a gun guy, I am a motorcycle guy that loves guns, so I look at things completely differently than others in the industry. To me a firearm is just another type of powder powered motor that can be tuned and customized.”  As a son of a professional artist, I am aware that artist create differently and consider each creation a reflection of themselves with a lot of pride in their work instead of thinking I only have fifty five more rifles to build today. 
As a chopper guy he actually stands back and looks at things motionless and in motion and if it does not look or work right in both cases, he will find another design. Jesse has worked with a number of law enforcement, SWAT, and military personnel to get feedback on all his designs. That final firearm product is something that is every bit  combat ready firearm but with cool and unique details.  Obviously from the pictured  un-anodized JJFU AR15s, Jesse was still working on finalizing the prototype design.
CUSTOM PRODUCTION STYLE VS SURPRISE ME ONE-OFF CUSTOMJesse James and West Coast Choppers (WCC) certainly have a creative legacy however Jesse noted that “it was the rare chopper customer that just opened up the checkbook and said surprise me. When that happened, the final chopper was a cool one-off custom.” Most of the time buyers just wanted the same basic WCC style they had seen on TV built a hundred times. Of course there is the price tag that comes with a surprise me one-off custom versus the significantly lower price of a more production focused custom line. Jesse is already building custom firearms for close friends, however custom production was the focus of the JJFU firearms line - to provide custom styled firearms priced just a bit more than what you would pay for a loaded AR15 or 1911.
Jesse must have sensed some skepticism in my voice as I asked why guns, ARs, and 1911 formats for a new venture. Jesse’s response shocked me a bit - “Yeah, people ask the question why the world needs another AR15 and 1911 manufacturer especially one that runs around $3000 when there are options for both under $1000. We are targeted to the person that wants something custom and different that is not like a thousand other people.” Jesse went on to explain that he has owned some of the value priced AR15s and that they worked fine but were the car equivalent of the Taurus… everyone has one. He wants to focus on buyer who are looking for a full blown custom AR15s or 1911s with the extra custom tweaks just like people buy exotic & rodded cars and custom built motorcycles.
Jesse wanted to assure he was reaching for the best components in the industry without having to recreate the wheel… or the gun in this case.  For that he reached to a long relationship with Houlding Precision who already makes amazingly high quality 7075 Billet AR15 Upper and Lower sets and the Texas based STI custom 1911 manufacturer who arguably makes the highest quality custom competition 1911s available. 
Obviously Jesse has used the proven Houlding AR and STI 1911 designs and then has modified the designs from there, however the base functionality will be rock solid proven quality from the start. Jesse has also designed his own forend design and brake, but is featuring some of the best components in the industry like CMC triggers and Rubber City BCGs to assure his firearms are not just cool, but also deliver performance even in the worst military/LEO hard use environments.
At the time of this article Jesse was still working on finalizing the prototypes of his Nomad AR-15 and Cisco 1911 so I was not able to range test either firearm but did handle some of the prototypes.  I did see the the Cisco in various production stages at my visit to STI and handled a prototype of the Nomad AR-15 which felt and looked great especially in naked un-anodized billet. For those FFL dealers attending SHOT show, he will have a booth with samples of all models available for dealer/distributor sales.
Jesse is already talking about what is next and had a very cool JJFU scroll work custom FN pistol and is considering working on a custom AK as well.
FINAL THOUGHTSI have without a doubt created my own versions of some crazy AR15 creations which takes time, effort, sometimes some fitting. Jesse is offering buyers custom cool without the blood, sweat, and tears associated with creating your own custom one-off masterpiece. Jesse noted - “I want customers to be able to pull the gun from the box and go compete, defend, or have fun without worrying about whether it will all work. Every detail will be sorted out before they ship.”
I am both anxious to test each of these models after SHOT show and see what Jesse delivers from a custom touch perspective in the final products. My hope is that the final Nomad and Cisco will deliver what I experienced with Jesse during our time together… the product of a guy who loves guns and an attention to detail the just wants to add a little bit of custom cool to the firearm industry.
JJFU NOMAD AR-15 PROPOSED SPECS16” Barrel w/ midlength gas system, 1/8 twist 5.56x45, JJFU Upper & Lower Receivers, Magpul MOE+ Grip, CMC Trigger, Magpul ACS Stock, BCM-Medium Latch  Charging Handle, Rubber City Armory-Full Melonite BCG, JJFU Handguard & Brake, HPF Barrel Nut, 34 5/8” Collapsed; 38” Extended, Weight   7.9 lbs MSRP (2014 pricing) $3299.00
.45 ACP, stainless steel construction, steel mainspring housing, fixed sights, ambi safeties, full one piece guide rod, hand fit slide, fully supported ramped bushing barrel, government forged frame, Weight 2.44 lbs. Finishes are black nitride ($3199) and stainless steel ($3099).
SOURCEJesse James Firearms Unlimited JJFU -


Unknown said...

Jesse is my neighbor a good one to have at his work ..all that he creates is golden..just read on infowars about how Osamabama is taking our rights to gus away through back door is article link

Str8flush said...

What a great article. This is another great example of what's out there on the market in the speciality build market.

Unknown said...

Had the surprise pleasure of speaking with Mr. James on the phone and was a little torn about what to say "your an outstanding artist and Craftsman"or can I get some prices. Seemed a kind soul. And In the trade, maybe the best.