Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Devil Dog Arms - Product Greatness by False Leadership

Devil Dog Arms - Product Greatness by False Leadership

A few weeks ago, the story broke that Joe Lucania, one of the original founders and CEO of Devil Dog Arms, had been falsely claiming to be a US Marine. Unfortunately that claim was true and was validated by a post to Devil Dog Arms Facebook page April 10th by Joe Lucania himself.

“I am making this statement to express my deepest regret and to apologize for the damage, hurt and disrespect to the military community, industry partners and individuals. I am not and was not a marine, did not serve and do not have a DD214. I have no excuse for my actions and realize there is nothing I can say or do to make this right. I have no more involvement in any capacity with Devil Dog Arms.  With Sincere Apology,  Joe Lucania” - Devil Dog Arms Facebook page.

There really is no excuse for stolen valor and when the name of your company is Devil Dog Arms, the widely used nickname for Marine, the stolen valor issue becomes an appalling situation that becomes a wake of destruction that impacts lives.

Beyond scandal, as an editor, reviewer, and shooter, Devil Dog manufactured some really excellent firearms. It was one of those companies which I formed a relationship with over two years ago via the marketing and sales team. My observations were that their high quality, marketing, well equipped and accessorized rifles made them stand out from the plethora of “me too” AR15 manufactures popping up. In 2016 they even had a large Wall Street investment company backing them. It appeared the company and brand was going places. Sadly with the announcement of Mr Lucania, the investment company also fired everyone in the company about a week later. To date, the fate of the brand is yet to be determined.

… So here is the Back Story.
Stumbling onto Devil Dog Arms was a story I feel compelled to tell considering the scandal and closure of the company in April 2016. I have worked hard over the years to build a solid editorial reputation, but I do end up being accosted by all manner of new manufacturers. There are some really interesting gems out there such as Devil Dog and then there are the rest who are touting “we are going to be better because of our super high precision…” [Yawn!]

A few years ago, the previous sales rep for another top end AR15 brand reached out just before last year’s 2015 SHOT show. He strongly urged me to take a look at this new AR15 brand he was now representing called Devil Dog Arms.  I could feel my eyes roll… ohh great yet another “me too” AR15 manufacturer who is milling up Sarco forgings and calling themselves unique - “OK sure I will go by the booth.” My skepticism dropped away as I start cracking open receivers and seeing what Devil Dog Arms was delivering - Devil Dog Arms was not another me too AR15 company.

The first stunning revelation was that Devil Dog Arms (DDA) is actually making almost every single part in house excluding furniture, springs and detents, but the springs and detents are all sourced from only two vendors which they believe deliver the highest quality. Devil Dog is actually making their own bolts, carriers, firing pins, cam pins, handguards, flash hiders/brakes, magazine releases, selectors, turning their own barrels, and milling their own upper & lower receivers from virgin billet.

All this in house machining put Devil Dog into a very small select elite number of manufacturers who are not just assemblers of OEM parts from other folks. As I have mentioned in many articles before, when a manufacturer is making all the parts in house, they fit together better with higher precision. DDA was showing that level of premium fit and finish at the 2015 SHOT show.  Devil Dogs AR15s, .308 AR platforms and AR15 pistols all feature solid rattle-free fitment.

2015 was a busy year for me and I kept pushing DDA off until the company’s VP Marketing & Sales basically cornered me at the 2016 SHOT show. To date, I have reviewed the .308 D10B and their AR15 pistol - to say the least, I was impressed with what Devil Dog is doing from a firearms perspective.

There is of course a story behind the name Devil Dog. Rob Sarra was a founding employee of the initial company and did actually have real service in the Marine Corps. At that time a few others in the company had also allegedly served as Marine as well including one of the founders Joe Lucania. The story goes that it seemed cool to make homage to the Marines and all the military branches, so a bit a research started to see if they could use the Devil Dog nickname for the name of the company.

DDA David Janus VP Marketing noted “The Devil Dog name is a reference to the Marines, however the name was also meant as a salute to all the other service men and women who have served in all branches of the military. For example I was honored to serve in the Air Force. After checking with the US Marine Corp, surprisingly they had no issues with us using the name and the name stuck as we began building the business.”  Devil Dog Arms was not your typical story of a machine shop moving from job lot manufacturing to firearms, instead the company was allegedly started long after Mr Lucania retired early from a very successful career and business in commercial real estate. Joe Lucania and Dave Riveke partnered to start a firearms company.

“The company started in the conference room of a real estate business. Devil Dog was actually started because the original founder had a mid-life crisis and was ‘bored out of his mind after retiring’ … so he started a weapons company.” noted David. Then the business started to grow and even at the planned control growth rate, there came a point after the interest from the 2015 SHOT show where we needed a substantial capital influx to take Devil Dog Arms to the next level of growth. David went on to say, “The company founders could not be the sales/marketing/accounting/ordering/fulfillment/everything guy any longer. We needed good smart people in the company to take over and concentrate on making those areas better. We also desperately needed expanded machining and equipment.” In some later conversations, it was alleged that Dave Riveke wanted out of the partnership which spawned Joe Lucania to seek outside investor funding.

The company was approached by a few large investment firms. One large Wall Street investment company ended up buying out Dave Riveke. The investment company was helping DDA make the leap from small unknown firearms manufacturer with deep financial backing, marketing, and executive management experience. Since that point last year (2015), DDA was making huge leaps with products and marketing the brand.

Beyond the nearly 100% manufacturing and a cool name & logo, billet receivers, match grade .223 Wylde barrel, and handguard, what made Devil Dog worth a look for customers and retailers?  The quality is exceptional with a fit and finish customers expect on the premium AR15 brands. Devil Dog wanted to go a step further and package each rifle with everything a user would need to care and transport the rifle. Instead of a cardboard box, Devil Dog includes either a quality die cut hard side case and Otis cleaning kit with each rifle. Very nice add ins. On the DDA 10B .308 rifle line, the company upgrades the case to a Pelican case with an included the Otis cleaning kit. DDA is making is really nice for customers to just open up the box, add some ammo and hit the range. No one includes a Pelican case unless it is part of a military contract and they certainly would not do it for the price Devil Dog.

Devil Dog also had relationships with HyperFire and Geissele, so if you do wanted to upgrade further beyond those included with each model, you can save some money and have it added at the factory. The sum of the parts comparing to other similarly equipped models from top tier AR manufacturers such as Black Rain, Daniel Defense, LMT, or LWRC, the Devil Dog line up is around 15%-20% less expensive on top of the upgraded cases and Otis cleaning kits included with the firearms. The D10B .308 AR rifle from Devil Dog impressed me… both as I unboxed it at my FFL dealer and also at the range. From a customer perspective, they were not going to find a better value with all the extras included on a premium AR rifle.

Unique in the industry was the Devil Dog partnership with Girls Guide to Guns and is offering two models in custom Duracoated colors. David Janus noted that “...admittedly not all girls want any other color other than black when it comes to guns, however we do offer a huge variety of colors from sedated to wild if a lady wants something different.” According to Devil Dog the Girls Guide to Guns line has done well.

Leveraging OEM relationships, Devil Dog does offer a line of DD-1911 pistols and Devil Dog branded double barrel pistol through a partnership with Bond Arms. The product lineup is impressive and growing at Devil Dog and the plans were that they were just getting warmed up. Sadly, in the windup is where Devil Dog ended at least for now.

Current State of Devil Dog
I had been working with Devil Dog since the 2016 SHOT show on a number of articles which I guess can just be trashed at this point. Suddenly Joe has a big rush and which required me to literally drop all other editorial assignments to work on the original version of this article, plus several other reviews. It was freaking consuming from an editorial perspective, however I had made a commitment and I wanted to honor it. After all, I really liked the product and it seemed like a great story. Then I had an emergency call from David Janus -VP Marketing to hold on everything and then I heard the news. No way about it, this was a sh*t sandwich for all the employees who had put their hearts and souls into the company. Publishing this article hopefully gives a little tribute to what they accomplished despite the scandel.

Allegedly, the machinist who owns the CNC machine contract set up his own firearms business through the ATF. Maybe he will carry on the exceptional quality under another name.

What is sad for me and the rest of the consumers is that the Devil Dog firearms were really quite awesome and extremely well made considering the extremely competitive price. With the notable exception of Joe, the people there were all really good people.

Devil Dog Arms was far more than I bargained for as an editor, and the final chapter was more than the employee deserved. In the end the false leadership disrespected the greatness of the Devil Dog name.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sad day for Devil Dog. Nothing worse then Stolen Valor. I have my DD214 in hand.