When he was just 15 years old, Joshua Waldron was involved in an auto accident that severed his spine. Doctors said he would be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. Already an avid outdoorsman, Waldron had other ideas. For five years, he endured two hours of physical therapy nearly every day, and, thanks to all that work, walks with the aid of leg braces today.
An entrepreneur since high school, Waldron and best friend Jonathan Shults co-founded SilencerCo in 2008. Today, SilencerCo is the largest maker of suppressors in the nation and currently employs 125 people.
You and Jonathan Shults have been best friends since childhood?
Correct. And after high school, we played in a rock band together and shot together. Jonathan was a sound engineer. I was at the point where I felt like I'd done about all I could do as a photographer, and I wanted to do something different. So Jonathan and I started looking at what we could do in the shooting industry, in a business sense. We started looking at suppressors, and we felt the ones available weren't really made and designed that well. So we started designing what would become out first product, The Sparrow, a .22 rimfire silencer.
How did you improve upon that design?
A .22 Long Rifle is a very dirty round, from a suppression standpoint. The suppressors we examined had the baffles right up against the outer tubes. The lead and fouling for the .22 round would essentially fuse the baffles right to the core. So you had to disassemble these suppressors every 50 to 100 rounds or they'd fill up and pretty much weld the baffles to the core. Our idea was to make a .22 suppressor where the baffles are surrounded by half-pipes that don't actually touch the baffles.
How did you transform that design into a fuctioning business?
We raised some money, bought a machine to make the Sparrow, and I went around the country visiting Class III dealers and showing them our new product. On the strength of that product alone, we were able to sign up 100 dealers. That first year, we made 727 Sparrows.
You said that much of your time is spent promoting silencer use?
We never felt like it was enough to just make the silencers, especially when we realized that so many people had so many misconceptions about them. All the surveys we've seen show that the majority of people, including shooters, believe that suppressors are illegal or that you have to be in law enforcement to use one. Many FFL's think that, too. When, in fact, silencers are legal in 39 states, and you can hunt with them in the vast majority of those states. So I see a big part of my job as educating the public about silencers and trying to undo so much of that stupid Hollywood idea about silencers being an assassin's tool.
What's the best part about being the CEO of SilencerCo?
Watching our people grow. One guy here started as an $8-an-hour production worker, and today he's our chief operating officer. We encourage our employees to be creative, to expand their thinking. To have people come in and grow, on the job and as human beings--to watch them get married and start families, buy houses, we pride ourselves that we are able to help make these things happen. It's a big deal to us.
Read the entire interview with Joshua Waldron atgundigest.com.