Interview With TriArc Systems
Interview With TriArc Systems
With the tools, knowledge, and drive to change the game as we know it, the owner and co-founder of TRIARC Systems, Chris Reeves, has been on a mission to empower customers to have the ability to build their weapon systems from the ground up. Providing the option for a fully customizable platform, his intent is to give the power and decision-making back to the end-user. TRIARC offers the end-user an opportunity to develop a firearm that is either purpose built for one specific function (a suppressed barrel is a good example) that tends to not work as well outside of that environment, or a firearm that has an acceptable level of competency in any situation that you throw at it (i.e. it will have more back pressure when suppressed than the suppressed barrel, but it will still cycle unsuppressed). TRIARC describes these two approaches to building a firearm as "mission specific" and "balanced," respectively. Relishing in the intricacies of end use and optimal performance, Chris has developed a team with so much passion for their trade, it’s palpable. We were fortunate to get to spend some time with him to discuss everything from how TRIARC began and how it’s grown, to the importance of improving the firearm industry and the customer experience as a whole.
Where does the TRIARC name come from?
TRIARC started from TRI, meaning three; there's three pillars to the company. The three pillars are armament, research, and convergence - that's where the ARC comes from. That's why our logo has the three arcs. The whole premise behind it, with the armament, research, and technology, they always naturally converge to each other. When it comes to systems, there's multiple things that come into a weapon system whether its accessories, optics, suppressors/silencers, things like that so when you put it together, it's a system essentially. And each weapon system can be tailored to something specific or something balanced.
There are a lot of rifle companies out there. What sets TRIARC apart from the noise?
A lot of thought process goes into the operating system and how the rifle works. So, one thing I can tell you is just the amount of effort that goes into ensuring that each part of the rifle is working as efficiently as possible. The quality of parts, metals, coatings, anything it's going to do to increase longevity of the weapon system. And then when you build it from the ground up, you can ensure that all of that stuff is going to be working properly and doing what it's supposed to be doing. We have a whole thought process of each mechanical operating system working with each other as efficiently as possible.
Why did you start TRIARC?
I worked for another firearm company after I retired out of the military. I took a little time off and just kind of fell into the gun business. The most interesting part of it is just the problem-solving aspect to it and then the mechanical system is what would fascinate me. Plus, just using weapons systems in the military for such a long time, you kind of want to do something better in a sense. I've been fortunate enough to have mentors along the way teach me the ins-and-outs of the systems, different materials, etc. because you've got to learn consumer levels as opposed to what I just experienced in the military. Consumer is completely different. You learn that over the years and then you kind of learn the shortcomings of manufacturing, and the shortcomings of vendors, and the shortcomings of materials; [as well as] how other manufacturers make their materials, and the quality, things like that. And, one thing I've learned, was in the advent of people wanting to build their own guns and put them together, you're playing with so many different tolerances from so many different manufacturers, to the point to where it's going to be hit or miss. You could build a gun that, you take it out to the range, it's going to work for a thousand rounds... maybe start falling apart at two... maybe won't work at all. But you see it all the time because there's no consistency. So, what I felt was if I make my own rifle, I could be more consistent and then the product's going to remain the same. And then take into consideration, you take that approach of being mission specific or being balanced, you can build a great rifle and essentially fix somebody else's rifle. Because you could buy something off the shelf and say, 'I want to do this and that' and now you're fixing it; now you're dumping more money into it. So, we try to cut that off at the pass. What do you want your rifle to do? Or do you want us to create something that's well balanced and well-rounded? That's what we do; find tailored solutions. And then build it off the foundation of professional end user, which is hard use. The consumer might not go the distance, but the weapon system can. And you just have that mentality through every rifle you build.
What goes into the whole testing process? The genesis of the idea and how it evolves into the product that you're marketing?
You get to a point where you bring it to market, but it's always ongoing. So, what we did with the barrels was build something simple with multiple different barrel lengths and then borrow as many different weapon platforms from other companies; complete weapon platforms as I could. And you shoot the same ammunition through all of them at the same distance. And then you get to the point where you're like, ok, these are all great. Now let's do longevity testing. Then you get to that point and then you're just like, ok, this system, or this particular configuration works well, and you bring it to market. But it's always still ongoing. Right now, our rifles are in a really good spot. Probably about a couple years of running the rifles really hard, in multiple environments too. I mean, we've had weapons systems subzero temperatures up in Idaho doing snowmobiling and in jungle environments during jungle training in Hawaii to obtain test data through a network of individuals that I know who give me the opportunity to put my weapons in those environments. I'm going to jump on any opportunity. Because Texas is not the only environment that someone is going to buy our weapons. And you learn a lot; I've learned a lot for subzero temperatures. Coatings, tolerances, how it can lock up a gun. So, it actually changed the way I manufacture my rifles; learning that kind of stuff.
What are some examples [of manufacturing changes made due to various climate testing]?
One example was certain coatings within the cold, it would freeze up the gun. It would induce an extreme amount of friction until the gun got hot and then the guns wouldn't work out properly. So, what I had to do was switch the coating and slightly increase the amount of gas flow going through the gun to compensate for it. The jungle wasn't too bad; it was just more corrosion, swelling, things like that, with the barrels but it was fine; we had no issues with it.
How do you confirm consistency from a manufacturing standpoint?
Small batch in a sense where we use impartial vendors to periodically test them. As far as that, they still remain the same tolerances. We do barrels in small batches to remain consistent. What we do as far as tooling we use, as far as reamers and joint AR gas ports, we use new reamers and carbide bits every barrel batch. We don't reuse them so you can have more consistency because, over time, tooling will wear down. We do a detailed inspection every time we get a part from any type of process. And the great thing is that if you maintain that, and you find a problem, you can fix it a lot faster than having a batch of a thousand barrels and having a problem with all of them.
You talk a lot about Keep Pushing Forward [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUblzXGkBPo]. What does that mean to you?
It's a mindset. One of the most important aspects that I look at in an individual when I worked in the military was resourcefulness. So, if you incur a problem, what're you going to do? Are you going to just break down and be upset from the problem? Are you going to find the work around or the solution to it? There are individuals out there who I've met throughout my life who don't take no for an answer in a sense to where you find a problem, well, they're not going to just stop and say, ‘we can't get this done because of this.’ We'll use a workaround. What would you do for that? What're your other options to take that into consideration? That's the mindset we have for the company because there's no quitting. The brand is backed by individuals who have that mentality.
Do you feel like you've tapped into the heart of the industry that has that mindset? Or do you feel like you've transformed the industry into having that mindset of Keep Pushing Forward?
We want to transform the industry into that. Because there are a lot of people in this industry who don't have that mindset. These companies, it's just a job for them. So, if it's not theirs or they don't feel like they have a hand to developing it, they're not going to care. I mean, why should they? What're they going to lose, right? It's just a job; they can get another one. For this, for what we do, everybody involved has some sort of vested interest. And they're in it for the long haul now. I mean, everyone wants to see this through. Because we're dedicated to what we do, and we enjoy it, and everybody works hard. That’s just the mindset we have. I just hate when people incur a problem and they don’t come up with a workaround. They just sit there and say, 'well we couldn't get it done.' Well, what else did you do? What were the other options? I mean, come on. That mentality isn't going to get you anywhere. Especially in this industry; it's tough. For me, I'm constantly trying to be looking out for the brand; looking out for my guys.
How do you establish and instill team mentality or keep that continuing as you progress and as TRIARC gets larger and larger?
Lead by example and instill mentorship. And then help solve problems. I mean, all of this stuff is experience learned. It just takes time. That's why I'm a big proponent of experience. I can't stress that enough because there are tricks to the trade that're learned over decades. Sometimes you can sit there and figure it out yourself, but when you have somebody there to help you, you just learn.
Let's talk a little bit about tailored weapon solutions.
That's the company motto. That's the whole sense of offering tailored weapon solutions in a sense to where you can have the weapon system built specifically for a mission set rather than having to adjust it later after you buy it. We like to have conversations, we want to know, what is your mission set? For example, if you're SWAT team and your environment is specifically urban environments, or tight, confined spaces of the demographic of houses you work in, you need to look at the average square footage of the house you're working in; the area. From that, you can gauge, well those are small houses so you're going to need to increase mobility. So, you take even the equipment they wear on their body, you know, how they move as a team. The weapon is going to be with them, so you have to take that into consideration. You don't want stuff hanging off it. You want it to be compact, balanced. At the same time, you want it to have lethality. There are considerations of overpressure within confined spaces too. Every time I watch the SWAT team gear up, I watch how they move and how they handle their weapon systems, or even how they treat it. Do they just chuck it? Then you want tough, if they're just constantly throwing it on the ground. It's got to be able to take that abuse. And, if you're in rural areas, you might need more velocity to punch out a further target because your spaces are more wide open. Just things like that to take into consideration.
Do you have a more specific example of tailoring your weapon systems?
We had a response team that was specific to a courthouse building with surround buildings in downtown San Antonio. Part of that was, well, let's measure your distances down hallways. Let's measure your distance from entry to parking lot, parking lot to entry. You measure all your points, so you see what your engagement areas are going to look like, and then how much lethality you need as far as distance. You have this conversation with the departments, and you build them a gun specific to that. But tailored weapon solutions can even be hunting, and stuff like that. The foundation of the company is professional end user. So, you take that mentality and apply it to commercial. Hunting, competition shooter, etc. But that's why we like to have conversations with people. We enjoy the part of being more specific because now, for dealers, we give them a set rifle if that’s what they want, but we also give them a sheet that we give our customers where they can fill out detailed wants or if they have any questions. People who hunt, home defense, people on their ranch, competition shooting - we can get very specific with it. It's putting a lot of thought into the process. It's like people with cars. If it's going to get you from point A to point B, why are you going to buy nice cars? That's my biggest gripe in the gun industry is just that industry people tend to tend to focus on one demographic to where they just want EDC and it's got to be this, and it's got to be that. I think people don't realize that some people just like to go out shooting just have a good time. I take that approach of ‘you do you.’ This is your weapon; you build it how you want to, and if you want advice, we're going to give it to you, or make our recommendations. But all vehicles run off a combustion engine; they take gas. Same thing with weapon systems; they're all operating under the same principle. And if you look at weapon technology and operating systems, everything has already been done. It's all been copied from the turn of the century. Every weapon system, whether it's new or not, has already been done. That's what people don't understand. We're not trying to change the game; we're just trying to make things more efficient. That's the heart of what we try to accomplish. Unless a gun starts shooting laser beams or rail guns, you're not doing anything new. The cartridge still controls the weapon system.
Why'd you go with simplicity for naming your firearms?
There are a couple reasons. Naming something is freaking hard. Because there's a step to it. If you name something, you have to accumulate your values or what you represent into something so small. And it could be misrepresented too. Keeping it clean – you can't argue with a baseline. You name [a firearm] something crazy, one person is going to think, that's cool. The next person is going to be like, that's absolutely stupid. There's one gun that we named and it's just a funny inside joke. This big giant Rottweiler named Zeus peed on our program manager, so we named the rifle Zeus. But it's not an LE rifle, it's a commercial hunting rifle. It's just more of an inside joke. But for the most part, anything on the professional level is just clean. Keep it clean, keep it simple.
Does TRIARC use adjustable gas blocks?
Rarely. We do. It depends on the type of weapon system and if the consumer wants it, there's just an education process with it. Certain calibers do require it though, that's a given. But the majority of stuff is pin gas blocked. Any type of switch leaves another mechanism that can be prone to failure. At the same time, stuff seizes up quite a bit, so, in a sense, for hard use, it can be a failure point. But for normal shooting, or precision shooting, it's not a bad thing because you're not doing high rates of fire, so that's not going to be a bad thing. You just need to take into consideration what the weapon is going to be used for. If it's high volume, high rates of fire, absolutely not. It'll break. We've seen it time and time again.
You guys pair up with Dead Air. Who started that connection? How did that come into existence?
A friend of mine works there. It's just like with any other company, you want to see if their products are strong enough. Their products have proven itself as far as strength and minimal POI shift goes. They've been proving, as far as their strength, that they're strong. But one of the interesting things about their suppressors is the way the people behind it approach them, they attack the very issue of reducing back pressure. Some companies don't even try. They're just like you're going to get back pressure anyways, so who cares? But some companies do a really good job of reducing it as best as they can while at the same time having a strong suppressor. Surefire [https://www.silencershop.com/catalogsearch/result/?cat=&q=surefire] and Dead Air [https://www.silencershop.com/catalogsearch/result/?cat=&q=dead+air] both. We get a lot of stuff from Surefire too, where they have a very strong suppressor. Working with companies like Surefire and Dead Air, they're doing a really good job just being able to be very efficient.
What goes in to tuning a firearm for suppressor use?
Controlling the overpressure. Suppressing a rifle induces a lot of back pressure because of the way the baffle system works. So adverse effects of that are overdriving the gun, increased wear and tear on your parts, actions moving faster, buffers impacting the back of the tube harder, extraction is faster, so that could be a problem too, because you're not giving enough time for the casing to contract as it expands during that whole process to take into consideration. So, what can you do? You can create something balanced or you can increase something to get more specific into slowing it down. That's one of the things we take into consideration. Because everything goes back to looking at every part to make sure everything works as efficiently as it can. And then you're going to bend a little bit because you know you're adding something adverse to it. It's a give and take. What do you want to give? And what do you want to take?
As a host firearm manufacturer, where do you see the suppressor industry in the next five years?
What I would like to see is working together, working directly with other manufacturers. I'd rather work with a company that's extremely experienced at making suppressors and team up together to make one complete system. Especially because that means more companies working together with each other and combining good work ethics and good mindsets. Also, good knowledge, and sharing that stuff so you can make a better product for the consumer overall. That's the way I'd like to see it going. I hope it goes in that direction.
You’ve grown a lot through word of mouth and social networking.
And standups too. I think about one thing we do to give back to the customer - the aerial gunnery event [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNs8NKkiX6c]. That's solely to give back to the customers. We're doing it again this year; we do it every year. It's a good way to pay it forward to the customers.
Out of your inventory, what are you most proud of and why? Obviously, these are all your babies, but is there one that you kind of hang your hat on?
TRI-11[https://triarcsystems.com/product-category/pistols/tri-11s-double-stack/]'s. There are hardly any companies that are doing it on a production level. There's a lot that goes into that product. The cool thing is, there's a lot of experience that goes into that product. Our gunsmiths and machinists who have decades of experience are putting that knowledge into every firearm; that's kind of cool. And it's an awesome firearm to shoot. Like I said, it's not just about EDC. It's just a nice gun and it's nice to shoot. you can have fun with it. You can carry it for EDC is you choose to. That's just the thing, it's very versatile. It's a proven platform. It's accurate. Feels good to shoot. Think about everything you want a firearm to be, and that's what it is. It's an accomplishment. It's a hard thing to do.
Personally, and professionally, what do you think is your biggest accomplishment to date?
To be the sole source weapon provider for Tarrant County, which is the largest county in Fort Worth. We provide all rifle systems for every sheriff’s deputy and SWAT team. And then, what that did was it allowed a Co-Op purchase. So that rifle is available to the whole state, if need be. By them proving it, testing it, and buying it, it let the door open for almost every department in the state to buy it.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Predicting consumer markets is very hard. We haven't got it right all the time. Just trying to catch up. That's the hardest part. Especially at our level, because we're growing, and being flexible right now but we can't take big hits. That's the problem. A hit to us is very difficult. A hit to a large company, they can still sell items; people will still buy them. The flip side to that is that we're more flexible so we can change pretty fast or we can fix stuff pretty quick. But that's the biggest struggle.
What's the best part of your job?
Succeeding. Small victories. Winning LE contracts and watching the TRIARC Team become stronger. Beating out our competitors. Product proving itself.
Is there anything else that you want to add?
We just try to be more informative and flexible with the consumer. We want them to be a part of the process of customizing their firearm. And that's why we encourage our dealers to do the same. Talking to customers, and educating them, and being respectful. Not slinging mud. It goes a long way. I think for our customers; we built our storefront to be like an AT&T store. So, people can go, and they can touch and feel stuff. So, there's no guys sitting behind counters, like a typical gun store. It's interaction with the customers - here's the product. And there's round tables you can sit at. That's what we do. Sit at the round table, bring a build sheet, and I'm like, alright what do you want?
Empowering customers and offering highly customizable firearms is at the core of TRIARC Systems’ ethos. Whether constructing the perfect firearm for Law Enforcement or providing the most ideal firearm for hunters or plinkers alike, TRIARC Systems is creating the ideal weapon system for end users and their respective environments.
To learn more about TRIARC Systems, click here https://triarcsystems.com/.