Kayla Cuellar counts herself lucky. She was born and raised in Idaho, and considers it a great place for the business she and her husband started a few years ago.
It’s called Valiant Firearms and Ammunition, and it specializes in pistol and rifle ammunition. Each cartridge is assembled by hand.
Cuellar spends a lot of time testing their products, which means a lot of shooting. And in Idaho, she explains, that’s not hard.
“Here in Idaho, stick your gun on the dash of your car, the seat of your car, as long as it’s in open view,” she says. “Drive out to BLM land or wherever you like to go. I don’t have to worry about how I transport my firearm.”
Earlier this week, StateImpact published this map showing where Idaho’s 180 gun and ammunition makers are located. But what about them? Who are they and what do they do?
“We’re kind of a mom and pop shop,” Cuellar says of her business. Jon Anson, president of the Idaho Firearms and Accessories Manufacturers Association, or IFAMA, is quick to say that “small” doesn’t mean “unsophisticated.”
“The only way you can survive in this marketplace right now is to pick a very specific niche and do a very high-quality job,” Anson says.
Idaho does have one large operation — ATK, with multiple locations in the state — but it’s the exception to the rule. “All of the rest of the companies that we know of here in the state are small companies,” Anson says. “A large number of manufacturers are going to be less than 20 people.”
Many, he says, have military contracts. He points to Nightforce Optics, in Orofino, Seekins Precision in Lewiston, and Primary Weapons Systems in Boise.
Idaho’s Commerce Department began focusing on recreational technology recruitment in 2008, specifically targeting the firearms industry. In fact, IFAMA is itself part of that effort. It was founded in 2009, based in part on the Department of Commerce’s interest in “creating an association dedicated to firearms and accessories manufacturers.”