We unveiled a custom built .40 caliber pistol assembled from Lone Wolf’s Timberwolf frame and USPSA Open division legal Werewolf slide and compensator. No sooner had we released this little sneak peek than we became inundated with people wanting to know where they could acquire their own Glock based competition race gun.
We called up J.R. from Lone Wolf Distributors to talk about the gun and learn more about Lone Wolf’s custom division.
Cheaper Than Dirt Lone Wolf has been manufacturing aftermarket products for Glock pistols for some time now-
J.R. Since 1998.
Cheaper Than Dirt What were some of the first products that Lone Wolf got started manufacturing?
J.R. We started out with basic items actually. I used to run with the crew from Aro-Tek, and at the time I was doing a TV show called “Sportsmen of the Northwest, it was a cable access show and we were doing all things that go bang. Our motto was “We’ll go fishin’ when we’re out of ammunition.”
I hooked up with the Aro-Tek crew, and that was about the time that Glock first came into the US. With Aro-Tek and Glock being synonymous in parts, I got hooked up with the Glock crew directly and ran with them on all of the early tournaments during the inception of the GSSF (the Glock Shooting Sports Foundation).
Cheaper Than Dirt It’s the aftermarket parts that are your main bread and butter, right?.
J.R. Yeah, we cater to the guy who owns a hot rod and wants to tweak his engine and put on headers and mag wheels. Our customers usually own multiple Glocks and tweak them all of the time. They want to do the best that they can, and that comes down to equipment sometimes.
Cheaper Than Dirt How do you go about developing these various parts? Do customers come to you and request various items?
J.R. Sure. Of course it used to be just mass quantities of alcohol and we’d just dream something up *chuckles*
No, I actually have a background as an action pistol shooter and also ran the cable access program, and we used to team up with these guys and listen to them and what they wanted in a gun. Being an innovator is just an act of listening.
People would say “You know, if this part did this, it would be better, and you could make an improvement over here too,” and I knew the right people in the industry who could do those things and bring them to market. Now with our status in the industry where it is at, I have people come to me all the time with ideas and suggestions for new products or improvements to existing products.
Cheaper Than Dirt What about concealed carry and defensive pistols? Can we expect to see more parts that are aimed at competitors in IDPA?
J.R. Yes, in fact I have a few plans to get into that. For IDPA, you need to produce 2,000 units per year to qualify for certain divisions, and they’ve got some regulations in there that make it difficult for a new gun manufacturer to get into.
Cheaper Than Dirt Lone Wolf has experienced rapid growth over the years, moving from basic parts and aftermarket accessories into becoming a full custom gun shop.
J.R. The custom gunworks that we have going is still in its infancy. We’re not actually releasing the completed guns just yet. We’re still doing them as custom builds for the customer. Some of the guns that you’re seeing, including the one that you tested, are project guns that we’re doing. Patrick Kelley’s is one of those. He helped us develop these pistols.
Here’s the thing though: If we began building custom guns using the parts that we have now, as soon as we build more than 50 guns we fall into the higher BATFE tax rate of 11% for firearm manufacturers. Once that happens, the price has to go up. Right now we’re just selling cheap parts.
Cheaper Than Dirt So there is a bit of a regulatory hurdle you’ve got to overcome if you make the decision to move into building actual firearms instead of just selling parts.
J.R. I full well plan on overcoming that hurdle, probably some time within the next year. I’ve got some concept designs that I’ve sent out to the USPSA and asked them where we need to be to meet their requirements and make 500 units. I could produce 500 units tomorrow, but it’s the additional 11% tax that the ATF charges and once you get that on there the cost of the custom guns we would be building goes up by that amount.
Cheaper Than Dirt Can we expect to see any “bare-bones” custom guns produced by Lone Wolf? Something along the lines of an STI Spartan maybe?
J.R. Right now I can get you into a bare-bones Timberwolf frame pistol with everything, all Lone Wolf parts, for around $700 I think.
Cheaper Than Dirt Team Cheaper Than Dirt! member Patrick Kelley helped develop one of your Timberwolf based race guns, and we got to take it out for some range time just the other day.
J.R. What you may not know is that Pat Kelley and I have been friends for, well, forever it seems like. I’ve squadded with him time and time again at numerous shoots, helped promote different shoots with him, so we have a lot of history together. What you may not know is that I bounce a lot of projects off of Pat and he gives me his input.
Like I said earlier, I rely on a lot of input from my friends in the shooting industry. We’ll bring in a new project and I’ll get their input and they may come up with 15 changes that they would like to see made, and we may incorporate 10 or 11 of them. It just makes it a better system all the way around.
Cheaper Than Dirt So the gun that we’re featuring here, is that just a standard Timberwolf frame with a Werewolf upper?
J.R. Actually I built that gun years ago when we were putting some ideas together, and Pat took a photograph of it in a low-light situation and we named it “Flash” because through that photograph we could see that we were achieving 100% gas dump. That compensator is really, really effective. Phenomenally effective.
The whole idea was that we could develop a system that could dump everything and keep it within 2-inches. If you look at the high speed photograph that Patrick took you can see that there is no bounce, that the red dot sight doesn’t move. That gun is going to be fast.
Cheaper Than Dirt You’ve virtually eliminated all of the muzzle rise.
J.R. Yup, it’s a beauty. The development of that gun has only been inhibited by access to a dot sight. I’ve gone to virtually every micro-dot sight manufacturer and tried getting them to cooperate and lower the price of the optic.
The Optima, and before that, the C-More, was the brainchild for all modern micro-dot sights. Ira K., when he introduced the C-More at SHOT Show, I was there when that happened and that was the biggest thing that had happened to the shooting industry in some time.
Tasco got involved and they brought in the Optima. When it was first introduced the Optima was $300 and that was just unacceptable. I bought the Optima for $300 and was incorporating it into our handgun designs even then. Fortunately for us, when Tasco went out of business after they ran into financial problems and went belly up, I was getting Optimas for $99 and then we could retail them out for $125 and add a base. Now you’re talkin’.
But we were doing dot sights way back then, and incorporating them into our designs. I was selling 100 of them a month.
Cheaper Than Dirt You’ve been machining slides to take these micro-dot sights for some time then.
J.R. Yes, for many moons. The problem was, when the Optimas ran out, nobody could bring them in. I actually tried to buy it, and of course everybody is familiar with the Doctor sight, but that was still $300-$400. I couldn’t get anybody to work with me, so we scrapped the whole project.
Cheaper Than Dirt At least until the Burris FastFire came out.
J.R. Burris jumped right on board actually. The Burris guys were out there and I had seen one of their samples. I had to meetings with them, made a few suggestions, and they made a couple of changes, some of which they were going to make anyway. Next thing you know we were able to introduce it as an OEM part, and that really pays off for the consumer.
Cheaper Than Dirt Some people express concern about the FastFire holding up to the recoil of the slide…
J.R. It’s just going to hold together. It’s solid-state, it holds together just fine. Nothing can happen.
The best thing is that Burris really wants to work with us. We were able to work together, bring the price down, and put it into an affordable package
Cheaper Than Dirt We’re Cheaper Than Dirt, and our customers are really bargain conscious, so it’s always great to see an affordable package like that be made available. Not everyone has thousands of dollars to throw away.
J.R. You’ve hit the nail on the head. IPSC and action shooters aren’t cheap, but they do need to maximize their dollars. If they’ve got $100 they want the most that they can absolutely get for that $100.
Cheaper Than Dirt What you’ve done then is take Glock’s parts interchangeability, their reliability, and take it the next step forward and push the envelope until you’ve created a fantastic race gun that can be assembled by almost anyone with a basic knowledge of the firearm.
J.R. Right. In the early years we were pretty much ignored by Glock because the majority of people just wanted a stock firearm that went bang every time. We were off into the race gun scene however. We were finding ways to make the gun run faster and faster.
Cheaper Than Dirt And make it faster you did. Most race guns are like finely tuned F1 cars that take a lot of maintenance and a lot of fine tuning and tweaking to run reliably. How does Lone Wolf overcome that?
J.R. We deal with it. When you see a high speed photograph of Pat Kelley with 5 empties rolling off his knuckles, most people look at that and marvel at the fact that there is no muzzle rise and comment that “He’s got to be the fastest shooter in the world.”
I look at that photo and I’ll tell you, that gun is riding right on the verge of failure to eject. The thing is, it can run on that edge all day long and that’s what makes it as fast as it is.
Cheaper Than Dirt So part of what you do is find that edge, push out and find just how fast you can go.
J.R. There you go. You find that edge, you find that point where the gun is running right at the point of failure, and then you pull back just a bit to make it reliable. It may take just a hairs’ breadth to tip that gun over the edge and have a failure to eject or some other malfunction, but we keep the gun running just on this side of that line.
Cheaper Than Dirt And that’s just what you manage to do is find that edge, pull back a hair, and then put the finished product into production and into the hands of shooters.
Now we’ve heard some rumors that, in the next few weeks, customers are going to be able to build and order their own custom guns online. Is there any truth to that?
J.R. Where we are at now, I’ve got a full time IT guy who writes code for me, and where we’re taking this is that you’ll be able to pull up the components you need and put it together online.
We’ve got a brand new facility, a million dollar facility. Right now we’re at 4,000 square feet but we’ll be moving up to 8,000 square feet. We’ll have a custom assembly line right there and in-house refinishing. Right now we contract out some of that, but things are changing big this year. Especially with the introduction of our new AR platform built all around Glock.
Cheaper Than Dirt Tell us a bit more about that.
J.R. It’s based on an AR, but it takes Glock magazines and it will run 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .45 GAP on one platform, and then we’ve got .45 ACP and 10mm on the other platform. We’ve built both receivers already. Once we do the 10mm we can do all of the custom wildcat calibers on it.
It’s a great short range carbine, perfect for law enforcement. We’ve got ones in full auto now too. I don’t know if you had the opportunity to see the newest one at SHOT Show, but it created a lot of buzz. We’ve got a lot of AR manufacturers who want us to license it through them also.
Cheaper Than Dirt Any plans to do that?
J.R. We can’t. I just want to make sure that it’s done right. At the end of next month we should start releasing them, and I want everyone to know that they came from Lone Wolf.
This has been a three year project, and we’ve had very limited production of the G9 for now. We just want to make sure the quality is there and that the firearm is done right.
Cheaper Than Dirt It’s really been a pleasure talking with you and learning more about how you make these fantastic firearms, and I can’t wait to see these pistol be put into full production. You’ve got some really exciting products coming out now.
J.R. We do, and we can’t wait to get them out to you.