Ram-Line Inc.: the secret of success.
Ram-Line, Inc. has made a name for itself by building high quality extra capacity magazines, injection molded fixed and folding stocks, and many other aftermarket firearms accessories, not to mention their innovative Syn Tech Exactor .22 pistol. In short, theirs has been a success story of the last decade and the question soon arises, What is their secret?
"We have always tried to build what the customer wants," reports Steve Chesnut, Vice President of Ram-Line, Inc. "We attend ten or twelve consumer oriented outdoor shows every year and we listen to what the people are telling us.
"You know people are a lot smarter than what most people give them credit for "Steve explained and he went on to relate the number of products offered by Ram-Line, Inc. that were what they refer to as consumer driven products. The recoil pads on their fixed stocks and the sling swivels are only a couple of examples of the product improvements suggested by consumers.
The process is deceptively simple for this forward thinking company. Ram-Line attends the Toro Expo in both Denver and Seattle, the Sportsman Expo, the NRA Convention, even the Soldier of Fortune Convention to hear what the consumer has to tell them, and while they make sure and attend the Shot Show held every year for the industry, it is the consumer related shows that provide them with the new ideas for products.
"When a consumer walks up to us and says |you ought to make such and such,' we write it down. Our customer service people are available on the phone lines from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM Mountain time, Monday thru Friday and for about six or seven hours every Saturday. They maintain tally sheets and write down every request for products that we don't make."
Of course, the primary purpose of these customer service people is not to search for new ideas, but to take orders and to provide good service and support to their customers. Maintaining records on new ideas is only one example of the extra effort the people at Ram-Line are putting forth.
But not all of their products are the result of customer requests, the Syn Tech Exactor .22 pistol was developed by a completely different process. It was developed through internal market research. Ram-Line watched the market closely and for a while the .22 caliber handgun market was the fastest growing segment of the firearms trade. People wanted a lightweight, inexpensive .22 caliber handgun, so Ram-Line built and developed the Syn Tech Exactor.
Ram-Line holds ten patents on their magazines and other related products, so it wasn't difficult for their engineering and design staff to create this low cost and refreshing approach to a rim-fire pistol.
There have been some headaches and start-up problems with the Exactor, and this prompted Ram-Line to expand their production facilities into areas that were previously contracted to outside suppliers. The prime item being the purchase of four CNC machining centers. The result is that the Exactor pistol is known for its innovation.
However, Steve Chesnut was quick to acknowledge their belief the market has shifted somewhat to interest in handguns shooting the new .40 S&W cartridge. In keeping track of shifting market conditions they believe the interest in revolvers and bolt action rifles is picking up.
They have a good indicator of the interest in bolt action rifles through the sales of their synthetic fixed stock for centerfire rifles. It is their fastest growing market and the reason is self-explanatory. The product is simple to install and it works. It is priced competitively at approximately $120 and they offer 28 different models (with many more on the drawing board). And, perhaps most importantly, a lifetime guarantee, which incidentally is on their all their products.
They guarantee their fixed rifle stock regardless of the circumstances. If it breaks they will replace it no questions asked. But the folks at Ram-Line have heard a bunch of interesting tales about this product's invincibility. Perhaps the most unusual one came out of Africa, in Zimbabwe a rhino charged a truck and knocked the truck over. In the process the truck rolled over a rifle equipped with a Ram-Line stock, the scope and scope mounts were turned into history, but the incident didn't break the Ram-Line stock. It is still being used.
"Those stocks aren't pretty, but they work. Kind of like the rest of our stuff," Steve exclaimed.
The history of Ram-Line is something of the history of Jim Chesnut, Steve's father. Jim is the former president of Redfield Scopes and Gerry Outdoors and he ran both companies simultaneously. Jim Chesnut was educated as both an electrical and mechanical engineer and has a Masters degree in both fields. Under Jim's guidance Redfield went from approximately $5,000,000 in annual sales to $18,000,000 in less than four years. Many of the innovative ideas that Redfield demonstrated during the seventies were the product of Jim's tutelage, like the wide-field scope for instance. Then the conglomerate craziness came into the picture and Jim left, later to start his own company.
Ram-Line built their business early on by designing and building a superior large capacity magazine for the Ruger 10/22 rifle. This product really appealed to the plinkers, rimfire hunters and weekend shooters and sales took off. Another popular product has been the folding stocks for the Ruger 10/22 and Mini-14 rifles.
But today, besides the interest in increasing their sales, this company has taken an active participation in the fight to preserve the 2nd Amendment. They sent out flyers and support those who are fighting the gun-control people with actual cash donations. Steve related they spent a little above $50,000 fighting gun control efforts in 1989, a little below $50,000 in 1990 and in 1991 it will probably be well above $50,000.
He is quick to point out that is a lot of money for a little company.
In discussing the Crime Package before the Senate, Steve emphasized, "It's a no-lose situation for the gun control people. If they can ban 15 round magazines and it seems to work, then they will come back and argue we should ban everything but single shot firearms. If it doesn't, then they can argue we didn't do enough to make the streets safe. They can't lose."
Obviously, the main reason for this company's success has been their ability to put their money where their mouth is, but they have also been extremely careful to listen to what the customer was telling them.
Of course, the psychological dividend for them has been when some pretty prestigious federal agencies come to them for products they can't get anywhere else. Steve said they are supplying their express magazine loaders to just about everyone. In fact, one federal agency used one to load 85,000 rounds in a week.
At the present time Ram-Line, Inc. employs approximately 100 people (plus or minus), their manufacturing area has doubled to over 50,000 sq. ft. and their annual sales have increased 30% per year. Not bad for a company that literally owes its success to listening to what the customer is telling them.
PHOTO : Modern CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) equipment allows the design changes made on the computer to be translated into the finished part efficiently and effectively.
PHOTO : Ram-Line's synthetic stocks, available for 28 different models, will soon appear in several new designs. See them at the SHOT Show in New Orleans.
PHOTO : The Syn-Tech Target pistol is sure to create interest. The adaptability of Ram-Line's design becomes apparent with new models.
PHOTO : The pistol that started Ram-Line in the firearms world is the Exactor. Simple in appearance and design, they are remarkably reliable and trouble free.
PHOTO : Computer Aided Design (CAD) is an integral part of Ram-Line's ability to adapt to needed changes. They can design new and exciting products in a fraction of the time formerly needed when conventional drawings were needed.