SMITHFIELD — When professional shooters and gun makers need a place to keep their firearms, they often call on Brack Wilson.
Wilson, a longtime Johnston County resident, recently launched Patriot Cases, a gun-case distributor that specializes in custom-made interiors. It’s a niche business, but it’s been good to Wilson.
Wilson has sold gun cases for more than 20 years. Earlier this year, he parted ways with his old company to start Patriot Cases with his wife, Joy. They now own a warehouse off of Bright Leaf Boulevard and have secured space for a second one. They conduct most of their sales over the phone or Internet.
Wilson and his wife don’t make the gun cases, but they’re more than distributors.
Brack often takes cases made by Flambeau, Plano and SKB and replaces the interiors with higher-density foams that last longer. He said the foam normally used in such cases doesn’t last very long, and oils and cleaners erode the material. Even long shipping jobs can damage the interiors.
“By the time it gets to the end user, that foam’s all tore up,” Wilson said.
He also retrofits cases for specialty items and uses. His products are popular with shooters in three-gun competitions – multitiered events that combine handgun, rifle and shotgun shooting.
Joy said Patriot Cases has found a niche in customizing cases that carry all three firearms.
“Brack’s three-gun case is really the only one that fits their needs,” she said.
But most of their business – about 90 percent of it – comes from gun makers. Companies like Remington and McMillan, which makes hunting rifles, have a partnership with Wilson, who provides them with custom cases. The manufacturers sell Wilson’s products online, emblazoned with their logos.
Joy said it’s a symbiotic relationship – the gun makers get to dip into the case business; Brack gets a small cut and reaches a wider market than he could on his own.
Gun buyers like to have the gun maker’s label on their cases, Joy said.
“That’s big,” she said. “It’s kind of like having a name on your golf bag – ‘Titleist’ or something.”
Wilson is deeply entrenched in the gun business, which he describes as a fraternity. It’s hard to build people’s trust, he said, but once you’re in, you get to know everyone.
“The gun industry is a very tough nut to crack,” Brack said. “A lot of people come and go. The ones that are still around are known for dependability.”
Wilson is definitely an insider. He attends industry conferences around the country, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ted Nugent and Jamie Franks, a season two contestant in the History Channel series “Top Shot.”
“I know everybody,” he said. “So when I deal with these companies, I’m not just dealing with some guy; I’m dealing with the president of the company.”
Those kinds of connections have served him well. Patriot Cases ships out about 1,500 cases a month, and the Wilsons say business is growing every week. That’s why they’ve leased more warehouse space.
Joy said her husband has built his reputation on his years of experience and quality work.
“Brack has his own niche because he understands the guns and what gun manufacturers need,” she said.