By: Jess Anderson
June 8, 2019 marked the 80th anniversary for Brownells, the Iowa-based leading supplier of firearm accessories, gun parts, and gunsmithing tools.
If you’re unfamiliar with Brownells the store, it’s likely you’ve heard the Brownell name. Pete Brownell, the CEO of Brownells, Inc., was president of the National Rifle Association from 2017 to 2018 and stepped away from the NRA altogether in May 2019 to focus on the family business.
Brownells has a long history of growth and innovation, from starting out primarily focused on gunsmithing to providing nearly anything firearm-related, and most recently acquiring AR15.com through Pete and Frank Brownell’s company 2nd Adventure Group. To celebrate that history, they held an 80th anniversary event, so I decided to drive into Grinnell, Iowa to check it out.
Before I got there, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this anniversary celebration, but after spending a good chunk of my day there, I was pleasantly surprised. The event had a little bit of everything for everyone, including free professional gun cleaning, free indoor ranges, a great sale on used firearms, giveaways every hour, on-site brand experts, and food from establishments local to the area.
In addition to the possibility of wining prizes through the giveaways, I was excited about getting some range time at the free indoor ranges. The flyer for the event didn’t specify if people were to bring their own firearms and range gear to participate, nor did it indicate if the Brownells facility had an indoor range that would be open to the public, so I was curious about how it would work. My curiosity was satisfied with something I hadn’t seen or even heard of before: mobile ranges.
Brownells had two semi-trailers set up that had been converted into shooting ranges, each with two lanes. People had the choice between a range that offered Ruger firearms and one that offered Springfield Armory firearms, and could shoot five rounds from their choice of available firearm, with ammo, ear, and eye protection provided, and range safety officers supervising.
This setup was unique, and I hope more of these mobile shooting ranges start popping up at other events and expos to show off more than just firearms! I hope other brands use them to showcase their guns to potential buyers. And it was all free! Can’t beat that.
Also at the event were nearly 70 brands represented by experts ready to showcase their products. Walking into a tent packed with vendors and curious shoppers was a completely new experience for me, and boy did I learn a lot. Some of the brands were familiar to me – Apex, Walther, Smith & Wesson, HK, Glock, and Magpul were all there – but there were a lot of others I hadn’t heard of. Everything from triggers and scopes to folding stock adapters and suppressors was represented at the event, and showed me just how much is out there and how much more I have to learn about the seemingly endless possibilities when it comes to firearms.
One group I found particularly interesting was Polymer80 and their 80% frames. In fact, I found the P80 frames so interesting and the idea of building my own firearm so appealing that I went ahead and bought one!
What I found somewhat surprising at this anniversary event was the variety of people in attendance. There were families who had brought their children, some who had more interest in taking advantage of the 25% off used firearms sale, others who were interested in building their own guns, and a good mix of the highly experienced and those who have more to learn (myself included).
This diversity in attendees was reflected in the new retail store at Brownells, which offers new and used firearms, but also has Brownells-branded merchandise, parts, accessories, ammo, and even coffee from Black Rifle Coffee Company available for purchase. Of course, the online store at Brownells.com is much larger and offers hundreds of thousands of products, but it was much more than your average gun store or sporting goods store, and it made sense that they would draw so many people from so many backgrounds.
The diverse crowd at the event and Brownells’ history as a gunsmithing business that has evolved and grown over the years shows that they have something to offer for anyone in the 2A community. What’s better is knowing that the family-owned business is passionate about what they do and advocating for the Second Amendment, which is something that is seriously needed today.
Jess Anderson is a freelance writer from Iowa. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.