TFB Exclusive: Sven Jonsson of Manticore Arms

by Miles
Sven with some of his parts creations for the Tavor, and Scorpion.
The Firearm Blog recently received a chance at an exclusive interview with Sven Jonsson, founder and owner of Manticore Arms, based in St. Charles, Illinois. Sven founded Manticore on innovative parts for the Steyr AUG and MSAR rifle platforms and has continued into making innovative parts for the SIG 556, AK platform, Tavor, CZ Scorpion, and is soon to be entering into the AR parts market with a hand guard design (in addition to a Tavor charging handle). Sven is also an integral part of the annual Bullpup Shoot that is a kind of mini SHOT show for the Bullpup crowd.
The Firearm Blog– So what is your background, how’d you get into this whole small arms thing?
Sven Jonsson – Originally I was an architect, I got my Bachelors and Masters at University of Illinois. Before I got out of college I was interning a lot and was professionally working from 2000 to 2010 or so. I worked at a couple of different companies and what ended up happening was back in 2008 the economy got really bad and a lot of architecture firms just went under. The one I was working at, they cut us back to four days a week, then were talking about cutting us back to three days a week at that point I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills. On the side to help pay the bills I was selling surplus M16 uppers and retro parts and I was really into that and very knowledgeable on that, but it’s kind of a fixed market, and it is all very cyclical. You couldn’t exactly make money off of that. However in retrospect, my degree was the absolute foundation for working with firearm parts because it’s using all the same skills and knowledge, just on a much smaller scale. The same materials knowledge is essential. Anyways I had a MSAR, the Steyr AUG clone, and a lot of guys were complaining about the charging handle on that and the fact that you couldn’t shoot it left handed without getting brass in your face. So I started doing some design work on that, I knew how to do 3D design and stuff like that. My background with CAD with architecture actually worked out well with scaling down to firearms parts, I already had a lot of the materials knowledge on metals and stuff like that. Good 3D visualization, which when designing parts is critical. Molding, I didn’t really know much about molding but I read up on that process and how to design those parts as well. So I basically got some 3D drafting software, designed a charging handle and a brass deflector for the AUG, a guy I knew prototyped some pieces out of Nylon for me to test. We went through like 12 revisions just to get that brass deflector right. From there I went to someone who owned a molding company and the owner was pretty into that. I showed him my designs and he was pretty impressed. So we molded the parts and started making money doing that, that’s kind of how Manticore Arms got started.
Some of the early products that got Manticore started were created for the AUG and MSAR rifles.
TFB- To get to the beginning, how’d you get into shooting in general, and how did that translate to the mechanics of making parts?
SJ- I think the most shooting I did as a kid was with a muzzleloader my dad had, and we’d shoot it off on the Fourth of July, loaded with confetti. I didn’t really get into firearms until I got to college and I was in my sophomore year which is called crunch year in the architecture field. Where you’re doing design work 10 hours a day not including your regular class load. I had more room for one extra credit hour and they had Military Marksmanship 113, which was primarily for the ROTC kids, but open to anyone. In that, I learned to field strip and shoot a full auto M16A1, first firearm I ever shot out at the range. Some of the other students in the class weren’t ROTC affiliated but were really into shooting and they loved it as well. The sergeant in charge couldn’t believe that I had never fired a firearm before. So that got me started and from that I bought a Ruger 10/22. That’s where I really started getting interested in shooting, and mostly from a mechanical standpoint. My mother said that when I was a kid I was always taking apart the broken VCR or anything mechanical, trying to understand it as well. To me I find it fascinating, you can have an explosion of incredible power about six inches from your face, and from that we use it to force a piece of metal to go in a certain direction and eventually hit a target. Then load it and start all over again, without using electricity or any of these modern concepts we’re so used to.
TFB- So how did you jump from making these prototype parts to Manticore the company?
SJ- At that point I had jumped from five different architecture firms for various reasons, and it was one of those things that the industry was so unstable and I said well why not give it a shot at making gun parts. The worst that happens is that it doesn’t go forward, and I can always jump right back into architecture. At least I would have a good story. So I took a leap and decided to take my life savings and pour it into paying for the molds and setting up a website for it. I was basically working 8 hours a day and then come home to set up the website, getting the company incorporated, doing a lot of reading about running a business and whatnot. I had previously worked for some smaller companies and I got to see what it was like to be a part of them and how to run them. How a boss can really inspire a company to work or really inhibit a company to be effective. I’ve worked for enough companies to know how to run and not run a business [laughs].
TFB- So how big is the company now?
SJ- We fluctuate depending on the season, but we have a significant amount considering the size we are right now or manufacturing capability. We’ve defiantly grown, doubled in size every year that we’ve started, and we are still on track to do that. We started in the AUG parts industry, one of the reasons was that no one was willing to make AUG parts back then.
The Archlight XTL forend on an 18 inch Tavor rifle. This product has a number of unique features such as monolithic construction, and the ability to place a light ring at multiple spots within the forend.
TFB- Speaking of which, how many civilian AUGs and MSARs are there in the United States?
SJ- There are about 30,000 AUGs and if you include the MSARs, that brings it closer to 40,000 or a little more. It was released in the early 90s to the civilian market but then they stopped making them because of the import restrictions. Microtech went to work producing about 18,000 and then Steyr got back into the market. Compared to ARs which have something like eight million in the US, the AUG market is small fry. Big companies don’t want to tackle AUG parts because the Cost-Benefit ratio just isn’t there for them. When I looked at it and I said, well there is a market for that, and I don’t have to sell a lot of them to make money at it. I’m not competing against 50 other companies making an AR part as well. My advice for anyone getting into gun parts is to not start with ARs. It doesn’t matter how good you are at it, there are 50 other companies making a similar product these days and it’s almost impossible for a company to break into it and gain a foothold. That is really where our claim to fame came in because nobody would make AUG parts or SIG parts for a while. We do Tavor parts now and I think one or two people had some prototypes out by the time we already had several hundred hand guards ready to go at one of the Bullpup Shoot event that year.
TFB- So from AUG parts in 2010, you moved on to the SIG?
SJ- We made a few parts for the SIG 556 because it was pretty popular at the time, then they kept changing the design of the gun and for us to not have the technical data package and to constantly redesign parts and make them compatible, it just wasn’t’t worth it. The SIG parts were a decent seller, but it wasn’t one of those things that was in the end worth it production wise. I still get emails all the time about SIG parts but currently we don’t’t have any plans at to make any.
TFB- So more about the Tavor, is there anything coming in the way of a rifle caliber suppressor design, similar to the RatWorx 9mm one?
SJ- So RatWorx came to us and worked with us on our rail system, we work together on a lot of projects. They used our hand guard in a modified version to be the basis for their ZRX suppressor that they make for the 9mm. The reason we started with the 9mm is because the pressures are lower and some of the design elements are a lot simpler to work with as opposed to a 5.56 version which is dealing with a tremendous amount of pressure given the materials we’re using. It’s not off the drawing board, we tried to get it ready for Bullpup Shoot 2015 and we we were pushing too hard on something that we just didn’t have the capacity to bring to production. Simple truth is the suppressor got very hot, very fast, and we had to use a stainless steel core, which is very expensive to machine. So we’re looking into some technical solutions about how we accomplish this at an appropriate price point. We could probably get it out but the price point would be to the point of a stock suppressor and we don’t want that for a product. People are always asking why does it take so long and the reality is for every metal piece you see, there’s probably two dozen designs and more Rapid Prototypes that worked but for one reason or another they didn’t make it the final cut.
The drum type safety that Manticore is coming out with the Scorpion.
TFB- So out of you guys, Midwest Industries, and Gearhead, who was the first company to come out with the hand guard design?
SJ- We were the first ones to announce the extended rail, we had a bit of a hold up in production so technically Midwest beat us to the market by about a month or so. The original short rail, Gearhead and us were within about a week or two of getting it out. But we were the first ones to have it in production and on the market. For the longer rails ours is monolithic whereas the Midwest design is bolted together and that’s what slowed us down because we had to have a custom extrusiondone on ours. In the long run, it makes a very contiguous product, no welds or anything that could break off. Usually a mechanical fastener or a weld is the weak point in the system and the first to break. For designing it, I looked at it from a couple different perspectives, I think on the surface people will look at it and say it’s like any other rail system like Midwest. But I love when I can buy something and it has inherent value in it such as the QD pockets. A QD fixture for Keymod or whatever, is thirty bucks, so we put four QD holes already in it, that saves you the money. The ARC LOK system, we announced it and I think two weeks later Magpul announced M-Lok, which was kind of funny because they are very similar in how they work despite some minor differences. Magpul was kind of concerned and so they called me and said hey what’s the deal, are we infringing on your patent. And we just came to a gentleman’s agreement and I said hey you know there’s no point in a lawsuit over this, what is it going to accomplish. I was concerned M-Lok would actually hurt our sales, but it turns out people actually like our system despite that accessories between the two are not interchangeable. We made it in Keymod as well and were actually surprised that the Keymod rails did not sell well at all compared to the XTL ARC LOK. Thus we don’t actually plan to make any more Keymod versions because these were outselling Keymod ten to one. On the flip side, we have our AK ALFA rail in Keymod and then made it in ARC LOK, and it turns out the Keymod outsells the Archlok ten to one there. Different gun, different system, different looks. But beyond the rail systems, I want people to be able to justify why they’re spending their money on this, and what are they getting for their money. For example on the XTL we have notches in the rear for running pressure switches externally as well as multiple holes for adjusting the light ring forwards and backwards, and of course the multiple integral QD pockets. We could have easily made something where this is the way you have to use it, but realistically everyone does something different. So I said well, what can we do to maximize the flexibility on it. Because really that’s what somebody is buying something like this because they want to change the function of the rifle to something they want.
TFB- So where does some of the inspiration for designs like that hand guard come from?
SJ- I spend a significant amount of time online, on the various web forums and social media pages trying to get a feel for what shooters would like to see and what they want. I’m on there twice a day at least, responding to questions and looking at the ebb and flow at what people are looking for. My inside joke is that I get to play around on the web and play market research. But in reality I just read a lot and see what people are looking for. When the Tavor came out, one of the big things was that it had no accessories and every other gun in the world seemed that you could mount lights and whatever you wanted. But nothing for the Tavor. So I looked into it and asked myself, can we do it? Then I read around some more and somebody said, well I wonder if you could stick a flashlight underneath the barrel and I said, wow that’s a great idea. It would be a tight fit but I figured out that it could be done. Quite a few of our ideas come from that social media and from people asking us if we can make this or that part. Or we ask ourselves, does anybody make this and if not, can we make one. I really look for market feedback on what is a good idea or not. Just because someone isn’t a classically trained designer with two degrees and has all this experience, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a good idea for a product, it just means they don’t know how to get from that brainstorm of an idea to a physical product.
TFB- So how are the Tavor products doing sales wise and across the board?
SJ- They’re doing good, we’re really happy with them. The biggest thing that we’re going to next is a folding charging handle like our AUG model. We are certainly committed to it, and it will be out by the end of the year. We’re looking at redesigning the whole part, including the rod, and also thinking about it having an ambidextrous capability like that current one. We’ve got some other components we’re working on, rail based and stuff like that. We’ve got a big Law Enforcement distributer that we’re friendly with, so we should see some more components coming out through that as well, such as an ejection port cover with a QD mount , but unlike some of the others on the market ours is going to have a proper gas seal with a custom gasket. We have to have something new and interesting coming out every couple months.
A rough rapid prototype of the muzzle compensator that Manticore has come out with.
TFB- So what does this charging handle look like?
SJ- It’s hard to explain in words, but I will say that anyone who has taken apart one themselves knows how difficult the design of it is. When you see the inner workings of it, you really scratch your head at how it even works. Some of the challenge was how to simplify it like we did with the AUG. So in fact it was easier to redesign the whole thing from scratch instead of trying to modify one piece or another to get it to fold. When I design things I like to think of the average guy with very minimal tools on hand, probably with a hammer and punch at 9pm at night trying not to wake up the people next door. So how do I make this so you don’t need special tooling to install it. I think we cracked that one fairly well. It is going to be all aluminum as opposed to the current one with the polymer handle, in addition we’re doing the rod that it rides on as well.
TFB- So what is your relationship with IWI, can you just call them up and ask for design specifics to make better parts?
SJ- Not to that level, I still measure off of it [laughs]. We’re on great terms with them, they like our stuff very much, really supportive. We’ve been out there and know all the people in Harrisburg. Their Law Enforcement division always recommends our stuff as well. When we first came out with our products, they bought some of it just to have it in house. We probably make more aftermarket parts for the Tavor in terms of diversity than everyone else combined. One factor they are very aware of is that in the United States the accessory market helps drive gun sales, something some other companies don’t seem to realize as much. It’s what we refer to as the “Hot Rod Gun Culture”. Nobody wants to run a stock gun, everyone wants their firearm tailored specifically to them. Most our products are based on simple ergonomics as well, so we’re making the firearms fit the person because everyone is different. We really stress that in our designs to the point of getting different people of different body shapes and sizes to really try everything out. You can’t get 100 percent of the population, that’ll never happen. But how do you refine the feel and the usefulness of it to really find that happy median. If everything was made perfect from the get go, I wouldn’t’t have a job [laughs]. Gun makers are in a similar boat but they have much less options to go with. And that’s where our aftermarket comes in because we can specialize in all that, without worrying about the initial stock option.
TFB- Has there ever been a design idea to put a rail on the IDF version of the Tavor?
SJ- We’ve thought about it, but seeing that not many of them are in the US to begin with, and the mounting system would be completely different than the traditional picatinny mounted ones. If there’s enough demand, we’d do it, We’ve done that in that past where guys have wanted a particular part and we ran a small batch of a part as a one time run. But if the demand isn’t there, then it’s just not economically feasible.
TFB- How about the SCAR platform for hand guards? Since you’re doing such a good job with the Tavor?
SJ- Part of the design process is that I personally have to be pretty interested in the gun to begin with, and for the SCAR, it just never really had an appeal to me. There’s not a lot of them, and its a very high priced gun compared to others on the market. For us as a manufacturer, there just isn’t a demand for them, or rather it isn’t to say that there isn’t a demand, but its a small market, someone has already gotten there, what’s the use in us getting into it. A lot of times projects sprout up because of our specific interest in a certain gun, and that is what drives a lot of the parts development. As an example that’s how the Tavor curved butt pad started out. Me being pretty short, I would have trouble shouldering the rifle as it was. So how do I make a butt pad that doesn’t’t make the gun too short to turn it into an SBR but also addresses the length of pull problem. I was joking with the molding guys asking them if they thought it would sell, and they said they really didn’t see a market for them. So I said, alright, we’ll run them and if they don’t sell, we’ll just discontinue it, and I got one for myself. It turned out, that butt pad is our fastest selling and most popular product out of anything we have. When they first came out, they were literally selling faster than we could get them out of the mold. People were complaining about how they couldn’t get ahold of them at all. We’d list a batch for sale on Monday morning and they’d be sold out by Tuesday. As much as I try to anticipate the market, sometimes you absolutely just don’t know and have to take a plunge, a really tough call especially with a product that is one of its kind and you can’t compare it to anything else similar.
The suppressor adaptor that Manticore is coming out with. This one is a prototype.
TFB- So what kind of aluminum do you use in your products?
SJ- 6061 or 6061 T6 heat treated is what we mostly use in our products, especially for anything that is somewhat structural. 7075 does some great things, but ultimately it’s really expensive, and in the end, the cost would just go up per part without any real gain in performance. When we’re looking at the material, we’re looking at the structural strength, the yield strength, the tensile strength, what kind of loads are going to be on it, impact loading versus constant. The truth is, 6061 is plenty strong and way beyond the stress loads that are anticipated in the parts. The 6000 series aluminum also allows us to use extrusions, we can’t do that with the 7000 series properly, it doesn’t extrude well. I think the military really likes 7075 it because of some very specific and uncommon salt galvanic corrosion in the situations that they face, that’s why AR receivers are made of that, going back to the old Vietnam era production of the AR. With modern coatings, you don’t have as much of a problem with that.
TFB- Can you talk a little about CZ Scorpion parts?
SJ- The Eclipse flash hider is currently on sale right now. We just finished up a production run of them. The safety will be out soon enough, it’s just taking a little bit longer to get them out of production for various reasons. The design of the safety comes from the FAL or the Daewoo, both use a similar drum type safety. Scorpion stock safeties have a sharp edge on them that can dig into your fingers while shooting if you’re not careful. That was the inspiration for ours because I wanted a safety that even if it rubs against your finger, it’s not going to actually cut into you. We had about four different designs for the safety, and that is the one I settled on. You initial design concept doesn’t always work in the first shot and often involves gentle refinements to get to the final product. In one instance I think one of our muzzle devices I came up with twenty two designs before I was finally happy with the final one.
TFB- So Gearhead is experimenting with a .300 BLK barrel for the Tavor, does Manticore have any plans for one?
SJ- Caliber conversion for the Tavor, or for any rifle isn’t something that we get in to too much. I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve seen from that. I also believe IWI may be experimenting with one as well. If he gets that done, that will be a heck of an accomplishment. It’s not an easy task at all. The gas system is the tough part about it because of all the pressures associated with it. And then all the bullet weights goes into that as well.
Triangular stock on a Yugo M92. Traditional AK74 stocks are stamped, whereas Manticores are cast.
TFB- So a lot of people are asking and are curious about a lot of the parts delays, what’s going on with that?
SJ- Unfortunately, the reality is we don’t have machines that run every single part all the time. We have to anticipate the sales, how fast is something selling, and where in the production que can we fit something. For example our AK triangular stocks are seeing a surge of popularity. So we’ll do a run and say it’ll last this long and then suddenly one of the distributors would buy our whole inventory for guns they are building. Or we run a couple hundred of a new part, not sure if they’ll sell or not, then all of a sudden everyone wants one and we didn’t expect it. Now we don’t have enough molds or machines to make it that fast. We’re mostly a design company, although we do some manufacturing and we do all our assembling in-house. The reality of becoming a manufacturing company instead of a design company is that we’d be dealing with the CNC machines all day instead of actually designing things and making them better. But anything that is produced out of house by companies we deal with, we are the substantial portion of their work. At one of them almost everything they make is ours. I suspect we’ll transition to in-house manufacturing as time goes on, but it will have to do with justifying that cost in the future. Another aspect of it is we design products for those manufacturing companies as well. So we can specialize in designing, and they can specialize in manufacturing, we is what we both do best. No one is trying to play master of everything.
TFB- So how would you compare Manticore to all the other Tavor parts makers?
SJ- I think our largest competitor by volume aims for the price point, and mass market appeal. There’s nothing wrong with that, there are customers in every market place. Some of the smaller manufacturers remind me a lot of us when we were starting out- a lone designer with some good ideas that is making it into reality. I think we’ve gone more to the specialized market place instead, and I like to think we’re the higher middle range when it comes to design and quality. We have the ability to really spend a lot of time on the front end, designing stuff and making sure it works to begin with, but we also now have the ability to invest in tooling and techniques that a smaller manufacturer can’t always afford. . Ultimately though, a product has to be designed and be something that adds to the function of the weapon before going to production- we either get it right or it doesn’t get released.
Manticore's 26mm Krinkov Nightbrake. This design led to their design for the compensator on the Scorpion.
TFB- Are there any other niche parts markets you are interested in?
SJ- We actually had a big conversation about that earlier, and what direction we want to head in. We obviously started with the niche AUG market. So do we keep making parts for firearms already in mass circulation, or do we go with making parts for new firearms coming out. We don’t want to necessarily lose our roots, but how do we go forward. We’re known for making stuff that nobody else will make. Most companies won’t touch a firearm unless there is a significant portion of them out there. The stuff we started with was at 30,000 AUGs, so a pretty small market share. The Scorpion came out, we didn’t know much about it, but it became quite popular, so we got one just to mess around with and I was impressed by the simplicity of the design. The idea of a sandwiched clamshell holding a trunnion in place was very well done. I’m sure at SHOT next year, something else interesting will come out and we’ll take a look at it and say, well is there a need for any aftermarket parts for this. One of the nice things is that since we’re not a massive company, we don’t have that corporate inertia where it’s hard to steer the ship, something we can do very easily here. And as the company grows we’re going to have to invest in an R & D section that just has a solid budget going to it every month and does nothing but work on designing new products and new ideas. When we look at parts, we have figure in, can we afford a 20,000 dollar plastic mold for that, will we ever make the money back on it as well through selling. Some parts we look at, and they’re just not economically feasible to produce.
TFB- From my point of view, it almost seems that IWI came out with the Tavor, with the intent of allowing all these aftermarket companies to take ahold of it. They left a lot to be developed and desired in the way of better add on parts.
SJ- That’s actually kind of funny that you mention that, because to us in the United States, the Tavor is the hot new gun, but in reality the design is almost twenty years old and just now coming here from Israel. Looking at the X95, a lot of that has been addressed. The way they brought the Tavor over here, there was no way to really change the way it was manufactured because all the tooling already existed from their IDF production runs. But yes, metal safeties, top rails, for ends, are all an American market adaptation that the aftermarket industry has really gone after.
TFB- What is the deal with Manticore being ITAR reregistered?
SJ- It’s because of our products being exported to Canada, the one company being Zahal. We also sell to Aztec Armory in the US, which exports to Canada as well. We got the ITAR because there was such a demand for Tavor products in Canada. We get a lot of emails from all sorts of countries asking if we could export, France, Turkey, England, Austria, and so on. In France there is apparently a small but intense market of AK owners. I’ve been on their forums and they wanted to do a group buy on our muzzle devices once, but ultimately it didn’t work out due to the ITAR complications. When it came down to it, we knew there was a market in Canada, and just dived into the intricate regulations about how to get the proper export paperwork. There isn’t any good guide on how to do any of it as well, we had to learn it all first hand.
TFB- Has there every been an appeal from the IDF, the primary issued users of the Tavor for parts?
SJ- It’s interesting because I had talked about this with IWI. I do know some samples of our products have gone over, and they have to get approved by a special committee for adoption. Unit commanders have approve stuff as well, and the steps to get approval are just so Byzantine. It also seems that the cultural mood over there is more of mindset where “why would we modify it, you use what you’re issued” and we see that with a lot of European based gun manufacturers as well. Here we have a lot more of that “working on your car, making it fit your needs” American type of mentality.
TFB- I’ve actually ran into British soldiers in Helmand province who have gone to the point of buying airsoft parts and putting them on their own service SA80s and such, because Britain has a huge airsoft community and the poor guys can’t get ahold of actual firearm accessories. I felt downright sorry for them, because these were soldiers on their combat deployments and they were substituting toys for actual accessories.
SJ- Looks like we’ll have to get our UK clientele sorted out!
Kydex magazine holder that the firm is working on for Scorpion magazines.
TFB- Speaking of, has there been much from the airsoft community on parts?
SJ- We do get a lot of requests, people wondering if our stuff will fit on various airsoft guns and the like. It depends on the firearm obviously, if it’s a true to scale 1:1 replica, then they should fit. But sometimes we send out sample parts, more out of curiosity to see if they do work, as we’re curious. We haven’t been knocked off by a Chinese company so we’re obviously not that famous. That has to be the true hallmark of success, if a Chinese company is copying your products. [laughs]
TFB- So is producing a firearm a goal at all for Manticore?
SJ- That has been talked about a lot, and is certainly a long term goal that we have in mind. A lot of it is just building the industrial base because doing that is a huge undertaking. We’re talking one part of a firearm, versus fifty or a hundred parts that have to be made. But ultimately we have that as a long term goal. I don’t know when that will happen, whether it will be in five years or ten years, I would like to think that in a few years we’ll start getting serious about that. It’s a very tough bridge to cross, an entire separate set of rules and regulations we’d have to get into, such as FFLs, and SOTs. If we do that, do we keep that as part of the parts company or do we spin that off as just a section that makes complete firearms, for liability reasons? As an example it is very different to make aftermarket Jeep parts, versus building an entire Jeep. But certainly, my bucket list goal is to get at least one self designed firearm into production. I’d like to offer something that is not only progressive in its design, but that is cost effective for what you get. I think we’ve seen the market at 400 dollar AKs, 800 dollar ARs, and we’ve jumped up in price for every new firearm coming out at a grand plus. I think one of the reasons the Scorpion is so popular, is because it wasn’t over a thousand dollars for the consumer at MSRP. Tavors, AUGs, SCARs, all these custom ARs, it’s 1400-2000 just for the stock models. You get to a point where you’re not only carving out a market where there are fewer firearms being sold, but you’ve chopped out that many people who can’t even afford those firearms and I think it doesn’t need to be that way.
The companies extended ALFA rail in keymod for the AK platform.
TFB- You’re mainly into rifles, has any thought been given to handguns?
SJ- You know, not really, I grew up on the 1980s assault rifle books and I think thats where my real interest came from. The AR, the AK, the MP5, the AUG. A lot of stuff on handguns are already as compact as possible, there really isn’t too much we can do in the form of major parts and we really aren’t that interested in it.
TFB- So what are the issues facing Manticore right now, and how do you propose to overcome them?
SJ- I think the question about delays is a big one. The hardest thing for us is that time schedule, where you have not just machining but also finishing, special coatings, laser engraving and so on. Also when something is designed and ready to go it often has to wait for time on a machine to be made while all the other stuff before it is being cranked out. What your average consumer doesn’t realize is just machining and working on one part, that’s a substantial output of cash we have to throw down and later make back. Like every company, in those early years, our stuff was selling faster than we expected it, but the money income ratio wasn’t there and times were tight. It’s a tight balancing, I wish we could have everything in stock, everyday, but the reality is we can’t. Part of that is a lot of the Tavor stuff has increased our notoriety as well. Another part is that we have to be constantly coming up with new ideas. We’re designers first, and manufacturers second. We always have to have something new coming up, but if stuff is still popular we have to support that product line as well. We need to be able to accommodate the manufacturing for everything, the new and the old. Our product line has forty plus products in it now, about a new one every six weeks for the duration of our existence. Every one of those products has to be manufactured and say if we make one part, sure it might last us until the next production run, but it’s sitting on a shelf in the shop, and that’s not making money. No company can afford to keep enough inventory to just sit for a year. I don’t like retiring products, or discontinuing them because I hate it when I get the emails about, do you still make this. I’d love to make everything but in reality we just can’t support all that, all the time. People see what we make, but they don’t see the products that we are also simultaneously designing as well. It’s hard to explain that to a customer asking why he can’t get that Tavor butt pad right away when we say we offer it. A lot of that comes out through the emails that I read and answer all the time. I should say that as much as people believe that their emails don’t have an effect, they really do, and it is one way I keep a pulse on what people want.
Comparison of the curved buttpad on and off the Tavor.
TFB- So how did you come up with the logo and name for the company?
SJ- Well I wanted something that was fairly phonetic easy to spell out. Because I’ve seen a couple companies where they have some crazy name and no one is pronouncing it right. At that point in the market, everyone seemed to be Valhalla this, and Ragnanrok that. Well, I’m Swedish, so I can’t go in that direction. So I basically picked a mythical creature than no one had chosen and I thought was interesting as well. The Manticore is from Greek and Persian mythology origins and has a lion’s body, scorpion tail, and dragon wings, it’s basically mean on all sides. I wanted to come up with something that could also be iconic as well. We changed up the logo about three years ago to make it more detailed on laser engraving, the shirts, and the website, but we still mark a lot of parts with the initial design because it lends itself well to a simple logo we can stamp or engrave into a small mold.
TFB- So where do you see the company within five years?
SJ- I’d like to keep us a medium sized company where we can really pay attention to what is going on, and I can stay on the shop floor and scan the forums everyday. The biggest product release we’re looking at is an AR for end that we’re working on right now. We’re going to get into AR parts and see how that goes. We’ve talked about firearms development as well, possibly go into other niche industries as well. But mainly, continue to grow at a fairly stable pace and maintain our name in the market place. Whenever the new hot gun comes out, people can count on Manticore Arms having aftermarket parts for it within six months or so of the product release. You can’t really plan on where you’re going with this industry especially with all the politics involved. If firearms got banned, I guess we’d have to make baby bottles for living or something. Tactical baby bottles with MOLLE webbing on them [laughs]. But that is part of owning your own company, you can analyze and plan all you want, but at the end of the day you just have to trust your gut to feel where things are going and go with what feels right for what is the next step in progress.

Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I've made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at

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  • Rick5555 Rick5555 on Jul 30, 2015

    I like Manticore products. I was quite impressed with my Tavor Handguard. I almost got the MI. However, I prefer the handguard is one piece, opposed to two pieces. I think this company will be around for quite sometime. Was a good and honest interview, with some good questions asked too. I do look forward to the Tavor Charging Handle....The company should anticipate this item is going to sell like hot cakes. Hence make a lot of them upon your initial production run. Really enjoyed this read.

  • Rick5555 Rick5555 on Jul 30, 2015

    And Sven if you read this....How about a Tavor Bolt Release (Button) or whatever it's called. In Aluminum and a different design for function and appearance? Just thinking out loud here is all.