Recently, TFB had the unique opportunity to spend some time with Jeremiah Cohn in Phoenix, Arizona. You know him through our reports on his companies pistol caliber Kalashnikovs and the upcoming Mosin Nagant Golf Ball Launcher. Jeremiah is certainly one of the more interesting and charismatic guys in the industry, coming from a background of growing up in Saudi Arabia and driving semi ton trucks for a living before breaking into firearms design. His company has come a long way from its humble beginnings as the FOB gunstore. Time will tell how large of an impact he will have on the industry, but this story is an extremely inspirational one, that I hope will ignite the powder charge of those who’s dream it is to build amazing firearms.
The Firearm Blog- So where are your beginnings?
Jeremiah Cohn- I was born in Arizona, small mining town here named Safford, grew up there for just a few years, ending up moving to Salt Lake City with my mom and stepdad, and then we were off to Saudi Arabia where I spent a good majority of my childhood because my step dad worked for an oil company there. Went to boarding school from 9th grade on in the United States. I got to experience the world in a different perspective than we have today, the Cold War was still raging, very happy I got to travel the world at a young age, got the chance to explore history up close. I was going to go to college and learn how to build roller coasters, but ended up not going through with it, I had a good friend get killed and it affected me deeply.
TFB- So where did your passion for firearms come into play?
JC- Well my step father was certainly into guns back here in Arizona, he had a .22 rifle and a pistol and we would love to go out plinking. But when we went to Saudi Arabia, we obviously couldnʼt do much with firearms there because of the strict laws, pretty much nothing allowed from a civilian standpoint, and especially an outsider such as we were. When I finished boarding school, the first thing I did was buy myself a handgun. I think it just blossomed from there. For me it is a love of firearms, designing, creating, fixing, itʼs controlling an explosion in a handheld device that just fascinates me. There is just something about the whole theory about how it works, it is just amazing. Like you think about a car engine, similar kind of theory. It was just something that always stuck with me, so for a couple of years I wasnʼt able to actually do the gun thing, got married, had the family, had to support the family. Drove a truck for quite a few years, got my CDL in fact, and for 19 years I drove semi trucks, 2 million miles on my CDL and I gave it up. I also didnʼt really want to work for anyone anymore, so I started a food business, had a few food trucks, and stuff like that. It makes really good money, no matter what you think about it, it makes great money. From there we got into the fireworks business in around about 2007, because they were an extremely hot commodity, and the food services were not working out very well because of the economic downturn. People werenʼt buying food like they were before.
TFB- So why fireworks?
JC- Well, I loved fireworks my entire life, even in Saudi Arabia where they were illegal, but I used to get bottle rockets and make myself rocket launchers and stuff like that. Now, fireworks became legal in Arizona five years ago and up until then you couldnʼt even have a sparkler in this state or else youʼd get a ticket or go to jail for it. So when I heard they were coming to the state, I really wanted to get into the business. It was legal to buy and sell them but you could not use them. Very hypocritical policy, but people did it anyways. So due to our fireworks stands we built a pretty good business out of that. It was a brand new commodity, to a brand new market, you are going to make some money with that. I loved blowing stuff up, and I had to get into that market. We have more season with my company, weʼre going to do it for New Years but after that we wonʼt have a part in the fireworks business. The firearms have just taken off so much, we just really donʼt have the time to do fireworks.
TFB- What was this company called?
JC- Tactical Fireworks, because most of the products we sold were smoke bombs and smoke grenades that various people around the area would use for Mil-Sim events and activities. While I was doing that, and doing the special effects with fireworks for them, I was hanging around alot of people with firearms, alot of them were firearms manufacturers or owned gun stores. So everyone pretty much wanted to be friends with me, because I blew stuff up, yet I was friends with everyone else who built firearms. Now Iʼve been building cars for my whole life, so one of my friends suggested to me, why donʼt I start building firearms with all my experience from building cars. Iʼve always loved working on cars, so the idea was why not take the mechanical ability acquired from building cars, into building firearms. Essentially I thought it would be pretty cool to get into firearms, so I got the FFL first. I jumped right into it, running like a monkey, straight off the bat. Big downfall, because gunstores donʼt make alot of money, you have to sell alot of firearms in order to really make ends meet. There isnʼt alot of money on the backend of firearms sales. Say, Iʼm buying a Ruger for $400, the end price is going to be $440, take out all my taxes and the retailerʼs price, I might make $20 or $30. Not alot of money. You have to sell alot of firearms in order to make a viable business. So, I got the Class 7 SOT license so we could build our own guns, to sell in our own store. This store was called the FOB, or Forward Operating Base. Through the first year of us being in operation, we realized that the firearms that we made, our AKs and ARs, were selling alot better than everything else that we sold. I noticed that the influx of people coming to me for firearms built by me, or by us, me and Gary Smith… Everyone thinks we have a hundred people, when really all we are is myself and my machinist Gary, maybe a couple of friends that pitch in for large volume jobs. If we had all the parts sitting here, I could do by myself, 6 AKs a day, beginning to end, done. Thatʼs my myself in a day. But we can do about 10 guns a day between the two of us. That is quite a few, I mean there are some manufacturers that take six weeks to build one gun. We knock six out in a day easily. Essentially we took the love of manufacturing, closed the store, and just concentrated on the building of AKs. We really wanted to get mainstream, into the big retailers. Me seeing business, I see that is where the money is in this industry. Selling to the people, that will sell your product for you. That way I donʼt have to deal with the public, I donʼt have to keep that customer base, I just have to keep a few customers happy to sell my product.
TFB- So you have a lot of mechanical background to your name, and machining as well, where did all that come from?
JC- Mechanical yes, machining much less so, but it all comes from building cars. I couldnʼt afford to take my cars to an auto shop, and have them charge me $5,000 to just build this bumper, if I can do it myself, I love to learn, I love pushing that knowledge envelope. The world pays you for what you know, unless you get lucky. If you donʼt have a working knowledge of anything, then you generally are going to get paid for what youʼre worth, and if you know nothing, then youʼll get paid next to nothing. And that is something that motivated me to learn from an early age. The English Wheel, the Anvil, working on manual drill presses, I learned to use all that stuff because I made all my own parts. That is where the mechanical part of my business came from, Iʼve always designed my own product, Iʼll look at somebodies idea and try to simplify it, make it easier, something that I can produce myself. Apply this concept to AKs, we were looking the at the products out on the market, seeing how these companies made their AKs, and seeing how much they were going for in MSRP. And we realized that it didnʼt need to be this high, for alot of the machining operations that were involved. In addition we had to fabricate all our parts because it was cheaper than buying them already made. In addition parts would always take far too long to get to me, that bugs me. Something about this industry that is certainly annoying is that many companies cannot make deadlines. I canʼt build my AKs and make my own deadlines, if these companies canʼt get their parts out to me, in an orderly time frame. I understand being busy, I totally get it. I understand being sought out after, there are some people in this industry, people want their gun built by company X or Y, theyʼll wait 6 months to have that. And then X or Y will take that entire time to build it. I just donʼt think it should be like that in the industry. Weʼre trying to be the gun manufacturer that is an ungun-manufacturer. Coming from the background that we come from, we want to be transparent to people, weʼre not hiding anything, we want to treat people the way people used to be treated, 20-25 years ago. There used to be craftsmanship in this industry that I donʼt think exists on the scale that it used to exist on. Everything is mass produced out of a machine shop that spits firearms out left and right, or in China. Working with hand just isnʼt as common as it used to be. I would really like to fill that void. That was my goal from opening the gunstore, in that I wanted my business to go back to what the industry used to be, 20-25 years ago.
TFB- Is that how you want Kalashnicohin to be viewed? As craftsmen?
JC- Yes, we donʼt want to be viewed as just another cookie cutter firearms company, we like our title of sometimes being called “Mad Scientists” because of some of the things that we do. Weʼre trying to fill a niche in the industry that isnʼt being filled right now. Everybody else kind of just runs together, all the AR makers? Gosh, there are thousands of them. It is all the same product, maybe a couple different stamps in different places, similar to AKs, but with AKs, there is a quality build, and then there are junk builds, Iʼm trying to give a quality build at that mid range price.
TFB- So how are you going to compete with companies that have much more dedicated machinists, and equipment that is much more precise than what you have?
JC- I donʼt know if it is competing, most of the platforms or stuff that we do are one-offs, different than most people. We do want to put out a line of AKs that compete with Inter Ordnance (IO), or Century Arms. That is just going to have to take financial backing, and more parts kits, which is a possibility that I am working on right now. Because alot of people want to see Century or IO have a competitor out there, that is a quality product at that price point.
TFB- Instead of having to get a Krebs, Rifle Dynamics, or an Arsenal?
JC- For a thousand dollars or more, exactly! You should be able to get an AK that is hand built the proper way, from older parts, surplus parts. Those companies are extremely high dollar, we want to get something to the same extent, it will be built quality wise, built with quality parts. Iʼm not saying it will be the same as those companies. I donʼt want to compete to put them out of place, I just want to be seen as the same type of craftsman as they are. Recognition in the industry of having a quality product is much better than putting out numbers. I think that if people put out quality, the numbers will come with the quality. Some of these AKs these days are at extremely high prices. I mean in the end, they are just parts kits, demilled parts kits with an American receiver, barrel, and other stuff.
TFB- So after the gun store and you started making firearms, what happened?
JC- We closed the gun store and then we had this workshop right here. This was when that realization hit me that we could make more money through quality manufacturing, than with just the gun store. We are sort of off the grid, in that we donʼt have a store front, people canʼt just walk in here. We have that online presence though.
TFB- What products really started getting your name around?
JC- Believe it or not, it was our AR pistols that kind of put us on the map. We did AR pistols alot cheaper than everybody else. It is like putting legos together, really easy. When the AR market kind of fell on itʼs face, after Sandy Hook, we started considering switching to AKs. We had that capability, all the tooling, we can build a good AK and hop onto that bandwagon. There is a huge influx of AKs in the market right now, it is gaining popularity like no other. Iʼm glad I did that, because if I hadnʼt had hopped on that, I donʼt think we would have survived at all, as a business. It was our normal AKs that local people started to see the quality that we did. As an example, when I set the rivets, if they are at all off, I rip them back out and put a new one in it. It blossomed from there, building normal parts kit AKs. Then we did the .45 caliber versions and decided we would get into pistol calibers, and that area is really taking off and is what we are starting to be known for.
TFB- How did that whole pistol caliber phenomena come about with you guys?
JC- Essentially it was just pushing the limits, I wanted to do something different. I got a little bored with building the standard rifle caliber ones. Stepping outside of my boundaries, messing with the unknown, that is where I like to be. The .45 is because I really liked the Thompson submachine gun. Iʼm a Tommy gun freak, absolutely love it. I wanted an AK that shot from Thompson rounds. Then we noticed that the 9mm AKs were making a huge run in popularity, we did the 9mm and that is how we got into the pistol caliber. I noticed this from all the hype on the internet and reading about how everyone wanted a subgun now, either AR, or AK, the MPX was getting ready to come out. So we noticed that pistol calibers were making a run. Building the first pistol caliber AKs were to push our knowledge, see what we could accomplish. We stayed in it, because there was a huge want for it. Our pistol caliber AKs are different from most other peoples because we did that on purpose, so no one could accuse us of copying or immolating them. Just doing clones of what the Russians had put out. We wanted something that was ours, and that is why we do pistols in a Draco style instead of a Krink style. At that time, we werenʼt even aware of DDI or Atlantic trying to push out their 9mm AKs. Of course now I know all about them.
TFB- What makes them so unique from every other pistol caliber AK?
JC- Apart from our own little design changes, the price point on our rifles/pistols. Two weeks after we brought ours to the market, Atlantic dropped their price down to $1400, and ours were half that. Certainly got alot of people recognizing who we were, real fast. That really put us on the map. In addition we are only eight months from when we changed the name to what it is now.
TFB- And the bolt that is coming with these pistol caliber AKs?
JC- Well weʼve redesigned the bolt from what we started off with. Weʼve incorporated a cross pin in it, so a user can switch the charging handle from the right to the left, or reverse. Of course, theyʼll have to get a different receiver cover or just cut a slot in the current one. That is something that no one else in the industry does, having that cross pin and hole. There are tons of people that are cutting off the charging handle and rewelding it to the other side but a user wonʼt be able to normally do that. It was easier for us to make our own bolts so we can change it to match all of our pistol calibers, just by us modifying the bolt face while machining it. One design can go many different ways essentially (.45, .40. .357 SIG, 9mm). We eliminated the gas piston because our pistol calibers are a blow back design, the gas piston is not needed. You still have to have some sort of a gas piston/guide rod so that the bolt carrier will not come out of the receiver when it is in recoil. So what we did is eliminate the whole gas piston in the front of it, and we made one solid guide rod that goes all the way through the bolt and locks in the normal position where the AK spring would normally lock into the receiver cover, and use a recoil spring that just goes from the back of the bolt to the rear of the cover. Just like a handgun, with a guide rod and spring. But this system actually cleaned our pistol caliber design up by taking out unnecessary stuff that didnʼt need to be there. And we were able to add things that did need to be there. We also took some weight off of it, thus lightening the bolt carrier, so the recoil and return movement is faster. You can also shoot some very low grain ammunition with our system, because it is going to be able to blow back. Weʼve also added a rubber buffer at the end of the guide rod, but not for the sake of buffering. The reason because this is so the bolt doesnʼt over travel behind the hammer and get caught on it. The other thing about it is that we havenʼt reinvented the wheel. It is still an AK bolt. Still acts and works just like a standard, rifle caliber AK bolt. We use standard AK ejectors as well, small parts are still interchangeable. About the only replacement part you would need from us, is the bolt or the guide rod, because those parts are dedicated to this platform.
TFB- And Clearview Investments is taking these on your first contract?
JC- Yes, they are taking most of these in 9mm, with the Soumi drum and stick magazines, itʼll be a 9mm carbine (16.5 inch barrel), look just like a normal AK other than this whole pistol caliber set up we have. We also wanted to build a normal AK that you could throw any sort of after market part on it as well, to your hearts content. The only thing specific to it, is the bolt, barrel and magazine. Itʼll be full wood furniture, straight stock. Iʼm not quite sure what the customer MSRP is going to be, but it will absolutely be under a grand. These will also be shipping with different magazine wells that users can buy, that can accept other magazines such as Glock magazines. Circle Ten AK is interested in the same model, but in .45 ACP.
TFB- And you have this Mosin Nagant golf ball launcher?
JC- That came around because we started working on this 9mm AK for Clearview, and about two weeks into that, they proposed this idea of a Mosin Nagant golf ball launcher. Literally about two or three days after that, we had already designed, prototyped, and tested a launcher for it. He calls me back after that and mentions some ideas about designing, to which I tell him that we already have a working product. We blew him away with having the thing done within a week. It is only a month old idea or so. Weʼre hoping to make several hundred of them. We designed it after the World War Two rifle grenade launcher that was actually used on the rifle. We wanted to go after three main groups of people, the history guys that really appreciate authentic looking gear and donʼt want to mess with the rifle as it is, then the guys that just want to have fun with it, and then the guys that are a mix up both. Appreciate the history but also want to just have fun. It takes 7.62x54R blanks, should retail for around forty dollars, and will come with around ten blanks. The final version will have ports in it where you can close the ports and adjust the distance that you want the golf balls to travel. We also designed it so even if you shot through it with a live round, it will not overpressure the golf ball and have it blow up the launcher. I put a live round through it for testing and all it does is blow the golf ball to bits and out the end, but it didnʼt harm the launcher at all, and more importantly cause an explosion that could become an injury to the shooter.
TFB- Anything else coming down the line?
JC- Absolutely, we are currently working on a .458 SOCOM chambered AK. Weʼll be looking into 37mm flare launchers in the guise of an M203. Weʼve looked into doing milled AKs, as there is a niche for it. We are going to try and put out an affordable line of full length rifle caliber AK rifles to be in the price point realm of competition with Century and IO parts kits build. We want to give a good parts kit build, with quality parts, from the U.S. and with proper compliance US 922 regulations.