Inside the TacGas Armory

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Located in Salt Lake City, Utah is the production empire known as TacGas.  Founded in 2016 by Jim Staley, they’ve quickly become the go-to production company for both video game studios and defense contractors.  In 2019 Call of Duty Modern Warfare and its counterpart Warzone took the world by storm. Since then TacGas has been Call of Duty’s go-to production company that’s helping bring more realism into the massive franchise.  I had a chance to tour the TacGas facility and sit down with Jim Staley to ask him more about how this process works.  Here’s what I learned.

    Inside the TacGas Armory

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Inside TacGas HQ

    TFB (Austin R.): How does TacGas create or produce characters for the new Call of Duty franchise?

    Jim Staley: The campaign characters we almost never cast. Those are done in LA. And a lot of them are kind of just residuals that they bring back. 

    So that comes from outside of us. But all the characters that are launched throughout the season, the majority of those come from us. So that makes up probably 80% of the characters. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Non-Firing Production Use Weapons

    TFB (Austin R.): What about weapons in the game?  Does TacGas have any input into that process?

    Jim Staley: Not too much, because I can’t speak to it for sure.  From what I understand, a lot of it’s just a legal team and they got certain things they can and can’t do, and I don’t know what that is. But normally we just have certain weapons that they don’t want us to use in photo shoots and certain brands and other stuff. And then from there, they normally alter the weapons. Whatever makes them legally different enough. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Live M16 with attached M203 Grenade Launcher

    They have a team for that. They kind of might look similar to the type of firearm, but they change them a little bit. And then there are other products. I don’t know specifically how it works, but certain products are kind of deemed not anyone’s IP. You don’t need to license an M16 for example. It’s just considered in the public domain.  So some of that stuff doesn’t really matter as much.  But we don’t have a ton to do with weapons. 

    Sometimes they’ll reach out to us in the development stage and say, hey, what’s new? How many accessories is too much? Or what does it look like looking down this type of optic and we’ll send one out so they can play with it, or they’ll come out here and, and test things out, that kind of thing. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Production Use Pistols

    TFB (Austin R.): Is it an ongoing project as these Call of Duty seasons come out? 

    Jim Staley: Yeah, I mean, we do shoots at least every month and we talk to the various studios weekly. So I mean, a game is about a three-year cycle.  So it’s either in the very early green light phase of them trying to decide what exactly the game is going to be, or it’s being built or it’s actively processing the games. 

    Now you don’t buy a disk and that’s the game forever. It just constantly updates and downloads and we’re involved in that process throughout the year.  And then on the defense side of things.

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    TFB (Austin R.): Outside of the video game industry, are there specific companies in the defense community you continue to work with?

    Jim Staley: Yeah, we have about 25 to 30 clients that we’re on retainer with that pay us throughout the year to do content. Everybody has kind of a different deal, what their needs are. Then we have a lot of special projects. A new product video or new pistols coming out.  That kind of thing. So then that’s kind of its own project. 

    But at some point, when we started to get a little more brand recognition on being authentic military, specifically authentic tactical, we got a shoot with L3/Harris at the time. And then that kind of led to some other stuff. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory


    When that NGSW contract came out, SIG had us do a video for them. The guys at General Dynamics saw it, like, who did your video? And then we started shooting General Dynamics. We did their video for the same project. 

    And that kind of led to more and more stuff. And now I would say our bread and butter is defense and video games.  We have stuff that we’re working on with Ubisoft and Sony and other fairly big video game companies. 

    And then as far as defense, we do L3/Harris, Teledyne FLIR, Ops-Core Gentex, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and the government side of Polaris. We’re trying to get more and more of that. That’s really where we shine with larger budgets. They want Pyrotechnics, and they want really fine attention to detail, and they want 3D motion graphics and stuff that’s far beyond, hey, I want an ad for my social media. I don’t want to spend $5,000. You can tell by the building we kind of outgrown a lot of that. We just can’t afford to do a ton of those unless they’re this contract style where we know that we’re doing $60,000 or $100,000 or whatever with them for the year. Then I could do some of the smaller projects because we culp them together and we’re able to be more efficient. But someone called up and said, hey, I want to do a $5,000 video. We just can’t do that anymore. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Milkor MGL Grenade Launcher

    TFB (Austin R.): We spoke prior to your move into this larger headquarters.  At that time you had a massive list of guns you showed me including a GAU-21 and Milkor MGL grenade launcher.  Does that just continue to grow as new projects come your way? 

    Jim Staley: I mean, that’s how I justify toys that I like. We don’t really make that much money in gun rentals. We subsidize my machine gun spending habit. There are some things that you just can’t do anywhere else. If you go to a normal film place, they’re going to have to call somebody. We don’t have to call anybody. But if you go to ISS or any of the other big prop houses that specialize in firearms they have, there might be a couple of things we have they don’t have.  But they have everything we have and more. They’re just a bigger SAG-type company. It’s not like you have to pay for it for us. We don’t have to call anybody. We don’t fly anybody. It’s right here. Pull it off the shelf. And we got the guys that know how to use it correctly, which is nice.

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    M60, RPD, and Type 92 Machine Gun

    TFB (Austin R.): The first TacGas event I attended was Shoot It Live in 2018 and 2019.  That was one of the coolest events I’ve attended with a helicopter shoot and really big-name vendors.  Is that an event you potentially see coming back in the future?

    Jim Staley: I’ve thought about it. We actually kind of shot some stuff this year to tee up a Gen Two, so to speak. And we talked about instead of doing an open-to-the-public type event, instead doing a fundraiser where whoever wins gets to bring like ten people, get some kind of ultra VIP experience. 

    I think it’s just a little bit easier for us to handle. We’re not an event planning company, and we’re not really big enough where we can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an event that really doesn’t do anything with the needle for us. 

    It sucks so much bandwidth. And at the end of the day, we did it as something that would be good for our clients and be a fundraiser. But the amount of effort that it took to do it would have just yielded more revenue for the nonprofit if we would have just not run the event or done something else. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    DShK Machine Gun

    TFB (Austin R.): For our readers.  What’s your favorite machine gun in your inventory?

    Jim Staley: My favorite machine gun right now is the DShK. It’s just because it’s a very violent shooter experience that you can feel the power. 

    TFB: Is it chambered in .50BMG?

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    DShK Close Up

    Jim Staley: No, it’s legit from the ground up. I bought as much ammo as I could find, and I actually was able to get, like, a decent price. But yeah, I got it. It’s violent to shoot and just a cool gun.

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    MCX, M4, and MK18 Pattern Rifles

    TFB (Austin R.): You can make up any scenario in your head, but we’ll just say the world has ended.  You’ve got one gun that you can take with you. Now that the world has ended, what do you take?

    Jim Staley: I’d probably take either some type of 16-inch or 14.5 AR chambered in 7.62 probably.  With like 1-10x or similar optic.  Something kind of in-between. But I’d probably be good with the same thing in like 5.56. Like just some kind of medium-range, carbine, a semi-automatic with an optic that can work at intermediate ranges. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    TFB (Austin R.): You’re prior military, correct?

    Jim Staley: Yes. 

    TFB (Austin R.): Branch? 

    Jim Staley: Marines. 

    TFB (Austin R.): Okay, so one of your choices you’d already be familiar with.  Or you probably carried something similar.

    Jim Staley: Yeah, I spent four years at First Recon Battalion at First Force. Went to sniper school and all that. Then I got out in 2005 and then went to Iraq with the State Department triple canopy and did the whole contracting thing till 2007. 

    Came back, and worked. I kind of worked two jobs. I went to school, and I worked part-time for this commercial dive company.  Then part-time teaching breaching to this navy project down in San Diego while I was going to SDSU and doing an MBA program. 

    I didn’t finish it, but in 2009 I went GRS and did the whole CIA contracting thing from 2009 to 2012. Some of the Black Rifle Coffee dudes like Matt were there. I moved out here in 2012. Actually, I went back to Oregon for a little while in 2012 and moved out here in February 2013. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    TFB (Austin R.): Overall, do you have a favorite machine gun in your collection?

    Jim Staley: My favorite machine gun to shoot right now. There’s a lot.  The PPSH is pretty fun to shoot. MG-42 is pretty fun. But that DShK is just awesome. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    TFB (Austin R.): Do you have a machine gun or gun wish list?

    Jim Staley: I have just about everything on it.  There are a couple though.  I’ve been trying to buy an Uzi. Just like it’s like a cool old gun. We can use it a lot for props and shit, but the main ones I wanted, I got. I have an M-134 housing, but I haven’t built it out yet. So I have the serialized part for a minigun. So I haven’t built that out. Obviously, I’d like to have one of those, but that’s easy. It’s 100 grand and they put it together for you. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    FN GAU-21

    There are some that are just hard to get. Like the GAU-21. FN said I’m the only one. 

    Well, the first thing they said was, how the hell did you get it? And I’m like, Well, I took your law enforcement demo one and hand wrote in the gun that I actually wanted. Yeah. And you guys put it through. Then it showed up at the office. So I think I have the only one. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Machine Guns, Sub Guns, and an RPG-7

    TFB (Austin R.): Since you’re a former sniper.  If you’re shooting long-range, what’s your caliber of choice right now? 

    Jim Staley: I haven’t chased down, like, some of the PRCs and stuff like that, but I have a 300 Norma AI and I have a 6mm Creed AI.  That’s pretty much what I shoot for bolt guns. 

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Operator Specific Plate Carrier Loadouts

    TFB (Austin R.): Do you have any personal input into the Call of Duty franchise that you’re really proud of? 

    Jim Staley: I mean, there’s a bunch of stuff that I’ve recommended. I don’t know exactly how it’s been implemented for sure.  As far as the most notable is that I put people in that are friends or people that are veterans.  Stuff like that.

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    Mission and Condition-Specific Camo

    TFB (Austin R.): What sets TacGas apart and how do you see things progressing moving forward?

    Jim Staley: Our main thing is authenticity. We specialize in tactical because that’s what we know. But, like, it’s really anything like that.  We do a lot of other stuff. We just want to have that extra level of detail and that extra level of grit that you feel. People that really know what’s up are like, oh, okay, they didn’t blow past it and just Michael Bay the whole thing. They actually took the time to do this exactly the way that it should be.  But still, make it entertaining or interesting to look at or watch.

    I would love to take that to entertainment beyond video games. And we have done it with, like, props and stuff. We did that new Apple TV show called Echo three. We didn’t film it, but we did some props and wardrobe.  So we’ve done a couple of other things like that, but I’d like to do more of that. 

    The problem is, I don’t have any interest in becoming a union company and I don’t know, maybe we stand up as a sister company or something.  But also a good portion of that industry are just not my people. I don’t know what the answer is. We’ve tossed the idea around and we’re actively talking to a few people about doing a short film or something like that. We would do it with some funding, but kind of able to do it our own way. 

    And it’s not necessarily like, front and center Hollywood or something, but something that we could do.  For the most part, we want to stay small enough that we can kind of do things the way we want and have it be a friendly family-type business and crush hard. Not walk on eggshells all the time, have a good time, and make money.  Champion to the tribe.

    Behind the Scenes: Inside the TacGas Armory

    SIG MCX Rifles

    After getting a chance to interview Jim I was fortunate to walk through their massive armory and headquarters.  Their extremely kind and friendly staff showed me one of the largest working firearms collections I’d ever seen.  And it’s not just a gun collection.  It truly is a full-scale armory for production work with everything from vehicles to uniforms ready to go.  There’s really no other place like it.

    Huge thank you to the folks at TacGas for showing me around their massive operation.  More information on TacGas and what they do can be found on their homepage here.  Thanks for reading!

    Austin R

    The author is a military contractor who enjoys conducting independent firearms research and reloading. Article inquiries and suggestions are welcome at austinjrex at