Jeremy Redding chuckles when he thinks about how different his role as Lead Weapons Test Specialist for SureFire’s Suppressor Division is when compared to what he thought it was going to be like. The 33-year-old was looking for an opportunity to put his shooting skills to work after being honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps when he took the job with SureFire 5 years ago.
“When I first saw the job listing for a Weapons Test Specialist, I thought, ‘Cool, we’re going to be test-firing a lot of weapons!’” Redding said. “We do go out with R&D, or if anyone else needs assistance, we help them with whatever they need. We’re proficient with lots of different firearms, whether automatic rifles, semi-automatic rifles, pistols, whatever. We’re very hands-on with them. But that is not how we test SureFire suppressors before we send them out to our customers.”
Instead, Redding spends much of his day manning a bench-mounted rail gun — a rather odd-looking device compared to what most firearms owners might conjure up in their minds. He then mounts SureFire SOCOM Fast-Attach® suppressor …after suppressor …after suppressor and fires down a 100-yard-long tube to a target at the other end of SureFire’s private test range. SureFire perfected this testing method to ensure that every SOCOM suppressor achieves extremely high accuracy standards and maintains minimal point-of-aim/point-of-impact shift and group size before it is shipped.
Many customers, including Redding’s fellow Marines, trust SOCOM suppressors with their lives. In a sense, they’re also trusting Jeremy Redding and his test team. The responsibility isn’t what he thought it was going to be. It’s much, much bigger, and he knows it.
Describe your role at SureFire. What is it exactly?
I’m the Lead Weapons Test Specialist. Every SOCOM suppressor that we manufacture, we take them out and test fire them to make sure that they shoot sub-MOA group size and shift distance. I make sure that everything stays below our sub-1 MOA standard.
Describe the process of testing a SOCOM suppressor.
We have a rail gun that is on a sled we mount on a base, and we put the barrel on the sled and torque it down — nothing is shoulder-fired. We zero the gun as close to zero group size as we can, and after we get it zeroed-in we attach our baseline suppressor. Then we shoot it and make sure that everything is calibrated with the software that we use. After we have established our baseline, we start going through the production suppressors. We attach each suppressor onto the adapter and fire three rounds through it. Once it passes, we take it off, put it on a cooling rack and attach another suppressor, one by one, until we are through them all.
And what happens if one doesn’t pass your test? What then?
Seriously, that almost never happens, but if it does, depending on what happened — let’s say the group size is just a little bit off — we bring that suppressor back to Quality Control so they can inspect it and determine if it can be reworked, and if not, it gets scrapped.
SureFire has a lot of veterans like you on staff. Tell us a little bit about your career in the Marine Corps.
I joined the Marine Corps in 2006 — stood on those yellow footprints and started getting yelled at. [laughs]. I did my time in Parris Island, South Carolina, and from there I did my school of infantry at SOI-East in Jacksonville, North Carolina. After I was done with that, I was stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kanehoe Bay. I did two tours of Iraq with them, and after my second tour, about 2010, I got out. But, believe it or not, I never used a SureFire suppressor while I was in the service. Being an infantryman, I never had one.
But I still work every day to make sure that my brothers and sisters in arms, that are downrange, have the best products we can give them. If there’s something wrong with any suppressor, we make sure we get it fixed and test fire it again. Anything above that 1 MOA never leaves.
Aside from your SureFire family, you also have a family of your own.
Yep. I’m married with two kids and another one on the way.
So, what do you like to do when you’re not test firing suppressors or taking care of business at home?
Well, I used to like to go to the range, but ammo is so hard to find and so expensive these days. So, I started getting into deep-sea fishing. It’s just a relaxer, where I’m away from everything around me. I get on a charter boat with some random people and just go fishing. If I’m not doing that, I’m at home, playing with my kids.
What was the last or best fish you caught?
I was off Catalina Island, and I caught a Bonito. It was the first time I ever caught one. I felt my line going out, and I told my buddy, ‘I got a bite.’ He told me to reel it in, but I said, ‘Nah, I want to fight it for a little bit.’ I finally reeled it in, and I ended up winning the jackpot for the largest catch of the day.
How much did it weigh?
I don’t know, but nobody wanted to compete against him! [laughs]
The Suppressor Division is small but highly efficient team. You have a lot of fellow veterans working with you, and some of them are real characters. Describe that dynamic.
There’s a bunch of us, and we bring a lot of that military mentality with us. We make sure that we stay focused and stay on top of everything that’s going on, but we also have fun with it.
The humor must be over the top.
[Laughs] It is.
But you clearly take a lot of pride in your job.
A lot of pride. We are the last step before the customer gets his or her suppressor. We hold everything to such a high standard here. Our hands are the last ones that touch a SOCOM suppressor before it ships out to the customer. We know it’s right.