Between The Berms: Houston's Holster Capital

Jul 25, 2012
Lots of holsters, but unfortunately no free samples. Photo: P. Erhardt
In all honesty, I'm not an expert on holsters. I leave that to guys like my esteemed colleague Rich Grassi, editor of The Tactical Wire, and Michael Bane of DownRange TV, who openly brags of having enough holsters to outfit a small nation's army. By comparison, I own a few (very few) competition-oriented holsters, and I know how to use them, rather slowly, but that's about the extent of my expertise. However, when it comes to understanding the manufacturing process and what goes into making a good holster, that I do get. Which is why I was looking forward to visiting Comp-Tac Victory Gear during a recent trip to Houston.
So that's what they mean by "Victory". Photo: P. Erhardt
Back in May Between The Berms told you about how Comp-Tac came to be and how they approach their customers. What I didn't know was how exactly they achieved their growth, because in order to grow fast you need to do a lot more than just work faster. You have to work smarter - much smarter. And that's the gospel truth if you start out making a great product your customers love and rave about, but want to become more than just a sole proprietor custom shop. Touring Comp-Tac with Gordon Carrell and Randi Rogers showed me exactly how smart owner Gregg Garrett is running his business. The fact that two top level competitive shooters are on staff at Comp-Tac - and oh-by-the-way Garrett is no slouch either - should tell you something about the company's focus on their brand.
As GM, Gordon Carrell has helped implement a lot of Comp-Tac's successful business practices. Photo: P. Erhardt
While Carrell is an excellent shooter, he's also Comp-Tac's general manager and a guy who eagerly embraces the axiom 'if you can't measure it you can't manage it.' Carrell rattled off for me stat after stat on the Comp-Tac business, quickly demonstrating how serious they are about their quality control and serving their customers. As a small shop working out of a storefront in a small strip mall building, Comp-Tac had no IT, no order forms and no ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. Today, thanks to Carrell's keen ability to analyze processes and systems for opportunities to improve, and turn them into actionable business decisions, Comp-Tac not only has IT, it's outgrown its website. It's outgrown its ERP system too. And, that storefront location has expanded to the entire building, plus a second building behind it. And they've already outgrown all that space. Add to that an R&D department, CAD drawing capabilities, and CNC machines, and you can see how Gregg Garrett's one-man operation is now a serious player in holsters.
One by one Comp-Tac builds each holster by hand to insure quality and performance. Photo: P. Erhardt
While Carrell shared plenty of stats and graphs on the current state of business, most of that info is considered proprietary, but I can share with you one anecdote that provides insight into Comp-Tac's constant improvement. One day Carrell found himself observing one of the manufacturing steps and suggested a change. He was told by the Comp-Tac employee that change would only save maybe three seconds. Carrell came back at him with another suggestion which brought the time savings to a whopping seven seconds, leaving the employee asking "so what?" "Wait right here," Carrell replied. Returning with some calculations, Carrell proceeded to illustrate how that seven seconds of time savings turned into $44,000 in annual cost savings. And nobody, but maybe the federal government, says "so what" to $44,000. That's the way they're thinking internally at Comp-Tac. And everybody is thinking that way now that Carrell has offered to split the saving with any employee who can come up with a quantifiable and trackable cost savings improvement. And nobody says "so what" to a potential $22,000 bonus.
From a safe full of actual guns, each holster is tested for fit and function. Photo: P. Erhardt
That kind of reinvestment into the company is part of Comp-Tac's business philosophy. While they have squeezed out greater efficiencies, dramatically reduced returns through tighter quality control, and improved their time to delivery, it's been the employees who have benefited. They used to not have paid holidays at Comp-Tac. Now they do. They now have an employee loyalty program, and they are continually adding to employee benefits. So what does all this inside baseball business stuff have to do with you and me as potential customers? In a word, everything. During my visit I got to sit in on the monthly employee meeting as they went through their department reports - with the best one being when Randi Rogers told everybody she beat Gregg Garrett at the Texas State IDPA Championship. Not exactly a 'profile in courage' since the boss wasn't in that day and absent from the meeting, but bold nonetheless.
Reports, like that for QC, keep all the employees up to speed on the company's progress. Photo: P. Erhardt
The QC report was the most telling though, in that every Comp-Tac employee is involved in the CQ process in one way or another. And each is keenly aware of how the company is performing and that success in the QC battle means happy - and loyal - customers. Lots of companies talk quality and there are plenty that give it only lip service. I got to see it in action through each step of the manufacturing process all the way to the point Rogers showed me how they test fit with the actual make/model gun the holster was designed for. Comp-Tac has its act together when it comes to making top quality affordable holsters, and their constant focus on improvement, quality and customer satisfaction is a case study in small business success.
Mmmmmm. Mark's brisket rocked. Photo: P. Erhardt
...And one more thing that's important to note. Comp-Tac's Mark McKown brought in for the meeting his homemade brisket. And anybody who makes brisket that good has got to make a good holster! Right? So, that's probably one more reason to consider Comp-Tac...or at least pay another visit. - Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network Got shooting sports news? Send us an email at