Tuesday February 7, 2006
Garrard inventor, entrepreneur making mark in firearm industry
By BOBBIE CURD
Steve Southerland, co-owner of Progressive Machine and chairman of the Industrial Authority, had seriously considered running for Garrard County judge-executive this year, but some interesting developments involving prototypes and pending patents have demanded his attention.
Southerland began designing a gun scope lens cover about two years ago and started working on some other creations over the last year. The Army is currently testing some of his products, the Marines expressed interest in another, and a well-known gun accessory catalog has picked up one of his products to sell, he says.
Aside from working to bring new companies into Garrard County, Southerland spends his personal time as an avid contender in nationwide shooting competitions. His marksmanship interests and frequent attendance at gun shows, where he keeps up with new technology, had his head spinning with new ideas, and he's making good on them.
Scope invention is unique
The gun scope lens, used on semi-automatic AR15 rifles most commonly used by ground soldiers, is unique, Southerland attempts to explain in layman's terms. The fiber optic design allows the red dot - or target point seen through the scope - to be seen when the scope cover is closed, something commonly done to protect the objective lens when shooting at close range.
Gun scopes can be costly; Southerland has one in the $2,500 range.
With both eyes open and the right eye looking through the scope, which is dark since the lens cover is closed, the red dot also appears in the left-eye's site range and is easier to steady on the target. It's as if the dot is outside of the gun and actually on the target.
He's also made what he says is a better design on an existing product, a shotgun shell carrier to be worn on a belt that carries four shells at a time. The red contraption, with "Quik Stripper" engraved on the side, allows shells to be loaded roughly three seconds faster because of the exit spring.
"Three seconds may not sound like much, but in competition it can mean all the difference in the world," Southerland says.
He hooks it to his belt, loads the shells, barely pressing on the aluminum base, and the shells are spit out into his hand.
He tested the item out at the United States Practical Shooting Association's Three Gun Match National in Las Vegas last year and says several enthusiasts remarked on the difference it made on their time.
Also designed innovative stock
Military and law enforcement agencies are known to attend the match, which Southerland says is a breeding ground for new gun technology and accessories, allowing his connections.
He's also designed a butt stock for the AR15, the handle that allows the shooter to steady the firearm. It's made with brass and aluminum (aircraft grade) that balances out the weight distribution of the gun. Southerland thinks the simplicity of the design will appeal to gun enthusiasts.
Southerland is working on a prototype for a sniper scope lens cover, a gun that currently has no scope cover made specifically for it.
How does all this tie in with the growth of Garrard County?
"I really hope that I'm lucky enough to be able to put some of these into production, which means I'll have to hire more employees," Southerland says, fingers crossed.
Sounds like the cover that Wes is selling at MSTN.