In the 1920s and 1930s, Bob Brownell was a middle-America businessman who owned and managed a gas station and sandwich shop in his small hometown, Montezuma, Iowa. In his free time, Bob was a devoted shooter and outdoorsman who enjoyed repairing and customizing firearms. He started by working on his own guns, but news of his talent spread quickly and he soon began accepting jobs from friends. By 1938, his gunsmithing hobby was making profits, so Bob added part-time gunsmith to his list of businesses.
Bob Brownell loading polish onto a buffing wheel.
As the gunsmithing business continued to grow, so too did Bob's need for good quality tools. He searched the few gun supply catalogs available at the time, but came to the conclusion that some of the most necessary tools just couldn't be purchased anywhere. When he did find tools and products that worked, he bought extras to sell to fellow gunsmiths who were also having difficulties finding supplies.
Catalog #1 Cover
The first Brownells catalog, Number One, was sent to customers in 1947 displaying the company's first motto, "The First and Only Complete Gunsmiths' Supply House in the World." Bob's dedication wasn't limited to product selection. He realized that being absolutely sure the customer was happy and well taken care of were equally important. Those values, which remain the focal point of the company today, served him well, and by 1951 he closed down the gunsmithing shop to concentrate full-time on providing supplies to gunsmiths across the United States.
Bob & Frank Brownell signing copies of Gunsmith Kinks.
Bob's son Frank worked in the business as a teenager, and then rejoined the company in 1964 after returning from serving in the United States Navy. Frank's education in journalism and advertising, coupled with the leadership skills he acquired in the military, served the company well as he worked alongside his father. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Brownells added more products, hired more employees and sent out more catalogs. All of this growth meant the company needed to find a new home, because the converted movie theatre it was operating in was too small.
In 1973, Brownells moved into its first purpose-built facility, where it remains today. As the company continued on its path of success, the new building had been expanded twice by 1980.
The Brownell building in Montezuma, IA. Now home to Crow Shooting Supply.
Bob & Frank Brownell look over the catalog.
In 1983, Bob moved to the Chairman of the Board position, and named Frank the President of Brownells. By then the company was gaining a lot of attention and was considered the undisputed leader in the gunsmithing supply industry. The Research and Development portion of the business was testing models and building the latest, most innovative tools on the market. The now legendary Brownells Gun Techs™, made up of the best and most experienced gunsmiths recruited from across the U.S., made a real name for themselves as more and more customers called seeking their trusted advice. The 1980s also marked Brownells' entry into the gun parts market.
As was the case with many companies, the 1990s ushered in an all-new wave of technology for Brownells. With Bob's passing in 1991, it was all up to Frank, now President/CEO, to oversee this important transition from hand-assembling catalogs and handwriting orders to conducting business using computerized systems and the Internet. Though technology was very much a part of the Brownells culture, Frank continued to insist on open, honest, one-on-one customer service.
Under Frank's direction, the growth continued tremendously throughout the 1990s, and the gun parts and accessories business, along with the gunsmithing supplies continued to thrive. As a result, the company earned its title as The World's Largest Supplier of Firearms Accessories and Gunsmithing Tools™.
Pete & Frank Brownell
The "new era" of Brownells arrived when Frank's son Pete joined the company in 1997. An educated and tech-savvy businessman, Pete saw opportunities to thrust the company even further into the technological age. Named Vice President in 2000, Pete oversaw the successful implementation of the Brownells website, www. brownells.com. This provided customers around the world unprecedented access to Brownells vast selection of products.
Brownell aquires Sinclair International in 2007
Brownells' success, through both mail-order and Internet transactions, continued past the turn of the century. Frank and Pete began discussions about how to reach even more customers. The natural expansion area seemed to be reloading and longrange, precision shooting. While deciding how best to enter that market, they found the Fort Wayne, Indianabased supplier, Sinclair International - a company that embodied Brownells spirit of offering high-quality, lifetime-guaranteed products and second-to-none customer service. Frank and Pete purchased Sinclair International in 2007, which continues to be a valuable addition to the Brownells family of companies.
Pete was named Brownells President in 2008, as Frank moved to the Chief Executive Officer's position. That same year, the business saw unprecedented growth and again, as Brownells added more employees and products, it faced a familiar problem - not enough space. Though a number of additions and renovations had been made to the building since 1980, plans began for a major warehouse expansion that was completed in 2010.
Ammunition is added to Brownells in 2011
A direct result of huge amounts of customer input, the company added another major product category in 2011 - ammunition. Until then, Brownells carried virtually every part that one would need to fix, carry or customize a firearm, but nothing to shoot from it. Since its introduction, ammunition has been one of most popular product categories with Brownells ever-expanding customer base. By 2012, Brownells was again running out of room for both employees and products. With no property remaining to expand at its 39-year-old facility in Montezuma, Brownells announced a large warehouse and office facility expansion in nearby Grinnell, Iowa, scheduled to open in late 2013. While the company will remain headquartered in Montezuma, the new facility will give it even more capability to expand its product line and will provide closer, faster access to a major Interstate highway, which will enable a more streamlined shipping process.
With the business continuing to grow at an incredible rate, Frank and Pete decided that a more efficient corporate structure was necessary to continue serving customers to the best of the company's ability. Therefore, Frank moved into the Chairman of the Board post and Pete ascended to the Chief Executive Officer's position.
Selection & Service
Three generations ago Bob Brownell founded our company on those three words Selection, Service, and Satisfaction. More than seventy years later our strong foundation still rests upon those words (read about our history)
For over 75 years, Brownells has been providing quality Gunsmithing tools, gun parts and service to the firearms industry. For all but two of those years, there has been a consistent brand image, the oblong horizontal shape of our catalog and the graphical design of our Brownells logo. For all of those years, these two uniquely, identifiable products have stood for our promise of service, selection and satisfaction.
Selection - Over 90,000 gun parts, tools, and supplies; everything you need all in one place.
- Factory parts from fifteen of the industry’s leading firearms manufacturers
- Rifle, shotgun, and handgun parts, tools & accessories
- Bluing & refinishing materials
- Books, videos, & references
- Sights, scopes, & mounts
- And much more
When you have seen the horizontal catalog, you should know without a reasonable doubt that you are ordering from a company that places customer values first, cares deeply about the selection of quality products and has a deep commitment to customer satisfaction.
"I am a Texas Peace Officer and made my first purchase from Brownells today. I ordered a $20 gun case. Your staff treated me as though I were placing a $10,000 order. I don't see dedication, pride, and service like this every day! I'll be a customer for life! Thanks to all!" - R. Bostic
"It sure is a pleasure doing business with you. Brownells sets the business standard in which every company should try to attain. With that said, Brownells is the only supplier I do business with. My philosophy is that if Brownells doesn't have it, I don't need it!" - Jeffrey G.
"There are many good things I can say about Brownells, but the one thing I like most is that…If you guys sell it…It has to be good. I know Brownells does not sell junk. I can trust your name and your company, and to trust someone in today's business world is a rare thing...Thank You!" - Kevin D.
"After 35+ years in the restoration business, I can sincerely say that Brownells is always top shelf when it comes to service and quality products. May you go on forever!" - William L.
"Thanks for the great service! My products arrived in a timely fashion with a refund check enclosed for my overpayment. You'll be getting more orders from me...Thanks again!" - Mike B.
"Your attention to detail, and professional aptitude are reasons why others and myself come to Brownells for products and service." - Rodman S.
"Thank you folks for your professionalism and continued support. Brownells is the number one company in Gunsmithing supplies and related items in existence. A position you do not take for granted nor boast. You have dealt with me fairly and honestly in every interaction and that is very much appreciated. Please keep up the good work and I look forward to continuing to do business with Brownells in the future." - David L.
"I spoke to a Brownells Gun Technician after having had contact with three other so-called experts from three other companies that day. He was the only tech. person that knew what I was talking about. He was polite, patient, and knowledgeable. He solved my problem. Next time I will call you first!" - George R.
"I have been a Brownells customer for about 5 years and the service you deliver is the very best…I have never gotten anything but a friendly voice when talking to your people and have never been cut short when I needed technical assistance, even on the smallest problem. The products are excellent, but now and then a bad one sneaks through, only to be taken care of in the most convenient way...Thank you for keeping the love I have for guns so pleasurable by your service." - Earl H.
"Often, a customer like myself, the 'little guy,' sends a request for information, like I did, to a company wondering if he will ever hear anything back…you responded to mine in a matter of hours! It's no wonder that your company has the fine reputation that it does, keep up the good work." - Steven W.