As the 21st century economy continues to develop, more and more companies are electing to outsource their work as well as find other ways to take shortcuts and reduce costs. So it was very refreshing to discover on our industry visit to Defiance Machine that that was not the case. We began doing these visits to manufacturers of products related to sniper operations in an effort to highlight the innovation and industry leading capabilities that many of the companies are pioneering in our field. Each one of these visits has revealed many new and interesting facts about the various companies and that was the same this time.
Defiance Machine is a custom action manufacturer that has had a well deserved reputation of building some of the finest actions available on the market today. Defiance is located just a few hours north of Sniper Centrals western Montana home. It had been two years since we last paid them a visit and it was refreshing to visit a company who had not gone the route of outsourcing or cutting corners. In fact Defiance has gone the opposite route and has taken all the necessary steps to insure they can control every aspect of the manufacturing process. Why? In order to achieve their goal of producing the finest actions in the world. Have they been successful? We will leave that for you to judge, but over 120 custom rifle builders such as GA Precision, Proof Research and Best of the West all trust Defiance to build their actions for them. All one has to do is look at the PRS match winners and the winners from the two-man sniper team competitions from around the U.S to see that Defiance is defiantly on the right path.
Like we mentioned, it had been two years since we last visited Defiance and it was good to see that they had not been sitting on their laurels but instead had been continuing to improve their manufacturing facilities and processes. We were impressed to see the machinery and inspection equipment on the manufacturing floor that have been added to support the demand for their actions. More specifically even the floor itself was impressive, as all the machinist in the audience can appreciate. The floor in their newest shop addition is 12″ thick with separate individual pads where the machines themselves are sitting are an impressive 48″ thick pad of concrete. Within this pad are the pedestals that actually connect the machines to the concrete pad which are also sitting on anti-vibration material. The isolation material is 1″-2″ thick before it is compressed, and it then sits on a 6″ concrete pad, which itself is above 24″ of structural fill. Why all this effort in just the floor of a machine shop you ask? It’s all in an effort to remove any vibration reaching the machines through the floor as well as to secure the machines to the floor and ensure the machines are absolutely level and stay that way. This is critical as any vibration, or shock could affect the accuracy of the machines while they operating which could negatively effect the machining process. Without these measures it is likely Defiance could not hold the tolerances that they require for their actions.
Examining the machines themselves, you can see that no expense was spared in selecting the best tools for the job. Four 5-axis CNC machines make up the bulk of the customization operation. The fourth CNC was a recent addition to help meet the demand and to keep the lead times down. Additionally, Defiance has a six month supply of raw materials sitting on the floor to help ensure a continuous flow of product to the customer. All of the materials used in the production of the Defiance actions is Aircraft Certified and heat treated prior to any machining and the materials are 100% tracked throughout the facility to easily identify any problems. The tracking is so precise, they can track to see when a part was manufactured, which machine the part came off of and who the machinist was that manufactured that particular part. All the actions, bolt bodies and firing pins along with the bolt shroud are produced from mill runs of aircraft certified heat treated bar stock.
All of this insures that Defiance is in control of their own destiny and are not dependent on a supplier being able to meet their parts demand. If they need it, they make it. Defiance is manufacturing everything for its actions down to the firing pins. Just about the only part they are not manufacturing in house is the firing pin spring.
It is easy to see the quality in the finished product, but what the end user does not see is all the back-end logistics that enable Defiance to offer such a huge array of options with their actions. To try and put all of those options into print here would add several pages to this already lengthy report. Let us just say in an era of having things your way, you certainly can do that with Defiance, and you can do this all without any delay in getting your action or loss of quality. This is possible because Defiance does not batch machine actions. Many manufactures will build their actions in batches, such as 100 short actions, then 100 Long actions followed by 100 extra-long actions before they can get back to a short action. At Defiance every action is produced one at a time, any action length, right or left handed, any rail, any bolt all without affecting the turnaround time of any existing or standing orders and without slowing down the delivery time for your one action.
The complexity that goes into machining so many variables is incredible and our hat goes off to the guys at Defiance as we found this truly remarkable. From the user stand point you go through and select all the options you would like in the build. Then two months later it is done and you receive an incredibly well machined and highly finished product. When the action is ordered, all the options that were selected automatically populate a job traveler with a build number assigned. That number will ensure all the options are selected and machined down to even including the engraving. This allows Defiance to do two things simultaneously, first the standing private label orders are guaranteed their production times and delivery schedule and individual orders are processed without having to wait for open time on a machine that is running batches of production runs. This streamed lined production method is vital as Defiance is currently machining more than 450 actions a month!
How does Defiance insure quality when producing that many actions? Every part that is machined goes through a locating process that is very impressive. Every part that is machined is electronically probed by that machine in all 5-axis. The material is then aligned for machining and checked once again in all 5-axis prior to the first cut being made. If after this re-check the called out tolerance is not within specifications, the machine displays an error code and the CNC operator must remount and re-check the part. After the remounting, the alignment process starts over again. What this means for the consumer is that not a single cut is made on a part unless the end result will be mechanical perfection. This is all checked and rechecked at numerous check stations along the entire manufacturing process. The finial check and quality control and quality assurance (QC/QA) is performed by one man and one machine. The newly added Zeiss CMM (Coordinate Measurement Machine) is capable of precision that is so tight that a “clean room” had to be built with the ability to control temperature, humidity and positive pressure.
We know we have thrown out a lot of technical jargon, and it seems like it might be a bit of overkill for a company that is building only actions. But for precision minded shooters and snipers, no precision is too much when it comes to the manufacturing process. If you are looking for a custom action that is as close to mechanical perfection as you can get, then we think we may have found the company that can get you your custom action, with your specific options to you in just a few months… and with mind blowing quality and precision.