It’s true that coffee and hunting pair well together because hunting involves sunrises, and there’s nothing like coffee at daybreak. But coffee and guns have been a tandem for many reasons throughout history. In 2013, the New York Times published an article titled, “The Marine’s Secret Weapon: Coffee.” The story’s premise: Americans break for coffee far more than tea time, and this leaning can be traced back to the U.S. military.
By the time of World War II, American servicemen were consuming 32.5 pounds of coffee per capita, per year, with the Army Quartermaster Corps going so far as to roast, grind, vacuum pack and ship its own beans overseas. Meanwhile, legend has it that when soldiers in Italy encountered espresso, they watered it down to make a concoction similar to the coffee they drank at home. There are many competing accounts, but some people surmise that these were the humble beginnings of the drink we now know as an “Americano.”
Black Rifle Coffee Company
There are so many anecdotes just like this that tell the story of coffee and the military, coffee and guns, coffee and men — men like Evan Hafer, a veteran and Green Beret turned coffee entrepreneur. Hafer founded Black Rifle Coffee and, as a byproduct of this company, he has influenced the gun-shop culture. Because, now, it’s not impossible to find coffee stocked on retail shelves adjacent to firearms.
In a recent issue of Shooting Sports Retailer (SSR), the magazine profiled Scott Jansen, an Army and National Guard veteran who founded American Reaper Arms and its online counterpart Silencer HQ. The former is a small firearms retailer that stocks Black Rifle Coffee (and cigars).
Here’s an excerpt from SSR’s Q&A with Jansen:
SSR: How did Black Rifle Coffee end up on the shelves?
Jansen: It’s through our Coalition of Veteran Owned Businesses that we connected Black Rifle Coffee. We tasted it and it was arguably the best coffee we had ever had. Most people are initially hooked by the novelty of the brand, but beyond the hype and witty marketing videos, the coffee was stunning. It’s actually amazing how much coffee we sell and, because people are coming into the store to get their coffee fix, they are buying other things as well. Obviously, it works the other way around, you bought the coffee after coming in for a pile of firearm products.
Warfighter Cigar Company
American Reaper Arms also stocks cigars.
SSR: As a longtime cigar aficionado and after smoking a Warfighter Maduro, Sumatra and Connecticut Shade, I can say you are not just slapping a label on a cheap cigar.
Jansen: The goal was not to have a line of cigars, but instead a really outstanding line of handcrafted cigars much the same way Black Rifle Coffee has done with its coffee. The Warfighter Cigar Company is still new, but we have added a lot of products well beyond our 5.56, 7.62 and .50-cal cigar line to the Warfighter Tobacco site. The packaging will follow the Warfighter theme with cigar packs that look like Claymore Mines, AR magazines and other recognizable military objects.
American Reaper Arms is not alone. Other guns shops are using products like cigars and coffee to appeal to their customers’ lifestyle preferences. For example, in Richmond, Texas, Joseph’s Vintage Guns has a walk-in humidor and cigar lounge. Meanwhile, Black Rifle Coffee is expanding quickly. Earlier this year, Vice website brand Munchies.com reported the start-up company had already picked up 50 franchise options; some are bricks-and-mortar while others are not.
“It’s a combination,” [said founder/owner Hafer]. “We’ve teamed up with a number of [gun] ranges nationally, and we’re putting coffee shops in ranges. We’ve also teamed up with 5.11 Tactical and they’re putting in 24 stores nationally, so this is a real, no-[explicative] plan. My board of advisors for this includes a three-star general—a real no [explicative] dude—and Tom Davin, the former CEO of Panda Express. He managed their expansion and he’s telling me that I can do it. (Ed. Note: Davin is also the current CEO of 5.11 Tactical).
Gun Shop Culture: A Celebration
Coffee, cigars and guns: the combination is working. It’s not new. You might see these three products alongside one another, and be reminded of what many old frontiersman saw when they walked into a trading post. Maybe gun retail is just coming full circle. What’s likely different today, though, is cigars and coffee can be purchased in any number of stores. But this generation of gun owners are looking for items that symbolize a lifestyle, something they can get behind and stand for.
Products like the Black Rifle Coffee and Warfighter Cigars offer quality, but they also offer the intangibles of a rallying cry.
Hafer said it best:
We’re just open with our non-PC environment, to a degree that’s just not palatable for most people. We’re fine with guns, tattoos, and loud music, and we’re fine with being what we call “the warrior philosophers.” We encourage strength and honor and those things that are almost dying within our society. And we do celebrate masculinity, not in a chauvinistic way, but it’s just who we are … It’s a celebration of our own subculture.
Featured image: Black Rifle Coffee Company (Instagram)