Blackhawk Factory Tour

Blackhawk! makes a number of injection molded firearm holsters and accessories.
Blackhawk! makes a number of injection molded firearm holsters and accessories.author photo

It started when Mike Noell’s pack failed while he was afield.

A hunter might react to such an incident by vowing to never buy that brand of pack again. But since Noell was a Navy SEAL, in a minefield in 1990, when his pack failed, he vowed that if he made it out of that precarious situation alive he’d make gear the right way for his fellow soldiers and others.

As many gun owners know, Noell has done that and more.

His company, Blackhawk!, is a 125-employee company that creates injection-molded holsters, along with all of the company’s injection-molded accessories. (Yes, that’s a lot of plastic, but fear not—at least 92 percent of the leftover plastic gets recycled.)

I recently went on a factory tour of the company, which makes 4,000-plus variations of holsters, carry bags, and more yearly. I went because I wanted to see how some of my favorite gun accessories are made and designed. I found more than I ever expected at the busy plant in Manhattan, Montana. Here’s what I saw and learned:

photos by Jason Baird

Blackhawk Factory Tour
A Fastenal vending machine provides access to manufacturing items.author photo
Blackhawk Factory Tour
After these cartridge boxes have been formed, this robot places them on a conveyor belt so they can travel to the next step in the process.author photo
Blackhawk Factory Tour
The worker’s T-shirt says it all.author photo
Blackhawk Factory Tour
This woman is working on an injection-molded holster.author photo
Blackhawk Factory Tour
Here’s Sherryl Nens, brand manager for shooting accessories for Blackhawk! with a part from a molding process.author photo
Blackhawk Factory Tour
The author learns to assemble a holster. She says she won’t be quitting her day job.author photo
Blackhawk Factory Tour
An overhead view of CNC machinery on the manufacturing floor at Blackhawk.author photo
Blackhawk Factory Tour
The plant isn’t all four walls and machinery. Check out the view from the gun cleaning-brush, manufacturing gallery.author photo
Blackhawk Factory Tour
After the tour, the author got to use some of the products similar to the ones they’d seen being assembled, such as this magazine holder.author photo
Blackhawk Factory Tour
The A.R.C. (Appendix Reversible Carry) IWB holster offers ambidextrous carry capability, two belt clips, and adjustable retention detention.author photo
Blackhawk Factory Tour
Paul Smith, a design engineer, led the development of the Gen 3 KNOXX stock. Smith is extremely proficient on the range, as well as the design room, since he competes in 3-gun matches.author photo