He said his gun company was born out of his poor golf game. Instead of circling the course, Mr. Daniel began using an AR-15 – the type of gun he would later make – for target practice. “Every shot he fired filled him with a satisfaction he had never felt before,” said the the company website says.
At the time, Mr. Daniel was struggling to find a way to mount a scope on his rifle. He began designing and selling his own accessory that allowed gun owners to add lights, a rangefinder, and lasers to the rifle.
He got his chance in 2002 at a gun show in Orlando, Florida, where he was approached by a representative of US Special Forces. He eventually won a $20 million contract to produce combat rifle accessories. Other offers followed. In 2008, he won a contract with the British Army, according to the Daniel Defense website.
By 2009, the company had expanded into manufacturing firearms for consumers. Its military ties were the basis of its marketing, which often featured heavily armed fighters. “Use what they use,” says one ad. Another shows a military-style bezel aimed at passing cars on what looks like an ordinary city street. Others include references – using hashtags and slogans – to the “Call of Duty” video game.
Prior to the 2000s, most arms manufacturers did not market military-style assault weapons to civilians. At the biggest trade shows in the industry, tactical military equipment and firearms were isolated from the general public. That started to change around 2004, according to industry experts, with the expiration of the federal ban on assault weapons.
“Companies like Daniel Defense glorify violence and war in their consumer marketing,” said Nick Suplina, senior vice president of Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that supports gun control.
In 2012, the Sandy Hook shootings led to an industry-wide spike in gun sales as gun enthusiasts stocked up, fearing a government crackdown. In a interview with Forbes, Mr. Daniel said the shooting “generated a lot of sales”. (Forbes reported that Daniel Defense had sales of $73 million in 2016.)
After the shooting, Daniel Defense offered employees additional overtime to meet growing demand, according to Christopher Powell, who worked for the company at the time. “They kept people focused on the task at hand,” he said.
But in the late 2010s some colleagues grew concerned that Mr Daniel had been distracted by the glamor of marketing the brand and rubbing shoulders with celebrities and politicians, according to a former director of Daniel Defence. They expressed concerns that some of the marketing materials were inappropriate for a company that makes deadly weapons, said the director and a former executive, who did not want their names used because they feared legal or professional repercussions. .
Some announcements featured children carrying and shooting guns. In another, posted to Instagram two days after Christmas last year, a man dressed as Santa and wearing a military helmet smokes a cigar and holds a Daniel Defense rifle. “After a long weekend, Santa is enjoying the MK18 on Monday,” the caption reads, referring to the weapon’s model.
Aggressive industry marketing has caused problems for some companies. Earlier this year, gunmaker Remington reached a $73 million settlement with families of children killed at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. The families had claimed that Remington improperly marketed its assault rifles, including with its weapons appearing in “Call of Duty.” which the Sandy Hook killer had played frequently.
A year after Sandy Hook, as the Super Bowl approaches, Daniel Defense is deploying a new marketing stunt.
The National Football League had a policy prohibiting advertisements for weapons on its television broadcasts. But Daniel Defense tried to buy a 60 seconds place which depicted a soldier returning home to his family, with eerie music playing in the background. “I am responsible for their protection,” intones the ad’s narrator. “And no one has the right to tell me how to defend them.”
Given the NFL’s ban on gun ads, it’s no surprise that the ad was rejected. (Daniel Defense claimed the ad was in line with policy because the company sells products in addition to firearms.) But Mr. Daniel turned the rejection into a rallying cry, and the conservative media slammed it. have swallowed. Appearing on Fox News”fox and friends‘, he urged viewers to ‘call the NFL and say, ‘Come on, man, put my commercial on.’
“It’s Marty Daniel at work,” Mr. Powell said. “He’s not one of those typical CEOs you see.”
Mr. Daniel and his wife, Cindy, have worked hand in hand with the National Rifle Association to raise funds for the group, sell guns to its members and push back on calls for gun control.
In recent years, Mr. Daniel and Ms. Daniel, the company’s chief operating officer, have become staunch supporters of Donald J. Trump, donating $300,000 to a group aligned with Mr. Trump. Mr. Daniel joined the “Second Amendment Coalitiona gun industry heavyweight group that has advised Mr. Trump on gun policy.
Mr Daniel Told Breitbart News in 2017 that Mr. Trump’s election saved “our Second Amendment rights.” He and his wife have also donated to other Republican candidates and groups, including in their home state of Georgia. So far in the 2022 election cycle, they’ve given more than $70,000 to Republicans.