Interview With Joe Huston, VP and GM of the SIG SAUER Airgun Division.
Joe Huston joined SIG SAUER as the Vice President and General Manager of its airgun division in May 2016. He reports directly to Ron Cohen, the President and CEO of SIG SAUER, and is responsible for the management and development of company’s Advanced Sport Pellet (ASP) line.
After six months in the job, Joe talked to Hard Air Magazine Publisher, Stephen Archer, about his views of the airgun business and where SIG SAUER ASP airguns will be headed in future. This is Joe and here’s our discussion…
Hard Air Magazine: Joe, thanks for taking the time to speak to Hard Air Magazine! Before we start talking about SIG SAUER, please tell us something about your experience before joining the company.
Joe Huston: Steve, thanks for the opportunity to talk to Hard Air Magazine. In my business career, I’ve always been an innovator and entrepreneur. I’ve started companies and worked in high-growth, entrepreneurial businesses. My experience has largely been in Product Development and Marketing – I love doing new things! Before joining SIG SAUER, I worked at Cybergun. There I was involved in the airsoft business. As airsoft plateaued, I started the company moving into airguns and so I had some airgun experience under my belt already.
Hard Air Magazine: I have to ask. Are you a shooter?
Joe Huston: Absolutely! I grew up on a farm in California. My first gun was a Daisy Red Ryder when I was six years old. Then came Crosman airguns, then .22 caliber firearms. I grew up with guns, particularly airguns, and have been around them all my life.
Hard Air Magazine: Can you tell us something about your first six months in the job?
Joe Huston: First I want to say that I’m delighted to be at SIG SAUER! It’s an outstanding company and we’re determined to be a major force in airguns for the future. I meet regularly with Ron Cohen (SIG SAUER’s CEO) and I can tell you that he’s committed to the ASP airgun business. Trust me, that’s a really important commitment! At every meeting he wants to know what I need to make our business grow and be successful. If we need more people or resources, he’s behind us with his support and so is the whole SIG SAUER Board.
Below. Training with the SIG SAUER P226 ASP air pistol.
Hard Air Magazine: Can you tell us about some highlights of your time at SIG SAUER so far?
Joe Huston: One highlight has to be the opportunity to talk to our retailers and customers. Events such as the NRA Show are priceless to me as it gives us the opportunity to talk to real shooters – our customers – and find out what they’re actually looking for. A second has to be that the SIG SAUER ASP airgun division has had a great first year, with consistent revenue growth and positive earnings. Every business needs that, of course, but it has to be earned, it’s not a given!
Hard Air Magazine: What’s your business style?
Joe Huston: I’m an “under-promise, over-deliver” kind of guy. To me it’s important that we fulfill – and preferably exceed – the expectations of both SIG SAUER’s customers and company management. My goal is to develop unique and compelling new products that customers will love. I like to develop them “under the radar” and then launch them in a way that really hits the spot. It’s called “Disruptive Innovation”. Just like Jet Blue Airways. One minute no-one had heard of them, the next they’re a great airline that passengers just love!
Hard Air Magazine: So it sounds as if you feel the airgun world is ripe for some of that disruptive innovation?
Joe Huston: Yes, the airgun market has been pretty stagnant. It’s time that changed! SIG SAUER is about producing rich-featured products that are unique in their field. We’re not trying to produce “your Grandfather’s airgun”! I’m constantly challenging our Engineering Team to break the boundaries of possibility in design. You already see some of this in the 30-shot magazines and semi-automatic operation of the SIG SAUER MCX and MPX ASP models and the patented cam-lever loading of the P226 air pistol. And the authentic feel, balance and handling characteristics of these ASP guns is unsurpassed. There’s a lot more where that came from…
Below. The 30-shot magazine of the SIG SAUER MPX and MCX ASP air rifles.
Hard Air Magazine: Can you tell us more about the sort of airgun products we’ll be seeing from SIG SAUER in future?
Joe Huston: SIG SAUER is a complete systems provider, with firearms, electro/optics ammunition, silencers and airguns. There’s a big culture of innovation and collaboration at SIG SAUER – and it’s present in the ASP airgun division, too. That gives us a great base from which to develop new products, yet we have a lot of latitude as a separate division. I’m always working on what’s next, completely focused on the next great product. We’re looking to produce more fun and exciting airguns and we have an expanding team of in-house engineers to do so. One great example is the new Max Michel 1911 BB pistol. (Photo below).
Hard Air Magazine: The 1911 Max Michel BB pistol is a brand new product that’s being announced today – thanks for giving Hard Air Magazine a breaking news story!
Joe Huston: Yes, this 1911 model is a BB-firing version of the pistol used by World Speed Shooting Champion and Team SIG Captain Max Michel. This is a great example of how a product can function as an essential training tool and yet also be fun. Max is also creating a series of training videos for us, he was involved in the development of this new model and his signature is on it as proof! The 1911 Max Michel BB Pistol is a beautiful new gun with great looks, realism and performance. It will be available for Black Friday sales this year. I know that Hard Air Magazine will be publishing a comprehensive test review very shortly and I’m betting that it will get a great score!
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Sig Sauer Max Michel 1911 Max Full Metal Blowback BB Pistol
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SIG SAUER 1911 Max Michel BB Pistol
Hard Air Magazine: So does this mean there will be other new SIG SAUER ASP airguns at the 2017 SHOT Show?
Joe Huston: Yes, there’s more stuff that I can’t tell you about yet, but it’s going to be exciting! There are more firearms replicas on the horizon and we’ll be continuing in our quest of getting firearms shooters interested in airguns. And, by the way, I want to say that SIG SAUER doesn’t rest on its laurels after creating a new product. Like all World-class companies, we have continuous improvement engineering ongoing that means existing products are actually being improved at the same time as we’re developing completely new ones. That’s also great news for the consumer…
Below. Shooting the SIG SAUER MCX ASP air rifle.
Hard Air Magazine: Joe, thanks for giving us such an outstanding insight into SIG SAUER ASP airguns. I look forward to seeing you – and those exciting new products – at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas in January 2017!
Joe Huston: Steve, it’s been a pleasure. See you in Vegas!!!
Photographs supplied by SIG SAUER.