Gun manufacturer debuts versatile new rifle

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A new gun being manufactured in the Flathead Valley has the capability of switching barrels so it can be used for multiple purposes. Its Columbia Falls-based PROOF Research creators logically dubbed it the Switch rifle.

Because of its versatility, the rifle can be used to hunt animals of different sizes or shot on a range all on the same day. The switching of the barrels can be done using simple hand tools in a short amount of time.

“It’s like a safe full of custom rifles rolled into one,” reads the informational page for the firearm on the manufacturer’s website.

The idea for the gun is credited to Cole Bender, a product line manager at PROOF. He said the gun is a good fit for a wide swath of gun enthusiasts, from those who can’t afford multiple high-end guns but like doing different types of shooting, to those who want to add a unique new item to a vast collection.

It’s also appealing to European markets, where gun-control regulations make it much more of a hassle to purchase multiple firearms than it is in the United States. With this gun, people can go through the paperwork and rigmarole once and be able to shoot lots of different things at various distances.

Bender said 99 percent of the guns they make don’t stay in the Flathead Valley, and sales for the company are global.

“We were looking for a lower-cost rifle, something that would be available to more people,” Bender said. “We started with a price point and tried to work our way back from there and built this thing around being as manufacturable as possible.”

They put a premium on making a gun that was cheap to manufacture, so they could equip it with high-quality components and still keep the cost down.

“The gun kind of started completely different from this,” Bender said. “It’s been about a year in the making.”

The final model is equipped with a savage-style drop-in barrel, with a barrel nut instead of a shoulder like a standard barrel. It’s technology Bender says has been around for about 15 years, and lends itself well to a product like this.

The action is also distinctive, built by a company called Bighorn Arms in Nebraska. They have a floating bolt action, which compensates for misalignment. It is also easier to take apart than many other bolt heads. You can also change cartridge families quickly, a process that usually would take much longer.

“What I tell people is they took all the good features of every rifle action since about 1900 and stuck them into one,” Bender said.

The other big benefit is that shooters need only one optic, so instead of buying three or four for different guns, you can spend all the money on just one and make it super nice.

“You can have multiple cartridges in one platform, with one optic,” Bender said. “It’s still a really, really well-made gun. They shoot really well, everything in this gun is pretty quality stuff.”

The base model comes in at a figure that would make some balk, but really isn’t that high for the high-end rifle market. It costs $3,999, with options to add barrels or make other changes for more money.

“I’m sure we’ll have guys that have been saving their money for a long time to buy their custom rifle, and this will get them there for less money,” Bender said. “There are also probably guys who want to carry one case with a bunch of barrels so they can shoot whatever they want.”

The rifle weighs in at 7 pounds and 2 ounces with an empty magazine. They began selling them exclusively in Cabela’s, and the first shipment went out in October. Right now the product is back-ordered, and they are working to produce more quickly to meet demand.

PROOF Research is a fast-growing gun manufacturer that hopes to significantly ramp up production in 2018.

They have 70 employees in the Columbia Falls facility and also operate another facility in Ohio with engineers in Ohio who assist with research and development. Much of the manufacturing equipment is also produced in-house.

The Switch rifle can be purchased directly from PROOF Research by calling 406-756-9290. More information, including the specs, can be found at https://proofresearch.com/switch/.

Reporter Peregrine Frissell can be reached at 758-4438 or pfrissell@dailyinterlake.com.

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