American Rifleman - August 2017 - 62
converting the .30 Rem. into 8 mm Nambu pistol ammunition
and selling it for a decent profit. (Larry's cousin Charlie had
one of the old Japanese Nambu pistols that G.I.s had liberated
from the Pacific theatre during World War II, but like most
everyone else stateside, he had no ammunition for it.)
Larry's gamble worked, and with the help of advertisements
placed in The Shotgun News and some creative sourcing for
ammunition boxes, by 1980 Ely began selling the ammunition
as fast as it could be shipped, mainly by mail order to dealers.
But with their modest success also came a letter from the
attorneys of the Eley Ltd. division of the Kynoch Ammunition
Co. demanding the brothers cease using the similar name. So
the Potterfields quickly changed their brand name to Midway
Arms and kept on rolling, save for the subsequent departure
of Jerry, who sold his shares of the company to Larry and
Brenda before moving back to the family farm.
Soon, even modest demand for 8 mm Nambu and
.30 Rem. ammunition outpaced Midway's supply when brass
became scarce. So Larry set out to find cases and formed
a relationship with California manufacturing company
Starline Brass. Starline thought .357 brass cases were a
much more viable product than the Nambu, however, and
the Potterfields agreed-to the tune of a 200,000-piece
purchase order. They began selling the Midway-stamped
brass cases in bulk to dealer-customers all over the United
States. It was enough to make Winchester, and soon
thereafter Remington, recognize the growing market for
bulk reloading components. In 1984, Midway placed an
order for $1 million in unprimed Winchester brass. The
purchase required additional warehouse space, and because
mail order sales now dominated Midway's business anyway, Brenda and Larry decided to close down the retail
storefront. It would prove to be a sage decision, because
in 1987, after the NRA-backed Firearm Owners Protection
Act passed Congress, Midway seized the opportunity and
immediately began selling components directly to consumers by mail order. (Midway would later become known as
the godfather of the bulk component/reloading business.)
The company was rolling.
Meanwhile, with profits in excess of $5 million and
the business gaining speed like a riverboat in the rapids,
Larry recalled his computer training courses from college.
His purchase of the company's first PC and printer-for
around $10,000-brought Midway into the digital networking world. It was this trend-Potterfield's forwardthinking vision in streamlining his business operations
and processes-that would prove to be a key component in
Midway's future exponential growth.
Another would be Midway's dedication to customer service, quality management practices and its hiring practices
that reflect the values of his own family.
Life At MidwayUSA
"We're a family-owned business with strong vision and
values," Larry said. "We're focused on our customers and
employees, with long-term support for the NRA."
In researching this article, I called MidwayUSA's customer service number and asked for Larry Potterfield.
"Sir, Mr. Potterfield is away at the NRA Annual
Meetings in Atlanta this week, but you can email him at
This honesty, from a customer service associate at a
multi-million dollar company, surprised me. My call had
been a test; I knew that Larry was, in fact, in Atlanta. I
didn't expect to get his email address.
"Do you like working for Midway?" I probed, without asking for the associate's name so he could answer honestly.
"Yes, I love it."
"I like to hunt and shoot, and we get a membership to
the range, and discounts, plus the benefits are good and
the workers are nice. It's a great place to work."
"Have you ever seen Larry around the office?"
"Oh, yes," he said. "Usually several times per week."
I called again and spoke to another employee. I heard
the same thing. And that says a lot.
Currently the employee satisfaction and engagement
rate according to Midway's internal surveys is above 80
percent-well ahead of the national curve. One of Midway's
stated goals for 2017 is to improve it to 84 percent.
"I used to become dissatisfied when I couldn't get employees to actually write down their job descriptions," Larry said,
"so I hired a former military guy from the Inspector General's
office. Among other things, he recommended I attend a twoday Malcolm Baldrige business forum. So I did."
To say the experience impacted Potterfield is like saying
MidwayUSA sells a few bullets.
Malcolm Baldrige, Jr., served as the U.S. Secretary of
Commerce under President Ronald Reagan. Regarded as one
of the great business leaders of any era, he streamlined
international trade practices, busted monopolies and reduced
the federal budget by 30 percent by simply increasing government's efficiency. He was perhaps the country's greatest
advocate of quality management practices. Subsequently,
the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for the bestrun businesses in the United States was named in his honor