A behind-the-post view of Skinner Sights, an aiming solutions company equal parts tradition and innovation.
What Makes Skinner Sight Special:
- Sights are machined from solid steel, stainless steel or brass bar stock.
- No aluminum, except on its Picatinny rail products.
- Designed to match and enhance the aesthetics of the rifle.
- At the same tick, they're engineered to maximize the accuracy potential of a firearm.
The finest man I’ve ever met makes peep sights, and his name is Andy Larsson.
How good of a man is
Larsson? He makes arguably the finest peep sights in the world; yet, more often than not, it’s for life advice that I call him.
What’s a man’s character have to do with making peep sights? If you want the very best sights, you need them to be made by a man who can see himself, you and your targets clearly. Mental clarity has and always will be more critical to good marksmanship than how well you can run a lathe.
“I’ve always been an outdoors person, hunter, shooter andt reloader … almost from birth,” Larsson says. “During high school, I had access to a lathe, mill, shaper and welding equipment, and I applied the training to gunsmithing immediately by re-barreling rifles and pistols in school shop class. During college, I worked at a sporting goods store as the ‘in-house’ gunsmith. After college, I continued gunsmithing as a hobby while serving as a Christian minister. I also opened, owned and operated an archery shop for a few years.”
As Larsson grew more experienced with firearms and life, he adjusted his sights on some new goals.
“I first worked for Buffalo Bore Ammunition, then had a chance to purchase Skinner Sights from my friend of 30 years, Dr. Tim Skinner,” Larsson says. “I bought the business in August of 2010 and never looked back.”
Larsson’s purchase of Skinner Sights wasn’t an impulse. Skinner and Larsson had known each other for years because of the work Larsson did for him. Skinner certainly saw what Skinner Sights could be now because of who Larsson was then.
Forging Skinner Sights
As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, talent alone isn’t enough to win: It takes an enormous amount of hard work as well.
“My goal at first was just to make the first payment to Dr. Skinner,” Larsson says. “The next level was a desire to grow the six basic products he had been offering and expand our line of proven, durable, aesthetically pleasing, rugged and accurate sights. I was a one-person band, doing all the marketing, machining, assembly, packaging and shipping. It was a quick learning curve, and by January 2011, I hired two employees.”
As much of a realist as any straight-shooting man ought to be, Larsson was a dreamer. He’s just a dreamer who has enough grit to make his come true.
“I’m passionate about bringing new products to the market,” Larsson says. “It’s very satisfying to have an idea, lay awake at night figuring out the details on how to hold the part, cut the part, finish and apply the results in a way that will help shooters. To see that come to fruition when the first orders come in is very motivating.”
Larsson’s mechanical aptitude was machine-matched to a work ethic and moral values with very high expectations.
“My core value is first to follow the golden rule,” Larsson says. “We treat our customers the way we want to be treated. Customer service is paramount. Don’t sell gimmicks. Never steal anything from another company. Be honorable. Always leave something on the table. A business will reap what you sow. Appreciate your customers and listen to them. Don’t borrow against the company. Make it profitable. Invest in people and infrastructure. Bring everyone forward with you that you can. Help others. Be loyal to those who have been loyal to you.”
A good idea matched with a great work ethic still isn’t enough to succeed in today’s ultra-competitive outdoor industry marketplace. Larsson also needed to know how to market Skinner Sights—and he did just that.
“Everything now has our name on it,” Larsson says. “Dr. Skinner had not been marking any of his products. After registering the name, Skinner’s exclusive use in the firearms market, I bought a small Pantograph engraver and put Skinner on everything I built.”
Larsson knew then what his goals would be. “I want the brand Skinner to continue to be relevant in the market, appearing on other manufacturers’ OEM products, and branch out to other outdoor products. I’m working on some products for ORV machines, the fishing/boating industry and perhaps something for the adult air gun market.”
Once the Skinner Sights name was known, he added value to the brand’s identity.
“Whenever responding to a customer, I would link our website,” Larsson says. “Using online blogging and forums, we got the name out there. I’m very visual, so photos were included everywhere. Our unique shape and design stand out. In late 2010, I introduced the Black Gold line, and they were an instant hit. Today, more than half our sales include the Black Gold option, and we incorporate the colors into our logos and advertising.
“Getting our sights into the hands of real users, gun writers and shooters around the world was important,” added Larsson. “I love people, especially shooters and hunters, so we quickly developed lasting relationships in the firearm industry. These folks are now our family.”
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- Concealed Carry Sights: Which Are Best For Your Gun?
What’s a Skinner?
So, what exactly are Skinner Sights? According to Larsson, his sights are machined from solid steel, stainless steel or brass bar stock. “No aluminum, except on our Picatinny rail products,” Larsson proudly said. “A Skinner Sight looks like it grew on your rifle. It is designed to enhance your firearm’s beauty, be rugged as the gun itself, accurate, reliable and comes with a lifetime warranty. We use our products daily in the field and on the range. Our customer service is among the best in the industry. Our goal is your success. These are products I’ve developed based on a lifetime spent in the outdoors and shooting world. I stake my life on them, and so can you.”
Larsson’s plan, ethics, skill and vision have rewarded his customers and his employees and family as well. Skinner Sights has grown significantly since 2010, with some of Larsson’s most authentic validation to his business acumen coming by word of mouth.
“We just celebrated our 10th anniversary and still love our association with the industry, the friends we have made here, and bringing my ideas and dreams to the market to help other shooters and companies be successful.”
What’s one of Larsson’s main battle cries as a business owner?
“Never get in too deep that you can’t keep your head up,” Larsson explains. “I work with manufacturers I trust. I’m also very trusting until we have been given reason to do otherwise. Remember, we reap what we sow. If a company is shady in their business deals, steals product ideas or sells you out for their profits, it will come back to bite them later.”
The most telling thing about Larsson was revealed when I asked him who his best and most influential mentors in hunting, shooting and business are:
“My father, who introduced me to the love of shooting, hunting and reloading,” Larsson says. “My boss during college days: He trusted me with his customers. Various friends who share outdoor passions. Tim Sundles from Buffalo Bore Ammo has been an employer, friend, mentor and encourager.
“Dr. Skinner for his trust, innovation and vision,” Larsson added. “Coni and Randy Brooks, who built Barnes Bullets into an amazing, world-recognized, standard-setting business. Their ethics, inspiration and innovation witness what can be done with the right business model. Coni also inspired Sheila to engage fully in the outdoors and the firearm industry.
“Anthony Imperato (and crew) of Henry Repeating arms reached out to us early on, trusted us to develop some sight solutions for Henry Rifles, set a standard in customer service, generosity and made-in-USA loyalty. Eric Lundgren of Remington/Marlin is innovative, level-headed and communicates clearly how Skinner Sights can help their product line. My staff and employees: They are the backbone of production, and customer fulfillment and service. My crew helps the business grow every day. And my wife, Sheila: Every day we wake up ready to embrace whatever adventure awaits. My respect for and relationship with Sheila inspires me to do better, reach higher and be successful.”
Skinner Sights continues to hit where it’s aiming, both with its customers and its future. We continue to grow.
“I have some cool new ideas to bring forward this fall, and we continue to stay relevant in the marketplace without chasing the current ‘fads,’” said Larsson. “We’re not just another company with a CNC machine and a can of spray paint. Our products and designs should endure the tests of time.”
For more information on Skinner Sights, please visit skinnersights.com.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.