Published By OutdoorsFIRST Media Published November 28, 2017
Austin Weiss, whose motto is Grind Hard and Stay Humble, puts a face on the next wave of shooters.
The Changing Face of Today's Shooter
Where old-fashioned craftsmanship and sensibilities intersect with 21st century social media lays one of the shooting industry's freshest advocates.
By Brent T. Wheat
Austin Weiss has been called a rock star of metal fabrication, yet he walks in many worlds. Among other things, the 34-year-old is a custom motorcycle and vehicle builder, a staunch Second Amendment advocate, an NRA commentator, a social media virtuoso and a soon-to-be ammunition manufacturer. Bearing fully inked sleeves, shaved head, chinstrap beard and a love of hardcore music, Weiss certainly doesn't look the part of the stereotypical gun owner. To many, that's a big part of his appeal. Fact is, everything changes fast in today's world, and Austin Weiss puts a face on the next wave of shooters.
"I believe I represent the younger generation of who and what is out there," Weiss says. "I think the reality is that our generation doesn't look at people like they're a skin color, a tattoo, a beard or a sexual orientation. We believe in the right of protection and freedom. The Second Amendment is for everyone, and people of all types are beginning to realize that I've got to protect myself is the bottom line."
After a tough upbringing in what he describes as "a pretty broken home," Weiss began making a name for himself building custom vehicles and motorcycles for the likes of Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, comedian Carlos Mencia and football star Reggie Bush. At age 23, he was the youngest person to earn the title of Master Bike Builder from Easy Rider magazine in 2007. Today, Weiss owns one of the nation's premier metal fabrication shops, The Garage Inc. in south Florida, where his creative skills and services are sought by everyday people, the rich and famous and even the Smithsonian Institution.
"I'm not trying to be anything," says Weiss. "My job is to be a father, an employer and an upstanding citizen... but I want to be able to protect myself and the people around me."
Weiss became attracted to firearms because of his mechanical and inquisitive nature, as well as his firm belief that guns are integral to maintaining a more antonymous lifestyle. "I'm a person who believes in self-reliance and self-preservation," says Weiss, who understands that the police can't be everywhere at once. "When seconds count, cops are just minutes away, right?" he notes with a chuckle.
But Weiss, who shoots and trains extensively with firearms, makes it clear that he's not trying to "be" anything. "For me it's never been about being this badass guy; for me it's training," he says. "My job is to be a father, an employer and an upstanding citizen... but if the (expletive deleted) hits the fan, I want to be able to protect myself and the people around me."
Weiss, whose motto is "Grind Hard and Stay Humble," was an early-adopter of social media and has turned it into an important part of his career. His Instagram account has nearly 400,000 followers and he posts multiple times per day on topics ranging from guns to industrial grinders. His depth, outlook and following have caught the attention of many in the shooting industry. As a result, Weiss does some limited promotional work for a few select organizations and companies he believes in.
Put simply, Weiss believes the companies he works with should be prepared to put-up or shut-up. "I will never promote something simply for the money," he says emphatically. "I will never take a dollar to promote something I don't believe in. There's an authenticity there. If I promote it, I believe in it."
That authenticity is one of the reasons FLIR Systems, Inc., one of the world's leading manufacturers of thermal imaging and night vision technology and products, is pleased to have Weiss on board as a brand ambassador.
"People realize this is a product I believe in. This is a product I use," Weiss says. "I love the FLIR PathFindIR® II (pronounced Pathfinder); I have it in my truck and use it all the time. I'm here in south Florida and people don't realize that out in the Everglades it's just pitch black. I really like that system out there!" he says.
FLIR's PathFindIR II is a powerful thermal night vision system that lets drivers see road hazards clearly in total darkness, detecting and alerting them to nearby vehicles, people, or animals that may or may not be visible to the eye. Weiss installs the system on many of the custom vehicles he builds to make them more practical, safer and more unique. "I just finished this crazy bug-out Raptor and put a bunch of FLIR thermals on it. I sent that up to a customer in New York; that was pretty cool!" he says.
While out in the 'glades, Weiss is often scouting for invasive and destructive feral hogs with his DJI drone. "I have the FLIR Zenmuse XT on my drone and I use it all the time," explains Weiss, who prefers to hunt hogs and varmints over traditional game animals. "We put that up looking for hogs because it's always open season for hogs around here."
Austin Weiss has already accomplished much for someone his age, but he believes he's just getting started. "Honestly, I have some weapon ideas I want to develop," he says, though his primary focus at the moment is on his new Grind Hard brand of ammunition. Expected to hit the market in the coming months, Grind Hard training and frangible ammo is largely being built by retired military personnel.
"We're trying to hire as many veterans as we can," Weiss says of the upstart company. "I didn't get to serve, so this is a way I can give something back to the veterans community and say thanks by giving them high paying jobs and good benefits."
Though he might seem a little unconventional to the staid firearms world, Austin Weiss speaks from - and to - his generation with a commonality that all shooters can understand. If you haven't heard of him, you will, as the high-energy sheet metal artist, shooter and social media influencer continues to grind hard toward his goals.
STAY CONNECTED - You can follow Austin Weiss on Instagram: @AustinWeiss, @GrindHardGarage, @GrindHardAmmo, @TheGunBlog.
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