Zach DeJesus shares how his experience in the Air Force and Reserves prepared him for a career at a firearms company, the necessity of networking for success, how Davidson’s supports its military connected employees, and why the Shadow Systems CR920 line is his current carry.

How did your military experience in the Air Force prepare you for a career in a firearms company? How does the Air Force Reserves continue to shape you professionally?

The military teaches you a number of intangible qualities that are useful in any professional capacity. Having discipline, leadership skills, and the ability to work as a team will get you far anywhere you go. Regarding the firearms industry specifically, much of the gun community looks to the military for cues on what works, doesn’t work, and what the opinions are of those who are using their products in a “professional capacity“. Having a military background allows you to speak to this directly. My continued service in the Air Force Reserves is constantly challenging me to grow as a leader and jumping back and forth between military and civilian contexts keeps me on my toes and away from complacency. Being immersed in the firearms industry has also given me a number of useful things I’ve been able to take back to the military and use in my role as a small arms instructor..

How important do you believe networking is for military veterans transitioning to civilian careers, and what advice would you give to veterans who are looking to build their professional networks in the firearms industry?

Networking in general is a huge deal. I’d have a difficult time pinpointing any opportunity that I’ve had in the professional world that didn’t arise via a contact made through networking. On another level, it’s no secret that transitioning from a military environment to a civilian job, no matter the industry, does require quite a bit of adjustment which makes it all the more important for veterans to be intentional about reaching out and making those connections. Having a strong network in your chosen field can ensure that there are people around you that can have your back and make the adjustments much easier. Luckily, the firearms industry is replete with veterans, so as you reach out in your networking efforts, you’re more than likely to come across individuals that have gone through very similar transitions and can speak to your situation from experience.

What advice would you give to someone who is pursuing a small business in the firearms industry?

The firearms industry is a roller coaster. There are slow times where customers are in short supply, and there are industry wide booms where companies can barely keep up with demand. It’s easy for small businesses to get complacent during the good times and then find themselves in a tough spot during the slow times. My advice to anyone starting a small business in the firearms industry is to never get complacent about asking for customers’ business. Never forget how to advertise and never relax your creativity in coming up with new ways to incentivize customers. The businesses that put in the legwork during the slow times are the ones that not only survive, but position themselves best to take advantage of the next upswing.

How does your company support military veterans, both through providing career opportunities within the company and supporting the broader military community?

Speaking from my personal experience, Davidson’s has recognized the value of military experience within the firearms community and has gone above and beyond accommodating employees with everything from disabilities to current military obligations. After less than a year of employment, I had to step away for a deployment and not only did Davidson’s ensure I still had a spot to come back to, but they went out of their way to get me plugged in, up to speed, and set up for success upon my return. The military can put a lot on your plate during and after your service, so working for a company that understands this and ensures that your civilian employment is not on the long list of things to worry about goes a long way and I’m extremely grateful.

What is your favorite firearm that Davidson’s distributes, and why?

Lately, I’ve been really happy with the Shadow Systems CR920 line. The P model is my newest carry gun and I really think that these are great examples of guns that are more than the sum of their parts. They carry well, they shoot accurately and controllably, and they look good while doing it. Their frame ergonomics and their optics mounting systems are extremely well thought out. Shadow Systems has also been very open to working with Davidson’s on a number of exclusives and special make-ups that all look and perform fantastically.

Partnerships: Empowering Veterans for Economic and Workforce Development

Meritorious Veterans, Guns & Cigars’ mission is to empower veterans and military spouses by providing them with new skill sets, professional development opportunities, and small business resources that promote economic and workforce development. By collaborating with key partners, we are able to expand our services, offer diverse experiences, and connect veterans with new networks, job opportunities, mentorship, and other resources critical to their success.