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Behind The Brand: MidwayUSA – Gun Digest

Behind The Brand: MidwayUSA

We take a quick peek behind the doors of MidwayUSA.

As a gun writer, I often need odds and ends—and sometimes big items—to complete projects for assignments. And when I need something fast, I always check with MidwayUSA first. Every time. That’s how reliable MidwayUSA is.

It’s no accident, either, because Larry Potterfield planned it that way.

“Our vision is to be the best-run business in America—and the most-successful, most-respected business in our industry for the benefit of our customers,” Potterfield says. 

How? A single-minded focus.

“Keeping the single mission of internet sales, with no retail stores, has allowed us to be possibly the ‘best’ shooting sports business on the internet,” he adds.

What Exactly is MidwayUSA?

“We are a family business with a great selection of products, fast shipping and the foremost supporter of the NRA,” Potterfield says.

MidwayUSA’s goals center on Potterfield’s single-minded dedication to the digital marketplace. “As an internet retailer of shooting, hunting and outdoor products, our goals are satisfying customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders … in that order,” he continues. “Engaging with our customers, always supporting our suppliers, and paying them on time have been defining strategies for MidwayUSA.”

MidwayUSA-facility

While MidwayUSA’s digital philosophy remains the same, what they sell continues to evolve with the wants and needs of the shooting industry. “MidwayUSA’s roots are in shooting and reloading, where we offer ‘just about everything,’” says Potterfield. “Over the past several years, we’ve been steadily expanding into hunting, fishing and other outdoor products. Most of our future growth will be in those areas.

Humble Origins

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In 1977, while most of us were fascinated by a new movie called Star Wars, Air Force veteran Larry Potterfield was building his own empire in Missouri that wasn’t that far, far away.

MidwayUSA started as Ely Arms Inc. and, according to Potterfield, “then changed to Midway Arms, Inc., in 1980, and then to MidwayUSA after the internet came along, about 1998. ‘Midway’ is now the brand, and we’ve established it over 40 years ago.”

“I got an FFL while on active duty in the Air Force back in 1972, and I maintained it for the next five years while in the service,” he says. “My hitch was up in 1977, so I left the service and started what is now MidwayUSA with my younger brother Jerry. (He left the business in 1980, and we bought his shares in Brenda’s name).”

The firearms business made sense to Potterfield, and it seemed to come naturally.

“Having bought, sold, shot, collected and traded guns while in the service, I enjoyed the business activities and the industry,” he continued. “I didn’t know how to find a job in the industry, so I just opened the business and have been in the industry ever since.”

MidwayUSA was created based on Potterfield’s vision to turn his wants and needs in his own life into a business to do the same for everyone else. As Potterfield stated, the direction was simple.

“It’s a hobby industry, and I’ve always liked guns, shooting and reloading—hunting. Just sell the things you personally want to use and talk about.”

Potterfield was more than just a gun guy with a bit of hustle. He saw the value in formal education and leadership, and he studied both to build his business. “I’ve always been a gun guy and a student of leadership and management; those have complemented each other in growing the business,” says Potterfield. “I’m just a country kid from Missouri; hard work and honesty came from my parents.

People First

MidwayUSA, through Potterfield’s leadership, has been and remains a customer-focused business, but that focus includes an equally dedicated commitment to MidwayUSA’s employees. In fact, Potterfield makes a point to credit MidwayUSA’s success to its employees.

“I must have some sense of hiring the right people, as employees grow the business not the boss,” he says. “We have nine core, basic-human values: honesty, integrity, humility, respect for others, teamwork, positive attitude, accountability, stewardship and loyalty. We hire people who share those values.”

Like any business, especially in the shooting industry, MidwayUSA has had to deal with obstacles. Potterfield says one thing above all else has been his most significant issue.

“Politics has always been the largest influence on the business, beginning with the Winchester Black Talon bullets/ammunition in the early 1980s, and continuing with most political cycles since then,” he said. “COVID-19 positively affected sales, as we were considered an essential industry, and demand across all categories was strong—especially ammunition.”

MidwayUSA doesn’t sit on the sidelines of America’s future, either. In fact, Potterfield and MidwayUSA have long held key roles as industry philanthropists dedicated to helping preserve and grow our industry. Potterfield humbly added MidwayUSA’s significant contributions at the end of our interview.

“I probably should mention the MidwayUSA Foundation that Brenda and I created back in 2008,” he said. “It’s a completely independent 501(c)(3) that helps communities raise money to support their high school and college shooting teams. Currently, the MidwayUSA Foundation has $250 million of endowed funds. In 2021, the Foundation paid out $7 million in cash grants to nearly 2,800 high school and college shooting teams to support their shooting teams for that year.”

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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