Skip to main content
Caracal USAFeatured ArticlesNewsNews Reel

Leaders Unloaded: A Journey of Passion, Perseverance, and Purpose with Jeffrey Spalding

By Ashley Burgess Gall, Laura Burgess Marketing

In the realm of firearms manufacturing, few individuals embody the essence of dedication and commitment as profoundly as Jeffrey Spalding, CEO of Caracal USA. From his early days as the VP of Training for “The TEAL Team” to his pivotal role in establishing Caracal USA, Jeffrey’s professional journey is a compelling narrative of passion, perseverance, and purpose. Throughout this exclusive interview, Jeffrey shares insights into his remarkable career trajectory, offering a firsthand account of the challenges, triumphs, and pivotal moments that have shaped his leadership philosophy and propelled his companies forward.

Ashley Burgess Gall (ABG): Can you provide a brief overview of your professional journey and how it led you to your current role?

Jeffrey Spalding (JS): In 2010 I was the VP of Training for “The TEAL Team,” which is the training arm of US Cavalry Security Group. We had a multi-year accredited training program running with the UAE Special Forces. During this time Caracal International was in its infancy. The Officer in Charge (OIC) of the group we were working with mentioned to me during a meeting that the UAE was making firearms and asked me if I would like to see them. I agreed and we planned to meet at the Officers Club shooting range over the weekend. I had a chance to shoot the first and only product available at the time, which was the Caracal International “Model F” pistol. I ran it through some standard drills, as well as some live tests designed to show weaknesses in the system and it performed great. I made some comments regarding some aspects I did not like and that was the end of it, or so I thought.

The following week the same OIC asked me to return to the Officers Club for a meeting to talk to the then-CEO of Caracal International. During this meeting, I also met the original designer and head engineer of the program, Wilhelm Bubits. He explained to me that the feedback I provided was the first they had received from an outside source and asked if I could support with end-user testing while I was in the country on an as-needed basis. I obliged. Later that year I was asked to support Caracal International with a plan to bring the pistol to the USA Commercial Market. I agreed and signed a consultancy agreement. This led to Caracal International’s first appearance at SHOT Show 2011 in which we were able to sell the entire 10,000 unit allocation of pistols for that year to a single buyer and major distribution collaboration.

As the brand grew into other products, such as AR-style rifles, it became clear that Caracal would need to establish a US-based operation for manufacturing and sales support. In 2013 I submitted the first business plan for Caracal USA, LLC. In 2014 I assumed management of Caracal USA, LLC and by 2016 I was assigned as the Sole Manager of the LLC. The initial plan of establishing a standalone ground-up manufacturing plant and administrative office HQ was moving forward in 2016 when an opportunity arose to enter into a cooperative agreement with Wilcox Industries in New Hampshire. Caracal USA, LLC and Wilcox Industries began this agreement in 2017 and immediately began validation for serial production of the CAR814A2, CAR816A2, and Enhanced F pistol programs.

By the end of 2017, the CAR814A2 and CAR816A2 programs were in serial production with the Pistol Program nearly complete. In 2018, Wilcox Industries received a Government contract that required compartmentalization of the facilities, and although we worked together to maintain workflow, the restrictions of this contract made it impossible for our partnership to continue due to impacts on both of our operations.

By September of 2018 Caracal USA, LLC was packed up and shipped to Boise, ID where we were building our facility. By early 2019, the COVID-19 epidemic brought our building project to a standstill. Labor shortages, material shortages, and component availability caused the developer of the building to stop work and terminate leases under force majeure clauses.

It wasn’t until August of 2021 that Caracal USA, LLC would move into our current facility in Nampa, Idaho. Within three months of the Certificate of Occupancy, we had completed the required tenant improvements and established the machine operations as well as (3) assembly lines. By the end of November 2021, we had completed the first 400 CAR814A2 rifles in serial production, in December of 2021 the CAR816A2 serial production had begun, and in 2022 the Enhanced F pistol program came back online in efforts to validate our supply chain and some design changes that had been made over the past two years during the COVID epidemic.

In September of 2023, the Enhanced F Pistol had completed all pre-production validation and in November of 2023, serial production began. By the end of December, Caracal USA had completed 1,000 units of the pistols and they were introduced to the commercial and international defense markets, finally, at SHOT Show 2024.

ABG: What leadership qualities do you consider essential for guiding a company to success?

JS: The foremost quality required to lead, in my opinion, is experience. The experience of each process and task that you are requiring your team to complete. One may not be the “best” at completing these tasks, which is why you hire those better than yourself to provide support at these tasks. However, the experience of completing the tasks provides the second most important quality, understanding. There will undoubtedly be times when issues arise, and a leader will need understanding to see these issues as they are, in order to make logical decisions without the clouded judgment of inexperience.

Rely on your team, support them with the tools they need to succeed, and experience their needs firsthand, otherwise their requests will seem to be excessive and cumbersome as opposed to efficient.

ABG: What inspired you to join this company?

Initially, I was drawn to Caracal International by the leaders involved in the company. There was a true passion within them to produce the best products they could with no cost being too great to outweigh the outcome. As I began to work within the company, I realized that the same passion flowed through the entire operation down to the office clerks and company drivers. The corporate motto at the time was “From the UAE to the World” and they were seriously invested on a personal level to produce the best firearms possible.

As the Caracal USA, LLC operations came to be, it became my mission to continue that passion and mindset.

ABG: What was your vision for Caracal USA?

JS: My initial vision for Caracal USA was to be the premier firearms manufacturer for Military and Law Enforcement. To provide firearms that could be relied upon with one’s life. To not let a product out of our doors that I wouldn’t feel confident in should it be issued to one of my Sons in the line of duty. And that vision remains consistent today. We will always provide safety, reliability, and durability in every firearm we produce.

ABG: How has the vision and strategic direction of Caracal USA evolved since its inception?

JS: The vision remains constant. The strategic direction has changed numerous times due to geopolitical events, Corporate structure changes, partnership agreements, and worldwide pandemics. The goal remains the same. It’s imperative to understand that goals are just that, goals. Goals are not road maps, goals are destinations, when the landscape seems impassable, you must find a way.

The early wagon trains headed west to the Pacific followed footpaths that would reveal impossible terrain in some cases for wagons, but they reached the Pacific. Railroad engineers followed these trails years later and found that the path needed to be altered to build tracks, they reached the Pacific as well. In any instance, when a goal is achieved, the path to get there is never prepared in advance of your crossing. It may have been surveyed, and estimated, but the work to reach the goal required adversity, determination, and faith in the goal to be achieved. My father always told me, and I tell my sons, “You never fail until you stop trying.” That motto has been emblazoned on a plaque that has hung in every office I have ever held since I was 19 years old, and that plaque remains next to my door today. I see it every morning when I turn on the light, and every evening when I turn it off. I live by that motto and my team are in complete understanding that nothing is a failure, until you quit.

ABG: Could you share a significant challenge or setback you’ve faced in your role, and how you overcame it?

JS: I would have to say the most significant challenge I have faced during my time at Caracal USA has been the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were right in the middle of a cross-country relocation, just as the US-made products had been validated for serial production and the initial orders were being shipped. We had planned for the relocation to have our production lines down for seven months, and we had taken steps to build a backlog of products to service those contracts during that period. However, our relocation took an additional 28 months before we were even able to obtain a certificate of occupancy to begin fitting out the new location.

During those 28 months, we had opportunities that had to be supported and orders that had to be filled to maintain momentum with our Government Defense customers. We were able to work with partners in the Idaho firearms manufacturing sector for assembly support, part production, testing facilities, etc. to be able to effectively fulfill these opportunities while not being able to grow and expand as we had initially projected in the relocation plan. We were able to solidify our relationships and prove our metal with our customers. While this unforeseen obstacle (COVID) severely obstructed the path, the goal remained the focus and we utilized the friendships and opportunities we had within the marketplace to find a way.

Had it not been for the Idaho-based machine shops who found time for our limited quantity orders, and the Idaho firearm manufacturers who provided assembly space and support as well as access to the inspection tools and equipment we needed for incoming part inspections and live fire function testing ranges, storage of packing materials, test ammo, and the like, we would not have been able to maintain the relationships with our customers. I am forever grateful to those that were there for us in that time and they know who they are.

ABG: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned during your time as CEO of Caracal USA?

JS: Communication is the ultimate tool. Being able to rapidly understand the issue, whatever it may be, and either verbally or through presentation, being able to clearly identify the crux of the issue and work together logically and concisely without allowing for external influence from emotion, blame, or ego, is the most effective tool any leader can possess. Whether it be a supply chain issue, peer-to-peer issue within the workspace, or contract negotiations, clear, concise, communication will always, always provide the best solution.

ABG: How would you describe the company’s culture and its importance in achieving your goals?

JS: Caracal USA is a very close-knit family. Our culture is one of inclusion and acceptance. Not referring to the buzzwords found in most HR departments of today’s Fortune 500 companies, but in the sense that everyone here has a voice. If the employee who is working on assembly station #6 and is doing his or her task, day in a day out, has an idea on how to improve the process, or even a suggestion on how to improve their experience at that task, even if it means that the change would affect production, yet they would solve a physical or mental issue caused by the current way of doing it, we welcome that information. We understand that the company is an organism that requires health in aspects of itself. The brain in the human body cannot force the person to eat and drink on its own, it needs the muscles, bones, and organs to assist it in maintaining itself. Therefore, the complete organism needs to work together to survive and grow stronger.

Every aspect of Caracal USA is team-oriented. Every decision levies input from every level of the company from business development, finance, supply chain, production, assembly, compliance, shipping, and receiving. The potential impact of any opportunity is reviewed and planned accordingly to the best of our collective abilities.

ABG: What role does marketing play in Caracal USA’s overall strategy? How do you approach building a strong brand?

JS: Marketing is obviously a major impacting factor in commercial retail sales. While Caracal USA is available to the US Commercial Retail market, our primary customer is the Defense market. In these instances, the products are required to speak for themselves. We are seeking opportunities within various regions of the world to provide the Caracal USA weapon systems through open tender, or direct sale. This requires relationships with regional representatives much more than commercial marketing. With roughly 90 percent of business going into the defense market, we do lack the commercial representation that the majority of the big-name firearms manufacturers possess. It’s certainly a weak point for our brand within the retail space, but we are seeing a very sharp increase in brand awareness within the US Consumer space as more and more of our products are finding their way into the hands of US private gun owners and here again, the firearms sell themselves. We certainly intend to increase the marketing aspect of the brand in 2024 and continually through the future.

ABG: What’s your approach to fostering a collaborative and motivated team within Caracal USA?

JS: Allowing for open dialogue and respect for team members’ input and opinions is crucial to effective strategizing. Providing the ability of all members of the team to provide input and be heard, while understanding that not every idea or concept is to be accepted and implemented creates an environment of exploration. What may be shot down as a solution for one problem, could easily become the solution to another. If someone feels that only decisions are made by one person, they will never feel the need to provide opinions. Let your team think and work freely, decisions are a communal achievement.

ABG: How do you balance setting a clear direction with allowing for creativity and autonomy among your team members?

JS: Goals, setting clear and direct goals is key to providing for out-of-the-box thinking. While the path to the goal may not follow your preconceived path as a leader, the goal is the ultimate end result. Leaders at every level need to understand that no two people hear, or see, the same problem in the same way, and that leads to multiple solutions to the same problem. So long as the milestones are achieved in clear alignment with the ultimate goal, and no laws are broken in the process…. It’s a success.

ABG: How do you stay informed about industry trends and emerging technologies that could impact your company’s future?

JS: The firearms industry is full of “trends” and “revolutionary ideas.” For Caracal USA, the most important aspects of this industry consist of safety, reliability, and durability. We are not looking to have the “cool” thing, or the “hot” item for this season. We are focused on producing the safest, most reliable, and durable firearms available on the planet.

Regarding technological advances, we have some of the most sought-after minds in the industry within our engineering, quality control, and supply chain operations. These men and women are constantly reviewing materials, designs, and ideas to find the ones that satisfy the ultimate goal of safety, reliability, and durability.

ABG: What do you see as the most significant opportunities and challenges in this industry over the next few years?

JS: From a commercial aspect, the most impact has and always will be from Government oversight. Whether it be regulations imposed on a type or style of firearm, or be it a “90-day pause” on commercial exports that never gets lifted, and no explanation is provided as to why. The unknown is the real issue. Not being able to forecast production on a product because the goal post is constantly moving on what is “allowed” is unnerving, to say the least. History has shown us that with each presidential election cycle, the demand for firearms increases dramatically. This isn’t related to who’s favorite person is going to be running, it’s directly related to the unknown. What may happen “if,” and that “if” is different for everyone.

From a Defense Market standpoint, the world is in a very tumultuous position currently. Civil unrest, wars taking place, nations showing signs of war to come. This in itself causes governments to ensure that they are prepared for worst-case scenarios. While the light arms side of these preparations is minuscule in comparison to the logistics, technical, and information needs, there is still a need for light arms, and will be for the foreseeable future.

ABG: Could you highlight a specific achievement or milestone that you’re particularly proud of during your tenure?

JS: Currently, my most prideful milestone would be getting this company’s manufacturing operations up and running with three full assembly lines producing products within three months of moving into the empty shell of a warehouse after the relocation issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no other alternative, there was no time left to waste, it was either make it happen, or find something else to do, and our team was able to make it happen against all odds.

I say “currently” because we never stop surprising ourselves with what we can accomplish in the face of adversity. That just happens to be the most recent achievement that seemed impossible at the time. There will be more. There is always more.

ABG: How do you measure success for yourself and Caracal USA?

JS: Success means something different to everyone. To me, from a personal perspective, it means seeing my children smiling, and my wife proud of her husband. It means knowing that my employees are secure in their careers and they do not have to take work pressures home with them to affect their real lives. It means that I feel fulfilled knowing that I did my best and I left nothing on the field at the end of the battle.

From a company standpoint, success means growth, while maintaining efficiency. Plain and simple. If a company can withstand growth without a negative impact on quality, efficiency, and pricing schedules, it’s a successful company regardless of the net worth in its current fiscal year.

ABG: What habits or practices do you attribute to your personal and professional growth?

JS: I have always believed that I am still the same person I was when I was 25 years old. I strive to maintain the activities that I enjoyed then and still do to this day. Working out regularly helps me maintain mental and physical focus daily, and allows me to race motocross, and explore the wilderness on various hikes, adventures, or hunting trips. I am also a very big supporter of mental health and therapy. Being able to understand your thoughts and feelings provides for a much clearer vision of your actual world, not the world shown to you daily in various media formats. Mental and physical health is the cornerstone of individual growth.

ABG: Are there any books, podcasts, or resources that have significantly influenced your leadership style?

JS: I love podcasts, and I read a substantial number of books, mostly fiction and predominantly the works of Brad Thor. The leaders that I have worked under who received their “style” from the books they read were complete frauds and incompetent. Their leadership style would change every month depending on what book they were reading. The ability to effectively lead comes from a life of experience and hardship. So, I suppose I would credit my leadership ability to growing up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the son of a SWAT Commander and a single father. It was either you figured out how to make it work, or you never got out of there.

ABG: Maintaining a leadership role can be demanding. How do you manage to strike a balance between your professional and personal life?

JS: Here again I would say that therapy has played the largest role in maintaining a work-life balance. Understanding that the stressors from work are not interchangeable with family life, and your family and friends are not exposed to the events at work lets you see that you cannot expect them to manage your work-related stress. There are many, many times when work spills into your home life, but you have to compartmentalize that time. When the meeting is over, or the call has ended I make my notes and action items and close the book. If something is really weighing on my mind and I know it’s going to be an issue that keeps me from enjoying my real life at home, I will sit and explain everything to something in my garage, I’ll leave it all there until the morning comes and I can take it all back before I head back to work. It sounds strange, but leaving it at the door really does help.

ABG: What advice would you give to young professionals aspiring to become successful leaders in their respective fields?

JS: The best piece of advice that I can provide is to do the work. Don’t be scared to rip up your hands and get callouses, don’t be scared you may fail or not be as successful as someone else. Experience builds character, it builds knowledge, wisdom, and most of all respect. As a leader, you have to be able to perform cold and on-demand anything you’re asking your team to do. So, get the experience, whenever the opportunity is presented to you.

ABG: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self as you started your career journey?

JS: Looking back there are so many things that I wish I hadn’t done, but I can’t think of a single one of those mistakes that I made along the way that didn’t make me the person I am today. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would do everything I did because I don’t know which one of those mistakes led me to where I am today.

I suppose I would probably tell myself to go all in on Bitcoin….

Through Jeffrey’s leadership, Caracal USA has emerged as a beacon of excellence in the firearms industry, driven by a relentless pursuit of safety, reliability, and durability. As we conclude our conversation, it’s clear that Jeffrey’s unwavering commitment to excellence serves as an inspiration for aspiring leaders, highlighting the importance of perseverance and staying true to one’s vision.