By Christopher J. Roberts
With the proliferation of precision rifles and precision rifle competition, the race to meet market demand has become very competitive. Metal working machinery and processes have increased the depth of quality gunsmiths. Unfortunately, the demand has caused prices to skyrocket, alienating the less fiscally capable rifleman. So where do we go from here? What segment of the market is left for up and coming shooters? What about the beginning competitor who needs more than a factory rifle can offer but not ready to cash out their kids’ college fund? Windsor Armory has an answer for that. They call them Semi-Custom Precision Rifles. They are not alone on this concept, or even the originator, but that hasn’t stopped them from carving out a sizeable portion of the metropolitan Denver precision shooting market.
Small Arms Review’s Christopher Roberts sat down with Eric Croft, Owner of Windsor Armory, to discuss his concept for precision rifles.
Small Arms Review: Who are you?
Eric Croft: Eric Croft, graduated from Fort Collins High School in Fort Collins, CO. Longtime outdoorsman, hunter, hunting guide and avid snowboarder. Served in the Army from 2005–2013 as a sniper and machine gun squad leader with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Worked diplomatic security for Triple Canopy from 2014–2017 and then opened my store Windsor Armory with an emphasis on custom bolt action rifles.
SAR: What’s the size of the company?
EC: Truly small business with only 4 employees, a handful of on-call instructors and a gunsmith that works through us.
SAR: How about the history of Windsor Armory?
EC: Windsor Armory started as a training company called “Croft Tactical” and grew into a store when the demand for our long-range training and equipment began to grow.
SAR: How did the company start?
EC: The company started as an idea I had on one of the diplomatic security deployments. I wanted to build custom and semi-custom bolt actions rifles for the working man. A lot of full-custom bolt actions start at $5,000 and go way up from there; my goal was to have an available full custom that started around $3,000.
SAR: What is Windsor Armory’s mission?
EC: To bring dependable long-range accuracy, knowledge and strong customer service to all shooters. It doesn’t matter whether they are new to the long-range community or longtime shooting enthusiasts.
SAR: What do you make?
EC: We make and design custom bolt action rifles, improve off-the-shelf bolt action rifles, and design and build custom AR-15s and AR-10s. We also specialize in older firearms cleaning and restoring [them] to original condition.
SAR: Tell me about your custom and semi-custom rifles?
EC: Our custom rifles are built off of Defiance or Big Horn actions and Shaw® Precision barrels. We have a variety of chassis that we use from MDT and KRG. We use TriggerTech and Timney Triggers and a wide variety of accessories and Cerakote options. We use U.S. Optics, Leupold and Vortex as our primary glass. When we do semi-custom rifles our gunsmith Zion from “Gunaholics” takes the rifle, trues the actions and does a variety of inspections to insure accuracy. Then we upgrade the rifles with new triggers, compensators, chassis and other upgrades. Bergara® rifles are our go-to for off-the-wall, semi-custom builds.
SAR: Why did you decide to make certain things and not others?
EC: In the gun industry you have to be unique to survive anymore. A lot of generic gun stores will not build custom rifles but just sell you one off of the wall. We wanted to do it all and offer a wide variety of services from gunsmithing to training and security consulting.
SAR: Where have your products been used / won competitions?
EC: Being that we are still young in the industry, our rifles have been mainly used all across the state of Colorado and some bordering states in Wyoming and Utah. We cannot to speak to if any of them have won any competitions at this point. Our rifles were on display at the annual Army/Marine sniper gathering this year. We have received nothing but positive feedback from our customers on our bolt actions. Several of our customers have brought us their 100-yard zero targets to show us how pleased they are with the accuracy and some pulling groups as small as .355 of an inch with factory ammo.
SAR: What makes your product different / better?
EC: Our product is different in that each rifle tends to be very unique to the customer, and it comes at a price that is affordable to the common man. Each rifle we make is different in one way from another. It can be a unique Cerakote color or barrel contour combo that no one else has. Our rifles get it done even with factory ammo. For example, our custom 6.5 Creedmoor rifles are shooting groups of anywhere from .355 to .465 of an inch off bi-pods, in the prone with factory ammo. Groups are shooter-dependent of course, but we test our rifles in real-world conditions. We don’t just lock it into a sled and touch the trigger; we get down in the prone and shoot it like someone actually would at a competition.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V25N1 (January 2021)