Mark Gordon is the owner of Short Action Customs, and he is an incessant tinkerer. “Our business has been founded with the principal that everything must be challenged and improved upon,” Mark explained. “Techniques, tooling, fixtures and execution can all be refined to the point of perfection.”
Mark’s background includes serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2001-2006 as a 6113 CH-53 flight line mechanic with 3 overseas tours. When you’re a helicopter mechanic, “good enough” isn’t in your vocabulary. After an honorable discharge, Mark made the conscious decision to pursue a career in gunsmithing, a craft he is clearly passionate about. That isn’t something he just “fell into” or picked up as he went. Instead, he moved to North Carolina to receive formal training and earn a degree in gunsmithing. Mark founded Short Action Customs in 2009, starting as a one-man shop. Mark’s work quickly earned him a strong reputation in the precision rifle community, and his staff and facilities have grown dramatically since that time. Today their facilities in Ohio consists of 20 acres, including an 800+ yard range with an electronic target system to test and evaluate their rifles and have a data-driven approach to develop of new processes and products. SAC has multiple Haas CNC machines that allows them to do just about everything in-house. SAC builds a ton of custom precision rifles. For example, in 2019 they chambered over 500 barrels, so it’s clearly grown well beyond the small mom-and-pop shop! Mark currently serves as the CEO and is still very involved in the day-to-day operations.
Today most rifle gunsmiths are building rifles from the same parts from the same companies. Mark has an internal drive to produce a better product than the gunsmiths that are simply bolting things together. He told me “I don’t just want that to be that I know in my heart it is better. I want to be able to measure it and see it in hard data.” As a hardcore data-driven guy myself, Mark, you have my attention!
Mark brings an obsessive approach to optimizing every facet of the rifle system. First, he is a very sharp guy who brings a methodical and creative approach to troubleshooting issues and identifying root causes. For example, one rifle SAC built had occasional flyers. Through an exhaustive process Mark eventually found it seemed to be related to inconsistent ignition. By simply swapping the trigger, the bullets suddenly all went in the same hole. But, many gunsmiths would have stopped there – the rifle now shoots, ship it and move on! Instead, Mark bought a rail gun, rigged it up with high-speed sensors and used his electronic target system to evaluate a variety of triggers in order to understand what it was about a trigger design that caused inconsistent ignition. It wasn’t good enough to know that it worked or even have a theory as to why; He wanted to get to the bottom of it and prove it with data and a scientific process, so he could avoid that problem from ever cropping up again on a rifle with his name on it. That is a perfect example of Mark’s relentless and unconventional approach to his craft of building precision rifles. For more examples, just go to the SAC YouTube Channel and watch his videos about processes and products they’ve developed.
We shouldn’t be surprised that Mark’s analytical and deliberate approach eventually led to research on the ammo his rifles were being fed. Were there any small improvements he could make to the chambers on his rifles to improve their performance over the competition? This eventually led him to start testing bullet jump, and some of his results may seem to challenge conventional wisdom. I published all the results in a series of articles you can find here: https://precisionrifleblog.com/tag/mark-gordon/
Finally, you can find instructions for a method Mark taught me on how to measure the distance to your rifle lands here: