Does your dad love to unwind with a smooth and sultry whiskey, bold beer, or a wonderful wine?
May he’s the adventurous type who likes to whip up his own custom spirit or take a trip to Napa. Here are some of the hottest wine, booze and spirits gifts for Father’s Day that are sure to keep dear old dad toasting throughout the year.
1. Bullet Bottle Openers
The next time dad cracks open a beer bottle with one of these, he can also celebrate the great men and women who serve this country. These bottle openers from Bullets2Bandages are made from once-fired .50 caliber brass bullets. Part of the proceeds from each sale go to help veteran charities. What to make it extra special? Engraving is also available.
Since starting the mission-driven, socially conscious company Bullets2Bandagesfive years ago, former Navy Explosive Ordnance Technicians Erik Spalding and Cole Evans have launched a barrage of munition-minded apparel and accessories, with a portion of their profits channeled into various veterancharities.
Bullet-preneurs: Our Feature with Veteran-Based Local Business Bullets2Bandages
Veteran-owned bullet accessory business Bullets2Bandages will reload you with some boombastic drinking swag.
Founded in 2011 by two former Naval Explosive Ordinance Disposal officers,Bullets2Bandanges produce ammo accessories that specialize in “taking instruments of war, and transforming them into a symbol of pride, gratitude, and healing.” Based right here in San Diego in the Grantville area, the company is most famous for their .50 caliber bullet bottle openers that can be customized with an engraved personal message. They also donate a portion of their annual profits to veteran charities. They’re real stand-up dudes.
Recently, we took a tour of the Bullets2Bandanges facility, and then we sat down for a couple drinks with co-owner and resident beer expert Eric Montgomery.
CRAFT COUNTY: Tell us a bit more about how you guys became affiliated with the craft beer community…
Eric Montgomery: Our company has been around for almost five years now. For the first two and a half years, we really focused on the military and veteran crowds. Then, as of about three years ago, we started looking at craft breweries. I think being in San Diego has a lot to do with it, because there’s so much beer, and so many breweries to pitch to. We got into Mission Brewery pretty early on, because our first office was [right near] there. So we could just walk next door, drop off our product, and come back with a couple bombers. From there…I’ve probably contacted a quarter to a third of the breweries in the United States, trying to pitch our stuff. We’re now selling to about 75 breweries in the US.
Where are some places, locally, where people can pick up the bottle openers?
Besides Mission Brewery, you can get them at Ironfire, New English, Iron Fist, and Dos Desperados, among others. If you go to places like Ironfire or Dos Desperados, it really fits their brand – the Old West, gunslinger type of thing. But then again, Mission and New English don’t have any affiliation like that. They thought they might as well sell something that’s cool, that has their logo on it. (If you’re in the business and want to link up with the Bullets crew – click here.)
Are you big into craft beer yourself?
Yeah. I’m the one who’s been pushing us into craft beer. It allows me to rationalize going to all these breweries. *Laughs* One of the benefits of my job is that I don’t have a boss man that’s going to come down on me if I have a beer at lunch.
What are some of your favorite local beers?
My favorite locally is the Modern Times seasonal Booming Rollers IPA. I like really hoppy IPAs. I’m a big fan of Knee Deep’s stuff: Simtra, Lupulin River, Breaking Bud, Hoparillo, Hoptologist. From Ironfire, I really like Judge, Jury, and Executioner, and Dead on Arrival. Both of those guys [Knee Deep and Ironfire] have been good customers of ours, and it helps that I like their beer a lot too.
What’s the craziest time you’ve had drinking San Diego beer so far?
The [Modern Times] Festival of Dankness, down by the Waterfront Park downtown. It was 90 degrees and I was in the sun, drinking IPAs for four straight hours. After that, I linked up with some of the guys from Alpine and Knee Deep, and we went to Ballast Point in Little Italy. That was hazy. Not eating anything and trying to taste all the good beers over there. That was a little rough.
I’m holding my Craft County .50 cal bottle opener right now, and it’s pretty bad ass. How do you guys turn the bullets into bottle openers?
They’re 100% made and sourced from the US. The casing has been fired, but the projectile, when it does get fired, becomes deformed. So we yank [a new] projectile out of expired ammunition, and reload them in the office with our reloading press. Then, we send them to a metal shop over in Linda Vista, which cuts the notch out [that opens the bottle.] Then, for the powder coated ones, we send them up to a powder coating shop near Miramar. And we do the engraving in our shop.
For the ones that don’t get coated, we have these refrigerator-sized tumblers. We run them through there and it shines them up. In three or four hours, they come out shiny. Then we package them and ship them out, right from our office.
So everything gets shipped right out of the office?
Yeah. We’re a small operation. We’ve got five and a half employees, and all of us do a little bit of everything. Myself and another one of the co-owners will pack envelopes and print shipping labels sometimes too. That’s our day!
And you guys are constantly introducing new products…
Yeah. The groomsman market has been our biggest single area of growth in the past year or so. We have what we call a Survival Kit. It’s an ammo can that has two steel pint glasses, a flask, and a bottle opener. We customize every piece of it, and we’ll put the name, date, the groomsman’s name, and whatever note they want on it.
That’s pretty cool…
Yeah. It’s definitely better than giving a groomsman matching ties or something.
When Eric Spalding and Cole Evans returned from their Naval military service as Explosive Ordinance Device specialists in 2010, the two say they had no idea where they’d go next. Sitting around in Cole’s apartment one day, the two say their inspiration came when a decommissioned bullet fell out of Cole’s bullet-proof vest, and onto the coffee table. Evans took a photo, posted it to Facebook—and the rest is history.
The two launched an accessories line called Bullets2Bandages, consisting of polished bullets hanging on ball chains similar to dog tags, bullet cufflinks, dog collars made of leather and studded with bullets, .50 caliber money clips, women’s tees and tanks, six shooter shaving brushes, and the hottest-seller, a .50 caliber bottle opener.
Essentially “bullet accessories” are made from brass casings from 9mm or 5.56mm ammunition, using reloaded bullet tips, sans explosives, and finally polished in the finishing process.
Since the beginning of the company’s launch, Evans and Spalding have partnered with the Travis Manion Foundation—donating between 15% -20% of sales toward helping the non-profit. It’s a foundation close to hearts of both men, but Spalding’s particularly. Manion was his classmate and best friend at the Naval Academy, and was killed by enemy sniper fire while fighting in Iraq.
As Bullets2Bandages has grown, so have their partnerships. Today they also partner with the Connected Warrior Foundation, Operation Ward 57, Red Circle Foundation, Marsoc Foundation, and Wounded Wear.
Often compared to the guys in the film, “The Hurt Locker,” Spalding explains that the film was simply that—a film. “In reality,” Spalding says, “most bombs today are dealt with by robots.”
In an interview in with Huffington Post, Spalding says, “A third of all homeless people are veterans. Some are sleeping on the streets tonight and that just doesn't sit right with me. There are all these different challenges of changing into civilian life, and we just want to help along that process and be a leader for that in business.”
In addition to supplying the accessories and bottle openers via wholesale to the various veterans’ organizations, Bullets2Bandages also employs former military servicemen to polish, cut, and engrave the bullets, and offers an internship program to recent former military guys through the Travis Manion Foundation. “We need to help folks transition out of the military, which provides everything a soldier needs, into the private sector. We offer the training, and the rest is up to them,” Spalding says.
“Our accessories were born from the idea of turning something that can do harm, like a bullet, into a symbol of hope and healing,” Evans says.
Entrepreneur - November 29, 2012
The Season's Quirkiest Gifts Under $50
Editor's Note: We're rolling out 10 Days of Indie Merchant Gifts, in our annual celebration of the artists, craftspeople, designers and other independent merchants who make one-of-a-kind products. See gifts in the categories of pets, jewelry and kids.
Now here's something entrepreneurs do quite well: They come up with the darndest things we'd certainly never think of.
This year, when we asked for submissions in the "quirky/unusual" category for this year's Indie Merchant Holiday Gift Guide, we got products made from bullets, airplane parts, crystal balls -- you name it. Where do people come up with this stuff?
Actually, you told us. We've included the stories behind these intriguing products in our slideshow of our top picks. All items cost less than $50, and are sure to lead to some interesting conversations if found in one's stocking.
Erik Spalding of San Diego and his business partner, Cole Evans, spent the better part of their 20s as Naval explosive ordinance disposal officers, doing their part to rid the world of unexploded bombs and other devices. When their commitment to the U.S. Navy ended in 2010, "the challenge that entrepreneurship offered was very alluring," Spalding says. They began making necklaces, belts, pens and other items out of bullets -- eventually creating this .50 Caliber Bullet Bottle Opener. It's now their most popular seller, and a portion of proceeds supports veterans' organizations.
Editors' comment: This is just plain super-cool and would make a great stocking stuffer for hard-to-buy guys. We also like that it's made in the U.S. and the company supports veterans' charities. Like we say, super-cool.
NBC News - August 3, 2012
On a mission: Jogging across the US in name of veterans
Albie Masland is running from L.A. to Washington, D.C.
He had never run in a marathon before. He had never even completed a 5K. But it was always in the back of Albie Masland’s mind to run across the country.
Disenchanted with law school and driven by a hunger to thank America’s veterans, the 28-year-old Pennsylvania native began the 2,900-mile journey across the United States with a mission. The run is called “Operation Amerithon,” which Masland launched along with Bullets2Bandages, an accessories and apparel maker. Together, they’ve raised more than $28,500 for the Travis Manion Foundation, which helps veterans and the families of fallen service members.
Last October, Masland found himself at a transition point.
“I found myself thinking about the news of the time,” he said, referring to American troops returning home from overseas. “I started thinking (about) the transition from combat to civilian life.”
While not a veteran himself, Masland wanted to “channel all this energy spent running, to have a positive impact for others.” Which is why he began the long trek on March 17, from just south of Los Angeles in Dana Point, Calif. His run is slated to end in Washington, D.C., on August 18.
“I have a lot of respect for the people that serve and are courageous in battle. I can’t imagine,” he said.
That’s something that hits close to home for Bullets2Bandages co-founders Erik Spalding and Cole Evans, who both served as Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal officers. The two also graduated the Naval Academy in 2004, at the same time as Manion — who was killed in 2007 while serving for the Marines in Iraq.
Coming out of the military, Spalding found it only natural to merge his entrepreneurial interests with a public service role, and Bullets2Bandages was born. This San Diego-based company takes once-fired bullets and transforms them into jewelry. It's a sort of socially-charged fashion statement, where proceeds are raised for veteran organizations. The company is supporting Masland’s run along the way by getting the word out.
At the end of the day, Spalding said, helping veterans reaccalimate to society is “not to take pity on them,” but rather “to bring to light that we’ve lived in a different world.”
“It’s not that people are looking for a handout,” Spalding said. “People want to go back and get jobs, get over being disabled.”
Cross-country on foot Currently, Masland is near Irwin, Pa., and has already tallied more than 2,630 miles. His travel companions -- sister Hilary Masland and friend Alex Hyman -- are along for the journey in a car, meeting Masland every four miles on the road to give him water and food.
With record-breaking heat across much of the country this summer, they had to plan around the elements.
Around two or three in the afternoon, “it felt like the air had been marinating you,” Masland said, adding that he’d sometimes go through three shirts a day. To beat the temperatures, he started running at five in the morning.
At 26 miles a day, it’s no easy feat. But despite being “sore as hell,” he keeps it all in perspective through Manion’s story.
“When I’m feeling weak, I try to channel some energy from him,” he said.
He hopes this cross-country run raises awareness of veterans' issues, and he stays motivated by that larger goal.
“I think if I was just running across the country for me, I would probably still be in Illinois,” he said.
Along the way, the trio have tried to stop and interact with veterans. Masland says the reaction to what he’s doing is a surprised “wow” at first, but then always followed by appreciation and a thank you.
Masland is only about eight days away from his hometown of Carlisle, Pa., before he tackles the final 112-mile stretch to Washington D.C. A small celebration is being planned outside Arlington National Cemetery for the August 18 finale.
Bullets2Bandages was started by two former bomb techs who turned demilitarized arsenals into “bullet jewelry.”
Two former bomb techs in California have started a jewelry line that is packing some serious fashion heat.
Cole Evans and Erik Spalding are turning ammo into accessories in a fashion line called Bullets2Bandages, which is also helping the families of fallen soldiers.
The two former Naval Academy grads, who both served as bomb technicians and platoon captains in the Middle East, said they came up with the idea after their Naval stint ended last year. They wanted to become entrepreneurs, but didn’t want a stuffy white-collar job.
“We wanted freedom and we wanted creativity,” said Spalding, whose grandfather was Puerto Rican. “We knew if we sat in an office somewhere in corporate America we’d blow our brains out.”
So the two somehow stumbled onto an industry with few men, and even fewer military vets: fashion jewelry. Their idea was to turn demilitarized bullets into “bullet jewelry.”
“We came up with the idea when Cole was cleaning out his armored vest and a bullet fell out,” Spalding said. “It landed on the coffee table next to my dog tag. I took a picture of it… It struck us both. We knew we were on to something.”
In June, the two started selling to friends and family throughFacebook. Now, four months later, growing mostly through word-of-mouth, the San-Diego-based venture fill several orders per day to customers across the world, including Finland, Netherlands and Mumbai.
The bracelets, sold online at Bullets2Bandages.org, sell for $49 and are made with M27 machine gun linage and 9mm pistol bullets. They jewelry, they say, is made from real demilitarized bullets (fired and ejected brass that has been cleaned, reloaded and resized.)
“The bullet bracelets are the most popular – (they are) the only one of its kind on the market,” Spaulding said.
But making money and launching a new career was not their only goal.
Evans and Spalding, who were roommates until recently, say they immediately thought about a way to use the jewelry to help veterans. About 15 percent of their proceeds are donated to the Travis Manion Foundation, a non-profit organization that donates money to survivors of fallen soldiers.
The foundation is in honor of 1st Lt. Travis Manion, Evan’s classmate and best friend at the Naval Academy who was killed by enemy sniper fire while fighting in Iraq.
“Our accessories were born from the idea of turning something that can do harm, like a bullet, into a symbol of hope and healing,” Evans says.
Many soldiers who return from combat struggle with the transition back home, But Spalding and Evans say that a lot of what they learned during their military experience, they are putting to use in their business.
“The skills we learned in the military, like discipline, time management, and a comfort with risk support our belief that we can take risks in business,” Spalding said. “We’re not afraid to fail. For us, failing in business is a hell of a lot less stressful than getting blown up.”
On November 11th, in honor of Veteran’s Day, B2B will introduce clothing into their line. It already sells hats and T-shirts in addition to the bullet jewelry. By hiring a female employee, they also hope to branch out to the women’s market.
They also want to expand their philanthropic efforts and help a variety of veterans organizations – maybe even giving customers, through social media efforts, an opportunity to choose where their proceeds will go.
“Bullets2Bandages is a way for us to give back to those who’ve selflessly risked their lives for our country,” Spalding said. “Although we no longer serve in uniform, we find it impossible to walk away from the ongoing struggles that veterans and their families are forced to endure.”