LAS VEGAS -- Last April, the firearms community was rocked when the co-founder of boutique gun maker Devil Dog Arms admitted on the company's Facebook page that he had never been a Marine Corps scout sniper, the claim from which the company took its name and snarling bulldog logo.
"I am not and was not a Marine, did not serve and do not have a DD-214 [discharge record]. I have no excuse for my actions and realize there is nothing I can say or do to make this right," Joe Lucania wrote in the post, acknowledging what is known among veterans as Stolen Valor.
The damage was catastrophic. The company's investors pulled their backing, all the employees lost their jobs, and production and delivery ceased.
But this year at SHOT Show, Devil Dog Arms is back under new management, with a "new exhibitor" sign at its booth and the support of two Marines well-known in the reconnaissance community.
On Wednesday at the show, Marine veterans Rudy Reyes and Walt Hasser -- both known for their roles as recon Marines portrayed in the book and miniseries "Generation Kill" -- shook hands, posed for photos and promised new hope for a tarnished brand.
The company's new chance comes thanks to the same investor who uncovered the evidence of Stolen Valor and shut the company down last year. He asked not to be identified due to ongoing legal processes, but told Military.com he felt a duty to what the company's original name represented.
"I have a brother who's 39 years in the Army now, so I didn't want to dump the 'Devil Dog' name, because I know it's really important to Marines. So I wanted to find the right guys to relaunch with," he said. "It's proving to be good, and we're actually getting a ton of positive feedback from people in the military."
Hasser, a firearms expert, was brought on in October on a contract basis to assist with business development and marketing. Just before SHOT Show, the company also added Reyes as a brand representative.
"I said, 'Hey, you've got one shot at this, and if you want to take advantage of that brand, you need to have complete transparency and you need to develop a veteran workforce,' " Hasser said. "And so we're hiring vets and we're bringing veteran ambassadors in, and we're partnering with veteran businesses. We're giving back to veteran organizations."
Even at the show, Hasser and Reyes were promoting the Recon and Scout Sniper Foundation, which assists veterans in need in a broad range of ways.
For the company, the road ahead will be challenging. When it shut down, some $500,000 in inventory remained -- high-quality AR rifles with custom finishes and elegant features. But in most ways, the small team is starting from scratch. On the Devil Dog Arms website, a message announces that the company is accepting applications for "senior management, gunsmiths, machinists and sales."
The production lines have yet to start churning once more. But Hasser and Reyes are optimistic about the company's future.
"You've got to make some bold moves, and you've got to knuckle down and do it, but Marines don't quit," Hasser said. "Good can come of this. Somebody stole from us; somebody stole from our community. That's not OK. We want it back."