You cannot forge the operator. Breaking down a door, talking about communications, even the way a gun hangs from a sling — if done wrong — will max out the bullshit meter built into members and veterans of our armed forces .
Luckily we have Jim Staley and his company TacGas who are dedicated to creating tactical imagery and videos that are 100% bullshit free.
Staley, a Recon Marine, scout sniper and former agency contractor, is the founder and CEO of TacGas, a media production company serving the tactical and entertainment industries.
TacGas has made a name for itself by producing and capturing hyper-realistic and highly accurate military simulations for its clients’ marketing and training needs.
The company’s customer list includes defense industry giants like Raytheon, General Dynamics and L3Harris, as well as optics, weapons and tactics companies like Vortex, SIG Sauer and Polaris. Oh, and a small video game empire you may have heard of: Call of Duty.
The Forward Observer spoke to Staley and peered under the hood of the media powerhouse. We’ve talked about the company’s almost accidental origins, why the Uzi is still the world’s most advanced weapon in Hollywood, and why a family business is better than a corporation.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
TFO: You were already a successful entrepreneur before you founded TacGas, yes?
JS: Yes, I started a business during my MBA program. I did some online gear sales for the downrange guys called Deliberate Dynamics and it started to grow. I have worked abroad [as a GRS contractor]and I couldn’t really handle it as a person and on the job, so I called to come back to the States and do this business full time.
It was also around this time that I started a training company in Utah. We had a range, and I taught a lot of long-range stuff.
TFO: You had said in a Black Rifle Coffee podcast (episode 86) that you got into the tactical media game almost by accident.
JS: At some point a production company used the range for a video and photo shoot. They tried to make a push into tactical space. I was surprised at how little planning they put into the content they wanted to record. It wasn’t very well done.
We decided to get into this photography thing and it kind of took off from there. [TacGas is] based on authentic tactical content which some people have tried. But we started pretty early on and slowly started getting more and more customers.
TFO: Do you bring that kind of authenticity to Call of Duty?
JS: It’s kind of the most important thing we’re known for. The Call of Duty team gives us conceptual blueprints for various collaborators and we hire the right people. We do photo shoots for them and help build the kits and then send people to LA to have them scanned for the game – like their movements, gestures and facial expressions.
We also built a brand new building in Salt Lake that we just moved into last year with a caged armory that will be the new loading screen for the next Call of Duty. So this is going to be pretty cool.
TFO: Do you see TacGas getting more into the entertainment side, like movies or shows?
JS: I just think we could bring what we’re doing, that level of authenticity, that grittiness, to entertainment and film. I think it would be well received. I don’t think it’s more expensive than they already do. We have already done a lot of props and technical advice. We just did an Apple TV show in New Mexico, and we did this SEAL show called SEAL six that was on the history channel up in canada.
The challenge is [production houses] I only have a few guys who are from the Vietnam era incumbents who have been running props and consulting a lot of these shows for so long. They’re the gatekeepers, and they don’t want young blood in there.
So it’s like the most advanced weapon on the planet is an Uzi, because the Uzi is what they have on the shelf. If we can get our foot in the door and not care whose shirt we wear, we could bring a level of authenticity that would change the way things are done.
TFO: You have to have a damn good team to do the work you do.
JS: Like most veteran companies, we’ve tried to be fairly loyal to our people. We have 21 full-time employees and a number of contractors – 75% to 80% are veterans. We run a family business to a degree where we don’t do a lot of corporate stuff.
Our company motto is “tail always on the table”. If you have a problem, you must own it. We tell each other what’s going on and then we move on. This is aggressive for some people, but overall it was pretty good for keeping morale very high. We have a damn good team.
TFO: What about the talent you use in your photo and video work? Do you also bet on a lot of veterans for this?
JS: We’re bringing out a lot of people who don’t have to wear a gun belt to work anymore. You can dress up, hang out with the boys, and essentially complete a mission. A lot of them come up to me and say, ‘You don’t know how much this helps me to take a break and spend time and call it work.’ They say, ‘I would do that for a damn free man. It was cool to help them get out there and do something bigger than their day jobs.
To learn more about TacGas and see his work, visit tacgas.com.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 print edition of The Forward Observera special release of coffee or die magazine, as “TacGas.”
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