We are all in this together. In an effort to report on the state of different facets of the military collectibles market, Military Trader strives to discover and share the opinions of the hobby’s leading dealers and collectors. This month, we had the privilege to talk with Mark, the owner of World War Supply in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
As a lifelong dealer with a current Federal Firearms License, Mark’s expertise includes military, antique, and collectible firearms and accessories. World War Supply has sold thousands of items to collectors, reenactors, museums, filmmakers, and many people just looking to complete their rifle or pistol collections. Mark has the unique perspective of having served 4 years in a forward deployed Airborne unit, providing him with firsthand experience with many of the items he sells. We are proud to offer you Mark’s answers to our 10 Questions on the Firearms Accessories Side of the Hobby.
Military Trader: Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with us. Let’s begin by asking, “How did you get started in the hobby and how did that lead to the formation of World War Supply?”
Mark: I have always had an interest in military arms and accessories which really peaked after serving in the 82nd Airborne for 4 years. I was lucky enough to be forward deployed in Europe and was able to visit many of the battlefields and historical sites during my time. Jumping into Normandy for the Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion was really the turning point for me. It solidified my interest in military history.
Military Trader: You carry many items not seen anywhere else. How do you develop products?
Mark: We visit as many shows, collectors, and museums as we can to get ideas for product development. We travel all over the world to places like China, Hong Kong, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, and Serbia to get ideas, while never missing a public or private museum and trying to find military shows. We look for unique and collectable items we think our customers would want.
The hard part is getting an original item and sending it to the factory to be disassembled for a pattern. I always have separation anxiety during this stage of product development!
Military Trader: World War Supply offers an interesting mix of original relics, reproductions, and modern items. How would you characterize a “typical” customer?
Mark: We really have three categories of customers, the first being the person who wants to accessorise their recent military firearms purchase with ammunition pouches, sling, dust cover, etc. The second are museums looking to complete their latest display. The third group are the film or television prop houses that need web gear, helmets, or other items for an upcoming film or TV series.
Military Trader: Some of the products on your web site that I think may be of interest to a lot of our readers are the Premium Drum dyed leather products. Tell us about this line of products.
Mark: We always strive to have a product that is as good or better than the original. We work closely with a saddlemaker who uses a premium grade drum-dyed saddle leather for many of our holsters, slings, belts etc. The products are definitely a step above anything else that is available. We make sure that our customers are satisfied with our products.
Military Trader: Part of your passion seems to be sharing information. Tell us about the War Supply’s Youtube channel and the types of instructional videos that are available.
Mark: We want our website to be more than just selling quality products. We want it to be a one stop source for information about the hobby, as well.
We provide videos of many of the weapons being used at the range, instructions on how to disassemble them and helpful hints for installation of items like the M1 carbine buttstock pouches and various slings.
We are working on adding content on Historical places we have visited like the Chineese National WW2 Museum, Obersalzberg, Nuremberg, and Munich. Our fans need to stay tuned as we are taking these videos to the next level with 360 degree filming.
Military Trader: Your web site states, “We spend a lot of time and treasury developing and researching new products so we can bring you the best.” Tell us about the item that you have developed of which you are the most proud.
Mark: I would have to say it is our Japanese Type 97 Grenade. We always like to go the extra mile for quality. Our Type 97 is solid resin base, a brass fuse and removable pin—not just a one-piece resin model like most that are on the market. It looks exactly like the original and has been a very successful product. You can see our grenades in many of the WWII museums around the country.
Military Trader: Like all of us, you have been a collector for many years. Tell us about what you collect and why it is important to you. Does it influence your business’ direction?
Mark: I have always been partial to the weapons themselves. Our collection has most of the long arms and handguns from the advent of smokeless powder to the end of WWII from the major players of the war. Many of the accessories are nearly impossible to find. So filling that void is how the business got started.
We specialize in reproducing those hard to find accessories to complete collections. Instead of using a brittle, $300 original Japanese WWII, sling you can get one from us for $24. This enables the collector / shooter to preserve the original while providing the right aesthetic.
Military Trader: Our readers love stories about collectors’ “Favorite Finds.” Tell us about what you consider one of your favorites.
Mark: That is a difficult one. I have lots of “favorites” but I would have to say my favorite was not a find but a gift from a good friend. He served in Korea and carried a Winchester M1 carbine that found its way back with him. He gave it to me before he passed a few years ago.
Military Trader: We have all been “burned” by either fakes or buying something outside of our expertise, assuming it to be one thing, when it was something else. Tell us about a time when you felt you had been “burned,” and what you did once your realized it.
Mark: I think this scenario is likely to occur to all of us toward the beginning of the collecting career when you are young, impatient, and eager to get started. At the time, I “needed” a US-issued 1911. The opportunity presented itself before I had the chance to learn about them.
I ended up buying one that had been re-blued. And, to add salt to the wound, the weapon was not even re-blued well!
I was in too big of a hurry and should have passed when the gun came by our booth at the show. Now, I’ve learned to pass on items with which I am not familiar.
That .45 now is the one we use to test the holsters we are producing to be sure of the proper fit. So, in a way, it worked out.
Military Trader: And finally, based on your experience, in what direction do you see our hobby moving over the next ten years?
Mark: I think people will start to become more interested in the Vietnam War and begin to actively collect items from that conflict. It is an overlooked area right now, but I think with time people will become more knowledgeable and interested in the area.
We are honored to interview and report on prominent players in our hobby. You can visit Mark’s business online at www.worldwarsupply.com. You may contact him directly by writing, Worldwarsupply.com, PO Box 72, Ada, MI. 49301 or by phone, 616-682-6039.