Otis Technology: Changing the Way You Clean Your Gun
By Christopher R. Bartocci
The best inventions frequently come not from the engineer sitting at his desk searching for a problem to solve but out of necessity to solve a problem at hand. This is the story of Otis Technology. On a cold winter day, 16-year old Doreen Garrett and her father were deer hunting in upstate New York. She was carrying her grandfather’s Winchester 94 rifle when she hooked her boot on a submerged root and fell forward. The muzzle of her rifle went right into the cold mud plugging the muzzle. After shaking the rifle and trying to unclog the barrel with a stick, bad came to worse when the stick broke off in the muzzle. This day of hunting was over due to a barrel full of mud and no way to clean it out. On the long and cold walk back to the cabin, Doreen reflected on what had just happened, in particular how it would never happen again.
Coming from a long line of hunters, Doreen had observed her family cleaning their guns all her life but until now paid little attention. She knew in order to solve the problem of cleaning in the field the kit had to be portable. Carrying around a standard cleaning kit was not practical because they are so large, not to mention using the rod would have pushed all that mud right down the bore and into the action. After much research, testing and working with many people Doreen came up with the solution to the problem she encountered that cold day. It was called “The Whole Kit and Caboodle.
This was a rather unique system compared to the norm. Instead of using a traditional steel or aluminum cleaning rod and pushing debris back into the action of the gun, The Whole Kit and Caboodle used a cable. The cable was inserted through the chamber and was pulled from breech to muzzle. This drew all of the fouling and dirt out of the muzzle, the same direction as the projectile rather than drawing it back into the action. The entire kit could be held in the palm of one’s hand and easily put into a pocket on your way out to the field. Doreen made kits for relatives until the word got out. Wanting to grow the business, Doreen attended her first SHOT Show where many knowledgeable people liked the concept and offered suggestions on packaging and most importantly combination kits. They wanted kits that would clean many different types of guns. Since the first Whole Kit and Caboodle, Otis Technology makes the highest quality cleaning kits in the industry, from .17 caliber to 40mm.
In 1985, Otis Technology was created on the outskirts of the Adirondack Mountains in Boonville, New York. With business growing the company moved to its current Laura Street property in neighboring Lyons Falls. Otis Technology is a family owned, woman run and operated business. As commercial and military sales began to climb at astonishing rates, in 2005 Otis Technology built a state-of-the-art 80,000 square foot manufacturing facility. This facility is second to none in the industry. It has a complete model shop and CNC production. All of the slotted tips, brushes, picks, cables and so forth are made in-house at the manufacturing facility. Otis Cleaning Systems are 100% made in the USA. This not only insures quality but keeps costs down for the end user. Inventory is housed in an automated distribution center insuring organization and efficiency. When an order is placed, the operator plugs the part numbers into the system and the robot retrieves the bins containing that product and modifies the inventory list so it is always known what product is on hand. Robots also deliver parts to various work stations and storage units throughout the factory. Otis Technology is ITAR registered and AS9100/ISO9001 certified.
When Otis Technology first opened, the only employees were Doreen and family. The company, around the 2005 time frame, employed 150 associates at its peak of production. With the growth of the company and especially growth in military sales, Otis Technology was in need of a more focused and dedicated research and development group. In May of 2010, Otis Technology opened up their research and engineering center in Phoenix, New York near Syracuse. This location was more optimal for getting the qualified engineers and development personnel closer to a major city. This facility is dedicated to new product development and is at the heart of the solutions based concept which is Otis Technology. Customers present their weapons maintenance needs to Otis and the solution is found at the R&D facility. This facility has also allowed the company to branch outside the cleaning realm. In 2011, Otis Technology designed and submitted the FRAK (Forward Rail Assembly Kit), which is a free floating handguard designed to replace the KAC RAS currently installed on M16A4 and M4 rifles. The Otis R&D team was able to get this ready within 6 months for submittal for testing. The Otis FRAK fared well in the competition but did not win the contract. This product showed the industry that they are a force to be reckoned with in many other areas than just cleaning supplies. Otis Technology holds 17 registered patents for weapons maintenance and has 17 patents currently pending.
As the company began, commercial customers were in mind: hunters and target shooters. The original The Whole Kit & Caboodle was first sold to two wholesale distributors at the SHOT Show in 1985, soon to be followed by sales to LL Bean in Freeport Maine.
Jerry Williams, Doreen’s father, first presented Otis cleaning gear to the U.S. military in the very early 1990s. The culture of the U.S. military is a difficult one to change and this took nearly a decade of persistence and product innovations before being awarded their first DoD contract (Army). Otis kits did find their way into the military by soldiers purchasing them on their own and using them on duty. As the merits of the Breech-to-Muzzle cleaning system became known, there was interest developing in the military channels. This was not an easy market to get into, particularly for Otis. Forever, the military had used its traditional steel cleaning rods. The military manuals always showed breech to muzzle cleaning. In U.S. weapon technical manuals, they showed removing the slotted tip, pushing the rod through the muzzle and reattaching the slotted tip to the rod inside the receiver and then pulling the patch through. The Otis system allowed the cable to be fed into the chamber and down the bore and the patch then is pulled through the barrel. The cable eliminated the long and cumbersome rod. The patch itself was unique. Unlike traditional patches, the Otis patch could be used up to 6 times by flipping the patch and going through each of the three slots on each side. Tradition dies hard in the U.S. military; the history of the Ordnance Corps documents that time after time. Otis was able to break that cycle by changing the doctrine of how U.S. soldiers clean their weapons. The quality of the Otis kit is also seen in the lifetime warranty of the non consumable components (cables, scrapers, picks and slotted tips). If any of these parts become damaged or broken, Otis will replace them. In order to offer this type of warranty you have to be highly confident on the high quality of your product. The first kit sold to the U.S. Government was then MFG-224, which is the buttstock cleaning kit. This kit fits inside of the stock of the fixed stock of the M16A1/M16A2/M16A3 and M16A4 rifles. It contains the cable, patches, bore brush, chamber brush, slotted tip, obstruction remover, all purpose brush, T-Handle, 3-pipecleaners and a bottle of CLP. This was introduced (supplied) in the late 1990s to early 2000s. The next kit to be purchased by the U.S. DoD was the UCK or Universal Cleaning Kit (NSN# 1005-01-560-0131). This kit is designed to clean 9mm, 5.56mm, 7.62mm and .50 cal small arms. This black case came with a Gerber Multi-Tool, Tool Set, bore brushes (5.56mm, 9mm, 7.62mm, 45 & 50 cal), lens cleaning gear, cables (rifle & pistol length) , Slotted tips (5.56mm and all others), all purpose brush, obstruction removers (5.56mm, 7.62mm and 50 cal), scraper tools, M16/M4 chamber brush and patches (2 and 3 inch). This kit was later replaced by the IWCK or Improved Weapons Cleaning Kit (NSN# 1005-01-562-7393) in 2008. The kit was updated to reflect lessons learned to optimize the use at the platoon and squad level. The main changes were the change to a different Gerber Multi-Tool and the elimination of the Gerber Tool Kit. The .50 cal. tools were removed due to the squad and platoon level did not have .50 cal. The insert holding the attachments was changed to an improved molded plastic insert compared to the foam insert originally put in the UCK. This was a suggestion Otis received from the field and acted upon to give the customer what they needed. It was decided that the government wanted a set of metal rods to be included. This was more for obstruction removal. There is a lens dust brush, lens cleaning solvent, muzzle cap and refillable solvent/oil bottle added. This kit would prove to be Otis’s crown jewel of their entire line. More than 170,000 of these IWCKs have been produced for the U.S. Government.
For the individual soldiers, Otis would go on to design kits for specific weapons platforms. Staying with the trademark round case, Otis introduced their 5.56mm Soft Pack (NSN# 1005-01-448-8513) in the early 2000s. Right around the 9/11 time period and the U.S. military was gearing up for war on two fronts, procurement began for this kit. The kit comes in a government specified tan case with a larger zipper. The kit has the needed tools to maintain the M16/M4 carbine (or any other 5.56mm caliber assault rifle). This kit included a 30 inch cable, 5.56mm bore brush, obstruction remover, slotted tip, specialized precision tools for complete breakdown and fine cleaning and lens cleaning gear. Similar kits were made for 9mm pistol and 7.62mm rifles/machine guns. Otis Technology has produced hundreds of thousands of these kits for the U.S. Government. Otis developed a combat shotgun cleaning kit which has a unique rubberized patch saver for complete 360° cleaning of the barrel. This is the most thorough way to clean a barrel with a patch in the industry. This technology was carried over to make a cleaning system for the 40mm grenade launcher as well. This kit featured two disks/nylon brushes that scrub the inside of the launcher tube and then a patch over the patch saver is run through thoroughly cleaning debris from the launcher barrel. There are many combination kits as well – for instance a combination 5.56mm/9mm or a 5.56mm/.45 Auto. Otis has provided the U.S. Navy with buttstock cleaning kits that fit in the back of the stock of their M16A2/M16A3 rifles. This kit has all of Otis trademark components and is a significant improvement over the standard GI cleaning kit.
The latest kit Otis is providing to the U.S. government is the I-Mod and T-Mod cleaning systems. The I-Mod system is an updated and enhanced MFG-223-2 cleaning system. The enhancements include the addition of a 5.56mm Ripcord along with the Memory-Flex cable. The Ripcord may be used for field cleaning or clearing an obstructed muzzle. Also there is the addition of a multi-tool, M16/M4 chamber brush, 5.56mm IDT brush and the addition of an M16 Solid Rod Obstruction Remover with T-Handle. It also includes a refillable oil/solvent bottle and a military grade case with MOLLE webbing. The T-Mod is an updated IWCK cleaning system. The major difference is the addition of a .45, 9mm, 7.62 and 5.56mm Ripcords. The multi tool was removed and the case was replaced with a military grade tan case with MOLLE webbing. Otis Technology was awarded in September of 2013 a $39,200,000 firm-fixed-price, non-option-eligible, non-multi-year contract to procure the new I-Mod and T-Mod system. This contract (W15QKN-13-D-0090) was a competitive acquisition via the web with four bids received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command-Picatinny Arsenal, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., is the contracting authority.
Otis also has a law enforcement line of products, which are more cost effective than the military cleaning systems. Many additional cleaning systems are included in that line such as 300 Blackout, 6.8mmRemSPC, 5.7mm amongst others. One of the finest is the MSR/AR cleaning system, which is the ultimate cleaning system for the AR-15 series weapon. The system includes a chamber brush as well as the new Mongoose brushes. There is a 5.56mm bore brush with a cotton mop on the tip. This brush is excellent for in the field cleaning. The entire AR-15 scraper set is included. The new kit includes Otis’ newest cleaning tool, the B.O.N.E. Tool. This revolutionary tool cleans the hard-to-get areas on the bolt carrier/bolt. One end of the tool is inserted into the bolt carrier and removes the hard to reach carbon in the back of the bolt carrier. The other end of the tool, the tail of the bolt is inserted and the carbon is removed from the back of the bolt. Also on the side of the middle of the tool, the firing pin is dropped through and the face of the firing pin hood is cleaned.
Otis Technology has been recognized for excellence in innovation, delivery, and manufacturing within industry and military agencies. These awards include: DLA Bronze Recognition for Excellence Award (2 times); DLA Silver Recognition for Excellence Award (4 times); DLA Gold Recognition for Excellence Award (3 times); Progressive Manufacturing Award (2 times); NDIA Small Arms Systems Ambrose Industry Award for support and commitment to U.S. Armed Forces and DoD Award for outstanding support.
Tradition is very difficult to compete with, even when the technology is better. Otis Technology continues to educate and listen to the needs of the end users in the commercial, law enforcement and military markets to make proper gear so they may complete their hunt, shift and duty with properly functioning weapons. Otis Technology has moved into other markets and continues to search for new ventures to assist their customers. Otis has been and continues to be a solutions based company serving the global market.
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