By Matt de Simone
Scott and Rebecca Pickelsimer found themselves, like many, laid off during the 2020 pandemic and trying to figure out what’s next. Fortunately for the couple, a hobby manifested itself into a full-blown business of “putting high quality gear into people’s hands for an affordable price.”
The Pickelsimers are the owners of Ten21 Tactical, a business that provides its customers with custom tactical equipment for shooting, lifestyle, and pets. Some of the specific items include: air soft equipment, slings, sling mounting, mag pouches, shotgun cards, chest carriers, pouches, holsters, plate carrier, combo kits, shooting support bags, first aid, miscellaneous shooting equipment, and dog gear.
Scott and Rebecca currently live in Botetourt County. He and his wife first met while they were attending middle school in Franklin County where they would spend time eating lunch and getting to know one another as the school years went on. Rebecca said that Scott was the first boy she ever danced with.
As the years went by, Scott spent four years as a U.S. Marine. He then returned home working various jobs. Meanwhile, Rebecca had a life of her own before the two reconnected years later via Facebook. One thing led to another and they were married on October 21, 2009 (“Ten21”).
Scott and Rebecca worked at the same company for a few years. In the midst of that period of time, Scott began his sewing hobby. Then, both were laid off from their jobs in the spring of 2020 and pivoted toward manufacturing tactical gear after Rebecca introduced Scott to her sewing machine a short time prior to losing their jobs.
Scott explained the beginnings of his time learning about the needle and thread.
“When I originally started [sewing], I bought a long-range rifle and thought it would be good to have some bags to shoot off of,” Scott recalled during a recent interview with the couple. “I looked online and saw what the prices were on some of the equipment and said, ‘I can’t afford that.’ I knew my wife had a sewing machine upstairs that I had given her for Christmas several years ago. I thought, I’m a pretty handy guy. If I can get her to show me how to thread it, I’ll figure something out.”
Scott’s first project, a barricade shooting stability bag, “came out a little wonky.” Then, on the next attempt, it “looked great.” Scott enjoyed the process, realized he had a knack for it, and continued making gear. As a person who always needs to be doing something, Scott’s hobby transitioned easily into a successful business.
After a little research and development, they started an Etsy shop and traveling to gun shows out of the sheer joy of doing it.
“We were both laid off in May of 2020 and just kind of had an epiphany one day,” Rebecca explained. “We were sitting there talking about what we were going to do and try to get away from being on someone else’s schedule because we had no work-life balance. We just had to make a change. I committed at that point in time to helping him all I could.”
Soon after Scott and Rebecca started up their business, they saw a return.
“It was within six months,” Rebecca said of their results. “People started buying and we were like, okay, let’s add some more products and see what happens.”
Ten21 sells products all over the world from Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland, Denmark, and Ukraine. They source almost all of their materials from inside of the United States. The only item they utilize not made in the U.S. is “cobra buckles” used on their dog collars, which they get from Austria.
Scott and Rebecca noted that they believe the quality of their products is second to none.
“We’ve built this company on our quality,” Rebecca said. “I would stand that our quality up to any of the national brands.”
“All day; every day,” Scott concurred.
“Our gear is made well enough for real world use but affordable enough to use for play,” Rebecca added.
Some of Ten21’s popular items include a rifle sling that’s a “2 to 1” conversion sling serving many uses and is extremely user-friendly. Another item of note is their “insta-ring” Scott developed which adds an extra point of contact for a weapon that doesn’t have that point of contact on the back of the rifle.
They also offer a “junk drawer”—a tripod hammock for storage and spotting. The hammock hangs two-feet below the top of the tripod which allows users to store their wind meters and various other items. Scott explained that most tripod hammocks consist of a flat piece of fabric on each end of the tripod. The junk drawer has a four-inch-tall wall and an area in the center where weight can be added for stability. When a user folds up the tripod, the pockets and storage allows the user to carry everything with them to their next destination.
Currently, Ten21 is “paying the bills” for Scott and Rebecca. Their hope is to move out of their home and open an off-site location with a staff that would potentially work in the sewing department while Scott sticks to growing the business further and designing/experimenting with new equipment.
To learn more about Ten21 Tactical and their products, visit their website at ten21tactical.com and follow their Instagram page, “ten21_tactical.”