Thomas E. Kivlehan, Jr is the Master Gunsmith for Fortress Firearms Manufacturing, LLC. He entered the U.S. Marine Corps in March 1977. Joined as an infantry man (MOS 0311) and later transferred as an Armorer (civilian equivalent - gunsmith MOS 2111). Throughout his career he completed many college courses and workshops in the gunsmithing, machining and mechanical engineering departments. In 1992 he entered the Precision Weapons Shop in Quantico, Virginia, (back then it was actually called Rifle, Team and Equipment Shop (RT&E)) . This shop is the only military shop in the U.S. Military that is self sufficient for gunsmithing , machining , welding and shooting. This is also where the USMC Sniper School and USMC Rifle and Pistol Teams are located and all the firearms for these sections are built, rebuilt, inspected and modified.
In 1994, Tom Kivlehan transferred to Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation of weapon systems for the U.S. Marine Corps. This was the first time a Precision Weapons Repairman (MOS 2112) was in this position. He was the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of all weapons systems for past, present and future for the United States Marine Corps. He spent three years traveling to all the major manufacturers collecting information , testing new products and attending all gunsmithing classes.
He has certifications from the following companies: Heckler & Koch, Sig Arms, Glock, Colt, Smith & Wesson, Remington, Ithaca, Israel Military Industries (IMI).
Tom Kivlehan also attended Montgomery Community College for Gunsmithing courses in North Carolina and the Trinidad School of Gunsmithing in Trinidad, Colorado. He was responsible for implementing and testing the following weapon systems for the U.S. marines : M249 (FN) Squad Automatic Weapons (SAW), M240G (FN) 7.62mm Machine gun, M4 Carbine, MEUSOC 45 (M1911 Pistol), M82Al , 50 cal. Barrett rifle, M16A4 (EIR) Enhanced Infantry Rifle, M9 Beretta 9mm pistol , Ml4 (DMR) Designated Marksman Rifle, M40A3 Sniper Rifle, MP5 Sub Machine Gun, as well as others that are still classified.
During his final years his work included involvement with Ammunition Technicians on the various types of ammo used in the Marines. Lastly was the optics and night vision and mounting methods used on or with the weapon systems?
After retiring in January 1997, Tom Kivlehan was contracted by Heckler & Koch to work as a gunsmith, assisting with the FBI 10mm MP5 contract.
In 1998, he was contracted by Armalite as the Law Enforcement Armorer instructor, for classes on Armalite AR15 and AR10 rifles.
In 1998-1999, he was contracted by Kimber as a consultant for their new rifles: the K22, 22LR Bolt Action Rifle, and M84 center fire bolt-action rifle and after building the first 500 K22 rifles and first 10 M84 rifles, Tom set up and trained the production section for Kimber.
In 2001-2002 FNH USA contracted Tom to Design, Fabricate and test the FN SPR (Special Police Rifle) and at that time 2001-2002 traveled back and forth to US Repeating Arms in Hartford, CT and while at Winchester (U.S. Repeating Arm , Co) he assembled the production line for the Model 70 PRE 64 rifle into what is now the FN SPR.
In 2002-2003 worked for USMC Systems Command as a Research Analyst (Subject Matter Expert SME) Scout Sniper Systems Prioritization Study. Tom interviewed Marine Snipers and Armorers around the world for input into the new M40A3 Sniper Rifle and all related equipment.
In 2003-2005 worked at Heckler & Koch Defense, Inc as Military sales for USMC and USAF, Program Manager for HK416, HK417 and GMG 40mm Grenade Machine Gun. Tom had direct impact on these firearms and worked directly with customers and Engineers from Germany and the US.
In 2006-2007 at LWRC he was the Operations Manager for Manufacturing and Production of the piston operated and direct impingement rifles.
In 2012-2013 at Blackheart International was the Master Gunsmith and Operations Manager for Manufacturing and Production and Research and Development of new products. Tom built hundreds of firearms and completed gunsmithing on customer firearms, while also setting up and instructing on the CNC machine.
In 1994 Tom opened Guntek, Inc and in 1999 Guntek, LLC as a Custom Gun Shop which repaired and Customized many types of firearms. In between all the other jobs and duties, Tom was responsible for building an average of 400 guns per month, which also included general gunsmithing and classes.
In 2010, Tom started Fortress Firearms Manufacturing with the intent of building new improved firearms, parts, accessories and gunsmithing to USMC standards for all serious firearm enthusiasts. In 2014, Tom officially opened FFM and is in production and moving forward.