Photo courtesy of Neal Currey.
Neal Currey likes to say adventure is in his blood.
The Utah native, former Army Ranger with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and founder of Ready Gunner — one of the coolest full-service gun shops in the country — was born into a globe-trotting family of adventurers.
Much of his success in life and business he can trace back to the strong examples set by Currey men before him.
Currey’s grandfather, Jack, started a whitewater guide service in the late 1950s with balsa wood rafts to float the San Juan River in southern Utah. When post-World War II Army surplus rubber tubes became available — the military originally used these tubes to erect mobile, inflatable bridges to ford vehicles over rivers — he sewed them to a lightweight aluminum frame and created the j-rig (the “j” stands for Jack). The rafts are still widely used on big rivers, like Grand Canyon trips down the Colorado.
Currey’s father, Steve, took over the family guide business in Idaho, running clients down famous waterways like the Selway and Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Steve Currey soon branched out to international waters and became known as an international first-descent specialist, taking rafts of clients down rivers around the world. He was the first to descend the upper Yangtze River in China, Brahmaputra and Upper Ganges rivers in India, Futaleufu River in Chile, Sutlej River in India, Figueroa River in Chile, and Tsangpo River in Tibet, which was covered by National Geographic.
“My dad was the first person to run these rivers, to see them from this perspective of being on the river,” Currey said. “There’s always a little bit of chaos that happens on these first descents. You don’t know what to expect. You don’t know which way the rapid is going to maneuver the boat.”
Teenage Neal was often with him on these epic first-time whitewater adventures.
“Before I joined the military at 24, I literally stepped foot on every continent,” he said. “From the age of 14, I was rowing baggage boats.”
On a first descent on the Caura River in Venezuela, the Curreys arrived in-country with paying clients and supplies for an eight-day float. But drought conditions brought the fast water to a standstill. By day four with no current to push them along and still deep in the Amazon rainforest, they ran out of food and banked the boat at a riverside indigenous village.
“It was straight out of National Geographic,” he remembered. “Loincloths, topless women, huge spiders, anacondas. It was crazy.”
The villagers fed them insects and piranhas speared from the river. By day 12, they finally made radio communication with civilization, and after hacking a landing strip out of the jungle with machetes, a plane arrived to rescue the group. The little prop plane could barely fit the Curreys and their clients. They left behind thousands of dollars in rafts and gear. On takeoff, the plane’s tires “were literally skimming the treetops.”
In 2004, at 24 years old, Currey had worked for the family business for almost 10 years and started plotting his next adventure. “This was post-Sept. 11. That hit me hard, as I’m sure it hit most Americans hard, and I wanted to go do something. It pissed me off. I wanted to do something to support my country,” he said.
He signed up for the Army on an Option 40 contract, which fast-tracks recruits into the 75th Ranger Regiment. After successfully making it into 2nd Ranger Battalion, he immediately deployed overseas and then came home to attend Ranger School. At the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Pre-Ranger Course, a three-week course that prepares soldiers for Ranger School, Currey was preparing for the day and night land navigation course. It’s a necessary hurdle everyone who wants to go to Ranger School must overcome.
“I’m getting ready, and the cadre comes into my patrol base and was like, ‘Currey, we got something to tell you,'” he said. “I knew that wasn’t good. ‘Your little brother passed away.’”
They gave Currey the option of going home right away for the funeral and returning to start the process over again, or knocking out the final land navigation segment in the next 24 to 36 hours, after which he could take a two-day break to return home, then continue down the pipeline and to his unit. He chose the second option, “and I fucking ran, running my heart out, crying a good bit of the time, just checking these points off the list,” he said. “I ran the whole thing.”
After returning to 2nd Ranger Battalion with his black-and-gold tab, he was set to deploy again, this time to Afghanistan. Then tragedy struck again; it was his father. While planning an expedition to the North Pole, Steve Currey was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
“From diagnosis to the funeral it was 40 days,” Currey said. He flew back to Utah while his team prepped for Afghanistan. With the help of family and close friends, he buried his dad and packed up his dad’s house in two days’ time. The following morning, he was on a plane to Central Asia.
“All I ever wanted to do was make my dad proud, make my family proud,” Currey said. “He was there when I graduated Ranger School, and I saw how proud he was. I’m on the other side of that now. I’m a father of six. We just had our sixth about five months ago. There’s nothing in this life I love more than my kids, and I just want to make them proud, provide a good life for them. I don’t care to be Instagram famous or be super fucking fast from the holster — though I am — or anything like that, I want to be a good businessman. I want to be a good dad.”
On his multiple deployments with the 75th Ranger Regiment to Iraq and Afghanistan, Currey conducted direct action raids as part of a JSOC Task Force, working with a variety of other units to capture high-value targets. “There was a real sense of pride in the mission,” he said. “Getting these high-level bad guys was pretty rewarding.”
After the service, Currey worked as a project manager and consultant for Specialized Reconnaissance Assault Transport Systems (SRATS), spearheading the development of a Humvee replacement vehicle designed for special operations units in Afghanistan. He then moved on to contracting work overseas with Triple Canopy as a member of the Counter Assault Team. Sitting in a hooch in the Middle East, playing Call of Duty as he remembers it, he decided to get a federal firearms license for life after war. With an FFL, he figured he could open a gun shop back home in Utah.
“Neal was one of the first former Special Forces-type dudes I met when I moved to Utah,” said Evan Hafer, CEO of Black Rifle Coffee Company. “I’ve known him since before Black Rifle Coffee, when life was lean, when I was selling guns and all my tactical gear — everything that wasn’t nailed down, really — to get Black Rifle off the ground.”
Both retired operators, both pro-Second Amendment, later they found out both were also former whitewater guides. They hit it off.
“Neal is on the list with Mat Best, Jarred Taylor, and my dad as the people I call the most,” Hafer said. “He’s just a really ethical guy in business, as a family man. They say to never go into business with your friends. I say to that, never go into business with people you can’t be friends with.”
In less than nine years, Currey built Ready Gunner from his basement — a dank 1,000-square-foot shop — to a modern, 20,000-square-foot facility with multiple shooting lanes and a monthly roster of two dozen classes. It made perfect sense that one of BRCC’s first coffee bars would be set up at Ready Gunner.
Thanks to the internet, Ready Gunner clientele come from all across the United States and around the world. Currey and his wife, Casey — aka @buff_cookie — were early adopters of Instagram. As Facebook shut out firearm businesses, before Facebook bought Instagram, the Curreys spun up Ready Gunner’s presence on IG. Soon they acquired the largest firearm pages on the ’gram, like @firearms and @gunfreaks. He paid $250 to a small artist for the handle @neal, which his wife at the time thought was silly.
“Casey made fun of me forever about that,” he said, laughing. “Now she’s like, ‘Yeah, it was probably worth it.’” They’ve worked up a second business, 2A Media, which helps firearm companies gain exposure on social media.
For Currey, none of this journey, living from one adventure to the next, was ever about fame or money but providing a good life for his kids, the same way his dad and granddad did for him.
“We’re not here forever,” he said. “I learned that early. I just want my kids to look back and be proud of their dad.”
Shea is the senior editor at Free Range American, plus an itinerant freelancer for USA Today and Men’s Journal, among others. In July 2021, Gun Digest published his first book, Rimfire Revolution: A Complete Guide to Modern .22 Rifles. He holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University. He once tanned a deer hide in an apartment bathroom. His wife was not pleased.
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