Sam Lambert, owner of locally-based Ochoco Arms, won a $10,000 cash prize at the Bend Venture Conference last month

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF BEND VENTURE CONFERENCE - Sam Lambert gives a presentation at the Bend Venture Conference.

With his bushy beard and pleasant personality, former Prineville resident Sam Lambert could easily be mistaken for Willie Robertson of the “Duck Dynasty” reality TV show.

Both men have things in common besides appearance. They’re both leaders of their companies, both share a passion for all things hunting, and they’re both entrepreneurs with a vision for growing a business.

Robertson, CEO of Duck Commander, has improved the manufacturing and distribution of duck calls. Lambert, CEO of Prineville-based Ochoco Arms, has designed a multi-laser sighting system that turns a shotgun into a precision instrument.

As it turns out, Lambert's inspiration came to him after going ... duck hunting.

“One evening, after a day of duck hunting, I was sitting on my couch cleaning my shotgun and watching TV. I was watching a movie that had a military tactical operation in progress — guys busting into a room using single laser sights on rifles,” said Lambert. “I got to thinking, ‘How cool would it be if you had a laser system for a shotgun — but instead of one laser it showed you the pattern of where the shot would be going?' So after some research, I found out no one had designed a sight like that.”

Born and raised in Prineville, Lambert grew up around firearms and learned early about gun safety and proper handling. His father, Greg Lambert, helped Sam shoot his first gun at age four.

“I wanted to replace his natural curiosity with respect, so we went out into the forest with a six-shot 22 revolver. I explained to him the importance of firearm safety which, at age four, is hard to grasp, but it began the (educational) process. About six feet in front him, I placed a tin can and, with hearing protection on both of us, I stood behind him and helped him hold, aim, and shoot the revolver so it would be very hard to miss,” said Greg.

Having used shotguns all of his life, Sam knew that their accuracy was less precise the farther you were away from an intended target. And, as he researched their use by law enforcement, he heard clearly that the risk of collateral damage was always high using a shotgun.

As a result, many shotguns are never taken out of law enforcement vehicles.

“Law enforcement officers told me that, with the exception of using them for bean bags and other non-lethal rounds, shotguns are only good for knocking down doors,” said Lambert.

Lambert knew there had to be a way to improve the precision of shotguns. Knowing single laser sights have been designed for many other firearms, he designed a laser sighting system that would immediately tell the user where the shot spray pattern would hit.

“When you shoot a shotgun, nine 32-caliber pellets travel down range. The pattern expands through space at a rate of two inches every 10 feet. Our lasers are set to expand at the same rate. When you shoulder your shotgun and you activate our laser system, what you see is the area that is going to be hit by those nine pellets. It paints the parameters,” said Lambert.

This is important because law enforcement frequently need to make split-second decisions about firing a weapon. Lambert’s invention provides an officer with immediate knowledge about the impact zone, minimizing collateral damage should he or she fire the shotgun.

Lambert, who has worked for many years as the Area Manager with Mid Oregon Personnel, founded Ochoco Arms in 2012. He applied for and was granted his U.S. patent for the laser sighting system in June of this year.

Four shareholders and a volunteer advisory team, comprised of law enforcement and military professionals, have helped guide the development of the system and the company.

As young as the company is, Lambert has already managed to win a cash award for his entrepreneurial efforts.

Many things were still in the planning phase (engineering, manufacturing, foreign patents) when Lambert decided to enter the Concept Stage competition in this year’s Bend Venture Conference (BVC) held in October.

“Jim Coonan, Venture Capitalist Manager with Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) kept prodding us to enter the competition and now, having done it, we’re so glad we did. The real benefit of entering the BVC was the unbelievable network we’ve developed since the conference. Many engineering, manufacturing, and distribution companies have contacted us,” said Lambert.

An annual conference, the BVC has established itself as the major regional event, connecting seed and early stage companies with investment opportunities. This event draws dozens of applicants each year with 10-20 startup companies from various sectors selected to present.

The winning company in the Concept Stage competition receives a $10,000 prize.

“This is a cash prize to be used however the company sees fit, not an investment from a venture capitalist,” said Ruth Lindley, Marketing Manager with EDCO, the event management company.

Sam Lambert gave an impressive presentation at the Conference — and won the $10,000 prize. Lambert said, “The money will go toward acquiring an international patent and travel expenses to meet with U.S. military officials to discuss designs.”

The market for Ochoco Arms’ laser sighting system is large. Lambert envisions five different models with laser configurations designed to fit the needs of customers ranging from military and law enforcement to ordinary citizens.

“Our most conservative estimate is to sell 250,000 units in our first four years of operation,” said Lambert.

By the third or fourth quarter of 2014, the company plans to have units available for the military and law enforcement agencies, and by January 2015, to the general public. Distribution plans include selling to firearm retailers, online sales, and direct sales.

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