What is FIREFORCE Ventures?
Fireforce Ventures was founded by a few guys in Canada who initially just wanted to get their hands on some Rhodesian Brushstroke camouflage. After literally years of searching, begging, pleading, and scouring the far corners of the earth for bits of raggedy fabric, they decided "why not just make our own?
It wasn't easy, when they launched in July of 2016, as the nostalgia for reproduction militaria, and old school military surplus seemed to be dying off.
Military surplus seemed to be a dying phenomenon, as armies scrapped old equipment rather than auctioning it off. Most of the mom-and-pop surplus places we knew locally began to close down, or gravitate towards different audiences.
Reproduction militaria was in short supply as well, and absurdly overpriced or lacking in availability. When it came to Rhodesian militaria in particular, questionable vendors were charging an arm and a leg for products that were sometimes never even delivered. Even though a few start-ups had made honest attempts at meeting the growing demand for Rhodesian Brushstrokes, by 2016 these ventures had gone belly up.
Even though it has been a bad omen throughout military history, we opened up both fronts as we started into our own venture. These are two big stories behind Fireforce Ventures, and why are passionate about what we do.
The story of "Brushstroke"
At a glance, Rhodesian Brushstroke seems like any other military camouflage pattern. It features a seemingly random assortment of "brushstrokes" of greens, browns and khaki, creating sweeping zigzags. The fact that it is so inconspicuous now to our modern eyes is what makes it so special. At a time when most militaries around the world had not advanced beyond solid colour patterns, a rogue African state was in the space age when it came to camouflage.
Hank, one of the original founders of Fireforce Ventures recognized this early on in discussions with the other co-founder of the Fireforce Ventures, who wishes now to remain anonymous. We'll call him, "Chad", since he's a pretty cool guy. Hank and Chad initially just wanted to get their hands on a single pair of Rhodesian Brushstroke pattern shorts, and this set them down a rabbit hole of bidding wars, amateur efforts, and fake reproductions.
Some of these early efforts resulted in some rather shoddy products, including a pair of shorts that Chad himself famously attempted to sew lovingly, but rather poorly. All we wanted a pair of shorts, and all we had were bad experiences with sketchy companies, brutal bidding wars, and an extremely undersized pair of Frankenstein shorts. We figured, the only way we were getting these shorts was to start our own damn company, and produce them ourselves.
After convincing Jorgy to fork over some cash, we started Fireforce Ventures in July of 2016. We figured, it would take us a few weeks and we'd be printing Brushstroke by the tonne. It didn't take long for us to realize, we had a lot to learn.
We finished with our first production run in December 2016, and finally got the pattern down to what we had always wanted. However, it became quite clear to us that there were significant quality issues with the fabric, the colouration, and how it actually held up in the field. What was the point of selling a "museum grade" uniform that wasn't good for use in the field?
We went back to the drawing board in 2017, bringing along Willy and Alexei onto the team. It was at this time, that we met with our current partner, and concurrently developed an outstanding, functional Battle Dress Uniform styled uniform, in a heavyweight, high quality fabric. The print itself was also spot on, having been developed from original swatches of fabric, including aftermarket patterns and the current Zimbabwean issue Brushstroke. On top of all this was 13 months of development, and literally dozens of attempts getting our now world famous short-shorts, just right.
Today, we have our Rhodesian Brushstroke patterned products as staples in the store, and a clear top seller among all our other products. The story of Brushstroke is the reason Fireforce Ventures is here today. It has also encouraged us to pursue a number of other historical reproductions that we are currently continuing to work ferociously on. We love this historical militaria, and we love getting it out to you, but this is only half of the story...
The Story of "Milsurp"
For us, walking into a military surplus store was all about the experience. You would first be hit by that distinctive smell of musk and rust, from kit of a bygone era. Cluttered and chaotic, with piles of obsolete Soviet visor caps piled beside Gulf War garments, you cautiously tiptoed around. As you settled in, you'd recognize that the apparently overpriced thrift store was more of a museum, and a treasure trove. You began to recognize the smells, of mineral oils and cosmoline. You began the recognize the patterns, and webbings you'd seen in war movies. In that moment, you would recognize, this was the real deal. This is actually what "they" used!
This is the experience that Hank, Willy, Jorgy and Alexei have discussed in length as we were developing the Rhodesian Brushstroke. We continue to reminisce about the neighbourhood milsurp store all these years in the future. Bits and pieces of the universal experience of the soldier, sailor and airman fittingly memorialized, and available for you to actual take home to cherish. There is something special about them in how they can make you nostalgic for an era before you were born, or a homeland you never knew.
We recognize that stores like these are becoming increasingly rare, and e-commerce platforms will never truly replace that experience. There was even a time as we have been told, when Lee-Enfield bayonets were sold by the barrel, and used as tent pegs. Tragically, those days probably aren't coming back. However, we aim to engage with you folks throughout various online communities, share histories of conflicts, and hopefully allow you to feel like you're in that neighbourhood surplus shop again when you're shopping with us.
It's not just dust collecting trinkets that we peddle, a lot of the kit surplused out was purposed built for something, whether it be a ruck march, or an amphibious landing.That is the philosophy behind lots of the kit we sell, including reproductions of our African Bush War kit. Good camouflage, and good equipment may be declared "obsolete" by militaries, but we often beg to differ. We pride ourselves in selling functional kit, ranging from equipment seen on the trenches of the First World War, to the wild skirmishes of Cold War Africa.
This philosophy continues to guide our unique offering of military surplus, from the United Kingdom, Germany (including the former East Germany), Russia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and many many more places around the world. Our cardinal rule when procuring the kit you see in store is as follows: "If we wouldn't use it, we won't sell it!"