As someone who follows the industry closely, there’s simply nothing else online quite like Primary & Secondary. For researched, well-thought out information on firearms for and by professional end-users, the Primary & Secondary website, podcast and social media is a welcome respite from the ill-informed nonsense and lowest common denominator clickbait that passes for knowledge. To learn more about Primary & Secondary, we reached out to its founder, Matt Landfair.
Q: Matt, we’re huge fans of what you’ve done at Primary & Secondary. It’s been a guiding light for myself and many others as we try to navigate this sometimes uncertain landscape. Can you tell us how it began?
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: I’ve been in law enforcement for the past 20-plus years. I took a short break and came back full-time just recently. So, I’m a cop in the middle-of-nowhere. I found I can network as much as I want out here, but I’m just not going to be able to connect to the people I want to hear from.
So, what I found was if I used social media as a tool, I could connect with all those people I want to hear from and compare notes with. It’s not specific people necessarily…rather it’s the professional end-user I want to hear from.
As to the beginnings of Primary & Secondary…So, I found myself on the Lightfighter forum. That was my favorite forum…but it was slowly dying…a lot of people that I highly respected stopped participating there. I saw it happen. The content just wasn’t quite the same. And at the same time, Facebook was growing and growing…This was 2014. So, I began looking on Facebook for an outlet that was similar to what Lightfighter had been.
Q: So, what was it you were hoping to find on Facebook, exactly?
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: I went there looking simply for serious discussion…and really, AR-15s were kind of the crux of all of this because when we start talking about AR-15s, we can figure out really fast if someone knows what they are talking about.
We can talk about twist rates, gas systems, we can talk about brands even…and we can get a pretty good gauge on the person when you hear what they are talking about. Especially with their desired end results, or what their desired use for this rifle is.
Leaving the Bubble
So, I was on this quest for the “holy grail”…somewhere I could go and talk to the professional end-users. Where I am at, there are absolutely professionals here, but sadly, a lot of them are not seeking guidance or insight from outside sources. Not very many guys will go and take professional courses to improve themselves on their own dime…on their own time.
They are going to strive for only what the department provides for them. As such, there are concepts out here that have been incestual-ized…original, pure concepts have morphed into something they were never intended to be.
Q: Do you find that sort of thing happens when folks get too comfortable?
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: Yes, it’s because people are just not seeking validation of concepts or procedures or ideas. They are just stuck in this bubble. I was seeking to leave the bubble. I wanted to get new sources of information.
Prior to starting Primary & Secondary, I trained over at DARC multiple times. I trained with Pat Rogers multiple times…as well as with Pat McNamara and a bunch of other really great instructors. Sadly, no one in my immediate area would consider spending their own money or time to go do it. So, I was seeking to find people who were like-minded…who were looking to better themselves.
The Absolute Worst Ideas
But going on social media, I couldn’t find that. I would go into a gun groups and we’d talk about ARs, and they would bring up the absolute worst ideas and I’d speak up. I’d say “hey, I’m an armorer, and what you’re saying just doesn’t compute.” And I’d just get bashed. It didn’t make sense to me, so I would end up going elsewhere. I kept on doing that and finally I said “All this sucks. I’m going to do my own thing.”
So, I started my own thing. It started with one group on Facebook. I had a good, tight-knit group of friends from Lightfighter on Facebook that I made moderators. I already knew that these were good guys. These are professionals with excellent reputations that I could rely on.
And so, as time went on, Primary & Secondary grew. These professionals told their professional friends. I told my professional friends…and we grew from there. And slowly we figured out we needed to expand a bit. We explored expanding the groups…not just talking about everything in one group and have it be confusing. I thought if we expanded multiple groups, we could treat it like an old-school forum.
So Primary & Secondary ended up with “sniper” group, a “gear” group where we could talk armor, helmets and nylon stuff. We could talk about “gun” stuff in the main primary group. And at that point I thought, “well why not start a real forum along with a website?” We did that, and it just continued to grow from there.
Q: How was the feedback from followers? Was your approach accepted and welcomed? I can imagine some pushback…
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: People were very upset with the way we ran things at Primary & Secondary, but it was because we had expectations. We didn’t want random people just posting “well, I like this brand.”
I want to know WHY you like that brand. When we would ask people to explain themselves, they would get upset, unfortunately. They were so accustomed to having information fed to them and felt they could say anything without consequence. It is so foreign now to ask someone for more info…they’d get upset.
“WARNING: this group contains mostly type A personalities. If your feelings are easily hurt or you cannot backup what you post – don’t post it.”via Primary & Secondary’s rule page
Q: So, the forums were accomplishing what you intended…how did the idea for a podcast start?
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: In about 2016, one of the moderators said, “hey, why don’t we start a podcast?” To me, it just sounded like it would be a lot of fun. I enjoyed hanging out with all of the folks that we were involved with, and we were having these long conversations over Facebook Messenger already.
We thought if we could get the normal readers to get in on these conversations, it would be gold. We had old-school Chuck Pressburg discussions that just existed in Facebook Messenger. Holy crap that stuff was gold. (laughs)
So, I thought if we could do a podcast, it could just essentially be these late-night discussions of us talking about whatever. And that’s what it was. And the reason we called it “Modcast” was because it was all just Primary & Secondary moderators at that time.
Q: I’ve produced podcasts for non-firearms related topics…I know it can be a full-time job trying to manage. How did you manage all that, plus the website and social media?
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: Well, it was kind of unorganized starting off. Rarely would we have a set topic. We’d just start the recording and talk for hours. People would be in different levels of sobriety…and it was a blast.
It was difficult to track at times, but we had a wonderful time doing it. We progressed and slowly. In 2017, I started adding some structure to the podcast. Primary & Secondary Modcasts were no longer just the moderators. We had guests on regularly to talk about specific topics, while still maintaining a focus on the professional.
Good Information Trickles Down
The nice thing about focusing on the professional, that being military and law enforcement as well as contractors…is that there’s a lot of commonality. There are common tasks, a common mindset, and common concepts which trickle down to the responsible gun owner.Listen to “P&S ModCast 187 – Gun Nerds 16: The Battle Rifle” on Spreaker.
So we can talk about this cool high-speed stuff, which can also help out the guy who lives on the corner and carries a gun and who is serious about it and that wants to train and be proficient. Anyone who was serious about firearms could see some benefit.
Now sadly though, we still have a stigma because we’re strict with our rules. But the reason we’re strict is because we’re trying to look out for the end user… we want to provide the best possible information and avoid misleading people.
“This is a professional grade weapons and concept discussion group and forum. If weapons and concepts do not fit the criteria of able to be relied on in a professional capacity (life dependent) they do not fit within the scope of this group. Effective options versus cheap and unreliable options.”via Primary & Secondary’s rule page
Q: You talk to so many professionals …not to over-simplify, but if we, as an end-user, are looking to not be misled…what would your advice be?
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: I’ve been working on this with my own personal growth too, but it’s something I’ve been harping on recently: The world is not black and white, and it’s not “yes or no”. There are lot of exceptions and there is a lot of nuance in the world that unfortunately people seem to want to ignore. They want to hear “this is the best gun…this is the only gun, there’s nothing else” or “this is the best holster.” And, it’s just not always the case.
Depending on what you want to do, depending on your body size and body type, the overall mission…those answers are going to vary. And it’s alright for those answers to vary. We don’t all have to be the same.
The Lost Art of Nuance
As an example…So, Chuck Pressburg is “Roland” of Roland Special. He told me about this cool gun he carried one late night when we were on Messenger. I copied it and I named it after him. Well, not everyone needs to carry a Roland Special. It’s a great gun, but it’s purpose-built.
We need to realize that there is nuance, and if we embrace and study the nuance…if we study the grey in the world, we’d be so much closer to mastery. Whereas, if we only focus on the black and white, we are missing out on 90 percent of the world.
Q: When we write or speak about firearms, I am often humbled by the fact that lives may truly depend on the information being shared. How can we best determine the veracity of what we share?
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: It’s a combination of comparing notes with trusted people and seeing things for myself…that’s pretty much it. Right now, I am doing a bunch of weapon light comparisons. I have an OWL from Cloud Defense, I have some stuff from MODlite, I have a Surefire, and a Streamlight.
I’m putting them all up against each other on a level playing field to be able to navigate the choices that are out there. That’s because to be able to recommend something, I need to see it for myself.
Serious Thought Before Speaking
At the same time, it needs to not be backed up just by my own experience and words. It also needs to come from people that I trust. So, that is someone like Chuck Pressburg, or Chad Mercer…or pretty much anyone on Primary & Secondary. If they say something, it’s been given some serious thought.
Right now, with Primary & Secondary, in regards to moderators, we have 100-something guys…all of whom are there for a reason. They’re very trustworthy and exemplary in their fields. They don’t all have to be military and law enforcement either. We have some very solid competitors, instructors…just solid people who are not in the industry at all who are students of life and students of the gun.
Q: At the risk of asking a question that’s too black and white, are there things we should be on the lookout for as we build an AR, or shop for one complete from the factory?
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: Early on with Primary & Secondary, people starting asking “Can you give us a list of your top, go-to rifles and pistols?” I thought about it a long time and then I realized it was a horrible idea. The reason is things change. Quality control changes. We had some good people that were associated with a company…and that company ended up having issues. People then look at me and say “what the hell…you said these guys were good-to-go?!” So, it taught me a lesson. Maybe I shouldn’t be giving such specific recommendations.
Knowing the Why Behind the What
But what I’ve found is I would much rather have people know the ins and outs of a firearm and why it’s particular features are a good thing, versus blindly following “Matt says you should buy a Hodge rifle…and because he said that, I’m going to do it.” No, rather I want you to know why you should have it. Know why it’s a good brand. This is why I love the question “why?”
Why should we recommend Bravo Company? “Well, this is why. Here are the reasons. Here is the track record it has.” So, to specifically give brands, I’ve really tried to stay away from that as much as I can, because I’d much rather people understand the reason why this is a quality product…or the reason why I want mid-length versus carbine.
Q: So, we collectively should work on being able to answer the “why”. Is there anything else out there that we should be paying more attention to?
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: Mindset is something a lot of people are missing. On the internet today, a lot of people are spoon-fed what they need to be thinking, what they need to be wearing, what they need to be carrying. That shouldn’t be the case. If people are just blindly following what the internet says, then that’s an issue. People need to make some serious personal assessments and be honest with themselves.
Chuck Pressburg did a great video talking about a defensive and offensive firearm and realizing that if I’m only carrying this one little tiny pistol, I’m not going save Nakatomi Plaza.
However, I think being honest with yourself probably isn’t in fashion right now. But unfortunately, considering the topic of self-defense, considering the severity of it, the liability associated with it…talking about defending our own lives and the lives of our friends and family, it requires that honest scrutiny.
It starts with personal assessment. For starters, if your physical training isn’t in order, that needs to be priority one. I’m guilty of that myself.
Avoiding Vanity and Self-Absorption
Secondly, if you’re carrying a firearm and you have never had some training, it probably would be a good idea to find some training from a reputable instructor…especially if you are going to carry concealed. That doesn’t mean go take a “commando carbine” course. Yes, “commando carbine” courses are awesome…BUT is that applicable to what you are doing right now? Get some training around what you intend on doing.
That’s not sexy…and it certainly does not seem to be very popular. If you look at most of the content on YouTube with firearms, there’s a lot of flash but very little substance. And I think we need that substance. Otherwise, we’re churning out a lot of vanity and self-absorbed nonsense without any realism and without any honesty.
Q: Speaking of vanity…I follow an absurd amount of firearms-related content. In many of these forums, there’s a toxic sense of vitrol that quickly arises over almost any topic. Any advice on rising above that to remain rational and objective?
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: It is so much fun to discuss this stuff. It’s so much fun to get in the weeds. But unfortunately, there is too often this ego attached. It especially egregious when that ego is attached to someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. It seems that most of the time, the worst people are those that don’t know what they’re talking about.
Avoiding the Echo Chamber
Also, people are so addicted to being connected at all times and they are getting that endorphin rush from likes and positive affirmations. From this we get a bunch of people saying the same thing…and people respond back to them that what they are saying is great and wonderful, but there’s no objectivity. It’s called an echo chamber, or a hivemind.
But at Primary & Secondary, if we have 100 professionals from different backgrounds all coming together with the same conclusion, that’s a clue…so I feel we have been able to avoid becoming an echo chamber.
Benefits of a Disagreement
Look…being right, being confident about things is wonderful…but unfortunately people take it too seriously. If there is a disagreement, that’s an opportunity to see another angle on an issue. If you and I are going to disagree on a brand, I want to learn more about why we’re disagreeing…because maybe I’m off. Maybe there’s something that I’m missing that by me knowing what you know, my life is going to improve. But unfortunately, that objectivity seems to be almost a superpower.
Q: Finally, if people want to dive in and see what Primary & Secondary is all about…what’s the best place to start? You’ve got podcasts, a website, a huge Facebook presence…
Matt Landfair, Primary & Secondary: It really depends. One of the benefits of having the Primary & Secondary forum versus Facebook, is that there are people out there in the professional realm that don’t want to have anything to do with Facebook. They are worried about their own security or they just don’t want to be pulled into that. It’s a black hole. So, it depends on what you’re looking for and what you expect from your interaction.
That said, the Primary & Secondary group on Facebook might be a good place to start. We have a Foundation group for people that are new-ish to firearms. We can almost cover everything in that group. I’d say the training wheels are on but we’re close to the forum.
A tremendous thanks to Matt Landfair for taking the time to talk more about about Primary & Secondary. For more information on Primary & Secondary, I’ve personally found this page to be a tremendous help. As for the podcasts, you can find them at a variety of locations including:
Spreaker (Live Streaming): https://www.spreaker.com/show/primary-secondary-podcast