Monday, May 27, 2024

Gun business Project 51 opens in Marshalltown

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Jake Kessler works on a firearm for a customer. His business, Project 51, is new to Marshalltown and provides sales, transfers and repairs of firearms.

A new firearms business — Project 51 — has opened in Marshalltown.

Firearms have long been a part of owner Jake Kessler’s life, and he wanted to share it with others.

“I’m just a down-to-earth guy who wants to help out people who like guns,” he said.

Kessler’s history with firearms began in his youth.

“I shot a lot growing up with my dad and Grandpa,” he said. “Just shooting 22s, shotguns. I’m a big hunter.”

Kessler’s involvement with firearms has remained strong through law enforcement and military careers. The latter began 10 years ago in the Iowa Air Guard, and he has achieved the rank of technical sergeant. Kessler is also a sergeant with the Tama Police Department.

“I’m a firearms instructor through the state of Iowa for the police department, and I run our firearms program,” he said. “I’ve been to several armor schools for law enforcement, and I have a couple more instructor and specialty schools this summer.”

Kessler chose Project 51 as the business name for two reasons.

“It was a project I started, and it was my badge number after I became sergeant,” Kessler said. “I wanted to tie law enforcement into it.”

Since there are not a lot of businesses specializing in firearms in Marshalltown, he said people have been happy to see one open.

“Especially someone who does more than selling guns,” Kessler said. “I’m someone they can come to if they have issues or questions.”

To get the word out of his new business, he has primarily depended on Facebook. So far, there has been a good response.

“[The number of customers] go in spurts,” Kessler said. “One week there might not be anything, and the next there might be four or five.”


He is expecting business to really pick up in the next few months, especially with it being an election year. Kessler has noticed more customers talking about the political environment. Usually before an election, there is an increase in gun sales throughout the country because of the unknown of the outcome, he said.

“I think sales are going to pick up,” Kessler said. “It’s going to be insane. It’s going to be really hard to find stuff for a while, but give it some time and it will cool back down.”

He can get his hands on almost any firearm, but does not keep a stock. Rather, Kessler orders from distributors to obtain the firearms his customers want.

“I will normally have them in two to four days, unless there is a weekend in-between,” he said.

So far, the more popular firearms Kessler has ordered for customers are bolt action and lever action rifles and some revolvers.

There is a limit on what Project 51 can obtain. He said he can’t get anything which requires a tax stamp, such as short barreled rifles or suppressors — also known as silencers.

In order to legally sell firearms, first a business must obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The license is only provided to businesses which meet certain requirements, such as notifying the law enforcement chief of the intention to get an FFL and ensuring secure gun storage and safety devices will be on premises.

“I got [the FFL] in February,” Kessler said. “That’s when I started doing sales and the majority of the work.”

Besides sales, Project 51 services include transfers and repairs of handguns, revolvers, shotguns and rifles. A transfer is the transfer of possession of a firearm from one owner to another. Kessler said an example of a transfer is when a person buys a firearm online, it needs to be sent to an FFL dealer. The buyer can choose Project 51 to complete the transfer.

Since officially opening, Kessler has spent equal amounts of time on each type of service. The more common types of firearms repairs or maintenance he has performed has been installing parts, scopes and optics. He has also fixed a lot of cycling issues.

“That is for people who don’t take care of their guns. They’re dirty and gunked up and need a good, deep, thorough cleaning,” Kessler said.

To help with his business, he is also halfway through getting a two-year gunsmithing degree.

“Gunsmithing goes more into detail on troubleshooting, repairing and refinishing, a lot more of the in-depth processes,” Kessler said.

Eventually, he would like to open a brick and mortar Project 51, but until then, he is operating out of his home. Once Kessler gets a storefront, he hopes to have inventory on hand, including ammunition. Some of the bigger dreams he has when the brick and mortar opens is to incorporate a gun range, and provide people with firearms instruction.

“Having a range onsite would be amazing,” Kessler said. “With a gun range, a location would have to be just outside of town. Bringing them into town is really tough. I don’t think a lot of city councils really like that idea.”

Given his law enforcement career, Project 51 does not have any set operating hours. He said he makes times and days available which are convenient for customers and himself. Interested customers can call his number, message him on Facebook or send him an email.


Phone number: 641-351-7705

Facebook: Project 51


Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 ext. 210 or

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