|Occupation||Founder & President of Barrett Firearms Manufacturing|
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Life & career
Barrett was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1954, and graduated from Murfreesboro Central High School. He started his career in 1972 as a professional photographer. In 1982, while he owned a photography studio, he got his initial inspiration to create what would become the Barrett signature product. On January 1, 1982, when Barrett was photographing a river patrol gunboat on the Stones River near Nashville, Tennessee, he created an award-winning picture that made him start thinking about the .50 caliber cartridge because of two Browning machineguns mounted prominently on that boat.
Since no commercially available .50 caliber rifle existed at that time, he decided to make a semi-automatic weapon. With no background in manufacturing or engineering, Barrett sketched a cross-sectioned, full-size rifle, adding different components to it. Once he decided on the concept, he approached some machine shops with his drawings. They told him that if his idea was any good, someone smarter would have already designed it.  However, this did not diminish his ideas.
A few days later, Bob Mitchell, a tool and die maker and machinist in Smyrna, Tennessee, agreed to help. After their regular job responsibilities, the men would start working on Barrett’s ideas, sometimes laboring together all night in a one-bay garage using a small mill and lathe. Barrett also found support from a sheet metal fabricator who allowed him to visit the owner’s shop and work directly with one employee, Harry Watson. The resulting gun was the shoulder-fired Barrett rifle, which was created in less than four months.
While fine-tuning the first prototype rifle, Barrett began designing a second prototype that featured an improved and sleek exterior and other improvements learned from the first prototype. He made a video of the first prototype being fired, then prepared the second prototype so it would set on a table. He displayed the latter at a Houston, Texas, gun show where three people gave him deposits to make a rifle for them. With a limited amount of money, Barrett set up a small shop at his residence in a gravel-floored garage. He began by building a batch of 30 rifles, mainly because the two wooden gun racks he made in his father’s cabinet shop held 15 rifles each.
Using his hand-drawing of the new rifle, he placed an advertisement in Shotgun News and soon sold-out the first batch. Barrett was contacted by the CIA who purchased a number of rifles for the Afghan Mujahideen for use in their war against the Soviet Union.
Both of Barrett’s children, Christopher and Angela, began working in the company following graduation from school. Chris brought modernization and technology into the manufacturing operation by introducing the first computers to the design process. Angela joined the team to set up a bona fide marketing and advertising department, which at that point was almost non-existent.
Ronnie and Chris Barrett worked jointly on the Model 98 semi-automatic design. Also at that time, the younger Barrett became the dominant designer with most of the publicly known work at Barrett Firearms, leading the way with product development.
In the last 100 years, only seven individuals have invented firearms adopted by the United States Military: John Browning, John C. Garand, Eugene Stoner, John Taliaferro Thompson, Melvin Maynard Johnson JR, Eugene Reising, and Ronnie Barrett. The first three referenced had their designs perfected and mass-produced by either the U.S. government or another manufacturing company. With the exception of 2 of Stoner's designs that were bought for limited use from ArmaLite, Barrett is the only one of the group to create, manufacture, market and mass-produce his firearm for the United States government.
In 2004, Barrett was honored with the Colonel George Chinn Award which recognizes Small Arms Weaponry Systems based on excellence in research and development, engineering, manufacturing and management.
On June 28, 2006, Barrett was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for "turning his idea into one of America's most successful companies".
- Barrett Firearms got its start on the dining-room table, Nashville Business Journal, March 14, 2008
- Lewis, Jack (2007). The Gun Digest Book of Assault Weapons. Gun Digest Books; 7 edition. pp. 94–97. ISBN 978-0-89689-498-3.
- Clancy, Tom (1996). Marine: A Guided Tour of a Marine Expeditionary Unit. Berkeley, California: Berkeley Trade. pp. 59–61. ISBN 978-0-425-15454-0.
- Ian V. Hogg, John S. Weeks (2000). Military Small Arms of the 20th Century. Iola, WI: Krause. pp. 399–400. ISBN 978-0-87341-824-9.
- Taylor, Chuck (1981). Complete Book Of Combat Handgunning. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press. p. 200. ISBN 978-0-87364-327-6.
- Chivers, C. J. (2010). The Gun. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 292–295. ISBN 978-0-7432-7076-2.
- Walter, John (2006). Rifles of the World (3rd ed.). Iola, WI: Krause Publications. p. 142. ISBN 0-89689-241-7.
- Ronnie Barrett, President and founder of Barrett Firearms, named as an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for 2006, The Lincoln Tribune, July 6, 2006
- Barrett elected NRA Board of Directors Article