Who is BRIANatECHO1 ?
This is the beginning of my Airsoft career to let people know what I really am since most do not know the real me . There is a lot to cover and hard to remember but I will do my best to recall and explain it all. I was a regular kid in junior high and my past times were video games, laser tag and being outdoors since I had a state park in my backyard. My friends at the time and I would spend our time hanging out and we got into the world of BB guns and backyard plinking. We would shoot each other with the laser tag home edition an play the shooter video games and shoot cans and stuff and we thought there had to be something we could do to mix them all together. The Cheaper Than Dirt catalog was the answer and the spring pistol. My friend bought two of them and we were shooting cans in his backyard. When the cans were down we would take turns setting them up. I saw how the Airsoft springer was decently powered but nothing like the BB/pellet guns we have. I shot him in the back of the leg, he jumped and tried to shoot me back and I ran. We had our safety glasses on and ran around for a good twenty minutes shooting each other. We had fun and this sparked our interest in this toy gun. We found a local store called Hollywood Hobbies in Redlands and went there. We were blown away with all the Airsoft and paintball guns in the store and told them the story and their response was “ you stupid kids, you are supposed to shoot each other” If I recall correctly this was around 1994 when we found this place and we had a new hobby called Airsoft. We could only afford the springers and the high grade 1911 that cost me eighty dollars was just like the golden gun in the N64 Golden Eye game since it was so powerful. We got a good group of friends to get into the hobby and we had mini wars at my place. We had tree forts and bunkers and all of that awesome stuff most kids dream of.
Around ’97 my brother and I got our first AEG’s in the group. The local place only had a few to choose from and would not order anything else. I searched on 747 Imports and all the other sites to see what was out there. I got the Toyko Mauri MP5 A5 for about $390 and my brother got the Y&P Famas for about $350 and we were so happy with the power and range and the full auto! All of our friends had the springer rifles like the HFC M16, Super 9 and the super popular UFC MP5 SD6 and we kicked their butts so bad the first game we had and it was awesome! Everybody started to save up and get the AEG’s. I don’t remember how we found another place but it was better and it was called 3 in 1 Airsoft and Paintball and it was in Riverside. This place had a CQB field in the basement and we would get the shit beat out of us when us kids would play there. Hong Kong rules taught us to get better and not show pain. I still have the JT mask and cracked lens at home. The games were open for anything you can think of and Red Gas and clay BBs were the hollow points at the time.
Gun failure was never heard of in our group until the Y&P stripped a gear. The store was able to fix it but it cost $118 and 4 weeks to fix. I was sad and broke after this for a long time. My friend wanted his TM SR-16 upgrade and that was super expensive and took forever. We got the sense we were getting ripped off since my AUG’s would sit on the bench after I bought the gears and piston and was waiting for them to install them. Our group would hang out every Wednesday before Church night and I would see the gun and parts siting there. I was able to save up more money and I bought a used TM MP5 PDW off a kid at the store in front of the store manager and this was my test gun. I took it apart and forced myself to learn it. I called the store for help and about a week or so later I got it to work! I showed my friends and tried another gun to install the tape over the TM piston head hole trick. They were happy and then I became the fixer guy in the group. I was able to tinker with the springer Super 9 and others as well and my skills slowly grew. I would work on my AEG’s and my friends and they would save money and get it faster and we started kicking but at the local CQB field.
One day we stopped by Hollywood Hobbies and they told us about a new Airsoft only store just down the street called Combat Quarters. We drove down to Loma Linda and waited outside for the owner to open the gates to heaven. There were Systema FTK’s and parts and oh man everything we could think of. I told the owner I will work here. He was confused at the time but this was the new hangout spot. My interview was to install a M100 spring in a TM M4 and in fast time. I was able to get it and make the customer happy and later that week I started there. At this time I was going to MSJC and working at McDonald’s part time. I was making decent money from the tech work and running the sales floor I just did not go to McDonald’s anymore. My parents were worried I was wasting my time but I continued and kept my grades up so they couldn’t worry too much
During my time at this retail store I was able to meet Sparky and he soon worked there and now is working at Gearbox and Issac who is now on the Infidel Team. We were all best friends an loved being there making airsoft guns. We would go to the local distributors like Prima, J-sports and JAG to get products and product news. I started doing T&E work for JAG on the Modify modular gears and other parts as well. I was never told what they were but years later I would know what they were. I was being tested. I made a blow back kit for my TM AK and you can probably find a video on Arnes Airsoft and I started to really test and try out new things. I would study the Arms magazine and let my mind run wild on what airsoft can be. I made the first ‘GO Gun’ which had two batteries to boost the ROF with a push of a button, short stroking was tested at this store long ago before the craze year after and the AoE issues were found and fixed in ’03 before most of the kids that preach were born. The Classic Army pistons would always strip out and we found out by adding a washer from the piston head bearing plate to slide the piston rack back a bit would keep it running smooth for a long time. The Hurricane Aluminum pistons had this issue and removing the second tooth would be the key to make it work. Our little store soon became the best place for tech work in the area. Between Sparky, Issac and myself we were able to build anything the customer wanted. Hosting games was the next big step on making more customers and friends. We would with J&T Surplus and have our customers vs. theirs and everybody had fun and we would play at the Winchester field, which is now Dead Wood when only paintballers would be there. And our home field was KilBox before the Rough Necks tried to take it over and cause issues.
Our little store was doing great for the most part. I was almost finished with my BA and I had to decide on what to do with my life. I did not want the cramped cubicle life and I chose to work at JAG when I was asked to. I started in October of 2007.
I worked here as a tech and was able to tackle any gun and this place opening my eyes to all the current guns and the new stuff that most people would not see. I would be involved in many testings of new products like an 8mm M4 AEG from a local Cali company which never made it to market. JAG is a hub for the industry and working with many companies to help them along. I would work closely with MadBull Airsoft in the early days and their JP bodies and got a sweet customized body out of my hard work to make sure it is compatible with parts and other gearboxes. During this time we had many models and brands for sale and one was Echo1USA, which was the house brand. Echo1USA was the first when it comes to correct affordable airsoft rifles. There were the UTG MP5’s, which were off spec and not the best, and other ‘China guns’ that were plastic gearboxes and parts that would not work for the USA market. We built the first sample rifles and sent them to the factories to have them copy to our liking and parts used. We created the new order in the airsoft world. We had the know how and we made it happen. This was a curse and a blessing for what we started.
Can you do this?
We needed a face for the exploding brand Echo1 and I was asked to become that guy. In the early days I would use the call name Brad or Damien for the Echo1 emails but now I was being asked to be the face and name of the brand. I was still shy and nervous but I was able to do this for the company. I was now Brian from Echo1 and I was introduced on the Minigun video, which is on the MadBull youtube channel. My first video clearly shows how nervous I was and I still do not like watching it but I have gotten better over the years. Looking back I think I was the first ‘face’ of a brand or store and others followed shortly after since the internet world was soon to be the only airsoft market place.
My Daily Job at JAG
My life now became more complicated and I was Brian at JAG and would work with the dealers for sales orders, repair and upgrade work. On the outside world I was Brian at Echo1 and I just talked about Echo1 products and most people did not know I was the same guy when we would talk on the phone and the split took a toll on myself. My personal life was strained from the extra work but I was able to find balance but sometimes it would be rough. I still never saw it as ‘work’ since I enjoyed what I did but the long hours would sometimes ruin my personal life.
While inside the industry I was able to see the lack of information and confusion that shop owners and players had about airsoft and Echo1 as a brand. I was on the forum for a bit but that was frustrating since the lack of knowledge that created leadership within the forum world made we leave and never go back. We started the facebook page for Echo1 and we started to get the fans and haters. I still was not as out going as I am today and I made a ‘work account’ called Brian Holtenberg to fight on Facebook and I later used it as my personal account. By the way my real name is Brian Holt.
I was busy online trying to explain how our Echo1 products are better than the JG models and the stores had no idea how to compare a black bodied Echo1 M4 and the gray bodied JG M4. I felt alone in this fight since the store did not want to learn on their own. I had some free time at work and with the help of the camera guy we started the first tech styled videos to help the customers fix their own guns as a throw back to my beginnings. Later with a decent audience I showed the gearboxes and the internals of the Echo1 rifles to inform the players what is inside and why they should buy the products. This helped with most of the nay sayers and I was not doing a sales pitch but just taking the guns apart so they could make the informed decision. About a year later my boss asked me about the Tech Support Channel and why I did this. Only the camera guy and I knew about the videos and the good they are doing. I wanted to help the players and this killed two birds with one stone. I would still hear about my fellow airsofters being ripped off by stores and this really upset me since I know what it is like and I continued with the videos and the more one on one support via emails and facebook. I feel like I have to help every airsofter and this is how I am able to do that.
At work we decided we had to do the grass roots project of the Airsoft Tour and go to the local stores and promote the slogan ‘Support your local stores otherwise you wont have a field to play at.” This was a costly but great tour in AZ, GA, FL and NY. We would make a commercial for the places and do everything in our power to help them out and after all of that hard work some of the places would turn their back on us, which makes no sense. The goal was to make Airsoft alive and well while the stores would not see that and after seeing this we decided not to do this as much.
Behind the scenes
I am involved in many jobs under the JAG umbrella, which nobody really knows about. While at JAG we want to help the other companies that we work closely with like MadBull, Socom Gear, VFC, APS, E&L and many others. We don’t want to sell junk products with our name so we do our best to work with the companies to deliver that to the player. I can go into the years of stuff we have worked on but there is no point really. We work hard to bring the products to the market in hopes to make the player happy but when I get attacked for being the ‘Echo1 guy’ it just doesn’t make sense and if they only knew.
I get confused by it most of the times. Do I become the target since I am the face and able to talk back to the customer? I know they want to be heard just as I wanted but I never went the route they go. I have seen websites and facebook pages dedicated to trash talking the brand and myself. I see it as a waste of time and wish they would use their time in a better way. I think they trash talk just because there is a person aspect to the brand and not just a brand and an anonymous communication like most other airsoft companies out there.
I used to get upset from all this but lately I just let them vent and talk to them on the facebook walls to find out what is wrong. The people that never confront me and just spread the rumors will never be heard. I am wiling to listen to people because I am an airsofter just like you and I happen to work for this company. I don’t like the term celebrity since I really should not get any praise since I’m just doing my job that most have no idea what I actually do since they do not spend the time to ask or look. The best time I had with a trash talker was once and I didn’t even know until after the fact. In Florida for the tour I answered several questions about the metal XCR to a guy. Later I found out that was the same guy that had a personal vendetta with me and Echo1. I just wanted to help him out and I guess being genuinely happy and helpful threw him off the hate train. That is my main goal, to help out and it is obvious on my fan page and how I interact with people and give out products.
I am not looking for pity or using this as a cry for help. I just want to let people know what I am about and after reading this you still do not like me that is fine but just let me focus on helping people and that is fine.
Things I like to do outside of work include cooking, hiking, shooting and hanging out with friends. I have been cooking for some time now and being self taught with the Food network and the Chopped show I have gotten better and proud of my dishes which I show on my Instagram. For hanging out with friends has been crazy in the past years. For a while I went clubbing a lot and worked as a club promoter bringing people in to the club and working with several places from Newport to Hollywood. I really enjoyed doing that but needed to focus on work and had to let that wild job go. For the hiking I really enjoy it since I am away from the 4G and phone calls and able to relax out in mother nature. I started a hiking group and had that going for some years and I am still hiking and camping with friends in my off time. I also did several Electric Run 5K charity runs and a Zombie run. They are amazing and if you like raves or zombies you should check them out. I prefer being outside and having fun and working where I work allows me to do all of this and I am happy that it is not a boring desk job but an adventure during the week and then I have time on the weekends to go on my own adventures.
So in conclusion I just want to help people in the airsoft world and where ever I go. I have seen all the sides of the airsoft industry so I know how it is and I still go back to my roots as being a kid and getting pushed around and I will fight for you guys but it is hard to balance that while I work for JAG. If you have any questions feel free to ask on my facebook fan page. I did miss stuff since my life at JAG has been non stop but I hope you guys can see what I actually do.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy your airsofting adventures 🙂
Written by Brian Holt