ABOVE: James Richard “Jim” Schatz. Dan Shea | SADJ
10 December 1959 – 16 March 2017
The small arms community lost its conscience on 16 March 2017. Jim Schatz was that still, small voice sounding out amidst the cacophony of special interests and personal agendas that marks the defense community internationally.
I met Jim in the 1980s but can’t remember the date. He was working at H&K, and we had some spirited discussions regarding the realities of “caseless ammunition” and the HK G11—a program with which he was intimately familiar. For around 30 years, I knew and admired Jim and his passion for small arms. Sitting on the Steering Committee of first the ADPA then the NDIA Small Arms Group, Jim was focused and very vocal about finding what was best for the warrior—the boots on the ground. He had a deep understanding of not only how firearms work but what was best for the combat environment. He wrote articles for Machine Gun News, Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal under various pen names in order to get the real information out to the community. While at times a few questioned his motives because he worked for H&K, I can put that to rest—Jim painstakingly spoke the truth, and any opinion he had was marked as such and always, always was based on getting better weapons into the hands of the good guys.
Jim was our conscience in many ways. From something as simple as never compromising any safety rules regarding a demo, to never disparaging a competitor, to never glossing over a blemish on the testing of a firearm, Jim was always there keeping the high ground. The end results were always dictated by what was good for the warrior; not so much focused on just the bottom line in business. This led to some memorable rows with individuals who were neck deep in profiting from or disagreed vehemently with moving to incrementally better weapons for our troops—I won’t recount them; these were legendary incidents in their own right. In one incident, Jim’s patriotism was called into question (along with mine) because of his exposure of the problems with the M4 carbine’s effectiveness in Afghanistan. Nothing could be further from the truth—it was Jim’s patriotism and love of his fellow warriors (he had been 82nd Airborne, 11 years with an M60 GPMG) that drove him to “out” the problems that were threatening the safety and effectiveness of our troops. This is not to say that Jim didn’t understand the realities of business and how companies need to profit to stay around, or that he didn’t understand what it took to change weapon systems. Jim was that guy on the soapbox who showed everyone the path to existing COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) procurements that could benefit the warrior without having to go through years of research in order to upgrade weapons. “Get them upgraded weapons now while we work on the future weapons” would be a good paraphrase of Jim’s mantra.
It would be difficult to count the projects Jim was deeply involved in, but they included H&K’s G11, XM8, G36, GMG, MP7, 416, MK23, HK21 and many variations of the HK handguns. After leaving H&K, he consulted on a number of other projects, and finally in 2006, committed himself once again to the warriors, working for the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO). This was discreet, of course, and those who knew, knew, those who didn’t were kept in the dark. All that was seen was Jim’s everlasting commitment to the warrior.
In the 2003 to 2017 period, one of Jim’s passions was finding a better cartridge for the US and our Allies to use. Jim relentlessly explored and tested many cartridges and championed a few. He was active on Internet forums that had spirited discussions on these subjects, sniper forums, HK PRO and others, where he gathered smidgens of intel and followed up on them, all searching for better combat rounds.
In 2015, after a lifetime devoted to the warrior and small arms, from being an end user to a manufacturer, to a writer, to an advocate for the warrior, the NDIA Small Arms Committee chose to present Jim Schatz with the international small arms community’s most cherished award: The Col. George M. Chinn Award. This recognized Jim and his devotion to the small arms community and warriors on a level with past Chinn Awardees such as L. James Sullivan, C. Reed Knight Jr., George Kontis and Dr. Edward Ezell. Jim was humble in his acceptance and used the opportunity to try to further the mission to arm the warriors and to bring up one of his pet subjects: heavy metal poisoning from firearms use.
Heavy metal poisoning from the primers, powder and lead is a plague to shooters and soldiers. This has been becoming more and more evident in those who have used firearms extensively. Jim had testing done on himself, discovered major problems and was working to educate others and help the VA dig deeper to help veterans, while at the same time making the industry and military aware of the dangers.
Jim leaves behind some family members who are mentioned in other places, but most importantly of all, his long-time best friend and wife of many years, Wynell. She has had to go through the shock of losing her husband and is committed to the causes she worked on with Jim—and is hoping to continue the education and hopefully lessen the issues of metal poisoning for our troops and shooters in general.
The other family who Jim leaves behind is the few young men he chose to mentor. The loss to them is as losing a father, and Jim’s effect on their lives, with his deep faith, patriotism and commitment to service, will never be lost to them. Those who worked with Jim on a daily basis also feel that deep sense of loss.
Debbie and I attended the funeral service and were shocked by the attendance. We shouldn’t have been; Jim had such an effect on people. The church area was intended to hold about 180 people, and I rough counted 350 while standing there. Other estimates were in the 500s. The Pastor gave a wonderful service, and to watch the local people who knew Jim through his devotion to the church, sitting next to all kinds of warriors and industry greats, was an eye-opening experience; a testament to the diversity of people whose lives Jim Schatz had touched.
Personally, I miss Jim, a lot. He was rock solid to talk with, unwavering in his quest for the truth for the warriors, and any compromise in their safety was not allowed. I am left with many fond memories of technical arguments on powders, excited discussions of new weapons, hunts for rumored enemy weapons, trips into the Balkans firing weapons, testing HK’s newest secret squirrel weapons at Yuma Proving Grounds and military tests around the world.
While Jim was US Army 82nd Airborne, two other US military mottos apply: Semper Fidelis (USMC “Always Faithful”) and Follow Me! (US Army Rangers).
Vaya con Dios, old friend.
My Friend and Comrade
Jim was one of my greatest friends and most cherished competitors. We had a friendly competition between us as to who could give the best demo; his was always the most memorable (the flaming caricature comes to mind), and mine were always different—he never knew what I was going to do next! But he said something to me one day that solidified our friendship. “Let the weapons compete and be judged on their merit, we must remain friends.” For over 25 years, we were close. We would help each other at demonstrations to be sure we did the best we could for the attendees. We both believed that you never have a second chance to make a first impression. Working with him at H&K was incredible; he only wanted the best for all H&K employees and the company.
A hard charging US Army NCO that pushed us all to provide better capabilities to our soldiers, he never forgot where he came from. In the military he served his country as an airborne infantryman culminating in being selected to and serving in the distinguished US Army Marksmanship Unit, Fort Benning, Georgia. Jim continued the mission as a civilian working in Industry at H&K, a driving force responsible for leading the development of new and advanced small arms capabilities for troops.
In 2006, Jim ultimately returned back to the US Government, working for the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO), Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations / Low Intensity Conflict. At CTTSO he established the annual Ammunition Initiatives Meeting, his “AIM” was to seek out muddy boot operators, get their capability gaps, lead the US Government’s effort to leverage emerging industry technologies to increase the range, accuracy and effectiveness of small arms while reducing operational load for US, Canada and UK small tactical team operators deployed and engaged in the Global War on Terror. His talent, experience and leadership led to the tangible development of RDT&E prototypes that continue to pave the way for next generation leap ahead capabilities that will help the US and our Allies regain small arms overmatch. Jim worked relentlessly—sacrificed and dedicated his entire life to improving tactical ground operators’ capabilities. An international treasure, mutually respected by troops from sergeants to generals, industry engineers to CEOs, Jim’s substantial lifetime contributions, too many to mention, too important to forget, will help ensure our troops fight and win on 21st Century battlefields.
Michael J. Trexler
Special Operation Forces Combat Support
Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO)
It could be said that in many ways Jim’s contributions and commitments to the American Warfighter are rivaled by only a small number of individuals. Whether it be the sacrifice of his personal time and money towards endeavors such as setting up fundraisers for Wounded Warriors or pushing his vision of better equipment and calibers for our Soldiers. His deepest patriotism drove his passion and zeal to enhance our Warfighters’ lethality and capabilities. That passion and zeal were not contained but were rather spread generously to family, friends and people in his community. Jim was a loving husband, a true friend and mentor, a leader and standard bearer in the industry. Jim Schatz is greatly missed and never to be forgotten.