“Simple is better.” That’s one of the mantras that Eric Valdes, founder of Wetwerks USA, keeps in mind when he’s designing his custom pistol slide cuts. Focusing exclusively on handgun slide customization, Wetwerks has made quite a name for itself in the pistol customization community.
Known for their cool, modern look, Wetwerks’ customized slides are popular with shooters of types as well as customized gun collectors. The Southern California-based company was officially founded in 2015 after Valdes found himself in a position to start the company due to high demand for his creations. He modestly points out that he never intended to start up a gun customization company, he only wanted to help some of his friends out. Well, you can say that he might have helped them out too well, too his benefit.
Dialing it back yet a few more years before Wetwerks became a thing, you would have found Eric knee deep in cars, helming the R&D department for a major aftermarket high performance automotive parts and accessories company. He designed everything from fuel rails to manifolds and beyond. In such a looks driven market, he knew that he needed to design parts that not only function well, but look cool as well.
Valdes adds, “Back when I ran the R&D department, I made parts look good. Because when you spend money on something, your first impression of that part when you open the box sets the tone from there on out. Customers open up that box and they want to be excited. You want them to be happy and satisfied about their purchase. The worst thing you can do to a customer is to deliver something subpar.”
Armed with years of practical design and machining experience, Valdes eventually decided to strike out on his own. He opened up a machine shop to take on CNC-based design and machine work. One day, one of his buddies, who is a law enforcement officer came to him with a slide that was poorly machined by someone else. He asked Valdes if he could somehow fix the mistakes of the other machinist. Always up for creative challenges, he took on the job. The result was a nice looking slide that his friend was satisfied enough to show his regular gunsmith.
The gunsmith was impressed by the work and commissioned Valdes to do more custom work. Soon the jobs were flowing in to the point where he needed to dedicate more time to the gun side of his business. Wetwerks USA was born. While not a full-service FLL customizer, Wetwerks is a machine shop whose sole focus is turning your pistol slide into a functional piece of art at a reasonable price. They can also have slides finished in any number of finishes, from custom Cerakote jobs to various metal treatments. Slide work typically varies in the $400 to $500 range, which can be more affordable than others.
Valdes enjoys seeing customers come back to get multiple pistols worked on as opposed to only being able to afford get one done. He attributes his business’s pricing model from lessons learned from his father, who was a machinist in the aerospace industry. He learned early on that pure designers often design things in a way that make machining them difficult or very expensive to do. With that in mind, Valdes makes sure that all of his designs look good, function perfectly, but are also easy to machine. Less time on the CNC, means savings for the customer.
When asked what got his company on the map, he quickly pointed out that the company’s Cobra Kut was a breakout sensation for them. Material on the front of the slide is removed to form what resembles a cobra’s hood. He first applied that cut to a Springfield XD and has since been adapted to Smith & Wesson M&Ps and Glocks as well.
Valdes expands upon his style, “I have a different eye for cuts. I wasn’t copying what everyone else was doing. It was a simpler time when I started, when most pistol mods were for tactical use. My work was more aesthetic than tactical. Some of the stuff I did had a purpose, but a lot of what I did was just to make the gun look cool.
You can have all that tactical stuff, but you still want it to look aesthetically pleasing.” That said, he stresses that his modified slides are made to function flawlessly as well as look good. For more on Wetwerks USA, visit their website at wetwerksusa.com and follow them on Instagram at @wetwerksusa.
Text and Images by Jerry Tsai