Leadership Changes At Savage Arms

Al Kasper, CEO of Savage Arms for the last 10 years, will retire at the end of the year. He has been with Savage for more than 25 years. His original position with Savage was as Chief Financial Officer. He will remain on the Savage Arms board of directors.

Replacing him will be Chris Bezzina who will become the new President and CEO. Bezzina has been with Savage since 2007 primarily in engineering and operations. He led the engineering teams that developed such products as the AXIS rifle, the Accustock, and the A17 platform.

From the press release:

“Al’s impact is evident in every aspect of our company,” said Chris Bezzina, Savage’s new President and CEO. “His knowledge in operations, finance and product development helped fuel our growth as a company. As the new leader of this organization, I look forward to continuing the momentum Al helped create, driving Savage to be an industry leader in innovative technologies, and expanding upon our best-in-class manufacturing capabilities.”

“I’m excited for the future and want to thank the entire Savage team for their hard work and dedication over the years,” said Kasper.  “I look forward to staying involved as a member of the board and watching as Chris and the team drive Savage to new heights with ideas generated by those leading this great organization.”

Savage was part of Vista Outdoor from 2013 until 2019 when they became an independent company again. Kasper led the management group that purchased Savage Arms from Vista Outdoor.

I have a number of Savage rifles, both old and new including an AXIS in .223, so I am happy to see what seems like a seamless change in leadership. Savage has always produced very good rifles but never seemed to get the attention that a Remington or a Winchester did which is a shame. I will be taking my rebarreled Savage 111 in .338-06 to Africa next year and I have no doubt it will perform flawlessly.

Vista Outdoor Sells Ammo Business To Czechoslovak Group

Vista Outdoor had been planning to spin off their Sporting Products group as an independent business. The Sporting Products group included Federal, Remington, CCI, Speer, Alliant Powder, Hevi-Shot, and Estate Cartridges. They had adopted the name The Kinetic Group for the spun-off company. The spin off was to happen in the fourth quarter of this year.

That was announced at the beginning of September. Between then and this morning, things changed. It was announced this morning that Vista Outdoor would sell the Sporting Products group aka The Kinetic Group to Czechoslovak Group for $1.91 billion dollars in an all cash transaction. Czechoslovak Group (CSG) is a a Czech-based holding company with over 30 companies and 10,000 employees worldwide.

CSG has a number of divisions including CSG Aerospace, CSG Defence, CSG Mobility which makes Tatra trucks, and CSG Ammo. This last division includes ammo companies Fiocchi, Italy-based Baschieri & Pellagri, and UK-based Lyalvale Express. Fiocchi has plants in Italy, the UK, and in Ozark, Missouri which is just outside of Springfield.

Jason Vanderbrink will remain as CEO of the Sporting Products business under CSG and it will remain headquartered in Anoka, Minnesota. The leadership team of this business will include “Al Kerfeld, CFO; Jeff Ehrich, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary; and Mark Kowalski, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer.”. The current CFO of Vista Outdoor will remain with Vista which is being renamed Revelyst.

Gary McArthur, interim CEO of Vista Outdoor, noted that the previous plans to spin off the Sporting Products business allowed them to pivot easily to making it a sale rather than a spin-off. He added that he thought a sale would provide a better way to maximize value for shareholders.

Jason Vanderbrink added:

“We are confident that CSG is a great home for our leading ammunition brands,” said Jason Vanderbrink, CEO of Sporting Products. “The company is fully committed to our iconic American brands and expanding our legacy of U.S. manufacturing, support for military and law enforcement customers, and investments in conservation and our hunting and shooting heritage. We are excited to work closely with the CSG team as we enter this next phase and position our brands for long-term success.”

Michal Strnad, CEO and 100% owner of CSG, said he was looking forward to partnering with Vanderbrink and his leadership team. He went on to add that he and CSG were “committed to expanding their legacy of U.S. manufacturing and providing resources to accelerate their growth.”

An investor call concerning the sale was held at 9am EDT this morning. It was recorded and you can listen to it here. You will need to register your name and email. A PDF of all the slides is here.

Want To Learn More About The Firearms Industry?

Ben Langlotz is a patent attorney who specializes in the firearms industry. He is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. In addition to his legal work, he publishes a monthly newsletter called “Bulletproof”.

If you want to know more about the in’s and out’s of the firearms industry at the manufacturer level, you need to subscribe to and read Ben’s newsletter. It deals with patents, trademarks, and copyrights. He goes into how to protect your ideas and inventions. Just as importantly, he discusses whether it makes financial sense to even try to patent an invention as it can cost you more to do so than it will bring in return.

Ben has worked with companies across the firearms industry. He shares that expertise in Bulletproof. The cost to subscribe to this invaluable resource is….free! Just go to this sign-up page.

I first met Ben in person about a year and a half ago while attending the 2022 Dallas Safari Club convention. We met for dinner and it was a fascinating evening. Just sharing a meal with Ben I learned so much that I didn’t know about the firearms industry. As I said, it was a great evening.

As I said in the headline, if you want to learn more about the firearms industry then you need to subscribe to Bulletproof. I am saving my back issues in a binder as part of my firearms industry reference library.

Windham Weaponry Closing Its Doors

Windham Weaponry, the Maine-based manufacturer of AR-15s, is going out of business. Founded in 2011 when Richard Dyke’s non-compete clause expired with the Freedom Group, it was in many ways the successor to the original Bushmaster. Windham was in the same facility and most of its workers were the original Bushmaster employees left behind when production was moved by the Freedom Group to the Remington factory in Ilion, New York.

Before Walmart went all PC and stopped selling AR-15s, if you saw an AR in their gun case, it was likely to be from Windham Weaponry. However, the last few years have been tough on the company.

From their website announcing closing:

It is with deep regret that we announce the closing of Windham Weaponry. Our website/online retail ordering system will remain active through Tuesday night, Sept 12. We will do our best to ship all orders this week and early next week. No credit card will be charged until the order is shipped.

Twelve years ago, when we started Windham Weaponry, our shareholders and longtime employees were excited to continue the traditions and spirit of Bushmaster Firearms, after the new owners decided to leave Maine.

We built WW into a company we could be proud of providing outstanding customer service, high quality products, as well as a great place for our dedicated employees to work.

The last few years have been a very challenging time for the firearms industry, and we have struggled to keep the WW dream alive for as long as possible. Unfortunately, we have not been able to meet our loan obligations with the bank after they worked with us as much as they could.

There was a glimmer of hope when we were negotiating with an investor to help keep WW alive and healthy, but that just fell through.

We have begun discussions with Keenan Auction Company to determine the best course of action for a full liquidation which should happen within the next month or so.

Our shareholders and employees truly appreciate your loyal support all of these years.

It is a sad day when any firearms company closes its doors. While I never owned a complete Windham Weaponry rifle, I have bought parts including a barrel from them.

I do hope that the employees can find new jobs with salaries commensurate with their old positions.

One last thing – if you still want to order from them, you can do it through tonight and your order will be processed.

Firearms Business Conference – Feb 17th

Montgomery Community College in Troy, North Carolina will be hosting a Firearms Business Conference on February 17th. You can attend either in person or virtually. They will be having an Open House on February 18th. I attended the conference last year and found it quite worthwhile.

Here is the list of conference sessions. All are FREE to attend and participate in.

Conference Sessions
Concurrent Session A1 (9:00 AM – 10:00 AM):Legal Business Entities Understanding the difference between the various ways that your business can be established. Does a sole proprietorship, LLC, an S-Corp, or a Corporation make the most sense for the type of business that you plan to run?Speaker: Alicia Herrin
Concurrent Session A2 (9:00 AM – 10:00 AM):Doing Business in a Hostile Environment The firearms industry is experiencing an unprecedented amount of resistance from both government agencies and from the business community. As a small business person, how do you successfully navigate the difficulties posed by regulations, shippers, banking institutions, lawsuits, and a general disdain from large segments of the public?Speaker: Steve Adelman
Concurrent Session A3 (9:00 AM – 10:00 AM):Inventory Management Understanding how to manage retail space and how to stock inventory that will sell is a key component to succeeding in a retail business. Learn tips for success in offering the right products to maximize your inventory investment dollars from a representative from one of the largest firearms distributors. Speaker: Davidson’s
Concurrent Session B1 (10:00 AM -11:00 AM):Managing Cash Flow The success or failure of a business often has nothing to do with the product of service that the business offers. Basic business issues like how well cash flow is managed can make or break a small business. Speaker: Alicia Herrin
Concurrent Session B2 (10:00 AM – 11:00 AM):Gunsmithing vs. Manufacturing The current BATF regulations regarding what constitutes gunsmithing and what crosses the line into the field of manufacturing is often misunderstood. Understanding current regulations are key to having the correct licensure and staying on the right side of legal questions. Speaker: Steve Albro
Concurrent Session C1 (11:15 AM – 12:15 PM):Physical Security for a Firearms Business Preventing break-in and theft is a topic that generates a lot of apprehension for the small business owner in the firearms industry. Knowing the correct security measures to help keep your business safe is key to peace of mind and business success. Speaker: Bill Napier
Concurrent Session C2 (11:15 AM – 12:15 PM):Interacting with Distributors Building good working relationships with firearms distributors is essential to successful operation of a firearms retail business. An industry insider who works for one of the largest firearms distributors in the country will outline the best strategies and practices for managing these contacts. Speakers: Shawn McGuire
Concurrent Session D1 (1:00 PM – 2:00 PM):Obtaining and Maintaining Your FFL This speaker will outline the steps necessary to navigate the paperwork and record keeping necessary to apply for and operate a Federal Firearms License. Speaker: Steve Albro
Concurrent Session D2 (1:00 PM – 2:00 PM):Marketing to Customers in the Outdoor Space In the digital age, marketing your firearms business to hunters, fishermen, and other outdoorsmen is not as easy as putting up a sign. Learn strategies for attracting these customers from a seasoned pro with many years of experience in media and digital marketing for this segment of the firearms industry.Speaker: Chris Douglas
Concurrent Session E1 (2:00 PM – 3:00 PM):Understanding the BATF’s Zero Tolerance Policy The current administration has implemented a very stringent process for inspections and audits of FFL holders. This has resulted in a far greater number of license revocations that has previously been seen. A former BATF agent will go through this policy and provide information and tips about how to avoid becoming one of these statistics.  Speaker: Judy Ladeux
Concurrent Session E2 (2:00 PM – 3:00 PM):Concealed Carry Insurance Insuring concealed carry holders against the legal ramifications of being involved in a self-defense shooting is both a prudent step and a potential source of revenue for a firearms retailer or shooting instructor. Learn the benefits of this type of insurance from an attorney with experience in this branch of law and a representative of a company that offers this product.Speaker: Lori Olmstead/US Lawshield

If I remember correctly from last year, Steve Albro, who will be leading the sessions on “Gunsmithing vs Manufacturing” and on “Obtaining and Maintaining Your FFL”, is the Director of Industry Operations in the BATFE Charlotte Field Division.

To register for any of these sessions, go here. You can also register through the NC Small Business Center website.

I am a proud alumnus of Montgomery Community College and earned my Associate in Applied Science degree in Hunting and Shooting Sports Management from there in 2022. I like to say that it is what kept my mind busy during the pandemic.

MCC is a very pro-gun school with a great gunsmithing program as well as the H&SSM program. This is the fourth or fifth year that they have put on this Firearms Business Conference. They also put on the short-term NRA gunsmithing classes. As an example of how the school supports these programs, the president of the college was in their booth at the 2022 NRA Annual Meeting.

TALON Grips Buys ArachniGRIP

TALON Grips makes very nice stick-on grips for many handguns. I have a TALON Grip on my Ruger LCP II and it increases the “grippage”. (Grippage is a word that my younger daughter Laura made up years ago when she was talking about her sneakers.) In my opinion, it helps the controllability of small handguns.

My TALON Grip is what they call the granulate texture. It is not just rubbery but also pebbly. I don’t know if those are real words but it does increase the grippage.

TALON has now expanded to slides with their acquisition of ArachniGRIP.

Their release below explains the acquisition and how ArachniGRIP helps make manipulation of the handgun slide easier.


OCC Proposal Comments Close Tonight

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has proposed a regulation that would ensure fair access to banking and credit services. The regulation would ban things like the Obama Administration’s Operation Chokepoint which sought to cut off banking services to disfavored industries.

In the greater scheme of things, this regulation is more important for the health of the firearms industry than the recent ATF moves on pistol braces and 80% lowers/frames. Without access to credit and banking services, the firearms industry would have a hard time existing as would any business.

In its proposal, the OCC notes that certain non-quantitative risk measures have been used by banks to deny financial services.

The pressure on banks has come from both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors of the economy and targeted a wide and varied range of individuals, companies, organizations, and industries. For example, there have been calls for boycotts of banks that support certain health care and social service providers, including family planning organizations, and some banks have reportedly denied financial services to customers in these industries. (8) Some banks have reportedly ceased to provide financial services to owners of privately owned correctional facilities that operate under contracts with the Federal Government and various state governments. (9) Makers of shotguns and hunting rifles have reportedly been debanked in recent years. (10) Independent, nonbank automated teller machine operators that provide access to cash settlement and other operational accounts, particularly in low-income communities and thinly-populated rural areas, have been affected. (11) Globally, there have been calls to de-bank large farming operations and other agricultural business. (12) And companies that operate in industries important to local economies and the national economy have been cut off from access to financial services, including those that operate in sectors of the nation’s infrastructure “so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”  (13)

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is fully in favor of this proposed regulation. They note it doesn’t force banks to do business with businesses. Traditional credit worthiness measures as debt ratio, payment history, and ability to pay will remain in place. They go on to say this proposal will level the playing field by forcing banks to treat all businesses equally and fairly without consideration of banking executives’ personal political preferences.

The rule will apply to the largest banks in the country that may exert significant pricing power or influence over sectors of the national economy. It would require those banks to make their products and services available to all customers in the community it serves, based on consideration of quantitative, impartial, risk-based standards established by the bank.

In other words, banks would be required to approve or deny their services based on merit and creditworthiness of individual borrowers. That would remove the “reputational risk” mask that banks hide behind when they force businesses to adopt gun control policies that are beyond the scope of federal, state and local laws or lose access to banking services.

Comments on OCC-2020-0042-0001 closes tonight at 11:59pm Eastern.

To make a comment, use this link: https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=OCC-2020-0042-0001

As of this morning, they have received only 4,272 comments. There have been comments opposing it from gun control supporters as well as environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council.

I made a comment and I hope you take a few minutes to do so as well.

The Economic Impact Of The US Firearms And Ammo Industry

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the real gun lobby, released a report last week that detailed the economic impact of the firearms and ammunition industry in the United States. It is a lot bigger than the gun prohibitionists would have you believe and it is indicative of why it is considered an essential industry.

Since 2008, the economic impact has grown 213% to $60 billion as of 2019. Just as importantly, the number of full time job equivalents has doubled from 166,000 to 332,000.

More details on the economic impact from the NSSF report:

On a year-over-year basis, the industry’s economic impact rose from $52 (billion) in 2018 to $60 billion. Total jobs increased by 20,000 in the same period, from nearly 312,000 to over 332,000. The broader impact of the industry flows throughout the economy and supports and generates business for firms seemingly unrelated to firearms at a time when every job in America counts. These are real people, with real jobs, working in industries as varied as banking, retail, accounting, metalworking and printing, among others.

The firearm and ammunition industry paid over $6.74 billion in business taxes, including property, income and sales-based levies.

“Our industry continues to show the steady and reliable growth that is a hallmark of a healthy industry,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President and CEO. “The workers who comprise our ranks are the fabric of our communities. They produce the highest quality firearms and ammunition that millions of law-abiding Americans rely upon to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear arms and safely enjoy the recreational shooting sports. This growth translates to more jobs that add to our local economies, averaging $55,200 in wages and benefits. In addition, since 2008 we increased federal tax payments by 162 percent, Pittman-Robertson excise taxes that support wildlife conservation by 79 percent and state business taxes by 116 percent.”

The full report is here.

The NSSF has also provided an interactive map of the United States which allows you to see the number of jobs, wages, and economic output created on a state by state basis. It appears that Joe Biden’s Delaware has the fewest number of jobs in the industry while Hawaii had the smallest economic impact from the firearms and ammunition industry.

COVID-19, Supply Chains, and Firearms Manufacturers

I received an email yesterday afternoon from Kimber. It was detailing the impact of COVID-19 on their operations. Kimber has plants in both Yonkers, New York and Troy, Alabama. If you have spent any time watching the talking heads on TV, you know that New York has overtaken Washington State in the number of coronavirus cases.

Here is part of what was in the email:

Due to the New York state decision to shutter non-essential businesses as part of the COVID-19 response plan, Kimber Mfg. Inc. has stopped production at its New York facilities. 

Production continues at Kimber’s new, state-of-the-art Troy, Alabama manufacturing facility, with the entire line of handguns and long guns being assembled. Due to the large number of parts manufactured in Yonkers and the state mandated closure in New York, the Troy facility will suspend production on March 31st . “This situation is unfortunate as we were off to an incredible start in gun shipments in 2020 and were running our factories seven days a week. We would like to thank our dealers and consumers for their overwhelmingly positive response to our 2020 new products,” said Greg Grogan, Kimber president. With that said, if you are in the market for a Kimber firearm, now is the time to make that purchase.”

Kimber’s Alabama based customer service and repair services remain open to help customers with any questions they may have. In addition, the Alabama based Kimber online store is open and products are shipping as long as inventory lasts. Montana based dealer sales and customer service departments also remain open.

The bottom line is that even though your assembly plant is in an area which only has a relatively small number of coronavirus cases, you are still impacted adversely. Alabama has 531 cases as of today versus New York State with 39,140 cases according to the Johns Hopkins University compilation. Indeed, Westchester County, NY where Yonkers is located has over 10 times as many infections as the entire state of Alabama.

Then there is the whole issue of essential versus non-essential businesses. Some states have said firearms manufacturing would be considered an essential business because it provides tools to the defense industry or to law enforcement. Other states do not consider it essential. Even if you are in a state that considers your production essential, if your subcontractor making critical parts is located in a place that takes the opposite view, you are screwed.

The firearms industry is composed of primarily small businesses. Even the largest companies like Ruger and Smith & Wesson are considered small by comparison to other manufacturers. While the products are flying out the doors now, a mid to long period of enforced closure due to the pandemic is going to hurt.

Firearms Industry – Closures and Acquisitions

Just like the rest of American industry, there are changes going on in the firearms industry.

It was announced late last week that the Montana Rifle Company would be closing its doors immediately. They made some very nice higher end bolt action hunting rifles. They had been bought in early 2019 by the Montana Outdoor Group.

From their release on the closure:

“While sales of our popular calibers have been outstanding, production levels have not risen to a profitable level to continue, without additional investments,” CEO Calvin Bontrager explained. “New equipment would be required to reach a service level demanded by our dealers and conservation groups.”

Montana Rifle has been producing custom-grade rifles for nearly 25-years and has been awarded “NRA’s Gun of the Year” in 2016 and “NRA’s Gun of the Year” in 2018. Montana Rifle has also produced limited editions for California Waterfowl, SCI, RMEF, and many other conservation organizations.

“With sales of the popular M1999 control feed actions nearly doubling in 2019, Montana Outdoor Group, is actively searching for restructuring opportunities,” Bontrager continued.

The temporary closures related to COVID-19 are also impacting manufacturing side of the firearms industry.

CZ-USA sent out a message today that production and shipment delays would be the rule for the next 30 days at least. This is due to local and state orders limiting activities which has caused them to close.

CZ-USA operations are subject to an Emergency Order from our local government which forces us to close our facilities in Kansas City, Kansas until at least April 23rd. Likewise, our Dan Wesson Firearms facility in Norwich, NY was closed under similar circumstances late last week due to an order from the state of New York.  

For the next 30 days, production and shipment delays are inevitable. We apologize for the inconvenience we know this will cause — we hold our nation’s Second Amendment rights to be sacred and are very concerned about the impact that emergency orders will have on our customers. We will work diligently to deliver products as soon as legally possible, while maintaining social responsibility and compliance with government orders.

Finally, EOTech has been purchased from L3Harris by American Holoptics LLC.

American Holoptics LLC™, a privately-held U.S. company, has signed a definitive agreement with L3Harris™ to acquire EOTech®.The transaction is expected to close mid-2020 and is conditioned on customary closing conditions. American Holoptics is a subsidiary of Koucar Management, whose strategic acquisitions of Elite Defense® and HEL Technologies™ represent a solid foundation of cutting-edge optical science and weapons systems distribution. The American Holoptics leadership team has an exceptionally broad and deep experience providing high-quality products to the global weapons accessory market. In addition, this team has a proven track record of building customer-first and technology-focused organizations. “We’re proud to sign this agreement to join our team and technology with the EOTech brand,” says Matt Van Haaren, CEO of American Holoptics. “EOTech brings together technologically advanced product lines and production capabilities that will integrate well with our existing business and strategically expand our product portfolio. Together we will deliver an all-new level of service, innovation, and integrity to military, law enforcement and civilian users around the world.” 

Koucar Management is a privately held Michigan-based company that owns companies in a variety of industries including construction, property management, hotels, software, and technology. In the firearms and defense industry realm, they own Elite Defense, American Holoptics, and HEL Technologies. They also own companies like Detroit Taco Company and Cambria Hotels.