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.

Savage Chambers Firearms In 400 Legend

Winchester Ammunition, a division of Olin Corporation, announced a new cartridge called 400 Legend at the recent NRA Annual Meeting. It is a straight walled cartridge aimed at hunters in those states, primarily in the Mid-West, that prohibit the use of necked cartridges for deer hunting.

The cartridge is reported to have double the energy of a 12 gauge slug at 100 yards, 55% less recoil than a 12 gauge slug, and 20% more energy than the venerable .30-30 Winchester. It is an upgrade over the 350 Legend. The representative that I spoke with at the NRA Annual Meeting denied that they were trying to one-up the Federal/Remington 360 Buckhammer and that they had been working on it long before the SHOT Show.

In today’s email, I received a press release from Savage Arms announcing their plans to chamber a number of their rifles in 400 Legend.

Savage Arms is proud to partner with Winchester® Ammunition to bring deer hunters several rifles chambered in 400 Legend in time for 2023 hunting seasons. The new hard-hitting, yet mildly recoiling, caliber means new opportunities for deer hunters across the country. Savage will launch the 400 Legend in the 110 Apex Hunter XP, 110 Hog Hunter and Axis II XP—but will also chamber it in another 11 models in 2023.   

Straight-walled cartridges, and especially the 400 Legend’s predecessor the 350 Legend, were born for states like Ohio and Michigan. The premise being bring modern projectiles and cartridge technologies to areas, states and hunters originally limited to shotgun slug or historically limited rifle caliber options. Due to the popularity of these cartridges that has been driven by performance—straight-wall options have gained traction outside of traditional shotgun slug areas as well. The 400 Legend will no doubt continue this legacy and Savage has responded by adding it to so many rifles in its lineup.

You are probably saying to yourself, “That’s nice but so what!”.

Federal and Remington, makers of the 360 Buckhammer ammo, are part of the Sporting Products Division of Vista Outdoor. Savage Arms was a division of Vista Outdoor from 2013 until 2018 when it was spun off in a leveraged-buyout to return to its roots as an independent company. If they still had been part of Vista Outdoor, I would think that they would have gone with the Federal/Remington 360 Buckhammer from sister companies over the 400 Legend.

I am neither pro-Legend nor anti-Buckhammer. I just found it interesting that a former division of Vista Outdoor went with a competitor’s new cartridge instead of one from their old sister companies.

Savage Arms Adds 1911s To Pistol Lineup

Savage Arms is expanding their pistol lineup. They have had the polymer, striker-fired, micro-nine Stance pistol for a year now. They are now adding an assortment of full or Government-sized 1911s to this lineup. They will available in both .45 ACP and 9×19.

As you can see from the photo above, these Savage 1911s are available in three finishes. In addition, they are available with rails or without them.

More on this new introduction from the Savage press release:

WESTFIELD, Massachusetts – December 21, 2022 Savage Arms is proud to announce the latest addition to its handgun line-up, the Savage 1911 Government Style Models. Built for tough use and unmatched accuracy, Savage’s 1911s bring modern technology to a time-tested platform and deliver reliability, accuracy and performance that will stand out amongst competitive offerings. 

“Savage ended 2021 with the introduction of Stance, a micro-compact 9mm handgun,” said Beth Shimanski, Director of Marketing at Savage Arms. “A year later in 2022, we’re ending strong yet again in the handgun arena with the launch of the Savage 1911 Government Style Models. We’re extremely excited to introduce this iconic firearm bearing the Savage name.”

This revolutionary firearm is built to the demanding standards of accuracy and reliability that have come to define Savage Arms across platforms and categories. With features offering optimal performance for all shooting enthusiasts, this classic gun gets the ultimate Savage treatment.

“I’ve worked in the firearms Industry for over 30 years and started my career as a professional shooter,” said Rob Gates, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Savage Arms. “This Savage 1911 is as real as they come and shoots better than any production 1911 I’ve handled during my 30 plus years in this industry.”

With a look that pays homage to the classic design, the Savage 1911 has a dual recoil spring and machined sear and disconnector, a nitride coated titanium firing pin and weighs in at just over 2 LBS with a 5” barrel length. Finishes range from black melonite to stainless steel and the Savage 1911 is sure to be 2023’s leading single-action pistol.

New Model features include:

  • 5” Stainless Steel Barrel Machined from Billet with 11º Target Crown
  • Ambidextrous Slide lock Safety
  • Dual Recoil Spring with Fully Machined Sear and Hammer
  • Ejection Port Lowered, Flared and Cut for Live Round Ejection
  • Forged Stainless Steel Frame and Slide
  • Nitride Coated Titanium Firing Pin
  • Novak® Lo-Mount Adjustable Tritium Bar Rear Sight and Tritium Mega Dot Glow Dome™ Yellow Front Sight (Rail & Two-Tone Versions)
  • VZ G10 Grips

The MSRP price range on these Savage 1911 pistols starts at $1,350 for the Melonite and Stainless models without rails and goes up to $1,500 for any of the railed models regardless of finish. There is no price difference by caliber.

Savage Arms Is An Independent Company Again

Savage Arms and their Stevens brand were bought in 2013 by ATK for $315 million in cash. After the split of ATK into ATK Orbital and Vista Outdoor, it became part of Vista Outdoor where it stayed until today. It was announced this evening that Vista Outdoor sold Savage Arms and Stevens to a management group led by CEO Al Kasper. The purchase price was $158 million now with another $12 million to be paid in five years. Vista Outdoor had planned to divest themselves of Savage and leave the firearms manufacturing industry. They will remain a significant ammo and accessory maker.

Savage Arms sent out the following by email:

“We want to thank Vista Outdoor for the support over the last six years. They invested in us and provided guidance in the transformation of the Savage brand, further developed our product portfolio allowing entry to new markets,,” said Al Kasper, Savage President and Chief Executive Officer. “Savage is an extremely strong brand and in a great position to keep charging forward. The momentum gained under Vista Outdoor will propel us for future success. It is business as usual and Savage is excited to continue building on existing relationships within the firearms industry.”

Savage, Stevens and Fox shotguns have been delivering innovative products for more than 125 years. In 1894, Savage forever changed the world of firearms with a commitment to a higher standard in quality. Savage has built a reputation for continuously improving firearm design while becoming the standard for accuracy and value in the industry.

“We are excited to build on the Savage legacy and are blasting into our next chapter. Here at Savage we are excited to show you what we have coming, because we are just getting our barrels warm! You’ll see more customizable platforms based on our incredibly versatile Accufit stock system, and a continued focus on making your firearm best fit your shooting and hunting needs.” said Beth Shimanski, Director of Marketing. “As we are transitioning, you’ll see more detailed information coming, with updated contacts and information.”

Headquarters of Savage Arms will be Westfield, Massachusetts which has been its home since their founding by Arthur Savage in 1894.

My Savage 99s and Savage Model 1921s are applauding this spinoff. They are also saying the new management group got a good deal given what ATK paid for the company during the Obama sales boom.

“Book Review: Collector’s Guide To The Savage 99 Rifle”

Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons has a fine review of David Royal’s A Collector’s Guide to the Savage 99 Rifle. I know some people think that Winchester or even Marlin lever actions are the be all and end all of lever guns but my heart belongs to the Savage of which I have two. Both of mine are in .300 Savage.

Royal’s book was published in 2016 and is available on Amazon in the $40-43 range. There are 52 reviews of the book there and 92% of them are 5 star! I plan to get a copy and suggest other Savage 99 lovers may want to as well.

Vista Outdoor Ditching Guns In “Strategic Business Transformation Plan”

Vista Outdoor announced plans today to sell off its Savage and Stevens line of firearms along with stuff like bike helmets and paddle boards. According to the announcement on their website, they are engaging in a strategic business transformation plan to emphasize products core to business. This will include their ammunition business which is their largest core business.

From their release, in part:

Vista Outdoor Inc. (NYSE: VSTO) today announced its strategic business transformation plan, designed to allow the company to focus resources on pursuing growth in its core product categories. The plan is a result of a comprehensive strategic review, which began in November 2017.

“Our review identified product categories that are core to the company’s long-term business strategy,” said Vista Outdoor Chief Executive Officer Chris Metz. “We believe future investment should focus on categories where Vista Outdoor can achieve sustainable growth, maximize operational efficiencies, deliver leadership economics, and drive shareholder value.”

In conducting the strategic review, Vista Outdoor management defined several criteria to evaluate whether individual product categories are part of the company’s core. Vista Outdoor evaluated brands within its current portfolio based on their ability to do the following:

  • Serve the company’s target consumer – the outdoor enthusiast
  • Create cross-selling and other similar synergy opportunities
  • Achieve market leading positions and leadership economics
  • Demonstrate omni-channel distribution capabilities

As a result of this evaluation, and with support from its board of directors, Vista Outdoor will focus on achieving growth through its market-leading brands in ammunition, hunting and shooting accessories, hydration bottles and packs, and outdoor cooking products.

“Vista Outdoor is excited about the potential of each of our core businesses, particularly ammunition, which is our largest core business.” said Metz. “An increased focus on our heritage ammunition business will manifest itself in more innovative and breakthrough new products introduced over the next few years. We also anticipate that by prioritizing this business, we will be able to invest more capital to further enhance and expand our global leadership position.”

The company plans to explore strategic options for assets that fall outside of these product categories, including its remaining Sports Protection brands (e.g. Bell, Giro, and Blackburn), Jimmy Styks paddle boards, and Savage and Stevens firearms. Vista Outdoor expects that the execution of this process will significantly reduce the company’s leverage, improve financial flexibility and the efficiency of its capital structure, and provide additional resources to reinvest in core product categories, both organically and through acquisition.

“This transformation plan is a significant first step toward creating a portfolio of brands that is laser-focused on our target consumer and leverages the strengths of our combined platform,” said Metz. “This renewed focus will allow us to invest in these categories and their natural adjacencies. Coupled with our previously announced sales and marketing reorganization to drive a founder’s mentality back into our brands, this strategic orientation will also allow us to accelerate our efforts to expand e-commerce capabilities and increase our emphasis on market-leading product innovation. The end result will be a Vista Outdoor that lives up to the potential envisioned three years ago when the company was formed. We intend to begin the portfolio reshaping immediately, and anticipate executing any strategic alternatives by the end of Fiscal Year 2020.”

Savage had only been a part of Vista Outdoor and its predecessor ATK since May 2013 when ATK bought Caliber Company.

In comments made to the Wall Street Journal, CEO Chris Metz said:

Chief Executive Chris Metz, who joined the company in October, said brands built up through a series of acquisitions by the previous management team had failed to gel, denting sales and margins over the past two years. Vista Outdoor has seen two-thirds of its market value wiped away over the past two years as industry oversupply and bankruptcies among retailers have hit the broader shooting-sports industry…

Mr. Metz said the Savage Arms business remained “close to our core,” but Vista Outdoors wasn’t prepared to make the investment needed to make it a full-service firearms maker.

He added that they were in no hurry to sell these assets. While I don’t care what they do with paddle boards or bicycle helmets, I don’t want to see a venerable firearms company which still makes an excellent product just dumped on the market. I don’t know if they can get the $315 million they paid for Savage back in 2013 but time will tell.

UPDATE: Attached are two slides from the Vista Outdoor analyst presentation today which show the before and after of the potential spin-off of Savage and the others.


ATK Gets Into The Gun Business

ATK – formerly known as Alliant Techsystems – announced today that they were buying Caliber Company. Caliber is the parent company of Savage Sports Corporation. This marks the first true firearms company owned by ATK. They make ammunition under a number of labels including Federal Premium, CCI, Fusion, Speer, Estate Cartridge and Blazer. They also own a number of companies in the firearm accessory and reloading field including BLACKHAWK!, Alliant Power, RCBS, Champion targets and shooting
equipment, Gunslick Pro and Outers gun-care products, and Weaver optics
and mounting systems.

Savage got an equity infusion early in 2012 from NorWest Equity Partners. While no numbers were mentioned when NEP made the investment in Savage, I’m sure the $315 million in cash that ATK is paying represents a significant return on their investment.

From ATK’s press release which provides more details:

ARLINGTON, Va., May 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — ATK (NYSE: ATK) announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Caliber Company, the parent company of Savage Sports Corporation. Savage is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of hunting rifles and shotguns, delivering innovative products for more than 100 years. The acquisition would expand ATK’s portfolio offering by adding long guns to its leading brands in commercial and security ammunition, shooting sports and security-related accessories. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions. ATK anticipates closing the transaction in the first quarter of its Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14), which ends June 30, 2013.

Under the terms of the transaction, ATK will pay $315 million in cash, subject to a customary working capital adjustment. This represents a trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2013 EBITDA multiple of approximately 5.5 times (unaudited). ATK believes the acquisition will be accretive to FY14 earnings per share. ATK will finance the acquisition with cash on hand and funds available under its existing credit facility.

“The acquisition will complement ATK’s growing portfolio of leading consumer brands,” said Mark DeYoung, ATK President and CEO. “This opportunity will allow us to build upon our offerings with Savage’s prominent, respected brands known for accuracy, quality, innovation, value and craftsmanship. Savage’s sales distribution channels, new product development, and sophistication in manufacturing will significantly increase our presence with a highly relevant product offering to distributors, retailers and consumers.”

Operating under the brand names of Savage Arms, Stevens, and Savage Range Systems, the company designs, manufactures and markets centerfire and rimfire rifles, shotguns and shooting range systems used for hunting as well as competitive and recreational target shooting. The company was organized in 1894 by Arthur Savage and has expanded into market-leading positions. Savage is located in Westfield, Mass. and Lakefield, Ontario, and employs approximately 600 skilled employees.

“Savage offers customers a unique value proposition that is unmatched by any other firearms manufacturer and will be a tremendous complement to ATK’s existing ammunition and shooting accessories portfolio,” said Al Kasper, Savage President and Chief Operating Officer.

ATK will integrate Savage within its Sporting Group business. ATK’s Sporting Group is the established leader in sporting and law enforcement ammunition and shooting accessories. ATK’s ammunition brands include Federal Premium, CCI, Fusion, Speer, Estate Cartridge and Blazer. ATK’s accessories brands include BLACKHAWK!, Alliant Power, RCBS, Champion targets and shooting equipment, Gunslick Pro and Outers gun-care products, and Weaver optics and mounting systems.

Caliber Company has been a portfolio company of Norwest Equity Partners (NEP), a leading middle market equity investment firm, since January 2012. NEP is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn.

ATK is an aerospace, defense, and commercial products company with approximately 15,000 employees and operations in 21 states, Puerto Rico, and internationally. ATK is headquartered in Arlington, Va. News and information can be found on the Internet at www.atk.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/atk, or on Twitter @ATK.

UPDATE: More on the acquisition of Savage by ATK from The Republican of Springfield, MA.

Bill Dermody, director of marketing at Savage, he had no information about how the sale will impact operations and employment in Westfield. The deal doesn’t become official until June.

But he did say ATK doesn’t manufacture firearms now, despite the fact that its brand portfolio includes standbys like Federal ammunition. ATK’s shooting accessories businesses make backpacks, cartridge bags gun-cleaning kits and other products. Up until now, the company didn’t make guns themselves.

“They don’t have a firearms factory. There just doesn’t seem to be any redundancy there,” Dermody said. “They are bolting us on to their organization.”….

A private company, Savage has grown in each of the last five years. But Dermody said figures will not be released because it is a private company.

Savage sold 645,000 firearms last year, mostly bolt-action rifles. That is a third of the total market for traditional firearms. Savage’s guns are designed for the recreational market of target-shooters and hunters and are sold through major retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cabela’s.

Hickok45 On The Savage 99

Greg Hickok – Hickok45 – reviews the Savage 99 and the .300 Savage cartridge. I don’t own any lever actions but I have been enamored of the Savage 99 and Savage 1899 for a long time now. It is probably because it is different from other lever guns and it is available in a number of calibers that aren’t traditionally found in lever actions. The internal rotary magazine allowed the Savage 99 to use spitzer bullets. Thus, you can find the now-discontinued Savage 99 in such calibers as the .243 Winchester, the .308 Winchester, and the .22-250 Remington.

As all collectors say at one time or another – one of these days…. 

A New Capital Infusion Into The Firearms Industry

Yesterday, Jim Shepherd at The Outdoor Wire mentioned that Savage Arms had just had an infusion of equity capital from Norwest Equity Partners on Tuesday of this week.

From the Norwest Equity Partners news release:

Erik Torgerson, a NEP partner and senior advisor, stated, “Savage is an industry leading, best-in-class company. Our investment will help advance global market expansion and the continued development of an innovative, diversified products platform. The Company operates within a fragmented industry, and there is significant opportunity for consolidation through add-on acquisitions in both existing and adjacent market categories. Under the leadership of Ron Coburn and his accomplished management team, Savage is well-positioned to continue to expand and exceed its growth objectives.” Torgerson and Tim DeVries, a NEP managing general partner, have joined the Savage board of directors.

Coburn stated, “This new investment partnership with NEP marks an exciting time for Savage. On behalf of our management team and employees, we look forward to working with the NEP team, exploring new business opportunities and advancing our business potential together.”

I agree with Jim’s interpretation of this where he say it means “we have money and there are companies out there that would be good fits, so we may go shopping.” He also notes that other deals and consolidations in the firearms industry may be coming over the next few weeks.

A little history about Norwest Equity Partners and their past investments will show just how significant this investment is for the firearms industry. NEP is an offshoot from Minneapolis-based Northwest Bancorporation that was started in 1961. They originally specialized in Minnesota companies but have since broadened their geographic reach. Their specialty is working with companies to bring them to that next level. Among the companies that they have made equity investments in over the years are Cray Research (supercomputers), Gymboree (kid’s clothing ), Dairy Queen (fast food), and PeopleSoft (software). These are all now big-name companies.

In 1998, Norwest Bancorporation merged with Wells Fargo Bank. While the name going forward was Wells Fargo, in reality Norwest bought Wells Fargo and then took their name. This is the same thing that NationsBank (formerly North Carolina National Bank) did when they merged with Bank of America. The combined Wells Fargo which has now added Wachovia into the mix is the fourth largest bank in the United States according to the Federal Reserve.

With this sort of money and expertise behind Savage Sports Corporation, I think we are now seeing a well-funded competitor to Cerberus’s Freedom Group. Both Savage and Freedom Group are strong on rifles but weak on handguns. I anticipate seeing one or more of the handgun manufacturers being bought by one or the other of these companies. Indeed, one of the rumors I remember reading coming out of the 2012 SHOT Show had Freedom Group buying Para-USA. I don’t know the truth of it but it makes sense given that both are headquartered in North Carolina and are about a two hour drive apart in location.

This will be interesting to watch over the next few months.