By Robert M. Hausman
In this column, Small Arms Review will track breaking news, emerging trends, and new products as they effect the small arms industry. Its journalist/photographer author specializes in covering the business and marketing aspects of the firearms industry.
Colt’s Manufacturing To Acquire Fabrique National
A major business story has emerged during the compilation of this initial column offering. Colt’s Manufacturing Co., the old-line New England “gun valley” based police, military and sporting firearms manufacturer, has signed a letter of intent to acquire the financially strapped Herstal, Belgium-based military and sporting armsmaker, Fabrique National (FN). Colt is reportedly offering three billion francs (or $82.4 million) in its bid to purchase the 92% stake in FN held by GIAT Industries, a French government owned mega defense contractor.
The consummation of the deal could result in Colt’s becoming the small arms powerhouse of the world. Within FN’s holdings, are American gunmakers Browning and Winchester licensee U.S. Repeating Arms Co. as well as an FN owned, South Carolina plant which manufactures M16 rifles for the U.S. military. Culmination of the transaction would help to restore Colt’s pride in the military arena after losing the M16 contract to FN several years ago.
While the deal would give Colt’s products in every major small arms category, the firm is not too keen on acquiring Browning. In a recent interview with the Hartford (CT) Courant, chief executive Ronald Stewart said during negotiations to acquire FN, Colt officials tried to leave Browning out of arrangement, expressing feelings that FN’s Winchester firearms and military businesses would better expand and complement Colt’s line. But GIAT insisted that the businesses not be broken up.
Blount wants Federal
Meanwhile, highly placed trade sources indicate Blount, Inc., the shooting sports company conglomerate, which has just announced its intention of acquiring Federal Cartridge Co. and has said its future expansion plans are dependant upon acquisitions, has been looking at buying Browning. It may even acquire Browning from Colt, after the acquisition of FN is completed.
Colt’s is not planning to cut jobs in its West Hartford, Connecticut plant as a result of its pending FN purchase, Stewart added. He said the company would remain at its present site for six or seven years. Colt’s workforce has remained at about 730 employees during the past year. The gunmaker’s negotiators in the FN acquisition reportedly attempted to make cuts in FN’s European workforce but were unable to gain concessions from labor unions, according to trade sources.
In commenting on the lackluster state at present of most firearms firms, Stewart concluded, “The industry is ripe for consolidation. You’ve really got two choices. You’re either a consolidator or you get consolidated.”
An invaluable reference aid to all sorts of firearms (including full-autos) has just been published by Gun Parts Corporation (226 Williams Lane, West Hurley, NY 12491). The “World Guide To Gun Parts Catalog” Edition #21 is the firm’s largest catalog ever, at over 850 pages. Offering over one-half billion gun parts (many of which are available exclusively from Gun Parts Corp.) it is well worth its purchase price of $7.95 including postage. An especially valuable feature to professional armorers, gunsmiths and hobbyists is the over 450 schematic drawings detailing firearm components.
Thieves intent on stealing a machine gun broke into the Potomac Trading Post, a retailer in Kensington, Maryland one night recently and stole a fully automatic AK-47 rifle, according to the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association. Montgomery County, Maryland police were reported as saying the criminal(s) broke into a safe and removed the gun, which had no magazine attached. No other firearms were taken during the incident.
Bennelli and HK to go separate ways
Benelli and Heckler & Koch (HK), two firms which maintain a significant presence in the police and military market segments, as well as the consumer side, will go their separate ways as of January 1. The two firms had been operating out of HK’s Virginia facility. Beretta USA, which owns part of Benelli, Inc., will set up a sales and distribution office inside the Beretta plant in Accokeek, Maryland but will operate Benelli separately.
Firearms Training Systems, Inc. (FATS) of Suwanee, Georgia, a leading producer of interactive small arms simulation systems, has been awarded contracts with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Both agencies currently use FATS interactive training simulation systems. The award by the FBI is for an additional ten systems and the NYPD placed an order for four new systems as well as an upgrade of one of their existing FATS systems.
And in the international arena, FATS has received a contract from the Israeli Army to provide an interactive training simulation system together with 36 weapon simulators and spares. The contracts includes options for the purchase of up to an additional eight simulation systems.
Over its 13-year history, FATS has developed over 180 types of simulated weapons including submachine guns, pistols and revolvers, anti-armor rocket launchers, cannons and mortars. It also has produced approximately 100 laser discs containing more than 1,000 training scenarios. The company believes it is critical to accurate training that its simulated weapons have the same physical functions and operational characteristics as an actual firearm such as weight, timing of fire, recoil, potential for malfunction and loading procedures.
A typical simulated firearm will include an infra-red laser, gas piston actuators, valves, electronic sensors, a localized computer controller, specialized recoil buffers, gas lines, ports and wiring. The majority of the simulated firearms are modified from actual guns or assembled from arms kits purchased from third party suppliers. To date, the company has sold more than 2,000 training systems in the U.S. and in over 30 other countries.
A new high quality carbine of particular interest to police agencies is available from North American Integrated Technologies ( [NAIT], 590 Menlo Drive, Suite 8, Rocklin, CA 95765). The M16K .45 ACP semi-auto carbine is based on the time-proven M16 but designed to utilize Thompson submachine gun magazines. Hand-built and hand-assembled to assure accuracy and absolute reliability, it has a unique bolt and buffer system to reduce felt recoil and internal stresses on the mechanism. The combination of built-in muzzle brake, heavy tubular steel handguard, and balanced center of operation is said to permit fire with no muzzle climb. Accuracy is guaranteed at 1 MOA at 100 yards.
A couple of other new NAIT items are worthy of note. The XLR rangefinder is specifically designed for long distance shooting up to 2,200 meters with an accuracy of +/- one meter. The waterproof, lightweight and relatively low cost XLR features simple point-and-measure operation and has applications for police, military and professional shooting
NAIT’s Black Cat Gen III 18mm night vision weapon sight is a cutting edge image intensifier tube suitable for combat use. Its compact size and “keep it simple” design gives users complete flexibility and maneuverability while yielding night vision target detection and acquisition. It is currently in use in special operations throughout the world.
Mace Security International, Inc., the Bennington, Vermont-based chemical munitions firm is reshuffling its top management. Directors have elected two new members to their board, and the president, who was on the job only two months, has given up his post to co-founder Jon E. Goodrich, the company said. Meanwhile, Robert P. Gould, another of the firm’s founders, has resigned as a director.
Longbow, Inc. (P.O. Box 624, Burns Flat, OK 73624) has added new products to its line of non-toxic frangible ammunition. Its 12 gauge 2 3/4-inch breaching slug, which functions in standard law enforcement shotguns without requiring a “stand-off” attachment, now has improved accuracy for use at normal training and confrontation distances. The new 12 gauge frangible buckshot round is available for training and service use in “hardened” areas such as jails and court houses.
Longbow intends to offer a service round in every caliber commonly utilized by law enforcement. For example, the popularity of the .380 ACP cartridge as an off duty, back-up and undercover caliber has prompted the company to come out with a frangible loading in this cartridge. For marksmen, match grade frangible ammo is now available in .223 Remington and .308 Winchester loadings.
The .357 SIG, relatively new but gaining acceptance within the police community (it is being issued by the Delaware State Police and the Texas Department of Public Safety, among others, according to Longbow) has induced Longbow to bring out of a cartridge in this caliber. The 95 grain frangible bullet has a velocity of 1,550 fps and delivers a muzzle energy of 453 foot-pounds. And for those agencies issuing carbines instead of shotguns to their officers (such as the Ruger Mini-30), a 7.62×39 frangible cartridge is sold with a 120 grain bullet traveling at 2,200 fps at the muzzle and yielding a muzzle energy of 1,288 foot-pounds.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N1 (October 1997)|