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Industry News: November 1999

By Robert M. Hausman

Machine Gun Production Rises

Machine gun production rose to 67,844 units in 1997, a significant rise from the 22,020 such guns produced during 1996. Exports on the other hand, showed a decline to 20,857 machine guns exported in 1997, as compared to 33,875 in 1996. These latest available figures are contained in the 1997 Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report, produced by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF). Manufacturers and exporters are required to maintain records of all firearm production and sales, and to report the figures to ATF annually. Looking further back, the 67,844 machine guns produced in 1997, is far ahead of the 9,185 made in 1995, and the 10,248 produced in 1994. The 20,857 machine guns exported by U.S. manufacturers in 1997, compares favorably with earlier results as well, since only 19,259 machine guns were exported in 1995, and just 16,729 in 1994. Looking at the “any other weapon” category (composed of such items as short-barreled long guns, penguns, disguised firearms, and the like), just 118 were produced in 1997, compared to 410 in 1996, 110 in 1995, and a whopping 572 in 1994. Exportation of “any other weapons” showed mixed results over the last several years. None were exported in 1997, while 223 were sent overseas in 1996, just 27 were exported in 1995, and 56 in 1994.

Other Figures

Reviewing production of other firearms, there was a total of 1,036,077 pistols made in 1997, a jump up from the 985,533 made in 1996, but down from the 1,195,266 produced in 1995 and the 2,014,336 made in 1994. Pistol production in 1997, was broken down as follows: 250,983 pistols were produced in calibers up to .22 (up from the 204,819 made in 1996); 43,103 pistols in calibers up to .25 (a rise from the 41,156 made the year before); 43,623 in calibers up to .32 (versus 20,709 the year before); 154,046 pistols in calibers up to .380 (down from the 165,789 made in 1996); 303,212 pistols were made in calibers up to 9mm in 1997 (a drop from the 319,696 produced in 1996); and 241,110 pistols were produced in calibers up to .50 in 1997 (up from the 233,364 manufactured in 1996. A total of 33,182 pistols were exported in 1997, compared to 64,126 in 1996, an exportation total of 97,969 in 1995 and 95,036 in 1994. A total of 370,428 revolvers were produced in 1997, down from the 498,944 made in 1996, the 527,664 produced in 1995, and the 586,450 manufactured in 1994. The 1997 revolver production breaks down into: 109,296 in calibers up to .22 (compared to 127,119 in 1996); 3,876 in up to .32 caliber (as opposed to 3,083 the year before); 85,935 in calibers up to .38 Special (versus 115,432 in 1996); 70,792 up to .357 Magnum (compared to 134,910 in 1996); 61,324 up to .44 Magnum (80,456 were produced in 1996); and 39,205 wheelguns chambered for calibers up to .50 (up from 37,944 in 1996). A total of 63,656 revolvers were exported in 1997, versus 90,058 in 1996, 131,634 in 1995, and 78,935 in 1994. A grand total of 1,251,341 rifles were manufactured in 1997, compared to 1,424,319 in 1996, 1,331,780 in 1995, and 1,349,116 in 1994. The number of rifles exported in 1997, came to 76,626, up from the 74,555 in 1996, but down from the 89,053 exported in 1995 and the 82,226 exported in 1994. In the shotgun category, a total of 915,978 were made in 1997, compared to 925,732 in 1996, and down from the 1,173,645 made in 1995, and the 1,254,926 made in 1994. A sum total of 86,263 shotguns were exported in 1997, some 97,173 in 1996, a healthier 100,894 in 1995, and a more robust 146,524 in 1994.

Top Makers

Smith & Wesson Corp., took the honors for being the top pistol producer in 1997 with 220,780 examples, up from the company’s production of 179,899 the year before. Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., followed at a close second in 1997, with production of 174,627 examples. This compared to the company’s 1996 production of 134,791 pistols. Smith & Wesson Corp. also emerged as the top revolver maker in 1997, with 159,433 wheelguns, versus 225,491 the year before. Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. came in second again with 118,736. Ruger produced 166,123 revolvers in 1996. Sturm, Ruger was America’s largest rifle maker in 1997, producing 317,116, compared to 166,123 in 1996. The Marlin Firearms Co. finished in second place in 1997 with 302,545. Marlin produced 350,897 the year before. In reviewing production of other rifle makers of note, Colt’s Manufacturing Co., Inc. made 28,100 rifles in 1997, and 15,903 in 1996. Knights Manufacturing Co. produced 203 rifles in 1997, versus 150 in 1996. Armalite, Inc. manufactured 5,469 rifles in 1997 and 2,722 in 1996. D.S. Arms, Inc. made 581 rifles in 1997. Springfield, Inc. produced 10,124 rifles in 1997, and 9,742 the year before. Bushmaster Firearms produced 10,976 rifles in 1997, and 8,240 in 1996. Calico Light Weapons made just 154 rifles in 1997, and 546 in 1996. Auto-Ordnance Corp. manufactured 1,350 rifles in 1997, and 1,265 in 1996. Beemiller, Inc. made 25,100 rifles in 1997, and 8,700 in 1996. Robert I. Landies made 352 rifles in 1997, versus 212 in 1996. Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc. made 60 rifles in 1997, and 227 in 1996. In the shotgun arena, O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc. emerged as the number one shotgun maker in 1997 with production of 331,998 units. The firm produced 332,388 in 1996, when it also finished the year as the top maker. Other top shotgun makers in 1997 included: H&R 1871, Inc. with production of 183,884 guns (compared to 167,584 in 1996); Remington Arms Co. with 284,294 units (compared to 307,803 the year before); and U.S. Repeating Arms with 79,343 shotguns in 1997 (versus 84,229 in 1996).

Top Exporters

The number one pistol exporter in 1997 was Smith & Wesson, which sent out 17,83 units. In 1996, Smith & Wesson exported 45,462 pistols, more than any other firm. Other major pistol exporters in 1997 included: Sturm, Ruger with 5,097 (compared to 3,935 the year before); Colt’s Manufacturing with 2,270 (compared to 4,078 in 1996); and, SIG Arms, Inc. with 6,648 (compared to 1,100 the year before). The top revolver exporter in 1997 was Smith & Wesson with exportation of 49,359 wheelguns, compared to 74,851 in 1996 when it also occupied the number one position. Other top revolver exporters in 1997 were North American Arms, Inc. with shipment of 3,680 units (compared to 2,830 the year before) and Sturm, Ruger with 7,282 being sent abroad in 1997 (versus 7,268 in 1996). The highest volume rifle exporter in 1997 was Sturm, Ruger with 22,329 units exported (compared to 18,226 the year before). Other major rifle exporters during 1997 included: The Marlin Firearms Co. with 20,307 units (versus 18,181 in 1996); Remington Arms Co. with exportation of 17,026 rifles (compared to 19,452 in 1996); and, Colt’s Manufacturing with 7,176 rifles exported in 1997 (in comparison to 2,020 the year before).

News Shorts

In other news, all three of the bidders in the recent competition to run the U.S. Army’s Holston Army Ammunition plant at Kingsport, Tennessee, are foreign explosive makers. Few firms within the U.S. have the specialized expertise need to manufacture the RDX and HMX explosives handled at the facility, according to U.S. Army officials. The bidders are: Royal Ordnance of Great Britain (the only maker of such types of explosives in that country); a joint venture group composed of Day & Zimmerman, a Philadelphia-based engineering firm, IMR of Plattsburg, New York, and Expo Chemicals, a Montreal-based company; and Alliant Techsystems, Inc., which manages four Army facilities, has formed a team including Dyno Defense Products, a Norwegian explosives manufacturer. The winner will be given a contract to supply the Army with RDX and HMX explosives for five years. Imperial Chemical Industries, plc, of London, already operates some U.S. government-owned facilities. Noted firearm manufacturer, Heckler & Koch, U.K., Nottingham, England recently won an $18 million contract to transfer technology for the local production of some 200,000 5.56mm infantry rifles for the Turkish Army. The guns will be made during the next 10 years at a plant operated near Ankara by Turkey’s state-run artillery, small arms and ammunition maker Makima ve Kimya Endustrisi Kurumu. The rifles will replace the Army’s current 7.62mm infantry rifles. A new robotic mortar, capable of being operated by remote control, is in development. Standing 18-inches tall, the system, called Dragon Fire, can load, aim and fire automatically. The 120mm gun, intended for use by the U.S. Marine Corps, is being developed by a joint venture between Paris-based Thomson-CSF and Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG, Munich, Germany. In operation, once having received targeting information from a forward observer-either human or via remote sensors- Dragon Fire can erect its gun, load and fire, all within three seconds. With conventional munitions, its range is nine kilometers. With rocket- assisted munitions the range can be increased to 13 kilometers. Dragon Fire’s benefits are reduced personal risk to troops, improve support fire response time and reduced logistical support. The system can operate autonomously or be remotely controlled using transmissions from the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System located on a vehicle, ship or command post. AlliedSignal Aerospace of Torrance, California produced the system’s automatic fire-control and communications package, and Picatinny Arsenal of New Jersey is performing system integration work. The system was tested during the U.S. Marine Corps Urban Warrior exercise. Dragon Fire was funded at a cost of $3 million for its concept demonstration phase. Each unit will likely cost between $400,000 and $600,000 when in production, possibly by the year 2003. The Marines are considering the purchase of 154 systems. Once fully developed, Dragon Fire will be capable of using a variety of ammunition, including smart munitions with Global Positioning System guidance, and will load from a 32-round magazine. In use, the system might be teamed with an unmanned ground or air vehicle loaded with sensors. The drone would sense a target and send targeting information to the mortar system, enabling it to open fire. Last April, a new world record for accuracy was set in the 1,000 yard shooting competition using the .50 Browning Machine Gun cartridge. The event was the Fifty Caliber Shooters Association sanctioned match at the Washoe County shooting facility in Reno, Nevada. The 5-shot group measured 2.6002” using Barnes 750-grain LRS bullets. The record-breaking group was shot by Skip Talbot of Fallon, NV, breaking the previous record of 3.2395” shot with a Barnes 800-grain LRS bullet. The Barnes LRS (for long range solid) bullet incorporates a low drag design with tight ballistic tolerances, Special care is taken in the packaging of the bullets to prevent any cosmetic flaws from appearing on the surface of the projectiles by keeping the bullet separate within the package. Meanwhile, Nosler, Inc., has introduced a new line of target-grade bullets especially for competition shooters, law enforcement personnel and military applications. The Nosler J4TM Competition bullet is available in a .308” 168-grain hollow boattail configuration, popular with long range target and silhouette shooters. A hollow point, boattail design, the new bullet is built on the concentric and uniform J4 bullet jacket of benchrest fame. SPEER has published an authoritative new reloader’s reference, the Speer Reloading Manual No. 13, containing the latest technical information and reloading trends. Included are 13 new data sections for cartridges and/or applications not included in earlier editions. The manual’s heart are the data sections for each cartridge, presented in a user-friendly format containing header information for each cartridge showing the maximum length, trim length, and RCBS shellholder number. More than 9,300 loads are listed, including many of the most recently introduced powders. The 736-page manual is bound in a heavy-duty laminate binding. New England Firearms has added a heavy-barrel .308 Winchester-chambered model to its Survivor rifle line. This cartridge is one of the most popular military rounds in the free world and is usually available even in the most remote areas. The matte blue finished rifle has a 22-inch barrel factory-fitted with a Weaver-style scope base and includes a hammer extension, for cocking when the scope is mounted. The stock and forend are high- density polymer with a thumbhole design. Sling swivels and a nylon sling are standard equipment and the stock has a large storage compartment. The forend is removable and allows ammo storage as well. The new .308 Survivor can also accept a wide range of additional rifle and shotgun barrels through the company’s accessory barrel program. Agents from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) recently arrested Byron Wade Sumner, a Sacramento (California) County Sheriff’s Deputy, for a violation of federal firearm laws. After several months of investigation, ATF served three federal search warrants and arrested Sumner at his residence in the Sacramento County area. Sumner was arrested for possession of a short barrel rifle, a violation of U.S. Code, Title 26, section 5861(d). If convicted, Sumner faces a possible 10 years in federal prison and up to a $10,000 fine. “Although ATF is not happy to have arrested a fellow law enforcement officer, we are charged with the responsibility of enforcing federal firearms laws without regard to the identity or the occupation of the subject,” commented special agent in charge John P. Malone. A recent government audit of the Pentagon shows the defense organization cannot manage its financial records. The audit showed “significant financial system weaknesses, problems with fundamental recordkeeping, incomplete documentation, and weak internal controls,” according to a report issued by the General Accounting Office. The report has advocates of higher defense spending worried that Congress will not take the Defense Department seriously in regard to future financial matters.


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