Industry News: April 2004
by Robert M. Hausman

Normalization of trade relations with Yugoslavia is finally a reality. The US Department of State published the restatement of nondiscriminatory treatment of Serbia and Montenegro for the purpose of trade with those countries in the November 13th issue of The Federal Register, the official US government newspaper. On December 4th, the duty rate for imports from Serbia and Montenegro was reduced to the level of countries with normal trade relations with the US.

The trade law had been delayed in final approval as US Senator Richard C. Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, had placed a hold on the bill since he wanted a provision adopted in the 2002 trade law reversed in order to protect the foot sock industry in his state. Shelby had objected to a provision that allowed companies in the Caribbean to sew up the toes of US-made socks, package them, and then ship the socks back to the US on a duty-free basis. He claimed the practice could result in the loss of 10,000 jobs in his state, home to many sock mills. Large numbers of firearms and ammunition from Serbia and Montenegro are thus expected to shortly become available to US shooters due to the lowering of the import tariff rate.

Changes to Russian VRA Delayed

While first announced during the ATF/F.A.I.R. Trade Group Importer’s Conference in Washington, D.C. last July, expected imminent changes allowing additional firearms to be added to the list of legally importable firearms from Russia under the Voluntary Restraint Agreement adopted during the Clinton Administration, which limits US importation of firearms from Russia is taking longer than expected. The delay is being caused by the Russians themselves, who have taken longer than anticipated to review a counter-proposal list of firearms provided to them by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives through the office of the US Trade Representative.

The action was started by the Russians who originally sent a list to the US government of about 100 additional firearms they wanted to export to the US for commercial sale. The American government responded by approving approximately 75 of the requested firearms on the list. There is no indication of how much longer the Russians will take to review the counter-proposal from the US. Though it is of much interest to US-based firearms importers, the American government has refused to release the list of proposed Russian firearms that would be legally importable.

US Origin Policy Update

The US Department of State is waiting on a reaction from the Department of Homeland Security in response to a request for comments on the proposed change to the presumptive denial policy set forth by the Department of State for re-importation of US goods. All other branches of government have responded.

Given the demand for the goods, such as .30 M1 Carbines and other highly desired collectables, a change in State Department policy would be beneficial to firearms collectors, enthusiasts and shooters.

Once the Dept. of State receives comment from the Dept. of Homeland Security, the last procedures will involve an internal review of comments from various agencies, making any necessary revisions to accommodate those comments, before final action is taken by State to implement the policy change.

ATF Forming Agency Working Group

In response to a recent Congressional directive, ATF has undertaken to develop a working group between the departments of State, Commerce and Customs to facilitate communications between the regulatory agencies with import/export policy responsibility and to clarify discrepancies in regulatory procedures. A suggested list of topics covering a multitude of issues for the working group has been provided to ATF by licensed firearms importers.

Items on the list range from reforms to the International Import Certificate, and increased harmonization of education and application of firearms regulations. These policy suggestions are designed to help facilitate communications between the agencies and their staffs in hopes of improving upon the somewhat adversarial relationship that appears to exist today.

New Firearms Market Segment Emerging

Energy policy legislation is before the US Senate, authorizing security guards at nuclear power plants to carry all manner of firearms, including machine and submachine guns, thus creating a potential new market for suppliers.

ATF Deploys New eForm 6 System

The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has deployed “eForm6,” a system that for the first time will allow defense contractors and firearms importers to file applications for import permits electronically. ATF received more than 15,000 applications for permits in the year 2002 alone.

With the new system, importers can submit the ATF Form 6 electronically to ATF’s Firearms and Explosives Import Branch (FEIB) for review and approval. Previously, the Form 6 submission process was entirely paper-based and required importers to fill out a form and mail it to ATF for processing. ATF then would mail back the import permit for the importer to present to US Customs at the port of entry. All paper Form 6s were manually transcribed into ATF’s internal tracking system prior to FEIB analysis, and all status inquiries had to be done by telephone.

In addition to providing an electronic method for submitting the Form 6 to ATF, the new eForm 6 system also provides:
  • Automated checks and validation of Form 6 information prior to submission,
  • Elimination of the need to mail the Form 6 to ATF,
  • Automated notification via email of Form 6 receipt,
  • On-line status available 24-hours for both paper-filed and electronically filed applications, and
  • The ability to copy frequently used information from one Form 6 to another to reduce data entry. eForm6 was developed under a contract between ATF and Idea Integration, a Fairfax, Virginia software firm specializing in web-based systems. The eForm6 system is available to importers who register with ATF’s Imports Branch. To register call 202-927-8320.

Problem Develops With H&K Police Pistol Contract

Are the 25,000 pistols Heckler & Koch recently supplied to the German police bent, or do the polizei not know how to aim?

Police in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg have got a problem. Their new H&K pistols have a left-hand twist and they are complaining that their shooting scores are resulting in groups situated to the lower left of the target. The Ministry of the Interior had recently placed an order for nearly 25,000 units of the H&K Model P 2000 V5 pistol with a total contract value of nearly 8 million euro. So, wherein lies the problem?

Heckler & Koch says the guns fully passed the firing tests conducted with the proof house in Ulm. The proof house did not find any irregularities with the pistols. It is supposed that a mistake may have been made in the factory in adjusting the sights during the production process. H&K stated it was willing to re-check the sight adjustments. A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior said it is possible the officers using the pistols have to get used to the new H&K design. Formerly, the officers used the Walther P5.

A police spokesperson reacted by saying that it was “impossible” for all shooters to have the same aiming problem. Ten policemen who were considered “very good” shooters were selected to fire test groups and all of them shot to the lower left of the target with the new H&K guns. While the police spokesperson noted that the tendency to shoot to the lower left with the new guns might not pose a significant dispersion of shots problem to pose a danger to innocent bystanders during a police shooting incident, the spokesperson argued that the new pistols should produce better results.

The situation has mushroomed into a major controversy with a wide range of individuals from the private and government sectors examining the guns. Meanwhile issuance of the new guns to officers has been put on hold.

As this issue of SAR goes to press, a report has been issued by the well-respected Institute for Chemical Technologies, which largely absolves H&K of any blame. The Institute’s verdict says that the police complaints were not justified and that the results of a detailed examination of the guns acquitted H&K of any technical defects.

It has been decided that the new H&K police Model P 2000 V5, which is a double-action-only model, requires some special training of the officers who will use it, as compared to the earlier-issued Walther P5 which could be fired in both the single-action and double-action modes.

Germany Removes Ban on Certain Semiautomatics

The German Federal Criminal Police Office recently removed a ban on civilian ownership of several semi-automatic firearms formerly listed as war guns. There are:
  • SAR Europa Sport in .222 and .223 Remington
  • SIG-Kempf SG 550 Civil Match in .223 Rem
  • OA UG in .223 Rem.
  • OA 15 in .223 Rem.
  • - Springfield M1A Type “Loaded” in 7.62x51mm NATO
  • Springfield National Match in 7.62x51mm NATO
  • SAR Sportmatch Model 41 in 7.62x51mm NATO
  • Pistol Carabiners H&K USC in 9x19mm. These listed models are now generally allowed for sport shooting.

S&W’s Bob Scott in Gummersbach, Germany

Smith & Wesson’s chief, Bob Scott, recently went over to Germany to congratulate the German Smith & Wesson importer, Albrecht Kind, of Gummersbach, on the occasion of their 150th Anniversary. Scott showed his gratitude for the commercial relationship between S&W and Kind started more than a decade ago.

Germany Issues New Gun Law Decree

After a seven-month wait, on October 31st, the German Interior Ministry announced the general decree to the new gun law passed last spring. The new decree became valid December 1st. The German industry is now hopeful the issuance of the decree, which makes the new gun law valid, will stimulate the market for firearms sales. Consumers have been delaying new firearm purchases over concerns about possible additional amendments that could be made to the new gun law before it became finalized in form by issuance of the Interior Ministry’s decree.

German Armed Forces Reduce Stock

During the year 2002, the German armed forces destroyed 62,500 guns they held in stock. In 2003, they reduced their infantry holdings even further with the destruction of an additional 96,510 guns. These include 86,117 G3 rifles, 8,237 small “bazookas” or anti-tank weapons, and 2,156 machine pistols.

Peters Stahl Under New Ownership

Since November 1st, Christian Ulrich Freiberg is the new manager and owner of Peters Stahl in Paderborn, Germany. No changes are anticipated in the company’s products or marketing partners. Freiberg is also a shareholder in the company SWS-2000 GmbH in Krefeld, Germany, a developer of centerfire firearms.

Exhibition in Honor of Kalashnikov

In late November, the Netherlands Military Museum (Leger Museum) began an AK47 rifle exhibition in honor of its designer, Mikhail T. Kalashnikov. The exhibition deals with the history, development and worldwide distribution of the rifle.

Steyr M-A1 Pistol Re-Designed

The previously introduced M series of pistols from Steyr Mannlicher have been modified and are now being sold under the model designation “M-A1.” The newly designed synthetic frame shows more ergonomic thinking in its shape to afford better handling. A MIL-STD-1913 rail interface on the frame allows the installation of laser or other aiming lights in recognition of growing demand for this feature on the part of government buyers. The standard factory chamberings are .40 S&W and 9x19mm, with .357 SIG available on special order. For more details, go to www.steyr-mannlicher.com

Reprint of Walther Pistol Manuals

Reprints of the original Walther manuals for the models PP and PPK in caliber 7.65mm are now available from: DWJ Verlags, GmbH, Schmollerstr. 31, 74523 Schwabisch Hall, Germany.

Robert M. Hausman is the publisher of the firearms industry’s two most widely read professional trade publications, the bi-weekly The New Firearms Business which covers the domestic US market and the monthly, The International Firearms Trade which covers the world market. For subscription information to either publication, send an email to FirearmsB@aol.com.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V7N7 (April 2004)
and was posted online on August 30, 2013


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