Stag Arms, the New Britain, Connecticut gun manufacturer of AR-style rifles, is closing its facility on the East Coast and heading for the friendlier confines and wide open spaces of the state of Wyoming. The move isn’t exactly a surprise, with New Britain’s mayor Erin Stewart telling NBC Connecticut that it was only a matter of time.
“We have known for many years that Stag has been courted by other states following the passage of more stringent gun laws here in Connecticut. Quite frankly, I’m surprised it took this long. While we are never happy to lose a business, the industrial park where it is located is 90 percent full and I am hopeful that it will be filled with another tenant within six months,” she told NBC Connecticut.
Wyoming’s firearms industry has really taken off in recent years, starting with Magpul’s decision to leave Colorado for the state after the passage of Colorado’s magazine ban in 2013. Since then, the company’s nearly doubled the number of employees at their Cheyenne facility.
At the time the deal closed in September 2014, the Wyoming Business Council said Magpul would pay back about $3.7 million, but Laramie County, Wyo., stood to gain another $14.3 million in taxes, income off leases and other benefits from growing its workforce.
Magpul took about 100 employees out of Colorado in early 2015. When the gun law was passed in 2013, it had about 200 workers in a 100,000-square-foot in Erie. The payroll has since grown to 380 and added a second shift in 185,000-square-foot facility in Cheyenne.
Weatherby followed Magpul’s lead in 2018, relocating its production from California to Sheridan, Wyoming. The announcement was made at the 2018 SHOT Show, with Wyoming’s then-governor Matt Mead in attendance.
“We wanted a place where we could retain a great workforce, and where our employees could live an outdoor lifestyle,” Adam Weatherby, chief executive officer of the company, said in a statement. “We wanted to move to a state where we can grow into our brand. Wyoming means new opportunities. We are not interested in maintaining; we are growing.”
Several other companies like Ammo Kan and HiViz Shooting Systems have also relocated to the state as well, and the move by Stag Arms may cement Wyoming’s reputation as the new Gun Valley, as anti-gun policies in traditional firearms manufacturing strongholds like Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts force companies to flee for greener pastures and greater opportunities.
In a statement announcing the company’s move (as well as announcing Chad Larsen, formerly of Aero Precision, as the company’s new president), Stag Arms made it clear that Connecticut’s hostility towards gun owners and manufacturers was the major factor in the company’s decision to go west.
In making today’s announcement, Elie Azar, Founder and CEO of White Wolf Capital, LLC, which owns a controlling interest in Stag Arms, said: “We decided it was time to do a complete refresh of the Company. We needed to solve for three things: visionary customer-centric leadership, a business-friendly, pro-growth economic environment, and a cultural climate that reflects Stag’s brand image of independence and free spiritedness. I am pleased to report that we have found a solution that hits all these points.”
To find a new location for the Company, Stag’s Board of Directors conducted a rigorous process comparing dozens of potential sites against a stringent set of criteria. “Cheyenne came out on top on most of the individual criteria,” said Azar, “and considering our requirements as a whole, it was by far the superior site. Not only is Wyoming an incredibly hospitable place to do business, it is also a top destination for outdoor recreation, including hunting and shooting sports, which reflects its citizens’ unwavering support for the Second Amendment.”
The company’s statement featured a glowing quote from current Wyoming governor Mark Gordon as well, who obliquely called out former Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy and current governor Ned Lamont, who’ve lost millions of dollars in tax revenue thanks to their hostility towards the Second Amendment.
“I am pleased to welcome Stag Arms to Wyoming and to know that our state came out on top of a broad look at potential new homes for the sought-after company. We have a deep-seated commitment to the Second Amendment that I will continue to uphold. Ultimately, Stag Arms had to make a business decision and I believe this announcement is an affirmation that Wyoming is continuing to cultivate a culture that allows private enterprise to flourish. My administration will work collaboratively with the Wyoming Business Council and Cheyenne LEADS to ensure Stag’s move goes smoothly. I thank Stag’s Board of Directors and Chad Larsen for selecting Wyoming.”
States like Texas and Tennessee are also benefitting from gun companies moving or opening facilities within their borders, but for a low-population state like Wyoming, the addition of several hundred well-paying jobs has a much bigger impact than it might in the Nashville or Dallas suburbs. If gun control advocates get their way in next year’s presidential election, on the other hand, the resulting gun and magazine bans could be devastating to the firearms industry, and in turn the local economies in Sheridan and Cheyenne. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if there are more headlines about more manufacturers making the move to Wyoming before next November. In addition to the natural beauty and outdoor opportunities, the state is clearly embracing its role as a place where the Second Amendment is strong and secure, and that’s attractive for companies in unfriendly states like California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and now Virginia who are facing regulations designed to strangle their industry.