The boom in gun sales has led to millions of new gun owners, but has also left many store shelves bare when it comes to firearms and ammunition. The firearms industry has tried to keep up with demand, but even factories running three shifts have been unable to produce enough product to keep consumers satisfied. A number of companies are expanding their production capacity, however; building out new facilities and hiring hundreds of new employees in a sign that the industry expects the “new normal” to feature a lot of new gun owners.
In Arkansas, Wilson Combat has just finished a major expansion to their production facilities. In addition to adding more factory space, the company is growing the payroll as well.
The $10 million investment includes a new 16,000-square-foot building that expands the company’s total square footage to a little over 93,000 square feet over its nine-building campus. The expansion began in May of 2020 and since that time Wilson Combat has gone from about 160 employees to more than 240.
Guy Joubert, director of manufacturing at Wilson Combat, said in a recent interview that manufacturing capacity is up by 125% since the company began work on the addition and will stand at about 150% once all the new machinery is in place and working. In total, the company added 57 machines across its operations including vertical and horizontal mills, lathes, gun-barrel drills, rifling machines and reaming equipment. Some of the machines were acquired from gun-maker Remington after its July 202o bankruptcy.
“The expansion has significantly increased our production capacity in key rifle and pistol parts — components that are our bread and butter,” Joubert said.
Wilson Combat’s not alone. In fact, it sounds like if you want to work in the firearms industry, Arkansas might be the place to go.
Two Arkansas ammunition makers have seen their operations expand in the face of red-hot demand over the past year.
New Hampshire-based firearms and ammo maker Sig Sauer said last month that it will be expanding its Jacksonville plant to double production of pistol ammo and plans to add a primer-making operation. The plant makes small-arms ammunition for the civilian, law enforcement and military markets worldwide. The company also builds night sights for its firearms at the plant, which sits on more than 60 acres.
Vista Outdoor, the new parent company of Remington Ammunition, with its ammo plant in Lonoke, said recently it’s continuing to hire workers as it attempts to keep up with consumer demand. The plant employs about 900 people. Chris Metz, chief executive officer of Vista Outdoor, has said the company’s ammunition order backlog is valued at more than $1 billion.
Reloaders will rejoice over the news that Sig Sauer is going to be making more primers, since they’ve been almost as hard to find as some common calibers of ammunition for well over a year now. Of course, given the billion dollar backlog at Vista (and similar backlogs from other ammunition manufacturers), it could be some time before consumers actually feel the effect of the industry’s ongoing expansions.
These types of capital investments aren’t done on a whim, and companies like Wilson Combat, Sig Sauer, and Vista Outdoors wouldn’t be spending tens of millions of dollars increasing their capacity if they thought the increased demand was just a short-term phenomenon. They’re betting that many of the new gun owners since March of 2020 aren’t going to just put their pistol in a safe and leave it alone, but will instead head to their local range on a regular basis to train, plink, and exercise their Second Amendment rights.
I think that’s a safe bet, and thanks to the Democrats’ inability to curb violent crime in the cities they control, I expect the number of new gun owners to continue its upward trend as well. That may end up prolonging the current shortage of both firearms and ammunition, but in the long run it’ll lead to a stronger and more secure Second Amendment for all of us.