Central Arkansas plant to add ammo offering

Sig Sauer taking shot at compact gun market

Posted: February 4, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Denise Priest loads a pallet with boxes of ammunition Wednesday at the Sig Sauer plant in Jacksonville, which soon will be making new 9mm ammunition.

Firearms company Sig Sauer will soon be making new ammunition at its Jacksonville plant for the growing micro-compact pistol market. The ammo should be available soon in retail outlets, company officials said recently.

Sig Sauer's 365 Ammunition in 9mm is specially designed for the small pistols popular with holders of concealed-carry permits. Sig Sauer showed off its latest pistol in the micro-compact category, the P365, at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas last month. A Guns & Ammo magazine review lauded the pistol's design.

The P365 is the first modern micro-compact pistol with 10-round flush-fit magazine, all in a package just over an inch wide and weighing less than 18 ounces unloaded. The weapon has a suggested retail price of $599. Typical semi-automatic pistols in the category come with six-round magazines standard, while small-frame revolvers tend toward five- and six-round capacity.

Bud Fini, executive vice president, ammunition division and special projects for Sig Sauer, said about five years ago that the New Hampshire company decided to manufacture its own ammo, in part to meet its own needs, as a quality-control issue and as a move to be a one-stop shop for some larger clients. The company centralized its ammunition production at a new plant in Jacksonville in 2017 where it makes both pistol and rifle ammunition and employs about 75.

Fini said it made sense to develop ammunition specially designed for smaller guns as interest in concealed carry continues to grow. He said the challenge was getting superior ballistic results out of the small guns and their shorter barrels all while reducing recoil by as much as 10 percent. He said the new ammo should be on store shelves in the next two months.

Fini said that plans were to eventually offer the ammunition in other calibers, like .380 ACP, that are often used in micro-pistols.

According to the interim Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report for 2016 produced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, out of about 4.46 million pistols manufactured in the U.S., 2.1 million were 9mm pistols and 1.1 million were made in .380 ACP, or just over 70 percent of all pistols produced. While not all small pistols are made in these categories, the vast majority are.

Ashley Hlebinsky, the Robert W. Woodruff curator of Cody Firearms Museum in Wyoming, said from their inception, firearms makers have worked to develop what are commonly called "pocket pistols," smaller weapons that are easily carried and concealable.

"It's been going on for centuries," she said.

All 50 states allow concealed carry in some form either through permitting or by not requiring permits at all. Various sources put the total number of U.S. holders of concealed-carry permits at 16.3 million in 2017.

The FBI reported that National Instant Criminal Background checks for firearms purchases in 2017 stood at 25.23 million, the second-highest number on record. In Arkansas, there were 237,629 such checks, according to the FBI, down from 266,014 in 2016. While those figures don't represent the number of guns sold, they are generally used as indicators of firearms demand.

Industry experts say the 2017 numbers, while high, also reflect demand generated by deep discounts offered by firearms makers to dump excess inventory. Nationally, such checks hit record levels in 2016 at 27.53 million, up 18 percent from the year before.

Chris Tedder, founder and president of Clinger Holsters in Fort Smith, said products aimed at the concealed-carry market were a high priority at the shooting and hunting show this year. He said he's already taking orders for holsters for the new Sig pistol and he predicts demand will be high.

"It's a definite game changer," he said.

Tedder said the vast majority of the holsters he sells are for small handguns with shorter barrels. He predicted there would be strong demand for Sig Sauer's new ammunition. Tedder said gun owners overall tend to be brand conscious, love new technology and gadgets and are always looking for items that improve performance.

"People think of this gear like a parachute. It could save your life," Tedder explained. "You don't skimp on a parachute."

Jeremy Askins makes Sig Sauer bullets in Jacksonville.

John Ervin, chief ballistician at the Sig Sauer plant in Jacksonville, fires a test shot Wednesday.

SundayMonday Business on 02/04/2018