Sig Sauer has established extensive operations in the U.S., first in Virginia and then in New Hampshire. The American operations expanded from importing German-made guns to assembling guns with a mix of U.S. and German-made components, then finally switched to all-American production. The United States has been good the the German/Swiss manufacturer and they have established themselves as a world leading forward thinking brand.
The U.S. operation is a roaring success, by 2007 Sig Sauer had separated from its German root in all but name and has been responsible for much of the company’s R&D. It was quite simply easier, cheaper, and better supported to run operations in a country that appreciates firearms. Several companies have U.S. Branches that operate as more or less independent agencies under the brand because the U.S. is so firearm and tech development friendly. This often confuses overseas markets and thought patterns can clash.
Sig Sauer employs more than 2,300 people in the U.S. and has won several large military and LE contracts for multiple next generation systems. The P320 handgun system which has been adopted by the U.S. military as the M17/M18 Modular Handgun System and multiple LE agencies internationally. The MG338 in operational trials with the MARSOC. They just shipped their submission for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon, the military small arms program that could be the largest change in 50 years by finally picking a successor to the AR-15 series.
Swiss-based Sig Sauer AG (formerly Swiss Arms) is also a separate company from the German operation. Swiss culture still holds proficiency in arms in very high regard and the government sponsors competitive shooting events to maintain the tradition. The Sig 550 rifle is their national service rifle to this day.
Meanwhile, the German branch has suffered and shrank over the past two decades due to purportedly being locked out of military and police contracts in that country, given some of the political items we’ve seen across the pond here I can believe it. They allegedyly have 130 employees, about 7% of their U.S. counterpart. The owners, Michael Lüke and Thomas Ortmeier since 2000, have given grave tidings for the branch and its assets. European gun blog All4 Shooters reports that the closure will also likely extend to the company’s Blaser Group facility at Issny in Southeastern Germany. What this means for niche rifle makers Mauser and J.P. Sauer & Sons, which are part of the same group, is not known… but likely not good.
Germany, which formerly had a rich consumer firearms market, has become increasingly strict when it comes to the shooting sports. Their export laws are atrociously detrimental, even to allied military customers, and their contempt for the private consumer base makes H&K’s somewhat haughty attitude appear radical in profile.
The German Weapons Act (Waffengesetz, or WaffG) contains some of the toughest restrictions in the world on private firearms ownership, use, and sales. Harsh limits on types and calibers of guns, mandatory registration, and compulsory liability insurance. To qualify for a firearms ownership license (Waffenbesitzkarte), would-be gun buyers have to undergo extensive vetting and meet training and local shooting club (Schützenverein) membership requirements. Carry permits (Waffenschein) are rare and typically just “may issue” for private security and the like. Storage often takes place at the club, not the owner’s home, and club membership is a requirement. These are unfortunate rules for group of people that have some of the nicest shooting facilities otherwise and a firearms heritage they are burying under political expedience.
Heckler & Koch, has also been growing operations in the U.S. in recent years, and now has a plant in Georgia. HK debuted a new 50,000-square foot manufacturing plant located in Columbus, in September 2017, and recently announced they were using it to prep new weapon systems as part of the U.S. Army’s Squad Designated Marksman Rifle contract, the M110A1 SDMR. We’ve seen the return of the MP5 as the SP5. The USMC’s M27’s are a Columbus product as well, H&K could potentially follow Sig and lose its German roots, although probably not quickly since they are still intimately tied to Germany’s defense industry and will likely make Germany’s successor to the G36, despite the political campaign launched against the company.
Walther Arms also has an expanding and vibrant U.S. presence with a stellar line of pistols, air guns, and other offerings that are appreciated and well regarded on the market.
I just hope that it doesn’t take a grand scale tragedy (like continent wide riots or an invasion) for Europe to recognize the need for an armed citizenry en mass again. They look at homicide rates here in the United States and blame guns, an easy scapegoat that requires no introspection. They miss the deeper socio-economic causes and that the mixture of culture and certain government policies has made violence a currency it never had to be.