US AIR­GUNS

SIG SAUER HQ

Airgun World - - Contents - Stephen Archer is the Pub­lisher of Hard Air Mag­a­zine http://www.hardair­magazine.com

Back in the sum­mer, I trav­elled to New Hamp­shire to visit the US head­quar­ters of SIG SAUER. The pur­pose of my trip was to find out more about the com­pany’s foray into the air­gun mar­ket and its plans for the fu­ture. My visit was hosted by the Vice Pres­i­dent and Gen­eral Man­ager of the SIG SAUER Air­gun Di­vi­sion, Joe Hus­ton. Whilst there, I also talked to the Pres­i­dent and CEO of SIG SAUER, Ron Cohen. These gentle­men were very open about shar­ing the cor­po­rate di­rec­tion for the SIG SAUER air­gun busi­ness – in one word, it’s going to be ‘ex­cit­ing!’

BIG COM­PANY, BIG PLANS

SIG SAUER Inc. is the out­stand­ingly suc­cess­ful sub­sidiary of a Ger­man par­ent and it has grown to be larger than par­ent com­pany it­self. Of course, SIG SAUER is a ma­jor player in the firearms in­dus­try and has a great brand pres­ence, world­wide.

To give an idea of the scale of SIG SAUER, let’s look at some fig­ures: The com­pany is based in New­ing­ton, New Hamp­shire, just out­side the his­toric old town of Portsmouth. It has four sep­a­rate lo­ca­tions in this area, in­clud­ing cor­po­rate of­fices, man­u­fac­tur­ing, ware­hous­ing and prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. The build­ings cover a com­bined area of greater than 375,000 sq. ft – that’s over eight and a half acres of build­ings. More than 1700 peo­ple work at SIG, and that’s with­out men­tion­ing the 138-acre SIG SAUER Academy. This is, with­out a doubt, the best and most com­pre­hen­sive shoot­ing range I’ve ever seen. There are ri­fle ranges up to 1,000 yards, many pis­tol ranges and a small ‘town’ for house­clear­ance train­ing. The Academy hosts firearms train­ing for SIG SAUER mil­i­tary and civil­ian cus­tomers around the world.

As a part of my tour, we vis­ited the SIG SAUER pro­to­typ­ing depart­ment where pre-pro­duc­tion parts are made for new mod­els. I’ve vis­ited many air­gun fac­to­ries around the world, but this SIG pro­to­typ­ing depart­ment dwarfed just about ev­ery air­gun fac­tory I’ve ever seen, both in floor space and num­ber of CNC ma­chines. It’s also the clean­est man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tion I’ve seen you could lit­er­ally eat off the floor, it was so spot­less. So yes, this is a large-scale, high-qual­ity en­ter­prise, and yet it’s part of L & O Hold­ing which also owns Mayer and Gram­melspacher - that’s the Diana air­gun com­pany.

STRATE­GIC PLAN­NING IN AC­TION

So why would SIG SAUER en­ter the world of air­guns? Ron Cohen ex­plained that in 2013, the com­pany took some ma­jor strate­gic de­ci­sions that would guide its fu­ture for years to come. One de­ci­sion was to move for­ward with a se­ries of next gen­er­a­tion firearms, such as the SIG SAUER P320, MCX and MPX; an­other was that the com­pany would en­ter the air­gun mar­ket.

Of course, air­guns rep­re­sent an ad­ja­cent busi­ness area for SIG SAUER. The com­pany views air­guns as an ex­ten­sion of the firearms busi­ness, the only real dif­fer­ence be­ing that the pro­pel­lant is com­pressed air (or CO2 gas) com­pared to the com­bus­tion of pow­der in a firearm.

Ob­vi­ously, air­guns are ideal to in­tro­duce young and new shoot­ers to shoot­ing, but as Ron ex­plained, they are also ideal as train­ing tools to com­ple­ment SIG SAUER firearms. Us­ing air­guns for train­ing can pro­vide in­valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence at low cost, or where noise or range have to be lim­ited. That’s why the ini­tial SIG SAUER air­guns have been based around firearms such as the MCX, MPX and P226.

THERE’S ONLY ONE STAN­DARD

Al­though other ma­jor firearm com­pa­nies have be­come in­volved in the air­gun mar­ket, none of

them have ap­proached it like SIG SAUER. When I vis­ited the air­gun de­vel­op­ment team, it was com­pletely in­te­grated, sit­ting side-by­side with firearms de­sign­ers in the same of­fices. Ron Cohen ex­plained that the com­pany does not view air­guns as ‘sec­ond-class cit­i­zens’ and that there’s only one stan­dard for prod­uct qual­ity in SIG SAUER – the best. Air­guns are held to the same stan­dards as firearms in­tended for, say, the SAS, he told me.

Ron also went on to ex­plain that he be­lieves fu­ture technology changes will blur the line be­tween what can be achieved with com­pressed air and pow­der-burn­ing guns, and he plans to bring more of that technology to SIG SAUER air­guns. That’s why SIG SAUER’s Research and De­vel­op­ment spend is twice the in­dus­try av­er­age.

Gen­eral Man­ager of the SIG SAUER Air­gun Di­vi­sion, Joe Hus­ton, con­firmed that the com­pany is in­vest­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in new machin­ery for the man­u­fac­ture of forth­com­ing air­guns. He also ex­plained that they are testing new air­gun de­signs to ex­treme num­bers of ac­tu­a­tions dur­ing the prod­uct de­vel­op­ment process. This is to en­sure re­li­a­bil­ity when these new mod­els get into air­gun­ners’ hands. If it wasn’t ob­vi­ous, SIG SAUER is not aim­ing for the low end of the air­gun mar­ket. The com­pany is going for high-qual­ity air­guns, as with ev­ery­thing else.

NEW AIR­GUNS ARE COM­ING

So what are these new mod­els? Well, of course, much of it is still se­cret, but we do have some clues. The forth­com­ing SIG SAUER ASP20 break-bar­rel air ri­fle was shown as a rather hush-hush pro­to­type at the 2017 IWA Show. The ASP20 meets three big springer is­sues head-on: bar­rel lockup, cock­ing ef­fort and trig­ger ad­justa­bil­ity – all with new patent­pend­ing technology. That will surely be one model that we’ll be see­ing a lot of, very soon.

Joe also ex­plained that they will make some sig­nif­i­cant an­nounce­ments at the Jan­uary 2018 SHOT Show, and/or pos­si­bly at the IWA Show in March 2018. So very soon, we’ll see these new air­guns ‘in the flesh’.

Un­like the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of SIG SAUER air­guns, many of these new prod­ucts will be man­u­fac­tured in-house in SIG SAUER’s mas­sive New Hamp­shire man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity. Parts for these new air­guns will be made us­ing the same high-tech CNC ma­chines that make firearms parts, right along­side each other and to the same stan­dards.

Joe also ex­plained that al­though SIG SAUER and Diana are both owned by the same hold­ing com­pany – L&O Hold­ing – both com­pa­nies op­er­ate com­pletely separately and they do not share com­mon de­signs. So look for SIG SAUER air­guns to be very dif­fer­ent from Dianas. He also con­firmed that not all SIG SAUER air­guns will be mil­i­tary repli­cas in the fu­ture, as the ASP20 shows.

IN­TER­EST IN THE UK MAR­KET

As you might guess, SIG SAUER has a great in­ter­est in the UK. ‘It’s a crit­i­cal mar­ket for us,’ says Gen­eral Man­ager Joe Hus­ton. The com­pany works closely with its UK dis­trib­u­tor, High­land Out­doors, to sell its prod­ucts in Bri­tain. To gain an even bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the needs and wants of Bri­tish shoot­ers, Joe vis­ited the 2017 Bri­tish Shoot­ing Show. Trust me, he paid very close at­ten­tion to ev­ery­thing he saw there. I also found out some deeply con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion. Joe Hus­ton is a great Bea­tles fan, so he has an ex­tra in­ter­est in the UK for that rea­son.

There’s no doubt; SIG SAUER is in­vest­ing in air­guns for the long term. The com­pany has ex­ten­sive dis­tri­bu­tion and sales chan­nels for the firearms busi­ness al­ready. So you can ex­pect to see SIG SAUER air­guns be­ing sold along­side firearms in fu­ture, just as the two types of guns will be man­u­fac­tured to­gether.

By the time you read this story we should be very close to see­ing some re­sults for all this strat­egy, plan­ning, de­vel­op­ment and testing. I’m going to wa­ger that 2018 will be an ex­cit­ing year for SIG SAUER air­guns!

Shoot­ing the SIG SAUER MCX CO2-pow­ered air ri­fle.

This feed sys­tem is one of Sig’s great in­no­va­tions

The 1911 Spar­tan BB pis­tol is SIG SAUER’s lat­est air­gun model.

SIG SAUER head­quar­ters in New Hamp­shire, USA.

Left to right, Stephen Archer; Ron Cohen, Pres­i­dent and CEO of SIG SAUER; Joe Hus­ton, Vice Pres­i­dent and Gen­eral Man­ager of the SIG SAUER Air­gun Di­vi­sion.

An alu­minium pis­tol frame be­fore and af­ter one of SIG SAUER’s CNC ma­chines has fin­ished with it. This is a firearm part, but the same machin­ery will be used to pro­duce air­guns like the ASP 320.

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