SIG SAUER HQ
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.