Small arms makers are thriving as US demand soars

Small arms makers are thriving as US demand soars

Small arms makers are thriving as US demand soars

Tony Hook flipped through cell phone photos of the finished work at his New Hampshire shop and explained how one customer wanted memories of important life events: a gun to mark the births of each of his children.

Smaller gun makers like him are on the rise in the United States, thanks to the voracious and sometimes specialized demand for expensive, limited-production pistols and custom rifles inscribed with Bible passages or the American flag.

“He had us build a gun for every newborn he had,” explains Hook, the owner of RTD Arms & Sport. “So this is his son’s name and his date of birth,” he said, showing the engraving on a rifle.

Matrix Arms owner and arms manufacturer Allen Farris checks equipment on a production line at his Claremont, New Hampshire facility on June 3, 2022 Matrix Arms owner and arms manufacturer Allen Farris checks equipment on a production line at his Claremont, New Hampshire facility on June 3, 2022 Photo: AFP / Ed JONES

The millions of weapons produced in the United States each year are primarily made by the country’s largest manufacturers, but smaller operators have entered a market that nearly tripled production from 2000 to 2020.

The smaller makers can produce parts destined for large companies such as Sig Sauer or Smith & Wesson and for enthusiasts and gun shops, or they can be manufacturers of specialty or custom weapons themselves.

“It’s like sewing your name onto your baseball glove or having custom chalk strips put on your car,” Hook said. “People do the same thing with their guns. It’s part of them.”

Gunsmith and business owner Tony Hook poses for a photo at RTD Arms & Sport in Goffstown, New Hampshire on June 2, 2022 Gunsmith and business owner Tony Hook poses for a photo at RTD Arms & Sport in Goffstown, New Hampshire on June 2, 2022 Photo: AFP / Ed JONES

The United States has a deep culture of gun ownership centered around a constitutional guarantee for Americans to keep and carry guns, resulting in a vast market of guns, equipment, and accessories.

Matrix Arms owner and arms manufacturer Allen Farris checks equipment on a production line at his Claremont, New Hampshire facility on June 3, 2022 Matrix Arms owner and arms manufacturer Allen Farris checks equipment on a production line at his Claremont, New Hampshire facility on June 3, 2022 Photo: AFP / Ed JONES

America also sees about 40,000 deaths from firearms each year, about half of which are suicides, although homicides have historically increased during the pandemic.

In this context, according to the industry group NSSF, the arms and ammunition industry added an estimated $70 billion to the U.S. economy in 2021 — perhaps unsurprising when a single rifle from a smaller workshop like Hook’s can cost between $1,295 and $1,695. to sell.

“Because the gun doesn’t have to look so generic, it attracts people who have never thought about it before,” he added.

The gun-making boom is eased in U.S. federal firearms licensing statistics, with the number of so-called “type 7” licenses increasing both production and sales by more than 694 percent between 2000 and 2020.

Paul Marquis holds a bottom gun receiver as he stands next to a CNC machine in the workshop he rents to make weapons parts, in Goffstown, New Hampshire on June 2, 2022 Paul Marquis holds a bottom gun receiver as he stands next to a CNC machine in the workshop he rents to make weapons parts, in Goffstown, New Hampshire on June 2, 2022 Photo: AFP / Ed JONES

Obtaining one of those permits requires paperwork from applicants with their photo, fingerprints, and other information, while the government also conducts background checks and a personal interview.

Major states like Texas and Florida each had hundreds of manufacturers of all sizes reporting their production to federal authorities for 2020, as required by law, the most recent figures available.

Matrix Arms in New Hampshire is one of those makers, and its CEO and owner Allen Farris said so many manufacturers have entered the industry that the market has been saturated for at least six years now.

Still, his business seemed to keep going, with a line of machines the size of shipping containers producing weapons parts on a recent weekday.

He noted that they produce 4,300-5,300 rifle receivers each week – important central components for making a rifle.

“Our state motto in New Hampshire is ‘Live free or die’ and I think the firearms industry goes hand in hand with that,” he added.

Hook and Farris insisted they didn’t want their guns used for crime or mass murder and said they were following the law — with Hook also citing his own instincts, if a potential buyer rings alarm bells — to try to prevent that.

Inevitably, as the arms industry grows, more people are at risk that the firearms they produce could be used in a crime, mass shooting or suicide.

“We don’t look at it because guns are the problem. People are the problem. Whether it’s a gun, a knife, or a rock – Cain didn’t kill Abel with a gun. He killed him with a rock,” he said. hook. said.

Farris added: “If someone has the motivation to go out there and kill people, the first thing they can do is choose a million different ways.”

“Of course I don’t want my weapons to be used that way, but there’s nothing I can do at the moment to prevent it.”