The German-based Sig Sauer branch is reportedly on the ropes due to a variety of reasons and is set to close by the end of the year.
Based in Eckernförde near the city of Kiel since 1951 when J. P. Sauer und Sohn GmbH relocated from Suhl in then Soviet-occupied East Germany, the firm was purchased by Swiss firearms giant SIG in 1976, forming Sig Sauer– largely to have an outlet to fulfill overseas orders for guns like the P220 without having to cut through layers of Swiss red tape.
However, since then, 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 U.S. operation boomed and by 2007 had largely separated from its German sister company and has been responsible for much of the company’s R&D. Today, Sig Sauer employs more than 2,300 in the U.S. and fills numerous large military and LE contracts, for example for the P320 handgun system, which has been adopted by the U.S. military as the M17/M18 Modular Handgun System and is a contender for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon, a showcase military small arms program that could be the largest in 50 years.
Swiss-based Sig Sauer AG, formerly known as Swiss Arms, is, like the U.S.-based Sig Sauer, a separate company from the German operation.
Meanwhile, the German branch has atrophied over the past two decades due to purportedly being locked out of military and police contracts in that country and, according to reports, only has 130 employees.
Owned by the holding company of Michael Lüke and Thomas Ortmeier since 2000, Lüke told European gun blog All4 Shooters that Sig Sauer’s German operations will likely not continue at the Blaser Group plant in the Southern German city of Isny. Blaser is part of the same umbrella group.
Likewise, Jason Evans, CEO of Blaser Group USA, told Guns.com on Monday that production for Blaser, Mauser, and J.P. Sauer will continue uninterrupted.
Coming to America?
Germany, which formerly had a rich consumer firearms market, has become increasingly strict when it comes to the shooting sports.
The German Weapons Act (Waffengesetz, or WaffG) contains some of the toughest restrictions in the world on private firearms ownership, use, and sales. This includes 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.
German’s other large firearms maker, Heckler & Koch, has also been expanding 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.
Similarly, smaller German firearm firms such as Schmeisser and Hera have been making inroads to the U.S. market, notably with innovative AR magazines and accessories.
This article has been updated from the original with comment from Evans to stress that Blaser Group, to include Mauser and J.P Sauer, will continue uninterrupted operations..