America's Rifle In Europe

posted on November 19, 2009

I’m being watched. Covert security cameras are everywhere; atop traffic lights, in the hotel foyer, on the bus, in the subway, around the Eiffel Tower. Surveillance is huge in Europe and the Milipol show is the place to be seen if you sell snooping paraphernalia.

American gun manufacturers are scarcely represented at this European conflux of military and police, which surprises me. I counted precisely two: Smith & Wesson and Remington. Colt Canada is here, but not Colt Connecticut. No Springfield Armory, no Kahr, no Ruger, no Winchester, no Mossberg, no one but Big Green and Big Blue.

When I think about it, it makes sense. Most of the major players in America’s military and police markets are European—SIG, FN, HK, Glock. However,Smith & Wesson is doing land-office business. I stopped by their booth to chat with Joe Bergeron, their product manager who ramrods the M&P product line.

“Why are you here, Joe?” I ask. “Mainly for the M&P,” Joe replies. “Pistol or rifle?" I ask.

“Both. The new M&P4—that’s our full auto version of the M&P15—is getting a lot of attention. Foreign customers have only been able to buy from Colt or FN, so they’re liking our M&P4 a lot,” Joe says.

Smith & Wesson is in the American Pavilion. It’s a section of the show floor that’s cordoned off for U.S. companies. SureFire is displaying their new X400 WeaponLight. Crimson Trace is here and so is Trijicon.

I get back to Joe after walking the floor and taking pictures of surveillance cameras taking pictures of me.

“So the AR is still hot?” I ask him.

“Huge. It’s backed off since the run-up early this year, but…” he looks around to make sure a long-range covert microphone isn’t listening in, “…we’ll do a hundred-thousand this year. Well, okay, more like ninety, but still…”

“That’s amazing! How many will Bushmaster do?”

“Around a hundred. They’ve stayed even.”

I think back to the last reported ATF numbers when Bushmaster made about 80,000 ARs. In second place was DPMS. Both are now owned by Remington… the only other gun company here.

“What about Colt?” I wonder. I mean, the AR is their design. Joe rolls his eyes. He used to work at Colt.

“You have to remember, Colt is two companies. The military part and the commercial part. They’ve invested in the military production line and it’s really something. They just won an M240 contract, you know.”

“FN was the sole source of the SAW, wasn’t it?” I ask, referring to the M240 by its acronym for Squad Automatic Weapon.

“They were,” Joe replied, emphasizing the past tense.

“What about Colt’s commercial side?” I redirect.

Joe just looks at me with one of those “That’s A Dumb Question And You Know It” sort of looks that journalists often get.

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