SIG Sauer: From Wagon Factory To Modern Gunmaker

by
posted on April 13, 2022
SIG Sauer logo letters black bold font "never settle" text

It was 1853 when Friedrich Peyer im Hof, Heinrich Moser and Conrad Neher established a luxury railway car and wagon business in Switzerland. The Swiss Wagon Factory—the name it operated under at the time—proved to be a short-lived venture. When that nation’s Federal Ministry of Defense announced a search for a new army rifle, the trio of engineers pooled their talents.

The firearm they helped create was submitted for consideration in 1860. It won, and in 1864 the company received an order for 30,000 of those Prelaz-Burnand muzzleloaders. The shift in manufacturing demanded a name change. Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellchaft (SIG) was selected, which translates to Swiss Industrial Company in English. It’s the initials “SIG” enthusiasts know best, though.

Performance and reliability were SIG’s focus from the beginning. Throughout the company’s history it has produced quality firearms, but international acclaim arguably didn’t begin until 1949 when it developed the P49 pistol for the Swiss Army. That year the P220 was fielded by that nation’s military and the compact P230 was issued to the country’s law enforcement personnel.

Business boomed and by the 1970s the SIG corporate umbrella included Hammerli Target Arms and J.P. Sauer & Sohn. In early 1985 SIGArms opened in Tysons Corner, VA, importing P220s and P230s for U.S. enthusiasts. The demand was heavy enough to force the company to move to a bigger location in Herndon, VA. There it also started offering P225s, P226s and P228 pistols.

By 2000, though, company was suffering financially. “Seventeen years ago, the company today known as SIG Sauer was on the verge of dissolution,” Kelly Young explained to American Rifleman readers in 2017. “Although its steel-frame, hammer-fired, semi-automatic pistols were high-quality firearms with sterling reputations among American shooters in the know, import fees and inefficient manufacturing practices hiked up the prices on the company’s products so much so that it couldn’t sell enough units to remain profitable.”

Ron Cohen was hired as CEO in 2004 and immediately enacted a variety of changes that turned things around. A conscious and deliberate shift to American manufacturing was made, along with product diversification. In 2006 the SIG556 semi-auto rifle hit the market, the first in a long-arm lineup now among the most popular on the market.

In the fall of 2007, the company officially changed its name to SIG Sauer. In 2014 the company relocated its headquarters and production facility to a 206,000-square-foot Newington, NH, plant. Two years later the firm launched optics, ammo, suppressor and airgun lines.

Then, in 2017 SIG Sauer won the contract to supply the U.S. Army with the new Modular Handgun System, permanently cementing the company’s name in American firearm history. It continues to innovate, and somehow manages to maintain that focus on quality and reliability that launched the company nearly 170 years ago, at the Rhine Falls in Switzerland.

Latest

Confederate battle flag shown with the 48-shot Virginia Pacificator repeating rifle along with patent drawing overlay top left
Confederate battle flag shown with the 48-shot Virginia Pacificator repeating rifle along with patent drawing overlay top left

Virginia Pacificator: "The Greatest Gun Of The Age"

If Lorenzo Sibert, whose gun had the enormous capacity of 48 shots without reloading, had gotten into production, those gallant Southrons who claimed they could "whup th' Yankees with cawnstalks" might have done just that in the first year of the war with the "Pacificator."

Buck Knives Reopens Factory Store

Family-owned for more than 120 years, Buck Knives is celebrating the grand re-opening of its 1,600-sq.-ft. factory outlet store located in Post Falls, Idaho.

Preview: Burris SpeedBead Vent Rib Mount

Burris has added to its SpeedBead line of shotgun red-dot mounts with the recent release of its Vent Rib Mount.

Single-Actions For Home Defense

For more than 100 years the single-action revolver held the top spot as the go-to home-defense arm, only to be supplanted by modern semi-automatics, but the single-action, though a vestige of yesteryear, remains a viable tool for defensive use in and around the home.

New For 2024: Wilson Combat EDC X9 2.0

After introducing the double-stack EDC X9 in 2016, Wilson Combat is revisiting the concept with its EDC X9 2.0 model.

Preview: Traveler’s Guide To The Firearm Laws Of The Fifty States 2024 Edition

Lawyer J. Scott Kappas’ Traveler’s Guide To The Firearm Laws Of The Fifty States has notable updates for 2024, including more than 100 changes from the 2023 edition.

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.