The nation’s oldest gunmaker in the country has announced it is leaving its home state of New York for friendlier environs. Remington Arms Co., the firearms manufacturing arm of Remington, is leaving Ilion, New York for LaGrange, Georgia. RemArms follows Beretta, Smith & Wesson, and several smaller companies fleeing restrictive political and legislative regimes that have become increasingly hostile to firearms businesses.
Beretta Refuses to Play
Beretta began the trend when Maryland passed a slew of antigun measures in 2013. The Italian company lobbied hard against the new restrictions, and managed to remove the worst bits, but was ultimately unable to prevent their final passage. Beretta was concerned enough that top executives from the Beretta family visited Maryland, making it clear that they would not sit still if the laws passed.
It soon became clear that political ideology would win out over economic concerns, so those Beretta family members began scouting new potential locations. Martin O’Malley, Maryland’s then-governor, deplored the loss of jobs but failed to connect them to his enthusiastic support for the new laws, and his push for them to be far more onerous than they were. It was difficult for Beretta to take O’Malley’s pleas seriously when he backed an amendment that would have made it illegal for the Beretta manufacturing facility to even possess 15-round M9 pistol magazines for shipment to the US military.
Beretta eventually moved to Gallatin, Tennessee, citing that state’s commitment to the Second Amendment and business-friendly environment. Tennessee, for their part, welcomed Beretta with open arms. Beretta’s American headquarters remained in Maryland, but the move cost at least 160 good-paying jobs. We should also note that while Remington is America’s oldest gunmaker, Beretta is the oldest firearms manufacturer in the entire world, dating to 1526. In fact, Beretta is the oldest manufacturer of any product in the world. But Maryland ran them off and then wondered why they didn’t want to stay. It’s almost like they think actions don’t have real-world consequences.
Smith & Wesson “Left with No Other Alternative”
More recently, Smith & Wesson moved most of its Springfield, Massachusetts operations to Maryville, Tennessee. Smith & Wesson CEO Mark Smith announced the decision in 2021, and the new 650,000-square-foot Maryville facility opened this past October. Smith cited a friendly political environment and economic incentives. “From where I stand, the next 170 years of Smith & Wesson are looking pretty good,” Smith said. “It is something special here in Tennessee.”
Springfield had been Smith & Wesson’s home since 1852, and the company did not completely abandon Massachusetts. Smith & Wesson will still conduct revolver assembly, metalworking, and design operations in Springfield, along with some 1,000 jobs. But 550 jobs were relocated to Tennessee, along with all headquarters, plastic injection molding, pistol and long gun assembly, and distribution operations.
Smith said there were financial reasons for moving, but he said the “primary catalyst” was a state bill that would ban the manufacturing of “any assault weapon or large capacity feeding device” in Massachusetts, except those destined for the military or law enforcement agencies.
“While we are hopeful that this arbitrary and damaging legislation will be defeated in this session,” Smith said, “these products made up over 60% of our revenue last year, and the unfortunate likelihood that such restrictions would be raised again led to a review of the best path forward for Smith & Wesson,” As far as I can tell, that bill never passed, but similar bills are currently before the state legislature, so it appears Smith was correct.
Smith said “This has been an extremely difficult and emotional decision for us, but after an exhaustive and thorough analysis, for the continued health and strength of our iconic company, we feel that we have been left with no other alternative.” He noted that all 550 employees were offered a chance to move with the company. Those unable or unwilling to move were offered “enhanced severance and job placement services.”
As with Beretta, Massachusetts politicians decried the job loss. They were, however, unwilling to admit their role in Smith & Wesson’s decision.
“The Company Did Not Arrive at This Decision Lightly”
Eliphalet Remington II founded his namesake company in 1816, manufacturing rifle barrels. Remington expanded in 1828, opening the Ilion factory that same year. The intervening 195 years saw Remington become an American firearms giant, makers of such iconic guns as the Model 870 Shotgun and the Model 700 Rifle.
But the last decade was difficult, including two bankruptcies, falling quality, and a $73 million settlement with the Sandy Hook families over a questionable civil suit. RemArms rose from the ashes, reviving the company’s classic firearms lines and beginning to restore the tarnished Remington brand.
That process now includes closing its historic home and heading for a friendlier state. The Ilion facility employs about 300 people. Those jobs will all be gone by March of 2024, causing rural Herkimer County to lose its largest employer.
RemArms’ leadership did not directly cite New York’s ever-increasing gun restrictions, but some pro-gun politicians did not hold back. New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that “It is because of New York Democrats’ unconstitutional gun grab policies that the oldest gun manufacturer in the country has been run out of the state.”
A local politician wrote that “Unfortunately, like we have seen all too often in New York, burdensome regulations, crippling taxes, and problematic energy and other policies continue to force businesses and companies to flee the state, taking jobs and livelihoods with them.”
RemArms did, however, allude to such issues, when addressing its reasons for moving to Georgia: “RemArms is excited to expand our facilities in Georgia,” saying that the state “not only welcomes business but enthusiastically supports and welcomes companies in the firearms industry.”
RemArms clearly did not want to move. But New York’s hostility to firearms is no secret, and it gets worse all the time. A letter to union leaders last week stated that “RemArms has decided to close its entire operations at…Ilion, NY…The Company did not arrive at this decision lightly.” No doubt. It’s a shame that the Ilion employees, and Herkimer County, have to suffer on account of unconstitutional laws. But that seems to be the trend.
Probably Not the Last
May of 2023 saw component and accessories giant Troy Industries leave Massachusetts for Tennessee. The company cited a “changing climate” for the firearms industry. New York also lost Dark Storm Industries to Florida in June. Dark Storm said they sought a “friendlier political environment.”
Who’s next? New England and New York have been the historic home of America’s iconic firearms companies. Not only Remington and Smith & Wesson, but Marlin, Ruger, the original Springfield Armory, and Colt, to name a few. Ruger has already moved from Connecticut to friendlier New Hampshire. Marlin was founded in Connecticut but was later purchased by Remington and is now owned by Ruger. But Marlin rifles are manufactured in North Carolina, as opposed to New Haven. With Remington’s departure, Colt is the only historic gunmaker still standing in those anti-gun states, being in Hartford, Connecticut. Will they remain? Who knows?
Connecticut’s gun laws are typical of the region, and both Beretta and Smith & Wesson stated that they didn’t appreciate that their employees couldn’t even purchase the guns they built. Colt faces the same problem. Either way, anti-gun politicians are hurting their states’ economies, while more gun-friendly states reap the benefits. This trend will likely continue, but it seems that certain leaders don’t care. I suppose that’s their choice.