Soldier Systems recently visited Sig Sauer’s new Rochester, New Hampshire magazine production facility, and it looks impressive. The 200,000 square foot facility has served several purposes since Sig acquired it, including machine gun manufacturing. Sig has now added steel magazine production for the Next Generation Squad Weapon program.
Sig Sauer moved to the 35-acre Rochester corporate campus in 2020 and quickly established operations there. Over 300 Sig employees now staff the plant as the NGSW program kicks into gear. Magazine production will be a major factor going forward, especially since Sig did not use a proprietary mag for the trials. Sig employed modified 20 round Lancer L7AWM polymer mags for the selection process, but they are working on a new stamped steel proprietary mag for the Army’s consideration.
The Army hasn’t looked at the mags yet due to a stop work order emanating from a challenge to the selection process. Such challenges aren’t unusual, and the process should move forward shortly. Sig has used that time to test and refine its processes by making pistol mags.
Automated Process and New Technology
The automated production process turns out a new mag every eight seconds using pre-stamped half-magazine blanks from an outside supplier. The blanks are washed and rinsed before being sprayed and tumbled dry. The halves are then pressed together and inspected before the welding process.
Sig Sauer Chief Operating Officer Ron Goslin told Soldier Systems that Sig is an engineering firm at heart. They examined how mags have been made in the past and adopted a new approach. Their most important innovation is laser welding the halves to form the magazine body.
Magazine manufacturers have traditionally tig welded their products. Tig welding is just another term for arc welding, which has been around for decades.
Sig Sauer Vice President of Manufacturing Engineering Nick Fappiano explained that the new laser welding techniques are more precise and consistent. A robot sander finishes the welded mags.
Sig currently outsources heat and black oxide treatment but plans to bring those processes in-house moving forward.
The new plant employs quality control processes throughout production and finished mag bodies get two final inspections on a large rotary table. Forming the feed lips is part of the process and their proper alignment and resistance are monitored and inspected.
Completed magazine bodies then go to technicians who install the follower, spring, and floor plate. Sig plans to automate this procedure in the future.
Expansion in the Works
Sig plans a second assembly line to double production rates. Kicking out two magazine bodies every eight seconds will match the wash system’s current output capability of one magazine every four seconds. The current production line employs six technicians at a time. Opening the second line will increase that to eleven techs, five per line with one on the shared wash station.
Sig looks for the facility to serve the NGSW with the capability to support commercial demand based on supply chain availability. Despite weight concerns regarding the steel mags, the new Sig facility should provide quality, durable magazine options for the military and commercial markets.