American Rifleman | SIG Sauer GmbH Ended By Hostile Business Local weather, Lack of Demand
On June 4th it was announced that SIG Sauer is closing. But it’s not SIG Sauer, Inc. here in the US based in New Hampshire. No, the facility that is being closed is located in Eckernförde– –SIG Sauer GmbH. SIG Sauer AG in Neuhausen, Switzerland, is also doing well and continues to produce weapons for the Swiss military and the Swiss police.
This closure only affects some handgun models, some rifles and around 130 employees in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany. Although Lorenz Sauer was born in 1751 in Suhl, Thuringia, and became JP Sauer & Son in 1840, the move to the Eckernförde location did not take place until 1951 – not long after the Iron Curtain had risen across Europe. Walther left the same region when the reality of communist oppression became clear.
According to SIG Sauer: “L & O Holding has announced that it is closing its SIG SAUER, GmbH (Germany) division in Eckernförde. L & O Holding owns and operates numerous business areas in the defense and hunting market, including SIG SAUER, GmbH (Germany), SIG SAUER, Inc. (USA) and German Sports Group, GmbH (GSG). ”
In 2000, Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft sold a number of companies to L&O Holding, which included Blaser, JP Sauer & Sohn, Mauser, SIG Sauer GmbH and SIGARMs (later SIG Sauer, Inc.).
The US-based SIG Sauer, Inc., based in New Hampshire, is not affected by the closure of the German plant.
To be honest, the fact that the factory in Eckernförde has been in operation for a long time is a bit of a surprise for me. That’s because they almost turned it off beforehand – even stopped importing all but a few models into the US and then announced that no handguns would be made there at all.
Then it was decided to manufacture handguns again because management wanted to continue to fulfill or prosecute German law enforcement treaties that provided for the guns to be made in Germany. But the contracts were limited and infrequent, and SIG Sauer did not win all of them.
In 2017, the Berlin police chose the Heckler & Koch SFP9 TR as the official sidearm. (We know them better than the H&K VP9). On the military side, the German Armed Forces have thrown SIG Sauer out of their latest rifle tender due to the inclusion of “US technology”.
The restrictive legislation for civilian shooters and the arduous process of acquiring a pistol in Germany are said to have reduced demand even further. You can throw COVID-19 in there while you’re at it.
Earlier this year, Legacy Sports International announced that it would become the importer for the SIG Sauer P210 Legend and P226X Line – which should be an indication that something strange is going on between Germany and the US SIG Sauer operations – that later. The guns are from the Legacy Sports website and it’s not clear if guns were actually imported.
Almost the entire production of SIG Sauer handguns had relocated to the USA for a long time – with the exceptions mentioned above. “The activities of SIG Sauer, Inc. in the USA will be continued as usual,” said the company’s statement.
All handguns came from SIG Sauer’s German plant. Now guns like the US military’s M17 and M18 are made in the US.
“The US-based division, headquartered in Newington, New Hampshire, employs over 2,300 people in 9 plants in New Hampshire, Arkansas and Oregon where the company designs and manufactures firearms, ammunition, optics, silencers and air rifles. The company also operates one of the most modern training facilities in the world, the SIG Sauer Academy, in New Hampshire. “
All SIG Sauer pistols used to come from Eckernförde. The partnership between SIG in Switzerland and JP Sauer & Son began with the P220 double-acting pistol, which was originally imported into the USA as Browning BDA in .45 ACP.
The German manufacturer was bought by SIG in order to avoid the onerous export laws of Switzerland and probably the lower price of German labor at the time. This partnership eventually led to the 9mm SIG Sauer P226, which became the basis of the P228 and P229 – and the US M11.
Guns like the legendary SIG Sauer P226 originally came from Eckernförde, and before they closed, the company was still making all of the guns in the P226X series for export.
These guns were used by everyone from U.S. Navy SEALs to many of the country’s leading law enforcement agencies – as well as legions of civilian gun owners who became fans of the P-Series weapons.
Initially only one importer, one with offices via NRA Publications in Herndon Va., Of all places, SIGARMS starts manufacturing weapons in the USA. These were originally the military rifles, and I remember seeing a single lone CNC machine making slides in New Hampshire decades ago.
SIG Sauer got a new sheriff in the person of CEO Ron Cohen, who made a small processing operation and mainly imports into one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world. Add electro-optics, silencers, and ammunition, and SIG Sauer, Inc., is a “systems builder” that does pretty much everything.
SIG Sauer has achieved incredible success in recent years, receiving the US M17 and M18 pistol contracts, as well as the next-generation running light machine gun (NSGW) in 6.8 mm and the MG 338 machine gun in .338 Norma Mag. is used by USSOCOM. However, the factory in Eckernförde had nothing to do with these successes.
In recent years, German government agencies and judges – as well as activist NGOs – have made it virtually impossible for weapons manufacturers to do international business at all – at least outside of NATO, and it’s not just the government. The German press is extremely against guns and is constantly following the few remaining handgun (or other guns) manufacturers in Germany, let alone the nasty things they say about rightful gun owners.
In recent years, innovative designs such as the SIG MG 338 machine gun have come from New Hampshire-based SIG Sauer, Inc., not SIG Sauer GmbH.
How is that for a headline “Heckler & Koch’s illegal arms trade with Mexico”? It says: “Five H&K employees who conspired to sell G36 assault rifles to Mexico are waiting in Stuttgart for their sentences. The trial has provided insight into the weakness of German arms export control laws. “
It goes on to say: “The five defendants will be charged with violating German export laws and export control laws on war weapons. However, their responsibility has been mitigated by evidence that emerged during the trial showing irregularities and how the export certificates were drawn up by government agencies who apparently the law misinterpreted. ”
The story ends with no government officials being charged. Even so, H&K officials investigated the prison sentence and fines. Note that H&K did not sell weapons to the cartels, it sold them to the Mexican government.
SIG Sauer could not avoid this attention either. Weapons – P2022 – sent by SIG Sauer GmbH to SIG Sauer in the USA were purchased by the US government and then sent to Colombia.
This violated German export law and resulted in SIG Sauer officials being imprisoned for a while and ultimately fined heavily. They didn’t do anything wrong in the US, but the fact that the guns did not have an end-user certificate for Columbia resulted in files from German NGOs being sued at the prosecutor’s office in Kiel.
Even Carl Walther GmbH was hammered by groups like the Outcry Campaign, which is dedicated to the complete elimination of the arms trade, as described in a 2014 article on DW.com, because of Walther pistols being legally sold to some provinces of Colombia , allegedly were found in federal states that were prohibited from receiving weapons under German expert law.
No wonder that German arms manufacturers are setting up production facilities in the USA.
“SIG Sauer, Inc. markets and sells its US-made products in 88 countries. The European-based international sales team of SIG Sauer, Inc. will expand its responsibility to the German market. The German Sports Group (GSG), the current commercial distributor in Germany for SIG Sauer, Inc. for optics, ammunition and air rifles, will expand its role to include the sale of commercial firearms in Germany. “
While the fate of the designs in the SIG Sauer GmbH plant remains uncertain, there are alternatives in the USA such as this domestically manufactured SIG Sauer P210 standard.
Blaser GmbH provides the single-shot straight pull rifles K95 and R8 as well as the over-under shotguns F3 and F16 in a modern and impressive facility in Isny in the Allgäu, Germany, and they’re imported from Blaser USA along with Mauser, JP Sauer, and John Rigby rifles, as well as some really fancy backpacks.
The fate of the guns previously made in Eckernförde is currently unknown, but an American-made version of the P210 already exists, and one day the production of Sauer rifles may be relocated to another plant. I would speculate Isny for the latter, but it’s exactly mine.
According to reports, the SIG Sauer GmbH plant will be closed until the end of 2020, ending a legacy of almost half a century of manufacturing high-quality firearms by SIG Sauer in Germany.