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RemArms: America’s Oldest Gunmaker

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The name Remington is indelible in firearm history, and for good reason. It was established more than 200 years ago, which makes it America’s oldest gunmaker. The firm has produced some of the finest firing and front line firearms ever made and odds you own at least one of their models—often a treasured family heirloom.

Its recent rough financial struggles and changes in management may cloud the picture for some, but make no mistake, the people currently at the helm at RemArms are dedicated to honoring that legacy and producing firearms in the tradition of performance and reliability we’ve come to expect from the name. Versions coming out of the company are even built by many of the same experienced craftsmen that did so before at the historic Ilion, NY, factory.

Memories get fuzzy in 200 years, so there are more legends as to how the company began in the Mohawk River Valley than Model 700 flavors ever sold. One version has it Eliphalet Remington Sr.—a blacksmith—sent junior to order a barrel for a flintlock he was building, but told him to learn how it’s done before he returned. The pair later mastered the process, the youngster took second place in a shooting competition with one of their early rifles and came home with orders. Another popular tale claims Eliphalet II somehow managed to forge his own barrel, had it rifled by someone else, completed the flintlock and, naturally, those figurative cash registers started to ring.

The company name and management has been through quite a few “iterations” in 200 years. It began as E. Remington in 1816, then E. Remington & Son and finally E. Remington & Sons as his three boys joined the firm. Then the company sold to owners who controlled Union Metallic Cartridge (U.M.C.) in 1888—taking the family out of the business—and operated as Remington Arms. Operations consolidated 1912 with the change to Remington U.M.C. Chemical giant DuPont owned the company for a while, then an investment firm, and finally Cerberus Capitol Management purchased it in 2007 and moved it into its Freedom Group. DPMS, Bushmaster, Marlin and other major gun firms were swallowed up into what became the biggest firearm conglomerate in the nation.

Unfortunately, the company entered bankruptcy proceedings in March of 2018. Then it reorganized and emerged two months later, but the debt it carried afterward was too much to survive during the “new norm” of gun sales. It was back in court in 2020 and later that year sold to high bidders in pieces. The ammunition brand went to Vista Outdoor, Marlin to Ruger and a relatively unknown group of businessmen purchased the Remington firearm assets—including the famed Ilion, NY, factory.

At least one of the new owners, likely more, was contacted by Ken D’Arcy—who was CEO when the doors closed—before the sale. He explained people were going to lose their jobs and that the flagship firm and facility could be saved. His efforts paid off, but any new investment group doesn’t leave fingerprints on the Internet, which spawned wild speculation.

The rumors didn’t deter the new owners, though. The ink had barely dried on the paperwork when calls were issued for former workers to return to the plant. That, of course, required negotiations with the union. They were successfully completed in April 2021.

The entire former staff isn’t back at work and the RemArms factory is far from operating at full capacity. But D’Arcy’s has not abandoned his post and his dedication has paid off with 870s rolling out the doors late last year. Plans include expanding models in production—starting with shotguns—but, right now, the focus remains tightly on quality control, in the same tradition of craftsmanship that built the company more than two centuries ago.

Article by GUY J. SAGI

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