Savage Arms doesn’t feel threatened by a proposed state law Smith & Wesson blames for forcing it to relocate 550 jobs and its headquarters from Springfield to Tennessee, saying it would have minimal impact on its business.
“We are kind of in different markets,” said Savage Arms president and CEO Albert F. Kasper on Monday, adding, “I worry about any gun legislation.”
Savage does have several semi automatic rifles in its lineup of what the industry terms modern sporting rifles. These firearms are popular with consumers, but raise the ire of gun control advocates. Kasper noted Savage does have a few products that cannot be sold in Massachusetts under the strict gun laws here.
“But nothing that moves the needle,” Kasper said. “Its very, very small for us.”
The proposed legislation, backed by lawmakers including state Rep. Bud L. Williams, D-Springfield, could make it illegal to manufacture certain firearms in Massachusetts. The restriction would apply to magazine capacity, the presence of threaded barrels, the required pressure needed to pull the trigger and other restrictions backers say make firearms safer.
Smith & Wesson says the restrictions — which are only proposed and have not yet even had a hearing on Beacon Hill — could impact 60% of its sales including its popular line of military-style semi automatic rifles called modern sporting rifles in the industry and many of Smith & Wesson’s semi automatic pistols.
The company’s revolvers wouldn’t be impacted and revolver assembly will stay in Springfield, along with Smith & Wesson’s machining and foundry operations. A total of 1,000 jobs will remain.
Going to Tennessee is work on the semi automatic handguns and the rifles, as well as plastics manufacturing now done in Connecticut and distribution operations in Missouri.
All told, more than 750 jobs, including those from Springfield, will move. Construction in Maryville, Tennessee, is expected to begin in the calendar fourth quarter of 2021 and be substantially complete by the summer of 2023.
In May, manufacturer Troy Industries announced plans to move its West Springfield plant to Tennessee, citing the changing climate for firearms manufacturers” as the reason for leaving the Bay State.
Savage’s business focuses on sporting rifles and shotguns, Kasper said. The company is well-known for its bolt-action rifles and is heavily involved in the hunting and target shooting markets.
Smith & Wesson focuses on handguns and personal defense. Smith & Wesson announced earlier this year plans to sell off its Thompson/Center brand of hunting rifles in order to narrow its focus.
For Kasper, the biggest challenge he said is finding and retaining enough employees.
The company has 400 workers now, up from about 300 in 2019 when investors led by Kasper purchased Savage from sporting goods conglomerate Vista Outdoor for $170 million.
Savage Arms has also a plant in Lakefield, Ontario, Canada.
There are at least 24 gun manufacturers in Massachusetts, including Smith & Wesson and Savage Arms, and the industry supports about 7,800 jobs in Massachusetts, according to state statistics.
The gun industry here is largely the legacy of Springfield Armory and the more than a century of innovation in precision manufacturing.
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