When Eliphalet Remington moved his family from Connecticut to upstate New York in 1800, he couldn’t possibly have known that the company that would soon bear his name would become the nation’s most iconic gun making brand and one of the nation’s biggest news stories in the fall of 2020.
But it did, on both accounts, as breaking news came this week that Big Green — as many have known Remington — is in some ways no more.
That news came on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020 when word broke that iconic American gunmaker Remington Outdoor Company will be broken up and sold to seven buyers following a multi-day bankruptcy auction according to numerous media reports.
Reaction was swift from many corners of the hunting and shooting world, with some hoping certain product lines would continue on while others nostalgically reflected on what the company had meant to American outdoors enthusiasts for more than 200 years.
“It’s said to see the ashes of such a legendary firearms manufacturer scattered to the wind,” said David Draper, editor in chief of Petersen’s Hunting. “I am hopeful these brands will live on, and I have no doubt their respective owners have great plans to give these companies a much-needed revival. Only time will tell what this means for hunters and shooting enthusiasts, but I think I’ll take my old Remington 1100 from the gun safe and go hunting with it a few times this fall.”
The reason for such nostalgia stems partly from the fact that Remington is the nation’s oldest gunmaker — started in 1816 — and partly because the company has a history of building such iconic firearms as the Remington 870 pump shotgun, the Model 1100 semi-auto shotgun, the Remington 700 bolt-action rifle, and plenty more.
Then there’s the familiar green-and-gold rifle ammo boxes of Remington Ammunition, along with a variety of boxes of shotgun shells aimed at clay target shooters, upland bird hunting enthusiasts, and waterfowl gunners.
And in times present and past, the company has even made various types of gear or licensed its name to the makers of clothing, dog-training gear, gun-care products and much more.
The move to break up the historic company into various components for bankruptcy sale includes the company’s various firearms and ammo making arms, a move that will generate at least $155 million dollars to be “…applied to the company’s debts” according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
FoxBusiness.com reported that while no comment has been made by Remington’s lawyers as of yet, the biggest buy that has been learned of through court records is Vista Outdoor Inc.’s purchase of Remington’s Lonoke, Ark. ammunition plant and business at a reported $81.4 million. As many know, Vista Outdoor is the parent company of Federal Premium Ammunition and several other well-known outdoor brands.
The Fox Business story added that other winning bidders includes Sierra Bullets, Inc., which is getting a portion of Remington’s ammunition manufacturing business at a $30.5 million price tag; Sturm Ruger & Co.’s $30 million purchase of part of Remington’s firearms business; and other companies that are seeking different facets of Remington’s various business holdings.
As was chronicled earlier this year in a story at Guns & Ammo, the 2020 bankruptcy proceedings culminating this week completes a stunning fall from grace for an iconic American gun maker that celebrated its 200th anniversary back in 2016.
“Ten years ago, Remington was a colossus flush with private-equity cash,” stated the story by Guns & Ammo editorial staff. “When Cerberus Capital bought Remington and created the Freedom Group, the company was earning $500 million a year in revenue.”
That revenue allowed Remington’s parent company to become quite ambitious, allowing for the purchase of Marlin Firearms, another iconic American gun making brand that celebrated its 150th anniversary at the 2020 SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
In addition to buying Marlin, the Freedom Group was also ambitious enough to purchase other brands like Barnes Bullets, Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC), Harrington & Richardson (H&R), DPMS, New England Firearms (NEF), Dakota Arms, LC Smith, Parker and clothing companies EOTAC and Mountain Khakis.
In fact, in 2013, the parent company earned nearly $1.3 billion according to Guns & Ammo. And in 2014, Remington announced that it was taking over a huge industrial complex in Huntsville, Ala. where the company planned to consolidate various manufacturing locations into one place.
At that point, the iconic gunmaking brand seemed to be a burgeoning firearms and ammo producing juggernaut, one that was the envy of many other companies in the outdoors industry.
“From the outside, Remington looked unstoppable,” stated Guns & Ammo. “President Barack Obama’s entire eight-year-term drove firearm sales to all-time-highs as money pour in.”
But that was then, and this is now. As problems began to beset Remington’s parent company, the bottom began to fall out due to a variety of circumstances that quickly gathered into the perfect storm. Those circumstances included such things as the plateauing of gun sales after President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, the ongoing financial drain of a lawsuit stemming from the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, and this year the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping its way across the world.
As the nation’s oldest gunmaker slid deeper into financial calamity, the company declared bankruptcy in March 2018. A short while later, the crisis seemed to be resolved as Remington emerged from bankruptcy. At that point, it was hoped by many in the outdoors industry that the company would be able to stay afloat.
But this year, all of that hope disappeared, and the company was left reeling again by events few could have foreseen.
“The firearms and ammunition markets have been enjoying a revival since the COVID-19 outbreak shut down America in March (2020), but the increase in business wasn’t enough to keep Remington afloat,” wrote Guns & Ammo earlier this year. “On June 26, 2020, news was released that Remington planned to file for bankruptcy again.”
With this week’s news of the breakup of Remington and the sale of various components of its gun and ammo making business, it remains to be seen what becomes of some of the outdoor industry’s most recognizable hunting firearms and ammo categories.
That includes the Remington 700 rifle, arguably the industry’s longtime standard for hunters who chase everything from whitetails and mule deer to bull moose, caribou and bears. In fact, at almost every SHOT Show, so important is the iconic rifle model that there’s a new 700 to take a gander at.
For shotgun enthusiasts, there’s the company’s famed Model 1100, a gas-operated semi-autoloader that was first introduced in 1963. The gun became a classic, eventually selling more than four million of the gas-operated scatterguns before the company moved on to more modern designs like the 11-87 and the VersaMax among others.
Even today, so popular is the Model 1100 that upland bird hunters, waterfowl gunners, clay pigeon enthusiasts, and collectors keep the secondary market going strong for 1100’s. Why is that? As noted in this historical piece for Petersen’s Hunting, the model’s designer Wayne Leeks said to his colleagues in 1962 that the new Model 1100 was "going to revolutionize shotgun shooting."
As noted by David Draper’s comment at the outset of this story, it most certainly did.
But without a doubt, the gun that Remington is most famous for is the timeless Remington 870, the best selling pump shotgun of all-time with more than 11 million being produced and sold by the company.
While the 870’s reliable slide-action pump mechanism has allowed the gun to be produced in a variety of military and law enforcement applications, the shotgun has shined in the upland fields and duck blinds of the world, either in the original Wingmaster model or the Express model produced for nearly 40 years.
In fact, the gun has been used by millions of hunters to take everything from white-tailed deer to ruffed grouse to mallards to Canada geese to pheasants and even sage hens. So much so that gun writer Nick Sisley pronounced the 870 as his choice for the No. 1 shotgun of all-time in his story for Wildfowl Magazine back in 2010.
“The 870 has been the darling of wildfowlers since its introduction in 1950,” wrote Sisley. “For decades more (870s) were carried to the nation's best waterfowling holes than any other.
“As if the 870 wasn't popular enough--in the 1980s Remington introduced the Express version of this pump, one that was even less expensive, the price making the 870 affordable to virtually everyone. Further, this is a pump gun that worked flawlessly every time.”
That last statement is a good way to describe Remington itself, until recent years, that is. Hopefully, as news of the company’s sale and breakup continues to spill forth, the purchasers of some of Remington’s biggest assets will work to keep history alive and well.
Big Green may be breaking up and changing hands, but with any luck, the gunmaker’s legacy and innovation will live on.