Dr. Peter Lock
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letzte Änderung:03.01.2011
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Small Arms Production in Germany, Switzerland and Austria

Background material (Draft January 2001) Peter Lock

From the roots to the present

Small arms manufacturing in Germany during the last 200 years has predominantly been the preserve of private companies. Historically the craft of producing fire arms was concentrated in Thuringia (Suhl, Zella-Mehlis, Sömmerda) where ore in good quality, wood and charcoal and small mountain rivers to operate hammer mills were abundant. These craftsmen were important suppliers of the European wars during the 16th, 17th and early 18th century. At the same time they produced "up-market" hunting weapons for the aristocracy. Until the late 18th century hunters were more demanding customers of gunsmiths than the military. The absolutist state was more interested in discipline of troops and standardisation of weaponry than in exploiting the advances in the precision of guns offered by talented gun smiths.

All over Europe the absolutist rulers built state arsenals charged with supplying their standing armies with the required large quantities of guns and gun powder. However, as the industrial revolution began to offer new technologies the military only reluctantly began to assimilate innovative technologies becoming available from the thriving machine building sector. The larger weaponry was built by dynamic steel manufacturers who were constantly improving their engineering and production processes. In the small arms segment the British and French imperial armies continued to rely on arsenals as major suppliers. This pattern persisted until the end of the Cold War, GIAT in France and the Royal Small Arms Factory in the United Kingdom[1]. Elsewhere and in the field of ammunition an internationalised private sector dominated this industrial activity and was the driving force behind innovative designs. Particularly the late-coming imperial Germany relied on the private sector for its rearmament. However, the Prussian arsenals in Spandau (Berlin) appropriated a license to produce the Mauser K 98 k to participate in the boom preceding WW I whereas the arsenals in the Kingdom of Württemberg was privatised. In 1892 a state-owned experimental facility for small arms was created. It came to play an important role in specifying technical standards to be translated into calls for tender.

The industrialisation of gun manufacture took mainly place as a slow expansion of the artisan workshops in Thuringia and in Oberndorf (Württemberg), while other emerging industries agglomerated in the Ruhr area, in Berlin and around big harbours among others. In the case of Oberndorf, today the location of Hecker&Koch, the Mauser brothers purchased in 1874 the Royal gun factory of Württemberg. Their M71 gun and the successor models became the standard in Germany and in more than a dozen foreign armies. However, in spite of its international success and rapid growth Mauser was taken over in 1897 by Deutsche Waffen und Munitonsfabriken which in turn was a subsidiary of the Rheinische Metallwaarenfabrik later named Rheinmetall, which supplied Germany's imperial aspirations with canons and heavy machine guns among others. But it also emerged as a major supplier of the international markets before World War I.

In a pattern typical for periods of rapid innovation (back loading, metal-case ammunition and eventually self-loading) individual engineers featured prominently in the industry and were often drafted across borders to realise their innovative designs (Dreyse, Mauser, Hotchkiss, Browning, Mannlicher and others). The pattern of production proliferation was marked by license production in the context of attempted import substitution strategies as part of national industrial policies aiming at self-sufficiency. FN Herstal is a case in point. Historically gun smiths were concentrated in the region of Liège and the city of Herstal in particular. When the government of the recently independent Belgium decided to procure the Mauser M 71 in large numbers, an association of gun smiths in Herstal put up a factory to produce the guns under license. After completing this contract, however, the enterprise was not any longer viable. The German company Mauser took over what after World War I was expropriated to become Fabrique National Herstal controlled by the Societé Générale de Belgique.

To understand the particular dynamics of the German small arms industry and its international role the years following World War I and World War II are important. Both the Treaty of Versailles and the Allied administration in Germany after 1945 until the Korean crisis respectively brought the manufacture of weapons of war to a complete halt. After 1945 what was left of the industry was either confiscated and shipped to the Soviet Union or was destroyed. The tacit knowledge of the engineers involved was either converted to produce for the civilian market or migrated abroad to continue their trade in countries like Switzerland (Bührle), Spain (Santa Barbara), France (Manurhin), Argentina (Fábrica Militar) among others. Some were drafted by the United States and the Soviet Union to continue their work and transfer the existing know-how. Cold pressing of steel developed during World War II to facilitate mass production of machine guns (MG 42) was apparently of particular interest.

To the extent the existing patents were internationally honoured the respective owners were eager to sell licences. For example: Manurhin in France and Hämmerli in Switzerland and Interarms and Interarmco in the United States produced Walther pistols under license while production was forbidden in Germany and continued to do so after the ban was lifted with Germany's entry to NATO.

After the restrictions were lifted German companies pioneered market entry via license production particularly in countries which were bound as customers to their respective imperial godfather. Selling the technology including the installation of entire factories to produce the G-3, machine guns and ammunition became the trade mark of the German small arms industry in its attempt to conquer export markets as a forced late-comer. The list of countries which turned self-sufficient in the production of certain small arms and/or ammunition exceeds a dozen countries. In many cases the Fritz-Werner company, 100 % owned by the government at the time, was the general contractor co-operating with Heckler & Koch, Nobel AG and Rheinmetall. However, the leading position of Germany as a supplier of machine tools should be seen as the decisive competitive advantage.

But the German small arms industry is not entirely focused on military and police weapons. Sport and hunting weapons as well as personal weapons mainly for the American market make an important contribution to the turnover (325 mio. DM in 1999 according to Bericht der Bundesregierung 2000, p.14).

Immediately after 1945, of course, products for the civilian market, like mechanical calculators in the case of Walther were the core business. Some of these products remained part of the production programme until the late seventies. However, the total ban of firearm production also drove German companies to push innovation of air-pressured sport weapons, which were not subject to allied regulations. In the course of this survival strategy a few companies acquired an internationally leading position in these sport weapons, which as a result of the innovations eventually even became an Olympic discipline[2]. With the lift of the ban several companies expanded into sport and hunting market and also gained an internationally leading position in small calibre weapons and high-quality sport ammunition. This two-pronged strategy resulted in a full circle when Walther designed its warning shot pistols as imitations of its famed pistols in the wake of James Bond movies whose weapon of choice was a Walther[3].

Thus, one can argue that the two periods of restrictions and even absolute prohibition determined the position of the German small arms industry in the global scenario. The German industry reinforced its particular strength in the production of non-military small arms and pioneered the transfer of production technology with or without license throughout the period of import substitution in the Third World as a means of market entry into military and police procurement by a late-comer with an excellent reputation from pre-war times.

It should also be noted that the majority of companies were originally located in Suhl and Zella-Mehlis in Thuringia, the original hot-bed of the German small arms industry, which belonged to the Soviet occupation zone later turned into GDR. They were either destroyed and closed down or confiscated and turned into state-owned companies. The only surviving company, now again privatised is Gebrüder Merkel, a company specialising in hunting guns (Fritze 1999). A number of entrepreneurs fled to the western occupation zones and started anew to create their companies.

In the endeavour to explain the present position of the small arms industry in Germany it is important to distinguish between the production of small arms designed for the use by the armed forces or the police and sport- and hunting weapons. The profile of the companies and technology used are distinct. Military procurement elicited eventually large-scale mass production and standardisation whereas the sport and hunting sector adds considerable value to its products by customising individual products and by excelling in quality of sport weapons and ammunition. Somewhere in between the two markets is largest small arms market in the world, the market for personal weapons in the United States. It absorbs large quantities of customised luxury handguns as well as cheap mass production of pistols. Being globally the largest market it determines current entrepreneurial strategies in the small arms sector. The consolidation of the sector in its endeavour to shed surplus capacities reflects the importance of the American market for personal weapons as a major driving force as well as the reduced demand from the military.

One of the considerations of BAe Systems to take over the almost bankrupt Heckler & Koch in the early nineties was certainly BAe's drive to position itself on the American market and to control the technology of a new gun, the G-11, supposed to operate with caseless ammunition. As it turned out BAe apparently overestimated the attainable market volume for Heckler & Koch products as well as the interest of western armed forces in innovation of automatic rifles allowing the infantry men to carry more rounds because of the reduced weight of a caseless round. Over the last year it was repeatedly reported that BAe is intent to shed Heckler & Koch. Colt of the United States was mentioned as a likely buyer. As mentioned already, the sale of Heckler & Koch would be attractive, if it reflects additional consolidation of exisitng capacities in Europe. Against this background the transfer of British orders to Heckler & Koch from BAe-Systems' British production base must be seen as a strategic step in the on-going process of transnational consolidation of small arms manufacturing.

In the case of Sauer a long-standing co-operation with Swiss companies led to a Swiss German consolidation of small arms production. Shortly after the World War II Sauer sold a license to Hämmerli in Lenzburg (Switzerland) to produce small calibre sport weapons of Sauer design. In the sixties when German security forces (Bundesgrenzschutz) procured the SIG P 210 pistol, these weapons were produced by Sauer presumably under license. This co-operation was eventually converted into a complete take-over of Sauer bei SIG (Schweizerische Industrieanlagen Gesellschaft), only to be reversed when Sauer was acquired by new owners who in 1999 also took over the small arms segment of SIG, while other military sections (ammunition) of SIG became majority controlled by Rheinmetall reflecting a consolidation of the sector at the European level (Lock 2000). While SIG pistols are world-wide considered to be among the best weapons on offer for police forces and the military and a top quality personal weapon (on the American market), Sauer also purchased the trade mark of Mauser from Rheinmetall aiming with this trade mark at the lower priced end of the American market for personal weapons. Mauser was taken over earlier by Rheinmetall in its drive to strengthen its position as a dominant supplier of infantry weapons in Europe above the level of automatic rifles and light machine guns. Given Rheinmetall's strategic product vector they sold the trade mark of Mauser pistols to Sauer.

Walther which still played a limited role in supplying police weapons was taken over in the early nineties by two outsiders who have since streamlined the financially struggling company. Walther has been renamed into Umarex Sportwaffen GmbH. & Co. which clearly indicates that the present management is intent to exit government procurement markets. In the register of German companies by product groups military pistols are no longer listed(Kompass 2000).

Other companies in Germany are mainly oriented towards civilian markets and attempt to serve customers with personalised and customised weapons as a means to add value to their products and expand their markets. The upper end of the market is supplied by a very small company with about 10 employees manufacturing luxury pistols costing 5000 US $ and more. Some small arms manufacturers are highly specialised in quality components like barrels for top-of-the-range customised sport and hunting weapons.

Switzerland: In the second half of the 19th century arms manufacturing irreversibly became an industrial activity. The isolation of Switzerland and the modest demand resulting from its traditional defensive defence pushed the state into creating and managing industries to secure domestic supplies for its armed forces. RÜAG was founded in 1863 and expanded into a substantial government-owned company producing a wide range of infantry weapons and equipment. After WW I the Versailles Treaty resulted into Rheinmetall engineers appearing on the payroll of Bührle which instantly became an international supplier of heavy machine guns and sophisticated fuses, grenades etc. The second private company active in military production focusing on small arms and ammunition was SIG. After WWW II the anti-communist paranoia prevailing in Swiss politics allowed the Swiss arms manufacturing sector to grow and to export its wares with little constraints. Not even embargoes of the United Nations were observed. As a result Mr. Bührle and Mr. Lebedinsky, a manager of Oerlikon-Bührle received the First Class Grand Cross of the Order of South Africa and the Second Class Grand Officer of the Order of South Africa respectively in 1978, supposedly for having ignored the arms embargo and helping the apartheid regime to arm against the "total onslaught" and for its military campaigns into Angola at the time.

But increasing political pressures from inside against this ruthless exploitation of sensitive markets in combination with international pressures to comply with international embargoes and increased competition due to overcapacities in the western world led to a steady decline of the export-dependent arms industry in Switzerland. The military production of Oerlikon-Bührle including Contraves and SIG resulted in heavy losses by the mid-nineties. In the absence of a national industrial policy to maintain domestic capacities under all circumstances, the military manufacturing in the private sector was eventually absorbed by German companies trying to consolidate the sector at the European level.

Austria: The Austrian case was not unlike Germany until the end of WW I. However, the demise of the Habsburg Empire deprived Austria of the most important arms manufacturing companies of the empire, like Skoda, which were located in the newly created states. In the small arms segment only Hirtenberger was located in what became Austria after WW I. The German invasion in 1938 and the ensuing militarisation and war, however, reinvigorated the Austrian arms industry and even created new ones like the Hermann-Göring Werke in Linz which became Voest after 1945. The neutrality of the country allowed for a modest resumption of arms production and also allowed the respective companies to export weapons more liberally. However, internal political opposition to indiscriminate export developed as in Switzerland. In parallel solvent demand fell, which eventually led to a decline of the sector, Glock the late-coming manufacturer of pistols being an exception. Contrary to Switzerland the Austrian arms industry is not (yet?) drawn into an Europe-wide consolidation dynamics.

The markets for German, Swiss and Austrian small arms production

Domestic procurement is minimal with the exception of Germany where the armed forces have started to replace the G-3 as its standard rifle by the G-36, produced by Heckler & Koch as was the G-3. In Switzerland the replacement cycle of the standard infantry weapons was terminated in 1999 with the last deliveries of the new SIG-Sturmgewehr. The Austrian army and police forces are too small to secure industrially sustainable production volumes over time. This is reflected in the total turnover of the Austrian defence industry of 174 Euro, a figure which includes non-weapon supplies (Austrian Defence 2001).

In Germany military and police weapons fall under the law regulating the production and export of weapons of war (Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz), the trade of all other firearms is controlled by the export trade law (Außenwirtschaftsgesetz). However, what is classified in Germany as a weapon of war is considered in many export markets, particularly in the United States, as a personal or self-defence weapon. The German small arms industry claims that new pending legislation imposing a statement on the final user will lead to a loss of the American market because American arms dealers are supposed to refuse such bureaucratic work when selling a pistol. It is feared that they will seek imports from other sources not burdened with final user declarations.

It appears reasonable to assume that presently exports of small arms in the three countries are tightly controlled and of declining importance. Prices for standard mass produced automatic rifles are low and the margins minimal if procurement contracts can be won anywhere abroad. Most companies focus on expensive specialised weapons like sniper guns produced in small numbers only for instance and/or on sport- and hunting weapons as well as blank weapons. Though the only volume market appears to be the private American market and additionally for producers of pistols the American police and private security services demand.

Apart from official procurement and purchases rationalised as self-protection it is obvious that a considerable part of the market consists of collectors of weapons who behave not unlike stamp collectors. Like the postmaster issuing special stamps to mark a certain date renowned manufacturers of small arms cater this market with the production of limited editions of certain pistols and rifles, a 50-year edition of the Walther PP for example. However, no reliable survey appears to exist, from which it might be feasible to estimate the collector's share in the total demand for small arms. The passion of collecting arms has produced a whole library of idolatrous literature in many languages. The sheer number of collectors in wealthy countries has helped to turn collecting guns even into a relatively safe way of storing one's wealth. For stamps and small arms alike the value increases with antiquity and singularity, but so also does a specific former ownership of a weapon, particularly if the weapon happens to have been customised for the original owner.

Critical segments of the international demand are regular exports in cases where the import licenses might be falsified as in the past was apparently often the case with exports to Paraguay. If personal weapons are freely available in one country the danger of diffusion into neighbouring countries with stricter regulations is likely, but also systematic supplies of distant conflicts are feasible. In the early months of the armed conflict in Bosnia sales of "demilitarised (=neutralised automatic feeding)" automatic rifles suspiciously surged to about 5000 in a Swiss canton where the regulations allow Swiss citizens to purchase such weapons without limits or obligatory registration. For the time being, however, such tedious acquisition procedures are not needed as large quantities of surplus weapons appear to be readily available on the international black market.

Industrial Parameters of small arms production

As far as standard weapons are concerned the small arms industry is based on mature technology. Presently none of the sophisticated concepts like automatic weapons using caseless ammunition or non-ballistic ammunition allowing to attack objects "around the corner" are operational. Hence instant reengineering of existing designs is feasible and does not require a sophisticated scientific infrastructure. However, the machine tools required to achieve efficient and qualitatively satisfactory production are expensive. Only a few manufacturers world-wide are offering the required machine tools and stencils indispensable for cold pressing of steel.

While a used case can theoretically be refilled, it is necessary to produce ammunition with modern technology in order to achieve economies of scale. The ammunition market is particularly competitive both in the legal sphere and in shadow markets.

For a metal-working artisan workshop with experienced personnel it is possible to build most any type of small arms on the basis of model. Such arms often have a perfect finish. However their life-span is likely to be rather limited, because the tempering of the lathed parts is bound to be of mediocre quality. For automatic weapons in particular precision tempering of the moving parts and the barrel is indispensable if the weapon is to last.

The obvious implication of this situation is that the proliferation of production is mainly a function of economic considerations. License fees are a marginal factor because reengineering is easy and often practised without consideration of existing patents or other property rights. Jane's Infantry Weapons documents dozens of unashamedly copied or slightly modified weapons. During the period when import substitution strategies dominated economic strategies and procurement, lavish subsidies on the basis of political considerations supported the initiation of small arms production in many countries. It was during this period when Heckler & Koch, Alfred Nobel, Rheinmetall and Fritz-Werner formed consortia to deliver turnkey small arms and ammunition factories to at least fifteen countries throughout the Third World and endowed them regularly with licenses to produce German designs.

However, with huge surplus stocks and production capacities inherited from the Cold War international markets have turned into buyer's markets. Additionally governments are forced to exercise financial discipline. As a result the market for small arms factories has dried off since. A possible exception being where internationally funded ammunition factories are built in weakly controlled states with the aim to supply grey markets in conflict-ridden regions. The newly built ammunition factory in Kenya might be a case in point.

The technology of small arms procured by the military is conservative and this is likely to remain so for the time being. This reflects the fact that marginal performance improvements are of little interest in the context of conceivable fighting scenarios. Special intervention forces and special police squads are an exemption to this rule. Thus, it is by no means clear that the new Heckler & Koch G –36 automatic rifle which just started to be procured by the German armed forces will find many export markets simply because it has a somewhat larger range. Price and sufficient performance currently appear to be the prevailing criteria in the international procurement market in the small arms segment. Since the life-cycle of standard rifles ranges between thirty and fifty years replacement imperatives are also not likely to enliven demand for new models.

As a result real technological competition focuses on the civilian demand for small arms of all kind. The precision engineering and production techniques to produce sport weapons and customised personal weapons clearly exceeds the standards required for military procurement. And it is in these fields where the German manufacturers attempt to play out the traditional excellence of German machine tool and metal-working manufacturing in order to prevail in competitive international private markets rather than in military procurement abroad.

However, the situation is somewhat more complicated as the civilian market pays a premium for weapons known to be used by the police. And even in the European market where only license-free weapons like small bore pistols have a significant market, it appears that imitations of weapons in service with the police or the military are preferred designs in the category of small calibre weapons. From a police perspective this trend creates problems because one can't be sure with what kind of weapon one is confronted. Additionally the up-market segment of the civilian market where profits can be made is very trade mark conscious, thus weapons produced in Korea or Taiwan so far had little chances to penetrate this market segment. The same appears to apply for the Swiss designed Tuma pistols manufactured in the low-wage economy of the Czech Republic.

At this point of the argument it is pertinent to introduce the case of Glock pistols. Until 1981 Glock was a small metal engineering company with no experience whatsoever in the production of small arms. An invitation to tender by the Austrian army which wanted to procure new pistols was taken up by Glock, most likely correctly assuming that non-Austrian offers would enter the competition with a tacit handicap. The result was a successful partly innovative design using non-metal parts to reduce weight. While the Austrian tender was the entry to the field of arms production, this success was sustained only through shrewd marketing in the United States. The Glock representatives in the United States approached police departments and offered its pistols on the basis old for new at little cost. The "old" weapons were loaded off on the large secondary civilian market in America, while the police displaying the brandnew Glocks served as living advertisement allowing Glock to enter the American market for personal weapons at breathtaking speed. Some argue that Glock's success was partially based on the fact that the Glock pistols did only marginally fulfil the requirement of a single shot pistol and were designed to allow for double action giving American police men a better chance to react to their perceived opponents who supposedly often use automatic weapons (Hamilton 2000).

Apart from the history of Glock's marketing in the United States this case supports the assumption that the manufacture of small arms is based on mature technologies presenting no technological barrier to market entry by newcomers. In the age of CAD/CAM machine tools not even much product specific tacit knowledge of the workforce is required for mass production of standard small arms. The key to entrepreneurial success appears to be marketing and trade mark setting. Visible product placement in the media and in movies is an important element in marketing (Unfortunately I am not aware of any detailed study of this important subject.).

That the small arms industry of today is less dependent on the tacit know-how of its workforce than thirty years ago has profound implications for the international proliferation of small arms. With the rapidly progressing introduction of CAD/CAM machine tools into the production process, the entire production has become more flexible allowing to manufacture a wide range of products with a limited number of machine tools. This trend reinforces the dominance of economic considerations with respect to the likelihood of further proliferation of small arms production and the transfer of production to low-wage economies. It also deprives Heckler & Koch, Fritz Werner and their competitors of the monopoly to install production facilities. It requires a small team of informed engineers to order the necessary the machinery, to copy and re-engineer for example an automatic rifle and write the programs for the machines to produce the parts required to assemble the rifle. In addition, a large number of small technical consulting companies are at hand in Germany, Switzerland and Austria specialised in organising concepts and logistics for the building of modern manufacturing facilities. In recent years several court cases in Germany dealing with breaking existing export embargoes have highlighted the existence and scope of such services. The procurement of steel in the appropriate quality and non-iron materials constitutes no obstacle to produce small arms anywhere given a minimum of industrial infrastructure.

The costs of high-tech machinery which allows if fully used to mass produce small arms at relatively low cost constitute an increasingly effective barrier to further proliferation of production. Not least because newcomer in the international market have little chances to conquer a share because full utilisation of the installed capacity is unlikely. In the past military dictatorships (Indonesia, Pakistan and Latin America) in combination with economic policies favouring import substitution allowed for substantial subsidies for the domestic manufacture of arms. This economic context no longer prevails. Thus, given the enormous surplus capacities already installed world-wide further production proliferation is less likely to occur as all types of small arms can be obtain at modest prices and no supplier can strangle a customer because similar weapons using identical ammunition are cheaply on offer from varied sources.

Against this background it is particularly important to monitor any new case of production proliferation, because the rational for such cases is either not economic or outside the legal economy, in other words based on illegal deals and demand from the grey and black markets. As mentioned already the ammunition factory built in Kenya might be a precursor.

The German, Swiss and Austrian small arms industry company by company.

This section will provide data on individual companies active in the small arms sector. The sources are the list of members of the Verband der Hersteller von Jagd-, Sportwaffen und Muniton, companies offering their wares in the international sales catalogue produced by the Jane's Group Yearbook on Infantry Weapons, Kompass, Jahrbuch der deutschen Wirtschaft, Hoppenstedt registers for each country, the company press archive of the Hamburg Archive of the World Economy (HWWA) . Where possible official company websites were consulted. It turns out that Jane's Infantry Weapons does not follow up the industrial consolidation and presents companies turned subsidiaries as independent companies.

German Companies involved in small arms
production including sport- and hunting weapons

Name of Company Products Number of employees Turnover last available year DM Data on export Other information Website if available
J.G. Anschütz GmbH & Co. S, H, 150 22 mio. global founded in 1856 www.Anschuetz-sport.com
Baumbach Metall GmbH C for AHS 31 12 mio. - www.baumbach-metall.de
Blaser Jagdwaffen GmbH H,S 110 - global founded in 1963 www.blaser.de
Brenneke AHS - - - www.brenneke.de
Diefke Wadie-Munition AW - - - www.wadie.munition.de
Dynamit Nobel GmbH Troisdorf AM, AHS 3800 worldwide 313 mio.
Germany only (?)
- Factories in UK, France, Czechia, Estonia, Sweden, Austria among others. www.dynamit-nobel.com
Metallwerk Eisenhütte GmbH AM 150 48 mio., 20 % lower than turnover in recent years - 100 % subsidiary of Fritz Werner Industrieausrüstungen, a supplier of factories
Röhm GmbH W 1500 worldwide - - Several subsidiaries in Europe and overseas www.roehm-rg.de
J.P. Sauer & Sohn H,S,M,W almost 500 until the mid-nineties 330 in Germany 70 in Exeter New Hampshire 50 mio. in 2000 plus subsidiaries and part ownership in the USA 45 mio. Total 95 mio.DM 80 000 pistols produced annually, almost half for export to the USA. Production data from the early eighties suggests that the productivity increased more than 100 % founded in the 18th century; military production started in 1871; co-operation with Colt, SIG in the seventies; SIG and Mauser trademarks have been acquired since.
SK Jagd- und Sportmunitions GmbH AHS,AW 37 11 mio. world-wide www.sk-munition.de
Sommer + Ockenfuß H,S,P - - - produces a sniper gun www.waffen-sommer.de
Feinwerkbau Westinger & Altenburger GmbH W,S 200 - - founded in 1951 by an engineer who worked until 1945 for Mauser, top of range products www.feinwerkbau.de
Heckler & Koch H,S, P,M 570 150 mio. - founded in 1949 by engineers who worked until 1945 for Mauser www.heckler-koch.de
Heym Waffenfabrik GmbH H,S 50 - - -
Intertex GmbH & Co P 52 15 mio. - production of top range pistols priced between 8700 – 17900 DM www.korriphila.com
Suhler Jagd- und Sportwaffen GmbH H,S,P 140 - - founded 1899; famous producer of customised hunting weapons www.merkel-waffen.de
UMAREX Sportwaffen GmbH & Co. KG S,W,P,AS 190, donw from 300 in 1996 66 mio. world-wide, subsidiary in Russia took over Carl Walther GmbH in 1993
Carl Walther GmbH S,W,P 150 - - founded in 1886, from 1993 belonging to the UMAREX Group www.umarex.de
Lothar Walter Feinwerkzeugbau GmbH CHSM,W - - - specialising in high quality barrels www.lothar.walter .de
Buck subsidiary of Rheinmetall M - - - -
Junghans subsidiary of Diehl M - - - -
Diehl M - - - -
Comt Pyrotechnik C - - - -
Weihrauch & Weihrauch Sport GmbH & Co.KG S 80 9 mio. - founded in 1948
Reichelt Chemietechnik Heidelberg M 15 5,68 mio. - produces light mortars
Nico Pyrotechnik, part of Rheinmetall DETC AM 300 3,75 mio. - -

The Kompass Jahrbuch der deutschen Wirtschaft 28th edition 2000/2001 lists another eight companies manufacturing sport- and hunting weapons.

- - employees/turnover export remarks
Glock GmbH
P,M 400/not available 97% Started to produce pistols in 1981 and has abandoned its former metal-working production since.
Subsidiaries: Glock America N.V.(S.A.) Curaçao; Glock France S.A.; Glock(H.K.) Ltd., Hong Kong/China; Glock Inc. Smyma, Georgia USA
Hirtenberger AG
AM 210/Euro 29,2 mio. 1999 - founded 1860 as an arsenal, fully privatised; the company is also offering project engineering for turn key ammunition factories
www.hirtenberger.at www.army-technology.com
Andres & Dwonsky
S 30/Euro 2,54 mio. 1999 - produces small bore pistols
Dynamit Nobel Graz GmbH.
AM - - -
Steyr Mannlicher
M 167/Euro 17,7 mio. 1997 80% founded in 1864 under the name Josef and Franz Werndl &Comp. Waffenfabrik, offers a wide range of rifles, submachine guns, pistols
Arges Armaturen GmbH.
M 117/Euro 12,5 mio. 1999 65% grenades (HE, training and pyrotechnic)
Bowas-Induplan Chemie GmbH.
M - - offers plants and technologies for the explosives industry
C - - non-lethal weapons for police and military special forces
Photonic Optische Geräte GmbH.&Co. KG.
H, S, AHS - - produces a large range of sights including Laser Sighting Systems
Voere Kufsteiner Gerätebau Handelsges.mbH.
- 50/Euro 2,62 mio 1999/2000 - Apart from offering its range of hunting and sport weapons. Interestingly the company advertises the versatility of its 30 CNC machines for milling turning, grinding, spark erosion, sheet metal work.

Sources: Hoppenstedt, Große und mittelständige Unternehmen in Österreich, Ausgabe 2001; Austrian Military Suppliers; Jane's Infantry Weapons 2001-2002;

Swiss companies involved in Small Arms
production including sport- and hunting weapons

Rheinmetall in control of former Oerlikon-Bührle and Contraves military production and RÜAG ammunition joint venture with state holding M,AHS,AM,CM - fast reduction of workforce. Oerlikon-Contraves from 10 000 in 1990 to about 2500 in 1998. The contraction continues and the remaining workforce includes civilian production.
Sauer in control of former SIG military production - - fast reduction of workforce
Brügger & Thomet AG
Spiez founded in 1992
M,H,S,AM 5 advertises itself as producer of wide range of military and civilian small arms (Kompass Switzerland) which is unlikely. Further investigation might reveal that the company tries to position itself as a broker.
Grünig & Elmiger AG
H,S - -
Hämmerli AG
H,S 95 -
Miltec SA
Genève formerly Tavaro Technologies receivership in 1996
CAM 130 (1996)
600 before
ammunition, ignition devices
Waser Mechanik AG
- 5-10 machine tools for ammunition production
Martin Tuma Engineering MP not known Linkage to the Czech Republic should be investigated, no commercial information in the standard registers; probably the precursor of desk companies with 100% outsourcing of production

Key to products:
W = guns (air pressure), warning shot devices, blank guns
H = Hunting weapons
S = Sportweapons
P = Firearms for the civilian market (self-defence)
M = Military and Police weapons
C = Components and accessories (sights etc.)
AM = Ammunition for Military and Police weapons
AHS = Ammunition for hunting and sport weapons


As an appendix 9 tables are attached. In these tables the export figures for IHTC 93.01; 93.02; 93.03; 93.04; 93;05; 93;06 are elaborated for the three countries for the years 1998, 1999 and 2000. However, with the exception of Switzerland no data is given for 93.01; in the case of Austria 93.02 is also blank supposedly in order not to infringe the commercial interests of Glock, most likely the only exporter in this category.
German exports are at least ten times as large as Austrian, while Switzerland accounts for exports are still smaller with the exception of 93.05 where most exports go to Germany. The most likely explanation for this high level of exports is the integration of Swiss companies as subsidiaries of German manufacturers.
The data highlights the importance of the American market in most categories related to personal weapons, while hardly any military commodities are exported to the United States (93.06). .
In the case of Switzerland exports to Romania might be interesting to follow up. Also the linkage of license production of Swiss designed pistols in the Czech Republic might explain exports to this country (Martin Thuma).
Austrian data do not display any surprising figures. Though the deliveries to Russia should be monitored. It might be that Austrian dealers serve the emerging Russian market for personal weapons which craves for Western models.
German data reflect the strength of German manufacturers in the field of hunting and sport weapons. They have customers virtually around the world. One figure should be investigated, Liechtenstein appears as recipient of parts and accessories 93.05 in each of the three years in figures which can not be explained by local demand.
The Association of Producers of hunting-, sport weapons and ammunition has computed the following figures:

Export 1998 353 mio.DM of which weapons and parts thereof 237, ammunition 116.
Export 1999 382 mio.DM of which weapons and parts thereof 251, ammunition 131.
Export 2000 369 mio.DM of which weapons and parts thereof 267, ammunition 102
Imports 1998 243 mio. DM
Imports 1999 221 mio. DM
Imports 2000 217 mio. DM

In 2000 143 871 revolver and pistols were exported, of which 119 625 were classified as 93020010. The average export price for the latter was 564 DM per piece. Total production of revolver and pistols was 167 576 in 2000.
In 1999 110 721 revolver and pistols were exported, of which 92 794 were classified as 93020010. The average export price for the latter was 580 DM.
In 2000 45 257 revolver and pistols were imported, of which 32 527 were classified as 93020010. The average import price of the latter was 651 DM.
In 1999 44 588 revolver and pistols were imported, of which 34 500 were classified as 93020010. The average import price of the latter was 614 DM.
Unfortunately these data are not compatible with the export statistics as they refer to hunting- and sport weapons only, which do not fall under the regulation of the "Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz".
The much larger part of German production falls into the category of military weapons, though these weapons, revolver and pistols in particular, do not fall into this category in many recipient countries where they are considered personal weapons for self-defence.
The government report on export policy for 1999 documents two countries as having received hand held weapons and automatic weapons. USA 644,9 mio DM and Switzerland 19,7 mio DM.
More recent data is not yet available.

Conclusion: Statistical data made available by governments does not permit a full analysis of the flow of small arms. The major impediment seems to be the protection of commercial secrets of exporting companies. Given the few players in each country entire categories are left blank in the published data.

Concluding remark: I still expect about ten written inquiries still to be answered. As more information arrives I will make the data available to the Small Arms Surveys


[1] For centuries located in Enfield, privatised becoming part of BAe Systems, closed down and transferred to a new green-field site in Nottingham in the early nineties. However, the new factory is danger to be closed as well, since BAe appears intent to concentrate small arms production at its 100 % subsidiary Heckler & Koch in Germany. At the same time BAe Systems has ventured to sell Heckler & Koch, thus the recent concentration of production in Germany might be interpreted as a manoeuvre to fetch a higher price. At GIAT the process of privatisation and closure of surplus capacities is still very much retarded because the work force had the status of civil servants among others.

[2] A similar boom in Germany could be observed after WW I and WW II in the construction of gliders.

[3] In the hagiographic history of the company (Kersten 1997) it is proudly reported that in one of the later movies Connery actually used one of these warning shot models.


Bericht der Bundesregierung über ihre Exportpolitik für konventionelle Rüstungsgüter, Berlin 2000.

Fritze, Hans-Jürgen, Gebrüder Merkel, Peter-Arfmann Verlag 1999.

Gander, Terry J. ed., Jane's Infantry Weapons 2001-2002, Jane's Group Coulsdon 2001.

Hamilton, Lynn, Light Triggers, Hefty Profits, in: Mother Jone's January 26,2000; found at http://www.ianasa.org/news/2000/jan_00/glock_triggers.htm.

Hoppenstedt, *

Hug, Peter, Die wirtschaftliche Bürde der Landesverteidigung Der Zusammenbruch der militärabhängigen Beschäftigung in der Schweiz, 199-200, und die Chancen einer zukunftsgerichteten Politik, Bern 2000.

International Directory of Company Histories, Adele Hast et al. editor, St James Press, Chicago and London, Vol. 3, 1994.

Kasler, Peter Alan, Glock The Wave in Combat Handguns, Paladin Press, Boulder Colorado 1992.

Kersten, Manfred, Walther – eine deutsche Legende, Wuppertal (Verlag Weispfennig) 1997.

Kersten, Manfred; Schmid, Walter, Heckler & Koch, Verlag Udo Weisspfennig, Wuppertal 1999.

Lewis, Jack; Steele, David E., Assault Weapons, Krause Publications, Iola, 2000.

Mampaey, Luc, FN Herstal Quel avenir pour la tradition armurière, Brussels (GRIP) 1997.

Mampaey, Luc, Groupe Herstal S.A. L'heure de décisions, Brussels (GRIP) 2000.

Statistisches Bundesamt, Warenverzeichnis für den Außenhandel, Ausgabe 2001, Metzler Poesche Stuttgart 2001.

Walther, 50 Jahre Walther-Waffen, Zella-Mehlis 1936.

Walther, Wege eines Werkes Vom Thüringer Wald zur Schwäbischen Alb, 75 Jahre Walther, Ulm 1961.

Websites of all listed companies, if available.

Austrian Defence Industry Association, Austrian Military Suppliers (66 p.), Vienna 2001.

Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, Austrian Military Suppliers, Austrian Defence Industry, Wien 2001.


Klaus Gotzen, Executive secretary of the association of manufacturers of hunting and sport weapons and ammunition (Verband der Hersteller von Jagd-, Sportwaffen und Munition), August 31, 2001 in Ratingen.

Anonymous person from the Federal Office for Economy (Bundesamt für Wirtschaft <BAW> in Eschborn) by telephone August 20, 2001.

Dr.Sprögel, Federal Ministry of Economy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft, Berlin) by telephone on August 20, 2001.


Gregor Wensing, expert for German military and police firearms, letter: July 17, 2001.

Peter Hug, University of Bern (Switzerland).

Prof. Weise, University of the Armed Forces (Bundeswehruniversität Hamburg), formerly chief engineer at Rheinmetall, November 1999 (interview concerning the feasibility of reversed engineering and technology transfer pertaining to the production of small arms and in particular automatic weapons.
2x Austria*

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