Upon crossing the bridge into Arkansas from Oklahoma on U.S. Highway 64, you’ll find yourself in Fort Smith, an historic city with roots going back to a Wild West town on the edge of the Indian Territory. This is the home of Umarex USA, Inc. and Walther Arms, Inc. They are subsidiaries of the German firm of Umarex, a conglomerate involved in the airgun and firearms industries since 1972.
If you are unfamiliar with the Umarex name, my bet is you are familiar with some of the airguns in their extensive lineup — airguns such as the faithful CO2 BB firing copies of historic firearms in their Legends line, or the awesome replica of the famous Colt “Peacemaker” in both BB and pellet firing models. The lineup goes on to include break barrels, CO2 and PCP offerings with names like Hammerli, Ruger, Beretta, HK, UZI and, of course, Walther as well as a few other major names in the industry. Umarex has licensing agreements in place with each of them in order to use the name branding of those companies and/or produce practically exact duplicates of their famous firearms. Of course, Umarex also produces airguns under their own name that cover all levels of airgunning from entry level to high-end in price ranges that fit just about any pocketbook.
I had the great pleasure of visiting with Umarex USA’s Director of Marketing, “JB” Biddle at their plant when I was in Fort Smith recently. JB graciously spent the entire afternoon providing me with an in-depth tour of their expansive facility. Currently the plant is a distribution center, Consumer Services call center and repair depot that opened in Fort Smith in 2010. The original 117,000 square foot plant was expanded in 2013 to accommodate the opening of the U.S. headquarters of their sister company; German firearm manufacturer Carl Walther Waffenfabrik, in this location. The expansion was necessary to comply with strict U.S. firearms regulations on storage and tracking of all components considered firearms by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Some assembly of firearms is taking place at this facility in relation to the repair/recall service. Plans are in the works to bring more manufacturing in-house from overseas and existing floor space already exists for this expansion. Offices on upper floors house Sales and Marketing for U.S. operations of Umarex and Walther as well as the Elite Force airsoft subsidiary. Currently, 90+ full-time employees keep this operation humming. Some part-time staffing helps during rush periods as well. Included in that figure for full-time employees are four gunsmiths, one being a master gunsmith. The repair center was quite impressive with rows and rows of drawers containing tens of thousands of inventoried parts. An interesting tidbit I learned was that they have provided service on guns made in the late 1800s that passed through the repair center. Their R&D/Engineering department was equally impressive boasting a large 3D printer capable of producing a full size stock for evaluation as well as an optics center where scopes could be tested/evaluated for quality control. Of course, all the other necessary measuring and testing equipment was present along with a small airgun test firing range. The Call Center folks were busy as I passed through and JB commented how each member of the team “lived and breathed” airguns.
The culmination of the tour was a visit to their 2 lane, 50 yard indoor firing range. Multiple airguns and firearms were made available to me for test firing and the afternoon flew by too quickly. One of the guns fired was the new Gauntlet PCP, considered an “entry level” PCP because at $299.00 w/o optics, it provides a welcome addition in that it will be a great help in getting more folks into PCPs that might have held back due to the high costs of PCPs plus the needed accessories for filling them. Don’t let the price point fool you, this new PCP is an accurate shooter with many bells and whistles on it that you could expect to pay a lot more for. I really enjoyed shooting the Gauntlet and then they handed me the MP40, a faithful BB firing copy of the WW2 German “machinenpistole” submachine gun. Running off of two CO2 cartridges loaded along with 90 BBs into the stick magazine, the MP40 allows for full-auto firing. I had a ball quickly empting the magazine in short order. Other items fired during our session included the Octane Elite and the Forge air rifles along with the Strike Point single-shot pellet pistol. All worked flawlessly and, like a kid in a candy store, I wanted to take all of them home! Look for more in-depth reviews in future blogs. A couple of the Walther handguns in 9mm were also provided and while I was setting up for the next airgun I was to shoot, some police officers from a nearby town were trying out the pistols before my turn came.
I feel very privileged that being involved in the media opens doors like this so that I can be invited to visit operations like Umarex USA/Walther, Inc. and describe them to readers. Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest in Umarex products and you’ll check them out on the Airguns of Arizona website: www.airgunsofarizona.com.