Gun Companies Dogged by Quality Issues

Gun Quality

Gun Quality

A 3-headed dog, in this case.

Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. has bought an assortment of gun companies, consolidating them under the name Freedom Group.

Their portfolio of companies contains some of the oldest and most respected names in American gun manufacturing:

(more)

Since acquiring these companies, Freedom Group has begun shuttering the doors of some of their manufacturing facilities.  Bushmaster’s factory in Maine was set to be closed in March 2011, with production moving to a facility in North Carolina (according to stories last year).  Marlin’s factory in North Haven, which employed Crapgame’s grandfather years ago, is scheduled to close by June 2011.  Allegedly, manufacturing will continue at Remington’s Ilion facility.

Why?  To quote Freedom Group’s 2010 annual report:

We have augmented and integrated our facilities and have focused on improving our operating efficiency. We are moving toward centralized sourcing in order to deliver a first quality product while driving cost out. To this end, we have completed a number of lean manufacturing projects, including a factory consolidation and six sigma efforts led by the introduction of more than 50 black belt process experts since implementation of the program. Such projects have increased throughput and reduced direct labor, square footage and equipment downtime along with improved cash flow from lower inventory levels. These activities, which we call continuous cost improvements, will continue to be a cornerstone of our organization as we build and optimize our world class manufacturing platform.

Our manufacturing optimization efforts have also included the shift of some modern sporting rifle components and parts production into our plants and away from third-party vendors. These efforts have made the combined organization considerably more flexible, improved our quality and margins and enabled us to more quickly and efficiently address future changes in demand. The benefits of our past work are starting to appear in our ability to leverage our existing manufacturing footprint during periods of high demand while maintaining variability in our cost structure. We enhance this variability through our use of third parties for many modern sporting rifle components with no long-term contracts, so that we can adjust our inventory quickly and at a low cost.

And what has been the result of these cost-cutting measures?  Reduced quality.

Stories of recently-manufactured Remington 870 shotguns being poorly fitted and finished abound, as do stories of unreliability.  I have seen 2 different customers at 2 different gun stores get talked out of buying Remington 870s and into Mossbergs due to quality problems.  Supposedly, this is because Remington stopped making & assembling the guns in Ilion, and started making the major metal parts in Ilion, the stocks in Kentucky, and assembling the guns at some other location.  No hand fitting, just cobbled together from bins of parts judged to be “within spec”, and more of those parts are stamped or MIM rather than milled or cast as they used to be.  Yes, it saves money.  But the cost to quality, and to the reputation of the 870, is only starting to be known.

Marlin seems to be undergoing some of these same issues now.  Our friends at The Truth About Guns ordered 2 Marlin lever-action 1894Cs to review.  The rifle sent to TTAG honcho Robert Farago had its stock break before a single shot was fired.  The other 1894C, sent to TTAG reviewer Chris Dumm, had mangled & stripped screw-heads, gouged blueing, and very poor metal-to-wood fitting.

Will the new “Bushmaster” rifles simply be DPMS guns with Bushmaster markings?

This is sad.  Firearms manufacturing was one of the few industries where “Made in America” meant exactly that, and translated to genuine quality.  My advice is to hang onto older Remingtons and Marlins, or buy used ones if at all possible.

UPDATE:

Still no love for TTAG’s Marlin lever actions.  Is gunsmithing post-sale the only way to get a functional Marlin?

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