Firearms industry on an upward trajectory

by TOM LOTSHAW/Daily Inter Lake  |  published on November 24, 2012


Gun building has a long history in the Flathead Valley. But a “perfect storm” of Montana’s hunting and gun culture, entrepreneurship and rampant political fear about gun owners’ rights has the local gun-building business booming as never before.

Local companies are building and selling thousands of guns and gun components to customers around the world, including to some of the nation’s biggest gun makers, and bringing millions of dollars into the valley.

The signs of local success are everywhere.

Montana Rifleman is on track to produce 312,000 rifle and pistol barrels this year and is employing close to 170 workers. Its sister company, Montana Firearms Group, makes production rifles, one of which was named “Best of the Best” by Field and Stream magazine.

Proof Research just opened a state-of-the-art manufacturing, research and design facility. The company specializes in creating lightweight, accurate firearms using carbon-fiber barrels and stocks unlike anything else on the market. Proof currently employs 29 people and is still hiring.

McGowen Precision Barrels expects production to hit about 16,000 barrels next year. Its sister company, American Gun Co., produces full guns and has several rifle-action guns in research and development.

Other successful firearms businesses operate on a much smaller scale. Many individual gunsmithers work out of their home shops, hiring on help as needed. Other related businesses may have a half-dozen employees.

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