End of an era as Winchester rifle plant prepares to close
By MATT APUZZO
Associated Press Writer
January 17, 2006, 3:10 PM EST
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- U.S. Repeating Arms said Tuesday it will close its Winchester firearm factory, threatening the future of a rifle that pioneers toted into the Wild West and John Wayne hoisted onto the big screen.
"It's part of who we are as a nation just like it's part of who we are as a city. It's the gun that won the West," Mayor John DeStefano said. "What are we going to have, Winchester rifles manufactured in China? Is this what we're coming to?"
The announcement touched off a lobbying effort by city officials and union leaders who hoped to find someone to buy the plant before it closes March 31. If no buyer comes forward, it could spell the end for nearly all commercially produced Winchesters, said Everett Corey, a representative of the International Association of Machinists District 26.
"Winchester would be pretty much defunct," he said. "They're not going to produce them, other than a couple custom-type models."
The company has been plagued by slumping firearm sales. More than 19,000 worked there during World War II, but the plant employs fewer than 200 now.
"Several generations have worked at this place, a lot of fathers and brothers, sons, uncles and daughters," said Paul DeMennato, facility director at U.S. Repeating Arms. "A lot of marriages were people who met at Winchester."
U.S. Repeating Arms, which is owned by the Herstal Group, a Belgium company, has said for years that it was on the brink of closing the plant.
DeMennato said the company is negotiating the sale of its plant. The Winchester name is owned by Missouri-based Olin Corp., which had sold U.S. Repeating Arms the right to use the name until next year.
Olin had no immediate word on its plans for the Winchester name. DeMennato said he hopes the name will be sold along with the plant.
Ummmm... Herstal group.. empty plant.... any ideas what to do with it?
FIRE UP THE SIG PRODUCTION LINE!