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While it is something of a war without weapons, leading gun manufacturers across the country are stepping up to aid the fight against the spread of coronavirus.
Similarly to that of car manufacturers that have jumped to make medical equipment, and alcohol distilleries that have opted to make hand sanitizer, U.S. weapons plants have also turned their production plants to target areas in need of aid – namely personal protection equipment (PPE).
“SIG Sauer, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, and KelTec are among the companies in the firearm industry who have made efforts to fight Covid-19 by making and/or supplying PPE. The donations have been made to first responders such as police, fire, and EMTs, but also to healthcare professionals in their local hospitals,” Eric Poole, editor-in-chief of Guns & Ammo Magazine told Fox News. “The response has been growing among companies as they learn how they can shift their capabilities.”
Taurus, for example, which recently moved its U.S. manufacturing facility to Bainbridge, Ga., has extended its domestic efforts by ordering PPE from the company’s manufacturing facilities in Brazil, and the likes of SIG Sauer has donated nearly 15,000 KN95 masks to over 80 different local law enforcement, EMS, fire departments and medical facilities in New Hampshire, Oregon, and Arkansas.
“As the events surrounding COVID-19 began to progress, it was clear to us very early on, that we were going to need to procure a significant amount of PPE to ensure the health and safety of our employees,” said Tom Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President at SIG Sauer. “In the process of preparing our workforce, we were also able to secure enough masks so that we could contribute PPE within the communities where our facilities operate, and our employees live, which allowed us to have the greatest possible impact.”
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Taylor noted the need for this type of PPE, such as face masks, was something entirely new for the company.
“The protective equipment we typically used prior to this was for hearing and eye protection in our factories and due to the fact that we test-fire products in our test ranges or at our training,” he explained. “But because our manufacturing processes utilize some of the most advanced technology in the world, including some of the latest robotics and computer-aided design and prototyping, most of the PPE we typically use is related to maintenance and hazardous material abatement.”
Furthermore, SIG Sauer’s Oregon-based Electro-Optics division has been 3D printing plastic face shields to donate to Medical Teams International. The non-governmental organization outfits doctors and nurses on mobile coronavirus testing vans in the greater metro area of Portland. The company also said that it would be giving away these face shields to local healthcare workers and hospitals spanning Oregon, Arkansas, and New Hampshire in the weeks to come.
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Furthermore, Smith & Wesson has donated over 5,000 face shields and 12,000 pairs of eye protection to support front line professionals across the nation.
“Ordinarily, our PPE is primarily focused on hearing and eye protection for use in our manufacturing facilities. Because we have an inventory of eye protection – safety glasses – we were able to send 12,000 pairs to front line professionals across the nation,” noted Elizabeth Sharp, VP of Investor Relations at American Outdoor Brands Corporation, the parent company for Smith & Wesson. “In addition, our unique manufacturing capability and expertise in the form of innovative engineers, 3D printers, and special materials, provided us the opportunity to re-purpose a portion of those resources to design and build face shields.”
Sharp said that they are now producing 1,000 of these shields per day for use by employees, the medical community, and first responders, across several states, underscoring that within the first few days of the outbreak early last month, the engineering team at Smith & Wesson had designed a face shield utilizing 3D printers and readily available materials and commenced building.
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And in an effort to support local communities, Ruger donated resources to hospitals, nursing homes, police, fire, and other first responder departments, including 6,500 surgical masks, 700 Tyvek suits, over 200 N95 masks, almost 5,000 safety glasses, and 200 shoe coverings.
“Additionally, Ruger has redeployed some of its manufacturing resources and pivoted production to assist with the shortage of certain medical supplies. Specifically, Ruger has built and delivered over 3,000 face shields to over 60 local hospitals and first responders in five states,” continued Vice President of Marketing, Rob Werkmeister. “We have been mindful of the shortages in the medical community and are doing our part to support local hospitals and first responders by both making and donating supplies on hand, while also ensuring we have sufficient protective equipment for our employees.”
Meanwhile, as the crisis in New York was reaching its crescendo, and state leaders voiced concerns of a dire bed and ventilator shortage, manufacturer Remington Arms offered almost one million square feet of vacant space in its upstate plant to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The company also tried to develop hospital supplies such as surgical masks, bed, and ventilators – which at that time Cuomo publicly lamented that the state possessed on 7,000 and would require 30,000 to meet demand.
“The Remington plant in Ilion now has approximately one million square feet of unused and available manufacturing space,” said CEO Ken D’Arcy in a March 23 letter to Cuomo and President Donald Trump, according to the Journal. “We would be honored to donate our facility to the production of ventilators, surgical masks, hospital beds, or any other products mission-critical to the war on coronavirus.”
Smaller companies with ties to the industry have also partaken in the challenge. For one, Alaska-based Triject Manufacturing – known for its specialized 3D-printing of gun parts – last month turned its attention instead to composing thin, plastic test swabs and clear plastic face shields for medical personnel.
Indeed, as with any modern manufacturing company, 3D Printing critical in the gun industry for rapid prototyping, testing, and product development has proven to play a part in the pandemic. For the likes of KelTec’s Florida plant, Ruger’s New Hampshire facility, and SIG Sauer’s optics-manufacturing site in Oregon, it was considered “easy to reconfigure the 3D Printers typically used for making firearm-related products and shift to production of certain masks and face shields,” Poole pointed out.
“Gun owners generally consider themselves among the most patriotic of Americans, as do most of the companies within the firearm industry,” he added. “When the Covid-19 pandemic subsides, these gun owners will remember what companies made an effort to support their fellow Americans in this time of need.”