Shooting for growth in 2023

Amid vagaries of arms business, ammo maker Armscor Cartridge Inc.’s chief eyes 10% growth, South America market expansion this year
Armscor Cartridge Inc. President Darren Newsom

MISSOULA, Montana—Millions of rounds of ammunition have been produced by Armscor Cartridge Inc. (ACI) and exported all over the United States since 2011—and now, ACI President Darren Newsom wants more for the company as it seriously embarks on an expansion to hike its annual profits.

Speaking to select Filipino journalists—including BusinessMirror—brought by the Armscor Global Defense Inc. in the US for a facility tour, the 52-year-old game hunter shared the ACI company’s ballpark figure of $50-million earnings from overall sales last year in the cartridge business.

And by the end of 2023, ACI is shooting for a 10-percent growth forecast or somewhere in the vicinity of $55 million; and looking to expand their market down to several countries in South America like Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina, among others, although they already started delivering ammunition there since last year.

“We are doing over $50 million now and we’re planning to increase it by 10 percent this year. That’s actually the goal to increase it every year,” said the American Newsom, whose facility located in Montana, USA, has under 50 employees, including 10 Filipinos.

A total of one million different cartridges, like the normal 223 for rifles and 10mm for handguns, among other types, are being assembled every day in the facility where it puts together the bullet, the brass, the primers, and the gunpowder through its state-of-the-art machines.

According to a website article four years ago from Stevensville Montana’s Bitterroot Star, the gross sales for the business started at just $8 million in 2011 until it reached $30 million in 2017. And the growth continued from there, even during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, which they still considered their “best year” after breaching the $50-million mark.

Now, the challenge is to sustain the growth for the next several years.

“The growth is all within the market share you have, that’s why we have to look for the export of ammo and increase the law enforcement sales,” Newsom explained.

He noted that the US commercial market remains to be ACI’s biggest clients at 70 percent, although that could be unpredictable.

“The growth on the US commercial side has always had its ups and downs as far as either politics go, or [when there is] some kind of tragedy like a school shooting or something else, and you never know what is coming. In politics, you can kind of predict every two years that something is going to happen. But in the school shooting or stuff like that, they can happen, the big one can happen tomorrow, and our market can go crazy again.”

Guns and ammos, Newsom said, are publicly available in various stores, that’s why they are very strong in the US commercial side. The challenge, though, is to penetrate more the US government market comprising the law enforcement sector, which is the steadiest on their side.

“We haven’t been even tapped into the government side of things yet, which probably we should do at this point—that’s another ballgame,” he added. “But we have potential there, as we get to the point, I think we can go out to some of the smaller US government contracts. It’s always an option.”

Missoula Armscor Cartridge Inc. facility

Philippine context

He cited as well the needs and importance of support of the Armscor Global Defense Inc. in the Philippines, saying their growth also relies on what happens elsewhere.

And Newsom is very much willing to help the Philippines land on top of the global market.

“We are like bringing the Philippines, the Philippine product, into the US to make the US market better. So usually, the US exports to a company that makes them better, but we are actually reversing that, which I’d like to be a part of because we helped the Philippines get to a point to be a major player now in the US.”

Speaking of quality, Newsom said the ACI has met the strict requirements of their suppliers through the years and then successfully sold their cartridges at a cheaper price without sacrificing the premium and the quality of their brand.

Armscor Global Defense Inc., owned by the Tuasons headed by president Martin Tuason, holds the majority of the ownership sharing of the ACI at 55 percent, while Newsom is holding 45 percent, but he handles the daily management and its operations.

Prior to his partnership with the Tuasons, Newsom started the Bitterroot Valley Ammunition Components (BVAC) in 2008 and they bought bullets and brass from Armscor during the time of former president Demetrio “Bolo” Tuason, whom he became friends with before selling BVAC.

They started the partnership in 2011, opening Armscor USA on a very small level, with five machines and 10 people producing just 100,000 rounds of ammunition daily—and now they have over a hundred machines that do one million rounds per day.

Armscor Global Defense Inc., aside from the Armscor Cartridge Inc. in Montana, is represented with the other subsidiary manufacturing American facility in Cedar, Utah, and Armscor/Rock Island Armory in Pahrump, Nevada. The main headquarters are located in Marikina, Philippines.

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