German sport gun visit
- By Pete Moore
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- Last updated: 06/12/2016
Despite only having been in business since 2002—a mere snippet of time compared to many firearms manufacturers—German Sport Guns (GSG) has made a significant impact with its high quality range of of .22 rimfire, sporting and semi-automatic replicas of famous modern and historical firearms.
The company, which is based in Arnsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany employs around 100 staff, distributes its products worldwide but has mainly focused on the Canadian and American markets, which today make up around 80% of its sales. Europe, however, is firmly in its sights, including countries such as its home market of Germany, Italy and now the UK, thanks to a recent distribution deal signed with Edgar Brothers, the Cheshire-based wholesaler of firearms and ammunition.
The two companies are also collaborating on developing new firearms specifically for UK shooters. Lisa Riley, Director of Edgar Brothers’ Shooting Sports Division, explains: “They say that from small seeds grow mighty oaks and I believe our relationship with GSG is growing. GSG is a pro-active and exciting manufacturer whose capabilities are outstanding, its enthusiasm and product knowledge is limitless and its ability to quickly turn concept into reality with an emphasis on detail and quality is like a breath of fresh air. Over the next few months we will see numerous new product launches for the UK market, based on collaboration and customer research and feedback, as well as a number of new announcements that will put GSG firmly on everyone’s map.”
Martin Limper, a spokesman for GSG, agrees that the partnership between the two companies will be key to cracking the UK market. “Edgar Brothers is extremely professional, has a very good sales network, provides excellent service and the cooperation between us is working very well. By working closely together we can develop products for UK shooters, for example the UK version of our MP40, a rimfire semi-automatic, blow-back operated closed bolt carbine, which has a 300mm barrel and which we developed in close collaboration with Edgar Brothers.”
Currently Edgar Brothers has a range of their firearms on its books including the GSG-1911 .22 LR HV pistol, which is available in black, green, stainless steel or target versions. Based on the classic pistol invented by John M. Browning in 1911 GSG’s version not only retains the unique features of the original but also incorporates an ambidextrous thumb grip, extended beaver tail safety grip and several modern safety functions.
Edgar Brothers also supplies GSG’s .22LR semi-automatic 522 carbine (MP5 copy) and the GSG 522 SD, with synthetic stock, 22 round magazine, textured pistol grip, blow back system, full metal body, SD forend and barrel extensions. Fans of Mikhail Kalashnikov’s designs will like the extremely well made .22 GSG AK-47 available either in black or with a wooden stock. Introduced in 1947 the AK-47 is the most produced carbine in the world with over 100m manufactured.
UK customers who want fast accurate shooting down range will be interested in the GSG Schmeisser StG 44, a .22 copy of the famous assault rifle developed in 1944 by Hugo Schmeisser and the first assault rifle to see major development. GSG’s version, which retains much of the original specification, is suitable for plinking and target shooting and features quality wood finish, easily adjustable iron sights and simple to use safety features. Editor (Pete Moore) has just done a video of this iconic gun along with another on the MP40 and 1911 pistol, which are all on www.gunmart.net on the website.
GSG has clearly cornered a niche in the market with much credit due to the brains behind the brand. Its senior management team is made up of Dietmar Emde, Manfried Nienhaus and Michael Swoboda, all of whom previously worked at Umarex, the German air rifle and air pistol manufacturer set up in 1972. After honing their skills and knowledge they decided to go it alone and set up GSG 13 years ago with Dietmar taking control of developing and manufacturing guns, Manfred running sales and marketing and Michael, a qualified gunsmith, in charge of business and management issues.
The move was not without its challenges however; the state-of-the-art Umarex HQ was replaced with a small, old factory that had been used to manufacture light fittings. However, by using their knowledge of the business and established contacts, the three soon signed up distribution of a few brands in the airgun and airsoft markets.
Before long GSG’s fortunes took an upward turn when it signed exclusive distribution rights in Germany for Gamo, the Spanish manufacturer of air pistols and rifles and one of the largest airgun manufacturers in Europe. This was quickly followed by exclusive distribution of Cybergun’s range of renowned airsoft products. At the same time GSG was approached to undertake development orders from both Gamo and Sig Sauer—a move that put it into the field of manufacturing—with the agreement including production of the popular, ergonomically designed Sig Mosquito .22 LR pistol.
There were still hiccups along the way however, with GSG experiencing difficulties in obtaining a licence to deal with and produce guns, along with issues around financing development. However, the development of the Sig Mosquito led to a significant order and the growth of the GSG brand name had started. A move to new premises followed, along with another from which GSG shipped its first ever container of GSG-5s to the United States—firmly putting its name on the map thanks to the sheer fun to be had in firing the .22 rimfire replica of the submachine gun. The GSG-5 was also the first ever tactical looking .22 rifle to be developed with its success leading GSG to swiftly increase its line of military style firearms.
Today GSG, which operates from its third in a line of plants, fully fitted with CNC machinery, is 51% owned by L&O Group, the holding company owned and managed by Michael Luke and Thomas Ortmeier, which in turn owns Blaser, Mauser, Sig Sauer and John Rigby & Co. The deal, which was finalised in March 2013, leaves GSG’s three founders at the helm as managing shareholders and will enable GSG to benefit from synergies in manufacturing, marketing, design and business expertise, as Martin Limper explains.
“Our ongoing cooperation with Sig Sauer showed GSG’s potential and the agreement with L&O means GSG can continue to develop and grow its business while L&O group has secured supply in the manufacturing of a wide range of .22 calibre firearms. There is considerable growth potential on both sides and we expect GSG to continue to expand into new markets as a result.”
A further deal, at the end of 2014, saw GSG purchase Diana, the performance airgun manufacturing, giving it and L&O access to the air rifle market. “The idea is to develop a range of new hunting air rifles which will also be distributed by Edgar Brothers in the UK,” commented Martin Limper.
Another advantage of having the backing of a large holding company may also be useful in the ongoing legal dispute between GSG and Heckler & Koch. In September 2014 GSG, along with its US distributor, American Tactical Imports, filed a lawsuit against Heckler & Koch for infringement of design rights and fraud and is claiming $16.5m in damages. The lawsuit is the latest in an ongoing dispute between the two companies over the industrial design rights for the HK MP5, a sub-machine gun from Heckler & Koch which is especially popular in the United States.
In 2007, GSG launched the GSG-5, a small-calibre firearm similar in design to the MP5. Subsequently in 2009 GSG paid H&K $300,000 for use of modified design elements of the MP5, which Heckler & Koch claimed it owned. In a later twist it emerged that Heckler & Koch did not own the rights for the MP5 after all and that GSG had been wrongly pushed into a settlement; the result is GSG’s lawsuit for damages, which it is certain it will win. “We are very confident that despite the considerable legal costs, we will end this protracted litigation in our favour,” said CEO Michael Swoboda. “We have adhered to all agreements and will not accept a restriction of our business in this form.”
Whatever the outcome of the litigation, GSG has clearly come a long way since it was set up in 2002 and its products are now renowned for high quality manufacturing, superb attention to detail and faithful replication of original materials and designs. “Many collectors buy our guns primarily because they are very similar to the original design,” says Martin Limper. “The GSG StG 44 is the same weight and same dimensions, the MP40 also, while the 522 is more tactical and appeals to younger shooters. With regard to the UK market we want to become a better-known brand as well as one that is also renowned for sensible prices and excellent reliability. Our good reputation, coupled with the excellent service provided by Edgar Brothers and our ongoing collaboration on the development of new products means the future for GSG in the UK looks extremely positive. For more information, visit: www.edgarbrothers.com www.germansportguns.de