They’re the new kid on the block that’s 140 years old -- and the largest company that’s all but unheard-of in the United States.
That, in a nutshell, describes Sarsilmaz, the privately owned Turkish small arms manufacturer that offers a line of handguns in the United States under the SAR USA brand, which it founded in 2018 to import and distribute the firearms in the U.S.
SAR USA plans to introduce a line of shotguns in the United States before year’s end in addition to more handgun models, company officials say. The manufacturer is named for the family that founded the company in 1880.
“They’re an 800-pound gorilla; they’re a big company that has been building guns for many, many years,” said Todd Pearson of Auburn, Ala., SAR USA chief operating officer. “They’ve just never done anything in the United States on their own.
“They’re very vested in the brand. They own it -- it’s their family.”
Pearson and Joel Harris of Harris Global Marketing and Communications, who handles media relations for SAR USA, were on hand for the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers’ recent “Wings and Walleyes” event on Lake of the Woods out of River Bend Resort. As part of the event, which also included guided goose hunts and walleye fishing on Lake of the Woods, invited outdoor media had a chance to shoot some of the SAR USA handguns Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 8, at the Warroad Lost River Sportsman Complex northwest of Warroad, Minn.
Besides target-shooting at both paper and metal gong-style targets, media had a chance to play a game of “five-card stud” Pearson and Harris had set up before the demonstration. Each target had 52 cards, everyone got five shots and the highest-scoring poker “hand” based on where the bullets hit the target won a handgun.
According to Pearson, who joined SAR USA in January, Sarsilmaz historically marketed its guns in the U.S. through third-party importers such as EAA -- short for European American Armory -- Czech importer CZ firearms and, most recently, TR imports.
“They’ve always brought it to a third party, so about two years ago, they decided to just bring the guns in under their own brand, SAR US,” said Pearson, whose resume in the firearms industry includes positions with such companies as Federal, Beretta and Remington. More recently, he was vice president of North American sales and marketing for Carl Zeiss Sports Optics.
Pearson says he sees the typical consumer of SAR USA products as price-conscious but with an eye on quality.
“We’re going to do what we can with an extremely high-quality product at a really reasonable price, so we’re here to start showing people the brand,” he said.
Pearson describes Sarsilmaz as a large multinational military contractor with seven plants in Turkey, including a 700,000-square-foot small arms factory, where the products it sells in the U.S. are made.
“The Turks have the luxury of having unbelievable, state-of-the-art manufacturing with low labor costs,” Pearson said. “That’s a good recipe, so what we’ve seen in our industry is a ton of people getting parts and products from Turkey.”
SAR USA currently offers eight models of semi-automatic pistols in the United States, Pearson said, with plans in the works to bring in eight additional models by year’s end.
He hopes to have the shotguns available by the end of the year, as well, if not sooner. The initial product line will include a mix of inertia-driven shotguns, a gas gun Pearson says is similar in appearance to the old 303 Beretta and an over-and-under shotgun with a wooden stock that will retail for about $700.
“We’re starting fresh in the United States with a 140-year-old company, and that’s kind of odd,” Pearson said. “They are the big dog; they just never brought the brand in under their own brand.”
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