SIG is more than just a name in the firearms industry, it is a powerhouse. From a simple beginning to its current status, SIG has come a very long way. To the surprise of many, SIG Sauer actually started as a wagon-wheel factory in 1853. It quickly evolved into an industrial plant for building the most sophisticated wagons and railway cars in Switzerland. Things turned a different direction though when Switzerland’s Federal Ministry of Defense issued a nationwide challenge. They were looking to acquire a new state-of-the-art rifle for the Swiss Army. In 1864, the Swiss Wagon Factory accepted the challenge, winning a contract for its new Prelaz-Burnand rifle. It then parked the wagon business for an initial order of more than 30,000 rifles. It was at this point that the “Swiss Wagon Company” became the Swiss Industrial Company, or better known as SIG.
SIG Sauer: Firearms Industry Powerhouse
Fast forward to 1949 and a SIG legend was born. The P49 became very popular on the battlefield as well as in competition circuits. This gun would go on to be the impetus behind the more commonly known SIG P210. Later that same year it released the P220 destined for the Swiss military. The law enforcement circles began to clamor for a version of their own and soon the P230 compact was released. These pistols proved to be the cornerstone of SIG’s reputation for quality and reliability. The team at SIG continued to design and drive their business. It was during this period that SIG partnered with J.P. Sauer & Sohn, GmbH, of West Germany, known worldwide for hunting rifles. This would be the start of a well known household name – SIG Sauer.
Jump up to 1985 and SIG makes its first move to the United States. SIGARMS set up shop in Virginia and began to import its popular P220 and P230 pistols. To say that things went well would be a bit of an understatement. Everything that the Europeans liked about the SIG pistols carried over to the U.S. In 1992, with an eye on the future, SIGARMS moved to Exeter, New Hampshire. In 1992, SIG began production of the P229 in .40 S&W. Besides importing the SIG Sauer line of pistols, SIGARMS offered customer service from highly qualified gunsmiths in the reputable service department and state-of-the-art training at a separate training facility on 128 acres in Epping, New Hampshire. SIGARMS continued to expand its firearm lines with the Sauer rifle line and the Hämmerli line of target pistols and rifles.
SIG Sauer is Born
With all the history behind us, the SIG corporate that we know today came to be on October 1st, 2007. On that day it changed the name from SIGARMS to SIG Sauer. SIG states: “The change reflected the vast worldwide growth in demand for SIG Sauer products. In response, the company more than tripled its workforce in the next 30 months, invested 18 million U.S. dollars in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and equipment, and significantly expanded its engineering base. The name change, coupled with major new product introductions in pistols and rifles, reflects the continued commitment to the high standards of production, service, and innovation the SIG Sauer brand has always represented.”
The company’s manufacturing facility is now in Exeter NH and the training academy in Epping, NH. The recently remodeled 206,000-square-foot facility that houses the SIG Sauer manufacturing facility and corporate staff offices is just about 20 minutes from the company’s Exeter NH manufacturing facility and the Epping, NH training academy. At the heart of this new headquarters is the state-of-the-art manufacturing floor, featuring a significantly expanded machining production center, quality control testing facilities, and an indoor, multi-position test-fire range, which includes a 100-meter precision rifle range.
SIG Sauer Academy
While SIG is obviously well known for guns, it has made an undeniable splash in the training world. In the late 1980s, the concept of a training Academy began in a conversation between SIGARMS executive management and several officials from federal agencies. The original goal for the Academy was to construct a facility similar to the FBI Firearms Training complex, but available to all law enforcement and military entities in the United States. Some of the requirements included an indoor range, a Hogan’s Alley complex, multiple ranges for handguns and long guns, state-of-the-art classrooms to complement the ranges, and lodging facilities for the visiting students. In addition to the training ranges, there would be a research and development branch, an underground test range, weapons repair, and armorer classrooms.
The SIGARMS Academy officially launched in 1990, kicking off a search for property large enough to house the enterprise. Meanwhile, the SIGARMS Academy occupied one-quarter of the 80,000 square foot building that had become the new home of SIGARMS in Exeter. Classes took place at the factory as well as in the field throughout the United States by the staff and a growing number of adjunct instructors. Then in 1996 SIGARMS Academy took ownership of a large parcel in Epping, NH. It built the first-ever non-toxic, frangible indoor range, along with two classrooms, a gun vault, and administrative areas. In 2007 SIGARMS Academy became SIG SAUER Academy.
The Story Continues …
In recent years, SIG Sauer Academy has continued to develop a variety of ranges and infrastructures, including a maritime training area, a tactical training area, multiple shoothouses, the only publicly accessible 1,000-yard range in the New England area, and a 360-degree range. Additionally, in 2012 the Academy invested in a brand-new home for the SIG Sauer Academy Pro Shop. A recent visit to the academy allowed me to see the new “SIG Experience” center. It will contain the pro shop, conference, and training rooms, as well as a public indoor range.
SIG Sauer has evolved from wagon wheel maker to one of the world’s preeminent firearms manufacturers. It has secured countless military and law enforcement contracts around the world and continue to innovate. With the addition of ammunition lines, optics, and air guns, SIG has demonstrated that it has no intention of being static in the firearms world. It is my opinion that in years in the future SIG will be seen as a major defense contractor and diverse player in the firearms industry
Want more SIG? Check out our incredible profile of SIG Sauer, episode six of our Sweat, Lead & Steel Series. Or for more information on products, check out sigsauer.com.