USA –-(Ammoland.com)- Just as medicine has been increasing the human lifespan over the past few decades, technology has been slowly reducing the lifespan of companies in America. The average Fortune 500 company age is now under 20 years. But don’t tell Peerless Handcuff Company that. This family owned and operated business has been around since 1914, and they don’t plan on going anywhere, anytime soon.
For those of you not around at the turn of the last century, 1914 saw the beginning of the first scheduled airline flight; the first steamboat passed through the Panama Canal and the First World War. In 1914, James Milton Gill, a businessman and the police commissioner for the City of Springfield, Massachusetts met with a Boston-based inventor, George Carney. Carney had patented a “swing cuff design” for handcuffs which revolutionized the common design of hand restraints being used by law enforcement.
The simple design uses a single and double strand so the cuff cannot lock without having something to stop it from coming back around the other side. It allowed police to quickly and easily cuff perps with only one hand. Although it gave officers greater security, it was found to constrict the perps’ wrists too tightly. Gill’s new company, Peerless Handcuff Company, took the original swing cuff design and built upon it creating the “double lock cuffs” which gave the offers the same one-handed cuffing operation but did not constrict the wrists too tightly while making it even more difficult to escape the cuffs.
In 1949, James Gill passed, and ownership of Peerless Handcuff Company was transferred to his children. Peter and Chris Gill’s grandfather, Clyde managed the company until the mid-80’s. But ask Peter and Chris what growing up around restraints was like and most likely they’ll shake their heads. Clyde, a real businessman at heart, was branching out and had also established a Chevy / Buick Dealership alongside his restraint business. One of his sons, Bradford, father to Peter and Chris, worked at the dealership and eventually ran it. So, Peter and Chris’s early memories of visiting dad and grandad were more likely at the dealership whereas young boys, the lure of the muscle car was more exciting than handcuffs.
Clyde’s other son, David helped run the Peerless side of the family businesses. In 1985, David became president, and a few years later, Clyde passed on. In the early 90’s, Peter decided to give Peerless a try and started at the company at an entry level shipping clerk position.
Peter reflects, “Starting from the bottom and working toward greater responsibility, gave me a good understanding of the business. I worked with my uncle David until 1998 when he died of a sudden heart attack. At that point Bradford Gill stepped in to oversee the management of the company with myself running day to day operations.” Chris joined his brother, Peter, in 2002 managing the Peerless office. Over the years, much like his brother, Chris had the opportunity to get hands-on training in the family business.
Peter continues, “Currently, Chris and I run the company. Our Dad is retired but comes in most every day to check the numbers and help with projects.”
Since the Gill brothers have been running the show, a lot has changed. In 2015, they moved the company to a larger facility in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Although the basic design of their products has not changed since inception in 1914, Peerless continued to innovate.
The company regularly upgrades the machining and tooling technology for all their in-house processes. It works with local specialized machine shops for outsourcing select component parts, thus increasing quality without increasing costs. Once manufactured and packaged the restraints are delivered to Peerless’s dealer network.
“Our dealer network is very important to us,” Peter explained. “We offer a Lifetime Warranty with all of our products and also offer a no-charge repair service. In fact, on occasion we get product returned for repair that was made before I was born! For the most part, our dealers work with the law enforcement departments and agencies. We also get a lot of marketing and trend information from them.”
When asked about trends in the corrections and law enforcement markets, Peter noted that lighter weight handcuffs are trending. To meet the demand Peerless introduced the Model 730C – Superlite handcuff, which weighs nearly half of the weight of a traditional handcuff while still meeting the government standards for metallic handcuffs. The Model 730C is one of their most popular handcuffs. Additionally, high-security handcuffs that utilize a non-standard handcuff key have become more popular for those situations where additional security is a must.
A trend that is still serving Peerless well is the color-coded restraints. According to Peter, “We are one of the few major restraint manufacturers that continue to offer the different color finish. The color coding is a feature some agencies and individual offers want. The primary reason is that it allows them to track ownership.”
Peerless continues to innovate materials and markets. New products are currently in development. Known for their excellent quality and durability, plus the lifetime warranty and no-charge repair service, Peerless will stay in the forefront of the restraint market for what Peter hopes, at least another 100 years.