Greener Pastures – The Reason Behind S&W’s Tennessee Move

By Larry Keane

Smith & Wesson 686 Logo
The decision to move a flagship manufacturer isn’t easy. It’s also not hard when legislators target industry for destruction. IMG Jim Grant

U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- The decision to move a flagship manufacturer isn’t easy. It’s also not hard when legislators target industry for destruction.

That’s the case with Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc., which recently announced it will move its headquarters and a large portion of its manufacturing from Springfield, Mass., to Marysville, Tenn. The company has been rooted in western Massachusetts since it was founded in 1852. In 2023, it will open the doors to its new manufacturing facility and headquarters nearly 900 miles south.

That’s not an easy decision. The company will invest hundreds of millions to build a new production plant. It will consolidate warehousing from Missouri to the Tennessee location. That’s where Smith & Wesson will transition the production of semiautomatic pistols and rifles, while revolvers will continue to be produced in Massachusetts. That move will require transferring 750 jobs.

“This has been an extremely difficult and emotional decision for us, but after an exhaustive and thorough analysis, for the continued health and strength of our iconic company, we feel that we have been left with no other alternative,” explained Mark Smith, Smith & Wesson’s President and CEO in a press release.

Tightening Grip

In other words, it was about corporate survival. Massachusetts has become increasingly hostile to gun owners and gun manufactures. The state has among the strictest gun control laws in the nation. State lawmakers banned Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs) in 1998. State Attorney General Maura Healey expanded that crackdown on lawful firearm ownership with a 2016 Enforcement Notice that alleged firearm retailers were violating the state’s law by making small tweaks to certain firearms. The Enforcement Notice warned retailers those so-called “copies” or “duplicates” of the firearms specifically listed in the state law were illegal for sale, but that notice was vague and NSSF, along with two Bay State retailers, challenged the notice in court. Attorney General Healey agreed to clarify the notice after two years of legal wrangling.

This was an example of the hostility state authorities held against firearm industry members, but it was a status quo. Smith & Wesson could manufacturer their popular M&P 15 line of MSRs, but they weren’t available for sale to law-abiding citizens in their own state.

The decision point came when lawmakers directly targeted the firearm manufacturer’s ability to do business. Dual bills were filed in the state legislature (HD 4192/SD 2588) that would prohibit firearm manufacturers from manufacturing MSRs. The proposal includes banning so-called “assault weapons” and magazines capable of holding 10 or more cartridges.

“We are under attack by the state of Massachusetts,” Smith told reporters. The move is anticipated to cost $125 million “that I didn’t want to spend.”

Smith explained in the press release that the proposed Massachusetts legislation would prevent Smith & Wesson from manufacturing MSRs, despite the fact they are lawfully owned by citizens in 43 other states. There, they’re used for lawful purposes by law-abiding owners daily, including uses for recreational target shooting, hunting and self-defense.

That would have also meant Smith & Wesson would have been forced to sacrifice products that comprise 60 percent of their reported $1.1 billion revenue. There are over 20 million MSRs in circulation today and they are the most popular selling centerfire rifle on the market.

Strictly Business

“Honestly, we know we could have defeated it this session,” Smith explained to media. “But it will be back the next session and the session after that. I just can’t operate with that big a risk hanging over the company. We only started this process once the bill was filed. Then and only then.”

Smith & Wesson expects it will be two more years before their firearms bear Tennessee markings, but they’re not the only one to leave. Troy Industries, also a manufacturer of MSRs and parts, announced their own relocation earlier this year. Beretta U.S.A. moved manufacturing from Accokeek, Md., to Gallatin, Tenn., and Barrett Firearms is headquartered in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Other companies left their traditional home states for friendlier business climates when it became clear legislatures became hostile to their industry.

Massachusetts’ lawmaker attacks on Smith & Wesson were purely political. They don’t like firearms and even after they successfully banned their own citizens from owning the MSRs made in their state, they attempted to export their gun control by jeopardizing a leader in the firearm industry. Not so with Tennessee.

“Our pro-business reputation, skilled workforce, and commitment to the Second Amendment make Tennessee an ideal location for firearms manufacturing,” said Republican Gov. Bill Lee in a press statement.  “We welcome Smith & Wesson to The Volunteer State and are proud this U.S.-based brand has chosen to relocate from Massachusetts. Thanks for your significant investment in Blount County and for creating 750 new jobs”

Smith & Wesson’s response isn’t political at all. It’s just good business.


About The National Shooting Sports Foundation

NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearm retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations, and publishers nationwide. For more information, visit nssf.org

National Shooting Sports Foundation

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incorrigible
incorrigible
15 days ago

Not to mention the other advantages of moving from an anti-business state to a more friendly one. S&W will probably have lower taxes, utility rates and other costs.

Tionico
Tionico
16 days ago

S&W ould have grounds to file a nasty federal lawsuit on the unconstitutional nautre of the lw prohibiting manufacture of MSR’s. But that would lilkey take seven to ten year,s, and cost aobut as much as their move will cost. Once gone they can likley liquidate their holdings in MA and shake the rest of the dust off their collective feet.

tennessee will be a good place for them.Lots of excellent cmpany there already.

swmft
swmft
16 days ago

all the hi paying jobs leaving, so restaurants and stores will also close as an economy shrinks, more jobs will be lost, greater revenue shortfalls tax increases, give it five years Springfield will be more like Gary Indiana. why is our town a dump? we need a government bail out I hope they cut all contracts with mass sell them nothing, If all the us manufactures would treat state governments like they treat their people things would change fast

Finnky
Finnky
16 days ago
Reply to  swmft

Unfortunately S&W are nothing to MA. Just one small city, Cambridge MA, makes a significant portion of the entire US income. S&W is not even pocket change to these people.

Denigrate “the elites” all you want, but don’t underestimate them.

Country Boy
Country Boy
16 days ago

If we can get all gun manufacturers to move south of the Mason Dixon line, it will be much better for them all IMO. As well as gun owners too.

Buster
Buster
16 days ago

I didn’t read the article…I don’t wonder why they left. The purpose of *any* business is to make money – `nuf said.

I just wish they’d discontinue that infernal Hillary Hole.

DDS
DDS
16 days ago

“White House press secretary Jen Psaki now claims that it would be “unfair and absurd” for companies to increase costs on consumers in response to higher tax rates proposed by Democrats.”

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/psakis-continued-assault-on-economic-reality/

These folks are:

  1. lying through their teeth.
  2. Dumber than a box of rocks.
  3. Slept through Economics 101

Or some combination of the above. But the bottom line remains the same. They think that taxing folks (corporate or private) has no effect on their behavior. And they’re going to pass lots of taxes unless they’re stopped.

Buster
Buster
16 days ago
Reply to  DDS

Yup.

Consumers not only pay the tax imposed on a business, they pay [that company’s] light bill, water bill, vehicle insurance, payroll, profit sharing, building maintenance, etc.

Take an operating statement – look at all the expenses incurred in running a business – the consumer pays for all of it. And the consumer will pay an extra 15 to 25% on top of that.

A $1.00 tax imposed on a business can easily cost the consumer $1.25.

Finnky
Finnky
16 days ago
Reply to  Buster

True – unless the business competes internationally. Then either they raise prices as you said, or they go under leaving consumer purchasing foreign goods and all of us worse off. Certainly employees of the failed enterprise get shafted. Maybe that’s part of the goal, as the newly unemployed are left to find another job or b3come dependent on ever expanding governmental largess.

Nurph
Nurph
16 days ago

I saw a local news story on this where the Mayor of Springfield & the a state Senator were essentially scratching their heads trying to figure out how/why this happened. They’re worried about “all of the poor families impacted” by the move. Did it ever occur to them that those families might move as well?!

Bill
Bill
16 days ago
Reply to  Nurph

Dial 1-800-DUH!

Tionico
Tionico
16 days ago
Reply to  Nurph

Surely others will remember when the management of MagPul got up in front of the COlorado lawmakers and informed them “if yuo pss the mag capacity ban we WILL leave the State of Colrado”. The state dweebs thoughtthey were bluffing. they were not. They moved as soon as they could. Up in Seattle WA, the supid city announced theywould impose a heftytax on every firearm and round of ammunition sold wihtin city limits. The argest independent gun store was just inside Seattle City Limits. The owner went in fromt of the city poohbahs, and told them “if you pass that… Read more »

BrassBandit
BrassBandit
9 days ago
Reply to  Tionico

Why would anyone in their right mind, much less a manufacturer of firearm products move to Seattle? There are so many free states with less crime and employable skilled labor to move to.

Bill
Bill
16 days ago

Good for those gun makers who are leaving state with onerous, anti-gun laws. “money talks”; but that will make no difference to the anti-gun legislatures!

DIYinSTL
DIYinSTL
16 days ago
Reply to  Bill

This is a rare case where the “B.S. talks and the money walks.”

Bill
Bill
16 days ago
Reply to  Bill

Sorry for the grammatical error. I meant to type legislators; not legislatures!

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
16 days ago
Reply to  Bill


We must have the same copy editor.

Finnky
Finnky
16 days ago
Reply to  Wild Bill

Is that the cat?

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
16 days ago
Reply to  Finnky

Yes!