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Kalispell gun maker targets big revenues

Thu, 12/06/2012 - 11:19am
Candace Chase, Daily Inter Lake, Associated Press

NEMO Arms Inc., a relatively new Flathead Valley firearms manufacturer, has targeted $5 million to $10 million in sales for 2013.

Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, president and chairman of the board for NEMO, bases his bright outlook on the positive reception so far for the company's OMEN .300 Win Mag assault rifle as well others such as its Battle Light 2.0.

"We currently have made presentations to the FBI and to special forces, so we are waiting on orders from them," he said. "Three special forces groups have tested our new long-distance rifle (OMEN). They like it better than anything else they've seen."

In the company's latest newsletter, Clint Walker, vice president of NEMO Arms, describes a trip he took in early October with three other company representatives to Fort Bragg, N.C., to demonstrate the precision of the OMEN.

According to Walker, special forces snipers and senior instructors tested the rifle. After several hours of shooting, the group was impressed with the accuracy, low recoil and function of the long-range sniper-style rifle.

"One sniper was able to break a four-inch clay target in a single shot at 1,072 yards," Walker reported.

Improving firearms systems available to America's special forces forms a major part of the mission of NEMO Arms since its founding in 2011. NEMO employs 12 people at its plant in south Kalispell and has more workers in training to start in December.

"We are really into innovation, new technologies and alloys," Vallely said. "We use the same alloys in some of our major gun parts that Boeing uses — aluminum, advanced polymers, plastics which the military likes because they're lighter and more durable than wood."

Along with Vallely and Walker, company principals include Kirk Leopold, chief operating officer; Steve Luckey, vice president of research and development; Josh Sonju, manager and vice president of product development/ manufacturing and assembly; Adyn Sonju, vice president of accounting and dealer sales; and Dan Neitzling in weapon design and engineering.

Their group blends backgrounds in military, law enforcement and cutting-edge technologies. They used their own experiences and wide contacts to pinpoint firearms needs of the military, law enforcement and the general public, then improved on existing models applying technology from aerospace and other industries.

Vallely brought 32 years in the military to the table, including participating in studies for Army Special Operations on development of new weapons systems for strategic and tactical special ops missions.

"We've gotten a lot of feedback from our soldiers that they (rifles) were malfunctioning," he said. "The barrels were overheating, sand and other paraphernalia would inhibit the functionality of the weapons."

He said the NEMO group designed guns with new alloys with very little need for lubricants and oils that attract sand.

"We've gotten a lot of national recognition in four different magazines," Vallely said. "We're a special part of innovative new technologies in gun-making laser-cut gun parts, not molded or what they used to call forged."

He said NEMO Arms uses special machines developed for other industries to produce parts for airplanes and other advanced systems. Vallely said the parts produced by these machines assemble into lighter, more accurate, durable and functional rifles.

"Our weapons have almost 100 different parts in them," he said. "We're trying to get more and more of them made here in the valley. We have eight companies providing us parts now in the Flathead Valley."

According to Vallely, the company has seven models that have recently come out of research and development and three more in research and development.

The OMEN sells for $5,699. Other firearms offered by NEMO range from the $2,399 Battle Light 1.0 AR-15 to the $95,904 Titanium .308 Battle Rifle.The titanium rifle was built as a marketing tool although Walker said the company has received serious inquiries.

NEMO Arms rolled out it first rifle, the OMEN, this spring.

In anticipation of a ramp-up with military contracts, the company has collected more than 40 resumes from local job hunters for positions from assemblers to machinists and gunsmiths. Vallely said NEMO Arms hopes to hire quite a few veterans.

Even without military contracts, the company has done well serving the local and Internet general public markets with all but automatic firearms.

"Our sales are doing very well," he said. "We've got quite a bit of walk-in sales now in our Kalispell office."

The company recently hired Maschmedt & Associates, a well-known independent firm with sales representatives in 16 western states. The group quickly sold more than $60,000 in rifles and opened new dealerships.

With gun sales up 55 percent nationally this year, Vallely and others at NEMO Arms feel confident about the prospects of a booming Flathead Valley firearms industry. Vallely doesn't see that changing anytime soon.

"People are afraid of the future, of what may be down the road — of urban unrest," he said. "People want to be able to protect themselves."

He said a lot of others just enjoy the sporting aspect of firearms. They enjoy target shooting along with hunting.

Vallely said more and more young people have taken an interest and triggered a surge in firearms instruction enrollment. He also pointed to the success of the new gunsmithing program at Flathead Valley Community College.

"It's a whole new industry here and the great thing about it is that it's creating jobs," he said.

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Information from: Daily Inter Lake, http://www.dailyinterlake.com

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