Olympic Armsí guns popular
By Rolf Boone | The Olympian
NISQUALLY – Olympic Arms Inc., a manufacturer of guns and rifles, has survived floods, an earthquake and a fire. Through it all, the company has grown to employ 60 people locally and gross up to $7 million in annual business.
Olympic Arms Inc.
•Business: Firearms manufacturer
•Owners: The Schuetz family
•Products: Semiautomatic rifles and pistols
•Production: 800 to 1,000 firearms a month
•Sales: $5 million to $7 million annually. Buyers subject to FBI background checks.
•Employees: 80 (60 work here; another 20 in Costa Mesa, Calif.)
•Web site: www.olyarms.com
Company founder Robert Schuetz has been based in Nisqually for more than 30 years, and the business is best known these days for making the AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle.
The company also makes two semiautomatic pistols: a .45-caliber gun known as the "1911" and a .22-caliber gun called the Whitney.
The biggest seller is the AR-15, but all of the company's firearms are popular for hunting, self-defense, target practice or with gun collectors, Schuetz said.
"They were in the military and like to hang (the guns) on the wall," Schuetz said about some of his customers.
Today, Olympic Arms' operations are spread among six buildings on 15 acres, said co-owner Brian Schuetz. The company also runs a castings operation in California.
While Robert Schuetz still owns 10 percent of the business, his son, Brian Schuetz, and daughter, Diane Haupert, have increased their ownership roles at the family-run company.
Vice president Brian Schuetz oversees manufacturing at Olympic Arms, while Chief Financial Officer Diane Haupert runs the administrative side of the business.
In its history, the business has had to survive Nisqually Valley floods, the Nisqually Earthquake and in 2000, an electrical short that burned part of the business to the ground, Robert Schuetz said.
Also, after the attacks of Sept. 11, the company no longer was allowed to sell its products overseas. That prohibition resulted in a significant drop in annual sales, he said.
Still, Olympic Arms has been able to rebuild its business by focusing on its U.S. market and by creating a mock AR-15 for military training purposes, Brian Schuetz said.
The military likes the mock AR-15, known as the Cobalt Trainer, a rifle that does not fire. Schuetz said new military recruits can learn to carry, clean and take apart the rifle without having it accidentally discharge.
"We've sold a lot of them," Schuetz said.
Olympic Arms sells firearms to the military, law enforcement and to gun dealers across the country. The company also has a small retail storefront but it represents only about 1 percent of its sales, Robert Schuetz said.
South Sound and Northwest gun sellers praise the quality of Olympic Arms' product.
Russ Bradford, who co-owns a McKenna-based gun shop called Countyline, sells the Olympic Arms' AR-15.
"I think it is the best value on the market today," Bradford said. "It is reliable, accurate and they definitely have the price point."
At his store, prices for the AR-15 start about $600, Bradford said. There are cheaper versions of the rifle but the quality is not as good, he said.
Beavercreek Armory, a gun seller and distributor in Hillsboro, Ore., also carries pistols and rifles made by Olympic Arms. Owner Dave Frazier said the company's products are constantly in demand.
"I've got orders in all the time, but I can't get as much as I'd like to," he said.
Rolf Boone covers business for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.