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Smith & Wesson Moving Headquarters Out Of Massachusetts Over Gun Bills

A Smith & Wesson revolver at a gun show.

Smith & Wesson is moving its headquarters to Tennessee after 169 years in Springfield, Massachusetts, citing pending legislation threatening its gun-making operations.

S&W will begin construction of a $120M headquarters in Maryville, Tennessee, in the coming months, part of a wide-ranging restructuring of operations, the company announced Thursday. The move would place the firearm manufacturer in a locale that has stronger pro-gun laws, an affordable cost of living, access to higher education institutions and availability of qualified labor, S&W President and CEO Mark Smith said in a statement.

S&W plans to relocate more than 750 jobs from facilities in Massachusetts, Missouri and Connecticut to Tennessee. It said in a regulatory filing it will invest $120M, including $6M to acquire 232 acres, in the new facility and pay workers an average of more than $25 an hour. The facility will be constructed in the Knoxville suburb of Maryville, approximately 200 miles east of Nashville. 

The gun-maker expects to sell its 150K SF plastic injection molding facility in Deep River, Connecticut, and sublease its 145K SF manufacturing and assembling space in Columbia, Missouri, it said. S&W's 28K SF Houlton, Maine, machining facility would remain active. 

S&W’s move was prompted by legislation introduced by Massachusetts lawmakers in April that would ban the manufacturing of assault weapons, which are already banned for sale in the state.

The law would be a blow to S&W, which sold more than 600,000 guns and accessories and doubled its sales to $258M during the first three months of 2021 compared to last year, WBUR reported. S&W makes pistols, revolvers and long guns including assault rifles, and the company manufactures guns for both law enforcement and the military.

“While we are hopeful that this arbitrary and damaging legislation will be defeated in this session, these products made up over 60% of our revenue last year, and the unfortunate likelihood that such restrictions would be raised again led to a review of the best path forward for Smith & Wesson,” Smith said.

The gun manufacturer, incorporated in 1852, has a 575K SF facility in Springfield, which will still house more than 1,000 employees and perform some manufacturing capacities after the new Tennessee facility opens in 2023, the company said. 

Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno in a statement called S&W’s announcement “devastating,” pledging to work with the company to retain jobs for those choosing not to relocate with the company to Tennessee. State Rep. Bud Williams, a Democrat who represents Springfield, told the local outlet MassLive the proposed assault weapons ban was still the right thing to do in the wake of S&W’s announcement. 

S&W's Springfield facility sits in a New England cluster of gun-makers including Worcester-based Kahr Arms, Westfield-based Savage Arms, and neighboring Ruger & Co. in New Hampshire and Colt Manufacturing Co. in Connecticut. The state is among the 10 largest producers of firearms in the country. Massachusetts has the nation's lowest death rate by firearms, but lawmakers brought the legislation in April following a spate of mass shootings.