Remington Arms, the nation's oldest gun-maker, declared bankruptcy late Monday for the second time in as many years at a time when U.S. firearms sales are soaring.
The 200-year-old privately held maker of rifles, pistols and shotguns listed assets of $100 million to $500 million, according to its filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Alabama. It put its liabilities in the same range, and said that it had from 1,000 to 5,000 creditors.
It said it owes its two largest creditors -- munitions company St. Marks Powder and Eco-Bat Indiana, a lead producer and recycler -- $3.5 million combined. It also lists the states of Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri, and the city of Huntsville, Ala., as creditors with undetermined claims after taking development incentives in each jurisdiction.
Remington had $437.5 million in sales last year, about half the business it did in 2016, according to court papers filed in Decatur, Ala.
The Huntsville, Ala., manufacturer is trying to find a buyer after negotiations with the Navajo Nation unraveled over financing questions earlier this month. Navajo Nation council delegate Jamie Henio pulled his name off legislation to back the purchase and the proposal did not find more backers in the Navajo government.
Remington was begun in 1816 in Ilion, N.Y., by Eliphalet Remington II an amateur gunsmith and marksman whose peers were so enamored with his handiwork that they commissioned their own rifles. The company was sold to DuPont in 1933, which held it until 1993, when it was sold to a group of high-level executives. Remington has changed hands two more times since then.
JPMorgan Chase and Franklin Advisors took ownership of the company in exchange for $775 million in debt during its 2018 bankruptcy, but according to court documents, neither firm is among Remington's 40 largest debtors.
The bankruptcy filing takes place as firearms purchases are skyrocketing in the face of months of pandemic-fueled uncertainty and weeks of civil unrest in cities throughout the country. From March to June, sales jumped 30%, about 3 million firearms, according to a Brookings Institution review of federal background-check data.
Nearly half of those additional sales occurred in June, after several days of protests sparked by George Floyd's killing in police custody. Researchers wrote that the spike differed from previous gun-buying binges because it was not driven by fear of pending restrictions but rather by anxiety and unease over the ongoing crises.
According to June figures released by the FBI, 3.9 million background checks were conducted last month, the most since the system was created in November 1998. Background checks are the most reliable metric used to measure gun sales.
But consumers have gravitated to other brands. When gun purchases surge because of social and political anxiety, consumers tend to gravitate toward handguns and semi-automatic rifles, where Remington established itself as a leader in shotguns and hunting rifles.
Guns also are hard to innovate. They're meant to last generations and often become collectors items or heirlooms. If a gun owner is pleased with the performance of a weapon, it could be a generation before there's a need to replace it.
"Eventually, you have a shotgun shell and you're going to shoot it from a shoulder-position pump-action shotgun. You can only change the configuration so many times before you're just offering embellishments," said Greg Danas, a leading firearms and ballistics expert. "At some point, the gun of 1970 can do the same thing as the firearm of 2020."
Remington's long guns and shotguns also have been a source of liability that has dogged Remington for decades. Its 700 series bolt-action rifles and certain models of shotgun were found to have design defects that caused them to sometimes fire without a trigger pull. That's led to dozens of product liability of lawsuits, many of which the company settled.
Remington also fell under intense criticism after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The shooter used a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle to kill 20 children and six adults. The victims' families sued Remington, claiming the rifle should not have been marketed for civilian use.
Remington argued to have the case dropped and contended it was immune from lawsuits over the commission of crimes by those using its products. But the Supreme Court disagreed in 2018, and the case is expected to go to trial in Connecticut Superior Court next year.
Information for this article was contributed by Jacob Bogage of The Washington Post; by Rick Green and Steven Church of Bloomberg News; and by staff members of The Associated Press.