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“Over the past few years, South Dakota has become a haven for small firearms factories, thanks to low taxes, minimal regulations and gun-friendly residents,” the magazine said.

South Dakota is home to about 20 firearms companies, according the state Office of Economic Development. And most of them are in the Black Hills.

In Sturgis, Dakota Arms got things started in the mid-1980s, when the late Don Allen and his wife, Norma Allen, moved the company from Minnesota. Dakota Arms manufactures rifles, shotguns and gun parts.

Through mergers and acquisitions, Dakota Arms has since brought gun maker Nesika Bay Precision, gun maker Miller Arms Co. and gun-case maker Dan Walter Cases to Sturgis.

On the ammunition side of the business, CorBon Bullet Co. moved to Sturgis from Detroit in 1995. It has since acquired Glaser Safety Slugs, a maker of specialized ammunition.

Others in the industry are also setting up shop in Sturgis.

Bruce Bowen Co. makes a high-end line of shotguns for trap shooters. It moved to Sturgis from Nebraska. The company has a side business, called 100 Straight Products, that distributes trap-shooting accessories.

Jamison International manufactures brass cartridges for ammunition makers. The company moved to Sturgis from California. In March, Andrew McFarlane moved his small business, McFarlane Gun & Rifle Makers, to Sturgis from upstate New York. He restores vintage European rifles and shotguns.

Rapid City has a number of firms, some of them large, in the guns-and-ammunition business. HS-Precision is a maker of rifles, rifle stocks and related products. It employs 75 people at its sprawling factory in the Rushmore Business Park. It moved to Rapid City from Arizona in 1989.

Another firm, A&A Engraving, takes off-the-shelf rifles and turns them into fancy limited-edition collector rifles worth thousands of dollars.

Other Rapid City firms include Ultramax Ammunition Maintenance, Black Hills Shooters Supply, Rushmore Ammo & Supply, Black Hills Ammunition (see related story), Jack First Gun Shop, Wideview Scope Mount Co., a maker of scope mounts for firearms, and Accurate Innovations, a new company that manufactures gun stocks.

The South Dakota Office of Economic Development has been aggressively recruiting the gun business in recent years. The state has published a slick, eight-page brochure to recruit more guns-and-ammo manufacturers.

“In South Dakota, we welcome firearm companies. That’s because firearms play such a big role in our state’s heritage,” Gov. Mike Rounds wrote in the brochure’s opening page.

The brochure noted that South Dakota was the first state in the nation to pass a law protecting firearm manufacturers and distributors from lawsuits from crime victims.

Each February, the state sends representatives to the annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show. More than 37,000 people, representing virtually every manufacturer and distributor in the United States, attend the SHOT Show.

Rosenboom said the Sturgis Industrial Expansion Corp. also has a booth at the SHOT Show.

The Rapid City Economic Development Partnership works the SHOT Show occasionally, said Bob DeMersseman, head of the partnership. This year, Rapid City plans to send a South Dakota School of Mines & Technology metallurgist to the show to help recruit gun businesses.

But as Rosenboom said, the Black Hills’ best recruiters are the people in the industry who are already here.

Kristi and Jeff Hoffman, owners of Black Hills Ammunition in Rapid City, helped persuade Jack First, owner of Jack First Gun Shop, to move his business to Rapid City from California in 1994.

First said he left Lancaster, Calif., because his once-small town had seen explosive growth and spiraling crime. He was even posting guards at the back door of the shop when deliveries arrived.

Jack First Gun Shop is a niche business that makes and sells repair parts for obsolete firearms. The Rapid City shop also has a small retail business that sells used guns.

During an interview last week, First said he has no regrets about his move to South Dakota. “It’s a good climate for gun shops and manufacturers,” he said.
 
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