Traditional Finnish firearms manufacturer Sako turns 100

March 30, 2021 7:53 AM EDT

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HELSINKI, March 30, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Sako is one of the world's most prestigious rifle and cartridge brands. Our reputation, high-quality products and credibility are rooted in the unique skills of our employees and in their professional pride. Sako has an eventful and rich history behind it. Over a period of 100 years, the company has grown by focusing on internationalisation, the excellence of its products, respect for its own craftsmen and personnel, and on offering innovative solutions for the needs of its customers.

Sako, a manufacturer of firearms founded 100 years ago on 1 April 1921, is a special case in Finnish industrial history. The factory was established as part of the Civil Guard to meet its needs for gun repair. The workshop became an independent financial unit on 1 April 1921, so Sako has determined that date to be its moment of establishment. In addition to repair work, Sako also began to manufacture firearms.

After the war, it was owned by the Finnish Red Cross and later by Nokia and Valmet. Over the last 20 years, Sako has been under the ownership of one of the world's oldest family firms, Beretta. As a Finnish company of rare quality, Sako also ensured the successful entry of its rifles into the large American gun market back in the 1950s. Still today, Sako is Europe's largest supplier of rifles to North America, and exports its products globally to over 50 countries.

The workshop had initially been called Suojeluskuntain Ase- ja Konepaja Osakeyhtiö (Civil Guard Firearm and Engineering Co Ltd) and in 1927 became a limited company with its name abbreviated to the acronym, Sako. The company continued to be wholly owned by the Civil Guard, and competitive marksman and Civil Guard leader, P.E. Svinhufvud, was elected the first Chairman of the Board. At the same time, the company moved from Helsinki to a factory site in Riihimäki, where it continues to operate to this day. In Riihimäki, the assembly of a new model of rifle, the M28, began. Nicknamed `Pystykorva' (the dog breed `Spitz'), this rifle proved to be even better than similar weapons being used by the defence forces, in terms of its quality. At the same time, the company also began to manufacture cartridges. Sako is the world's only rifle manufacturer that also makes cartridges itself.

Despite the good quality of its products, however, Sako Ltd's development was initially poor. Nevertheless, this situation changed when the tense political situation in Europe in the late 1930s prompted the Finnish government to launch an extensive armaments programme. Thanks to substantial orders for pistol cartridges, the company's financial situation became well-established and the factory was able to expand.

The Winter War, the Interim Peace and the Continuation War were very busy periods for the company. Sako became the country's largest producer of pistol cartridges, as practically all the cartridges fired from Finnish machine pistols were made by the company. Orders for the newest model of rifle, the M39, also swelled to unprecedented proportions and the number of personnel at the factory increased to 800, a considerable number of whom were women during the war years. Riihimäki was bombed during the war, but the grounds of the Sako factory were spared the worst of the destruction.

The end of the war marked a threatening turning point for Sako. In November 1944, the Civil Guard ended up on a list of organisations prohibited by the Control Commission. The organisation's leadership had, however, already made preparations to secure its assets, as a result of which Sako shares were transferred to the ownership of the Finnish Red Cross under the leadership of Field Marshal Mannerheim. The Finnish Red Cross thus undoubtedly became the only national unit of its global organisation to have ownership in the weapons industry.

After the war, Sako had to find new articles to sell. The cartridge department began manufacturing tools and small metal products like lipstick tubes, and the engineering department repaired guns.  Economically more significant was the textile machinery production that was launched in 1947. The machines were mainly sold to Finnish textile mills.

In 1946, Jaeger Colonel Elias Hydén was appointed General Manager of Sako and the company reverted to manufacturing firearms. The L46 hunting rifle conceived during the war was introduced into production in 1946.  It sold very nicely, not only in Finland but also in the Nordic countries and Western Europe.

The most significant breakthrough and, at the same time, the greatest achievement of Colonel Hydén was Sako's entry into the US market.  Jan Winter, an agent of the American company Firearms International, had acquired a Sako L46 and was ready to sell it in the USA. The possibilities in this prosperous country with a strong gun culture were immense, but competition was also tough. The popularity of the high-quality rifle surprised everyone, however, and Sako's exports to the USA increased year on year during the 1950s.

In 1952, the US was already Sako's largest export country and, in 1953, sales even exceeded those in Finland. Success for Finnish consumer products in the American market was then - and continues to be - quite an exceptional achievement, and it was also a decisive step forward in the development of Sako.

In 1962, Suomen Kaapelitehdas Oy (Finnish Cable Factory Ltd) bought the entire shareholding of the growing company from the Finnish Red Cross. At the end of the decade, Kaapelitehdas and Sako were transferred to the ownership of the upwardly mobile conglomerate of Nokia. For Sako, the 1960s was a decade of good growth. In addition to hunting rifles and cartridges, the company also returned to the production of military weapons when it received an order from the Finnish Defence Forces for new assault rifles.

The boom, however, turned negative during the 1970s. Profitability weakened and the workforce had to be reduced year after year.

In 1986, Nokia agreed with state-owned Valmet the merger of the two companies' weapons businesses. Sako-Valmet Oy, which comprised three firearms factories, Riihimäki, Jyväskylä Tourula and Tikkakoski, began operations at the beginning of 1987. In order to achieve profitability, over the years it had to prune both its operations and workforce.

The Sako 75 range of products unveiled in 1996 became the turning point for the company. The success of Sako's first weapon to be designed as new from the very beginning turned the company's share price around and also helped Sako in its next step: It had long been evident that the resources of a company the size of Sako and the interest of its then owners, Nokia and Valmet, would not suffice in international competition, and that the company would have to merge with a larger player in the weapons industry. At the end of the millennium, the Italian Beretta Group expressed an interest in Sako and acquired all the company's shares.

Under Beretta's ownership, Sako has enjoyed 21 years of growth. Being owned by this large company dedicated to the weapons industry has supported Sako in its development and in the growth of its volumes. A major sales success has been the Tikka T3, the one millionth unit of which Sako sold in 2020. Rarely have bolt action rifles sold as many as this anywhere in the world. That same year, the company also launched the revamped Sako S20 hybrid rifle. The launch of this technically highly developed weapon coincided nicely with Sako's all-time production record, which was more than 113,000 rifles in 2020. Also that year, Sako launched the first copper bullet designed and manufactured in-house, the Sako Powerhead Blade, and broke its record for cartridge production with more than 11 million cartridges made.

Sako is moving into its second century as a skilled weapons manufacturer that operates on a long-term basis and keeps abreast of the times. Sako is developing world-class hunting-, military- and target rifles and cartridges and, by combining its knowledge of both rifle and cartridge production, Sako is able to offer products whose strengths are uncompromising precision and reliability. 

Sako is looking to the future with more confidence than ever. We are proudly continuing the development of the skills and know-how of rifle production and respecting the surrounding nature as we navigate towards the next 100 years.

Further information:General Manager Raimo Karjalainen, Sako Ltd, tel. +358 10 830 5201

Materials

Documentary film:Sako 100 years short documentary film in English: https://youtu.be/9kmWnvy0wY0

Credentials for media bank: Sako.materialbank.netSakopressSakopress1

Social media: www.sako.fi www.tikka.fi Instagram: @sako_internationalInstagram: @tikka_internationalFacebook: www.facebook.com/sakointernationalYouTube: www.youtube.com/sakoltd

Sako's key figures  Net sales €98.0 millionPersonnel 320

Sites: 

 · Riihimäki - Head office and rifle- and cartridge factory         

·  Hausjärvi - Cartridge charging          

· Stockholm - Sako Sweden           

· Toronto - Stoeger Canada Inc.

Production 2020:         

· Rifles - 113,000         

· Cartridges - 11 million

Export:

· Main market areas: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia and Europe

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SOURCE Sako Oy



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