The Scoop on the Sale of Beeman

 (Reproduced with permission, slightly edited, from Airgun Letter,1995. 2(1):2,7.
(With post-script added 10 September 2001 and list of my recommendations of Beeman models added 18 January 2003)

The Airgun Letter is proud to have an exclusive scoop, from an inside source, as to the actual events behind the sale of Beeman Precision Arms Inc. Hopefully, this will quell a lot of rumors and perhaps be of some historical interest in the airgun field

Robert and Toshiko Beeman, the founders of Beeman Precision Airguns (later Beeman Precision Arms Inc.), had long said that they wanted to retire somewhere around the time Robert was 60. Robert was therefore delighted when Pat Squire, then chief legal counsel and vice president of the famous Colt's Manufacturing Company, approached him at one of the big international shooting trade shows in early 1991, shortly before Robert's 59th birthday. Pat relayed a message from Tony Autorino, chairman of the board of the company that owned Colt's Manufacturing Company, of Hartford, Connecticut, that Colt would like to consider buying Beeman's, "lock, stock, and barrel". They felt that adding "the keystone" of the newly developed adult airgun industry would be the perfect complement to their expanding international operation. Robert, Tony, and Pat met secretly at the 1991 National Rifle Association show and agreed to try to bring the companies together

Months of negotiations followed and the stacks of legal documents grew higher and higher. Finally a daylong summit meeting of Ron Stilwell, then president of Colt's, Pat Squire, Robert Beeman, and Beeman's merger and acquisition representatives was held at the Beeman ranch in California. The final price and terms were hammered out, Pat was assigned to be the new Beeman president, and the new venture was toasted by the tired, but delighted group! During the next few weeks the two lawyer groups prepared the final documents and the closing date was set. Then, very late in 1991, a day before closing, when THE CHECK was to be delivered to the Beemans, Pat called to say that due to the collapse of some key international contracts Colt would be going into bankruptcy the next day and would be unable to complete the deal! Ron Stilwell expressed his regrets by sending a beautiful boxed specimen of Colt's new Anaconda .44 magnum revolver, engraved as a presentation from Ron Stilwell, President of Colt's, to Robert Beeman, President of Beeman's.

Shortly after all of this, Pat Squire left Colt and formed the Powderhorn Corporation, named after his home street, which had as its express purpose the acquisition of the Beeman company. Pat never came up with an offer which was acceptable to the Beemans. Several other firms, from around the world, were also very interested but could not get together with the Beemans.

Then, in 1992, shortly after that target date of Robert's 60th birthday, the Beemans learned that Richard Kazmaier Jr., president of Kazmaier Associates Inc. of Maryland, was interested in the Beeman company. The Kazmaier company reportedly owns Bike (athletic clothing), S/R Industries (sporting and recreation equipment), and other holdings. S/R Industries, in turn, owns Marksman Products. Mr. Kazmaier was interested in adding the high-end specialty, dealer distributed products of Beeman to S/R Industries, separate from Marksman, to help provide a balance with Marksman's economy level, mass-market products. The meetings that ensued seemed to be dominated by a whole cluster of Roberts: Robert Ruxin, Kazmaier's general counsel, Robert Eck, president of S/R Industries, Robert Levy, Robert Beeman's counsel, and Robert Beeman; all mediated by a John Malarkey, a mergers and acquisition specialist from Bank of America. Piles of legal documents again began to grow and it looked like a closing would occur about the end of 1992. However, by January of 1993, the Beemans terminated the negotiations. They were concerned that the employees who had stood with the Beeman company for so long might not be properly provided for in the new operation. Negotiations with other American companies, and one of Europe's largest sporting arms wholesalers, including two firm offers, which had been put on hold during the S/R activity, were reopened. Only the heroic efforts of John Malarkey finally convinced the Beemans that their concerns about S/R were based on misunderstanding. Full agreement was only reached on April 1,1993 the very day that the deal was finally closed, with S/R Industries purchasing almost all of the operations and assets of Beeman Precision Arms Inc. and the Beeman trademarks. The actual terms and details of the agreements remain confidential, but, contrary to some rumors, and despite the terrible recession which had felled so many in the international shooting industry, the Beeman company was healthy and sound at the time of the transfer. The Beeman company surely would have gone on for years and years under the leadership of Robert and Tosh if it had not been for their desire to move on to a new phase of their lives.

The new and old Beeman companies worked together smoothly for a two and half month transition period in the Beeman Building in Santa Rosa, California. The new Beeman Precision Airguns company then moved to Huntington Beach, California to accomplish some operation economies by being close to S/R Industries' other main operation, the Marksman Company. Although no Marksman funds were involved in the Beeman purchase (Marksman and Beeman are to be maintained as separate companies), it was only logical that S/R Industries would draw upon two or three of their staff to fill some positions in the new sister company. However, continuity and identity was assured by starting up the new company mainly with experienced Beeman staff selected and moved from Santa Rosa.

After the transfer, Robert and Toshiko continued to operate their local retail operation, which included the largest assortment of airguns and firearms in California's Redwood Empire, under the new name of Beeman Outdoor Sports. They also continued to operate the Beeman Airgun Museum which displayed about 20% of the Beeman Airgun Collection. The Beeman's remaining part of the corporation was renamed Robert's Precision Arms Inc.. Robert's had been designated to handle the fine Feinwerkbau match firearms, but they transferred this function to S/R in late 1993.

Finally, in September of 1994, the Beemans dropped the other shoe. They completely left their former business after they  transferred the airgun part of Beeman Outdoor Sports to Laurie Brown, their former National Sales Manager. Laurie had well over a decade of experience in the Beeman company and probably was the most competent and knowledgeable staff member that they ever had - and she is just a great person! Laurie immediately brought Todd Meir from Minnesota to help her run the new operation. Todd was formerly the airgun manager and top airgunsmith at B&B Supply in Minneapolis and is well known to airgunners as an active field target competitor and a real airgun expert. Laurie and Todd say that their objective is to supply direct, highly personal and knowledgeable help, plus sales of Beeman and other airguns and special accessories at the best possible prices, discontinued Beeman literature and products, and skillful service at reasonable prices to airgunners everywhere. Their new operation is right across the street from the big Beeman Building in Santa Rosa. The new name and address is: Airguns International, 3451G Airway Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403. Phone: 707-578-7900. Fax: 707-578-0951. The Beemans wish them well and look forward to hearing more about their new company*

What about the Beemans now? They are busy traveling, consulting for Beeman Precision Airguns (until April 2003), testifying as an expert airgun witness, writing, and getting back to their project of love: collecting old airguns! And developing their own artistic expressions: (See The Beemans: Robert's Art and Toshiko's Art).

*Post Scripts:
1. Airguns International, the successor to our local store only, run by our former sales manager, Laurie Brown,  closed in 1996.

2. In 2001,  some of the "talking heads" in the airgun market, ever long on talk and short on facts, are still running around saying that Marksman is now the parent company of Beeman's! As can be seen from the above, Marksman has neither ownership nor control of  the new Beeman company;  the two companies are separate parts of S/R Industries, but actually both are owned by Kazmaier Associates Inc.. Some of those same individuals show their lack of inside information by saying that they know "Bob" Beeman. Actually, he was known as "Bob" by his first wife, and others, until 1968. At that time, he married his soul-mate, Toshiko; she preferred that he be known as "Robert". Today, the only person who knows him well and still calls him "Bob" is his brother, Gary, who just can't break the habit of over a half-century. (So now you have two new clues as to who knows what they are talking about!)

(12 July 2004)

Another rumor bites the dust:  NO, the Beeman company has not been sold again after our sale of the company in 1993!  NO, the Beeman company owners have no interest in selling it - they have again confirmed that the Beeman company continues to form a basic part of the long term plans of S/R Industries - they have always intended to use high end Beeman Precision Airguns to help balance low price point Marksman Products, another company that own. Just consider who starts these dumb rumors!  .


"So, what airguns do you recommend now, Dr. Beeman?"

Now that we have no ties or obligations to Beeman Precision Airguns, people keep asking me that question! So, to save us both some trouble (we can't carry on a chat line with shooters - we are just too busy writing books, etc)., here are my "unbiased" comments:

 All of the German and English made airguns sold by Beeman are very good, but the crown jewel  of their sporting rifles STILL is the Beeman R1 in .20 or .25 caliber, preferably both! For sporting/hunting air rifles,  two of my personal favorites always have been the handy, little Beeman R7 and the Beeman C1,  both of which seem  to have an almost cult following among those who really know airguns. The present production of the R7 is excellent, but if you can locate a R7 with our San Rafael or Santa Rosa address factory stamped on the receiver - you have a special prize. For extra high power, to supplement your Beeman R1 and R7, get the Beeman Crow Magnum in .25 caliber. In sporting air pistols, the Beeman P1 and P2 pistols really have no equals! For match guns, any of the elegant Beeman/Feinwerkbau airguns are the very best available. Sure these guns may cost one or two hundred dollars more than a gun sporting equal specifications - but if you could buy a Mercedes, which can go 120 miles an hour, for only one or  two hundred dollars more than a Ford which can also go 120 miles per hour, and you knew that the Mercedes was so much more satisfying and would last you for the rest of your life - what would you decide that you could "afford"? With airguns, virtually everyone really can afford the best! The Chinese and Spanish airguns have come up quite a bit, but they still just are not in the big leagues! And, no matter how some folks beg consideration for them, I still cannot put any mass production American airguns, with their emphasis on plastic and sheetmetal, up with the higher quality German and English airguns. You will spend more time holding and carrying your airguns than shooting them - so get guns that are a joy to hold and look at, in addition to performing long and well! "Just as good as.." or "almost the same as..."  are lines leading to reduced enjoyment, reduced performance,  reduced durability and life,  and reduced long term value!

If I were buying a match airgun today, and I was not going to compete in International competition (and most of our FWB customers just wanted the finest airgun available for fun and informal enjoyment), I would seek out the discontinued Beeman/Feinwerkbau Model 300S rifle and the Model 65 air pistol. It is such a delight for most every  shooter not to have to fuss with compressed air or CO2! The 300S and 65 will give you several lifetimes of delight, just "thinking off" shots with truly astonishing precision and accuracy. Have it rebuilt by Beemans every few million rounds! If you can't locate one of those, get a Beeman/FWB 603 rifle and a 103 pistol. Enjoy!

Which is the best caliber? The answer is simple: there is no best caliber, but the matter will be argued forever. The typical choice is between .177 and .22 caliber. Frankly, decades of experience have led me to believe that there is little purpose for the .177 caliber, except for match guns, which are tradition bound to that bore size and where trajectory and wind effect have no significance, and air pistols. For airguns of any significant power,  I would always select .22 caliber over .177, but I strongly believe that .20 (5mm) caliber is a much better choice than either one. If you really want more projectile diameter and weight,  try very hard to simply skip over .22 caliber and get the much superior .25 caliber - but I would always recommend .25 caliber as an addition to having a fine .20 caliber airgun, not as a substitute. Then, after, and ONLY after,  you have have a good deal of experience with the excellent .20 and .25 calibers, you owe it to yourself  to add some of the really large airgun bores: 9 mm (.38 caliber), .44, etc. to your growing airgun battery.