PTR makes clones of the HK-91 semi-automatic rifle and is located in Bristol, CT. Bristol is about 45 minutes north of Newtown, where 20 children and 6 of their teachers were shot to death last December.
The debate grew more heated recently, when Connecticut passed the strictest gun control law in the nation on April 4th. As a response to that law, on April 9th, PTR announced its plan to leave Connecticut in an open letter to the state.
When we asked Fiorini how he felt after learning about the shootings in Newtown, he told us, while the tragedy left him and his employees devastated, he ultimately feels manufacturers are not the problem.
“I probably feel the same way an engineer at GM feels when he drives by a car accident,” he said.
We visited PTR Industries to get a firsthand look at the company, their operation, and employees living on the front lines of the gun control debate.
Most of PTR's employees are guys in their twenties and thirties who grew up in the area and have known each other for years.
VP of sales John McNamara (left) and CEO Josh Fiorini (Right) have been friends since they were teenagers. Fiorini and his grandfather, Everett Weed, took over the company from a previous owner in 2011.
This is a receiver. It houses the moving parts of a gun. Legally this is the first point at which the metal is considered a firearm.
PTR purchased about 150,000 of them a few years ago from Hechler & Koch, the orginally maker of the HK-91.
Under the new law, all existing magazines over 10 rounds must be registered. PTR says this process is unclear and could potentially be very costly.
PTR is also concerned about transferring their rifles, which are painted in a different location. They feel that under the new law, this is also vague and could be seen as illegal.
PTR sells wholesale to distributors around the country. About 85% of their sales are for the commercial market with some small contracts for law enforcement. The local community also helps anchor their business.
Nonetheless, the company is still committed to moving, probably somewhere in the south. McNamara receives stacks of letters daily from states around the country asking PTR to move there.
Back in the shop, production manager Mike Lee, 30, helps out with first-stage assembly. Lee has worked for PTR for 2½ years. He will be moving with the company.
He has a wife and two kids. He may go back to having his own construction business or work for another gun manufacturer.
As of now, 24 of PTR's 42 employees have committed to move with the company, including head welder Jamieson Woodard.
Not far from Diaz, Zofia Wesolowska (left) and Krystyna Orzol (right) do light assembly work on front sights.
Both will be staying in Connecticut. They're reluctant to leave the Polish community in which they live.
On the other side of the factory, Zack McNamara, brother of John McNamara, works on threading a barrel.
He's 23 and will be moving with the company. The McNamaras are one of three sets of brothers who work at PTR.
He forms the parts in these machines. In recent years, PTR has begun making all but the plastic parts of their guns in house.
He's worked for owner Everett Wood for 30 years, and will be moving with the company. He says his salary, benefits and growth potential would be hard to find elsewhere in Connecticut.
Competitive salaries are not the only sign that PTR is thriving. Prices are up about $500 on all PTR products in recent months.
He grew up with many of the guys he works with and will be moving with the company. His parents and sister may go with him.
One of the more important parts of the manufacturing process is firing the guns to make sure they're functioning properly.
Soon another rifle is put on the rack and ready to be shipped. A simple task surrounded by many complex issues.
Enjoy going behind the scenes at a gun manufacturer? Now go behind the scenes of an aircraft carrier.
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