Two years ago, Colt Manufacturing, one of the oldest American firearms makers, was purchased by the Czech-based Ceska Zbrojovka Group. The move came at a time when multiple foreign gunmakers, including Austrian-based Glock, Brazil’s Taurus, and Italian gun maker Beretta, were increasing their operations in the United States, even as the storied firm Remington was forced into bankruptcy.
Now, another American gunmaker has been acquired by a foreign firm.
A few months back, Australian defense contractor NIOA announced that it had acquired Tennessee-based Barrett Firearms, the company most famous for its .50 caliber sniper rifles. NIOA is currently the largest Australian-owned supplier of firearms, weapons, and ammunition to Australian and New Zealand defense forces, law enforcement agencies, and commercial markets.
NIOA was founded in 1973.
The deal came out of two “family-owned” companies sharing a commitment to quality, innovation, loyalty, and mission, said NIOA Group CEO Robert Nioa.
“NIOA’s association with Barrett dates back to 2008. We have been inspired by the story of Barrett and admire what Ronnie, Chris and the family have built over more than four decades,” Nioa said in a statement, adding that “it’s been a story of hard work, perseverance, and purpose, culminating in the delivery of critical capability for the men and women of the U.S. military and its allies around the world, as well as exceptional products to law enforcement agencies and civilian markets.”
Nioa affirmed the companies will combine their respective expertise and family business values, which will ensure Barrett carries on building the finest products in the world. To that end, all management and staff at the Murfreesboro, Tennessee manufacturing facility have been retained. Production will continue as normal, while over time it is expected that U.S. manufacturing could even be expanded.
Barrett joins NIOA Australia, NIOA New Zealand, the Australian Missile Corporation, and Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions, the group’s investment joint venture company, it was announced.
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the Barrett story,” said Barrett Firearms founder Ronnie Barrett. “Rob and the NIOA team have great respect for the legacy Barrett has created as the leader in long range precision rifles. It’s reassuring to know Barrett will be in good hands with a family-owned company that is focused on manufacturing and delivering world-class firearms and munitions to a global network.”
Barrett, who was not a trained gun designer, founded the firm in 1982 and developed the first semi-automatic sniper rifle to employ the .50 BMG round. The result was the Barrett M82 sniper rifle, and it was as innovative as it was powerful. The shoulder-fired, semi-automatic rifle was designed around the .50 BMG cartridge. Unique among firearms of the time, the Barrett rifle’s barrel recoiled backward after firing. A rotating-lock breech block equipped with an accelerator arm used part of the recoil energy to push back the block on firing. This cycled the action, cocked the firing pin, and loaded a new round from a 10-round steel magazine.
In February 2016, the Barrett M82 was named the official rifle of the State of Tennessee. While the company continues to manufacture the .50 caliber rifles, it has expanded to producing bolt action rifles chambered in the .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge.
In 2021 Barrett secured a $50 million contract for the U.S. Army Precision Sniper Rifle initiative. It is a modular system that will be fielded with three separate calibers: the .338 Norma Magnum, .300 Norma Magnum, and 7.62×51 NATO. Army snipers will be able to conduct a barrel change and select calibers based on their mission operating environment. As part of the contract, the Army announced that it will procure 2,800 MK22 rifles from Barrett.
The financial terms of the transaction with NIOA were not disclosed.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.