Crosman Corporation History
East Bloomfield, New York 14443
Telephone: (585) 657-6161
Toll Free: 800-724-7486
Fax: (585) 657-5405
Incorporated: 1924 as Crosman Rifle Company
Sales: $100 million (2002 est.)
NAIC: 332994 Small Arms Manufacturing; 332992 Small Arms Ammunition Manufacturing
Crosman Corporation has been dedicated to innovation and quality since 1923. Its mission is to design, produce, and market the best quality product at the most cost-effective price that fills both the wants and needs of the shooting public, while proactively advocating proper gun safety and proper gun etiquette.
- Fred Crosman founds a seed company.
- Crosman Brothers Co. begins producing airgun pellets.
- Sale of firm to Frank Hahn, who changes the company's name to Crosman Rifle Company.
- Air pistols are introduced.
1950s:Employment tops 150 as Crosman makes air guns for Sears, Roebuck and Co., Montgomery Ward, and others.
- Model 760 air rifle is introduced and quickly becomes a top seller.
- Coleman Corp. buys Crosman.
- Crosman is acquired by Worldwide Sports and Recreation.
- RepeatAir CO2-powered semi-automatic pistol is introduced.
- Benjamin Sheridan Corporation, maker of airguns and paintball products, is bought.
- Investors led by Leonard Pickett acquire Crosman from Worldwide Sports.
- Deals are signed to make Remington air rifles and distribute Colt, Logan, Beretta airguns.
Crosman Corporation is one of the leading manufacturers of air guns in the world and also produces related items like CO2 capsules, ammunition, and paintball equipment. The company sells its products under a variety of brand names, including Crosman, Benjamin, Sheridan, Copperhead, and Gameface, and also distributes Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Colt, Walther, and Logan air guns in North America. Its products are sold at gun shops as well as by mass-marketers like Wal-Mart and Dick's Sporting Goods in the United States and in more than 60 countries abroad. Crosman is owned by a group of investors that include senior members of management.
The present-day Crosman Corporation can trace its roots back to 1838, when Fred Crosman formed a seed company. Over time, its ownership passed down to new generations of Crosmans, and the name was changed to Crosman Brothers Company. In 1923, the firm began to make pellets for use in airguns and .22 caliber air rifles. The following year, the company was sold to Frank Hahn, who renamed the business Crosman Rifle Company. By 1940, the small firm had a total of six employees.
Following World War II, Crosman introduced a new line of air pistols, and as their sales took off it entered a period of rapid growth, with employment reaching 150 by 1952. The 1950s saw the company produce large numbers of air rifles under the brand names of major retail chains like Sears, Roebuck and Co., Montgomery Ward, and Western Auto.
Airguns were similar to full-fledged guns in many ways, but there were important differences. The ammunition was smaller, and rather than being propelled by an explosive charge, it was shot with compressed air. Some guns used a pneumatic system in which the air was compressed for each shot by "breaking" the gun in half at a hinge and then re-closing it in a pumping action to fill a chamber, while others used a spring mechanism or carbon dioxide (CO2) capsules to supply the air. In general, airguns were considered less dangerous because the ammunition was smaller and its velocity was lower, and as a result they were not subject to the same legal restrictions as actual firearms. They were also quieter, and the ammunition was less expensive, which made them popular for uses like small game hunting and target shooting. Airgun ammunition included metal or plastic pellets and tiny round copper-covered "BBs." Many airgun users were children or young adults who would later move on to real guns when they grew up.
In 1958, Crosman introduced its first BB gun, a CO2 powered, lever-action repeating rifle, and in 1961 the company brought out Powerlets, the first disposable CO2 containers. In 1966, the Model 760 Pumpmaster was unveiled. This short-stroke, compressed air BB rifle, which was sold under the Crosman brand name, retailed for under $30 and quickly proved a success with the public. It would go on to be one of the firm's signature products. The company had by now moved its ammunition and receiving and shipping departments into a new facility in East Bloomfield, New York, about 30 miles from Rochester, and it shifted manufacturing and assembly of guns there in 1970.
Sale to Coleman in 1971
In 1971, the firm was sold to the Wichita, Kansas-based Coleman Company, a manufacturer of camping equipment. Soon afterward, most of its remaining operations were moved from Rochester to East Bloomfield, New York. The year 1972 brought production of the one millionth Model 760 rifle, which the company presented to the National Rifle Association.
Growth continued during the 1970s and 1980s as Coleman helped Crosman win new accounts like Kmart and Wal-Mart. The year 1984 saw the recognition of air rifle shooting as an Olympic sport, and Crosman became the first American company to produce rifles that met Olympic specifications. The following year, Crosman moved its sales division and headquarters to East Bloomfield.
In 1989, the Coleman Company was acquired by MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings of New York, which sold off the Crosman subsidiary for an estimated $41 million in August of 1990. The buyer was Worldwide Sports and Recreation, a unit of the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based investment group Pexco Holdings, Inc. By this time, the firm had annual sales of approximately $40 million and employees numbering more than 280. The company now had a 44 percent share of the U.S. BB gun, pellet gun, and air pistol market.
In July of 1991, Crosman acquired Visible Impact Target Company, founded in Victor, New York, by Steve Lamboy, which made targets for gun enthusiasts. That same year saw the introduction of another major product, the Model 1008 RepeatAir, a semi-automatic pellet pistol that was powered by CO2. It would go on to be a strong seller for the company.
In 1992, Crosman purchased the assets of Benjamin Sheridan Corporation, a 45-year old maker of pneumatic and CO2 powered airguns, paintball equipment, slingshots, and related products. Crosman Premier Pellets, a new, highly accurate line of pellet gun ammunition, was introduced during 1992 as well. In 1994, the company closed Benjamin Sheridan's plant in Racine, Wisconsin, and moved its operations to the firm's facility in East Bloomfield. They year 1996 saw Crosman introduce the Copperhead line of entry-level, spring-air guns.
In January 1997, ownership of Crosman was acquired by an investment group led by Leonard Pickett, who was named president and CEO of the firm. During the year, the company also began working to expand distribution beyond mass merchandisers to smaller chains and dealers, started manufacturing steel shot, and made the CrosBlock trigger blocking safety device standard on all of its airguns. Crosman was a supporter of several organizations that promoted safe shooting, including the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Boy Scouts of America, and 4-H, and distributed more than 500,000 copies of a pamphlet on shooting safety to participants of gun safety programs.
Sheridan Paintball Division Formed in 1998
In the late 1990s, sales of paintball equipment began growing at a rate of 25 percent per year. Interest in the sport, in which participants shot paint-filled markers at each other in mock battles, had grown beyond a small band of enthusiasts to become a relatively mainstream activity. As a result of this trend, Crosman began to boost its production of paintball gear, and in 1998 the company created the Sheridan Paintball division. The firm later tripled the number of paintball items it offered to become a full-line supplier for the sport. By this time, the company had also introduced its first camping accessory, the Pressuremate CO2 canister for camp stoves and lanterns.
Growing regulation of the ownership and use of firearms had begun to help drive sales of high-end products in the $125 million airgun marketplace, as buyers began to see them as acceptable alternatives for certain applications. Crosman saw sales increasing as a result, especially in such places as Canada and the United Kingdom, where handgun ownership was much more restricted than in the United States.
During 1999, Crosman introduced a new line of bolt action guns and opened a stock manufacturing facility in Stover, Missouri. In October, the firm finalized a deal to secure $8 million in funding from American Capital Strategies, Ltd. and Stratford Capital Partners, L.P. to help continue its expansion. By this time, the company's offerings had grown to include about 50 different models of air rifles and pistols, marketed under the Crosman, Benjamin, Sheridan, and Copperhead brand names. The company also made a number of accessories, including pellet and BB ammunition, paintball markers, Visible Impact Targets, Copperhead brand slingshots, and shooting dart games. Crosman was now recognized as the leading U.S. airgun manufacturer, with an estimated 55 percent of the market, and was the dominant manufacturer of CO2 cartridges for airguns, producing as many as 100,000 per day.
In 2000, Crosman added the Challenger 2000, a three-position CO2-powered competition air rifle that was priced below similar offerings from its competitors. During the year, the firm also became a partner of USA Shooting, which organized shooting events in the United States. Crosman would contribute a portion of every airgun sale's proceeds to the organization. The company was now sponsoring such events as the Crosman International Airgun Grand Prix, held in Toronto, Canada.
In November 2000, Crosman's 44-year old CEO Leonard Pickett was killed in an automobile accident. Several months later, the company named a new president and CEO, Ken D'Arcy. During 2001, the firm also formed Diablo Marketing in partnership with Procaps to sell paintball products to mass merchandisers and upgraded its Web site to better facilitate online orders. In December, Crosman became the exclusive North American distributor of Walther and Smith & Wesson airguns.
Although the U.S. economy was in a downturn, especially after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Crosman's sales held relatively stable and in fact increased slightly after the attacks. During the year, the company also unveiled a new logo, which was based on one that had been first used in 1946, and announced a new line of spring-air guns.
In 2002, Crosman began distributing Umarex and Walther products in North America, as well as the Gameface Paintball line. The company also introduced a new disposable four-ounce CO2 bottle, brought out the Soft Air line of recreational, low-impact target shooting pistols, and produced the ten millionth Model 760 rifle.
Crosman expanded its offerings again in 2003 by signing agreements to market Beretta, Colt, and Logan airguns in the United States and to manufacture a line of Remington brand airguns for North American sale. The firm also teamed with the NRA to sponsor a program that would promote safe sport shooting. Crosman would supply airguns, targets, and other equipment at a discount for use by NRA clubs and certified trainers. At the end of the year, the company introduced a new U.S.-made line of break barrel air rifles, the Benjamin Legacy 1000 and 1000X models, which were capable of 1000-foot-per-second velocity. They retailed for approximately $200. By now. Crosman was operating its plant round the clock, seven days a week, to produce more than one million airguns a year, along with large quantities of BBs, pellets, paint balls, and CO2 cartridges.
With more than 80 years of experience, Crosman Corporation had established itself as one of the leading manufacturers of airguns and accessories in the world. The firm offered such classic, attractively priced products as its Model 760 rifle and RepeatAir pistols, and had also successfully moved into other areas, including paintball equipment manufacturing.
Principal Divisions: Sheridan Paintball.
Principal Competitors: Daisy Manufacturing Company; Industrias El Gamo SA; Beeman Precision Airguns; Dynamit Nobel-RWS, Inc.
- "Air Gun Manufacturer's CEO Killed in Car Crash," Associated Press Newswires, November 11, 2000.
- "Crosman and NRA Join Forces," Shooting Industry, May 1, 2003, p. 49.
- "Company History." Available from http://www.crosman.com.
- "Crosman, Procaps Form Diablo Marketing," Shooting Industry, February 1, 2002, p. 10.
- Eaton, John, "New York's Crosman to Buy Denver Maker of Gun Sights," Denver Post, December 17, 1992, p. 1C.
- Elliott, Will, "While Others Go Splat, Crosman Paints a Rosy Picture," Buffalo News, December 16, 2001, p. C13.
- Fletcher, D.T., 75 Years of Crosman Air Guns, Portland, Ore., 1998.
- Jacobson, Gary, "Hicks, Muse Group Buys Crosman for $41 Million," Dallas Morning News, November 22, 1989, p. 4D.
- Kelly, J. Michael, "Airguns, Pellets Are Big Business," Post-Standard (Syracuse N.Y.), October 17, 2002, p. D4.
- Levy, Mike, "Airguns Provide Sound Alternative," Buffalo News, November 23, 2003, p. C12.
- "Okla. Investment Group Buys MacAndrews & Forbes Unit," Dow Jones News Service, August 29, 1990.
- Rogers, Amy, "Crosman Aims for New Web Presence," Computer Reseller News, October 15, 2001, p. 45.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.62. St. James Press, 2004.