Fort Smith has a chance to become the U.S. headquarters for legendary Walther Arms.
Arnsberg, Germany-based Walther Arms was founded in 1886 and is responsible for producing some of the more legendary weapons in military and movie history. James Bond carried the Walther PPK and the P99, and the P38 was the common sidearm for German soldiers during World War II. Carl Walther and his son, Fritz, created the first semiautomatic pistol in the year 1886.
Now, at Fort Chaffee, where U.S. soldiers once trained to fight German soldiers, Walther will “share a corporate campus” with Umarex to facilitate the import, marketing, sales and distribution of Walther products in the U.S.
Umarex opened its 117,000-square-foot office and distribution center at Chaffee Crossing in October 2010, and held a formal grand opening in October. When Umarex opened the new $9.7 million facility, the company employed about 40 in Fort Smith and said it hoped to employ up to 120 within three years. Umarex, also based in Arnsberg, acquired Walther in 1993.
The move happened after Walther and Smith & Wesson ended a portion of their U.S. partnership to push products. According to a statement from Walther, the company will continue to work with Smith & Wesson to “maintain their strategic alliance,” with Smith & Wesson continuing to make the Walther PPK, and Walther will make the M&P 22 for Smith & Wesson.
“We are extremely thankful for the relationship we have had and will continue to have with the quality organization of Smith & Wesson,” Wulf-Heinz Pflaumer, president of PW Group, said in the statement. “Smith & Wesson has been an outstanding par
tner and has represented the Walther brand in the U.S. with tremendous focus, effort and results. We look forward to many more years of strategic alliance with Smith & Wesson.”
The statement said Fort Smith may be the temporary home for the U.S. effort, noting that “the permanent location for the business has not yet been decided.”
Adam Blalock has been named president & CEO of Walther Arms Inc. and will also remain as president & CEO of Umarex USA.
“We are extremely grateful for the way Smith & Wesson has represented Walther and we look forward to our continued relationship with them,” Blalock noted in the statement. “We will have a dedicated team focused on meeting the needs of U.S. consumers with high quality, innovative products worthy of the Walther brand. Although the permanent location of the new Walther business is yet to be determined, I’m hopeful this will be another win for Fort Smith and the state of Arkansas.”
Blalock, a Fort Smith native and graduate of Southside High School, served as the president and CEO of Daisy, the airgun and BB gun manufacturer in Rogers from 1997 to 2001. He left Daisy to return to Fort Smith and a position with PRADCO. Over the years, Blalock kept in contact with a man he met while at Daisy, Wulf-Heinz Pflaumer, an owner and top executive with Carl Walther Sportwaffen, a German gun maker. Blalock eventually partnered with Pflaumer and opened Umarex USA in May 2006 in Fort Smith.
Umarex supplies air guns and firearms to large national retail chains like Bass Pro Shops, Academy Sports, Cabelas, and Kmart, as well as smaller local retailers like Gellco and The Tackle Box.