Smith & Wesson Factory Grand Opening
A couple of years ago Smith & Wesson made the smart decision to plan their exit from gun-hostile Massachusetts to a more hospitable state. That turned out to be in Tennessee. Maryville, TN to be exact. This weekend my wife and I had to opportunity to attend the Grand Opening of the Smith & Wesson factory, a new 650,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and headquarters. It was a wonderful event, filled with the best parts of the 2nd Amendment community. The 2A crowd is very family-friendly. Here’s a little bit of what it was like.
The Grand Opening
The day started with a ribbon cutting, some remarks from local dignitaries, a celeb or two, and Smith & Wesson executives. And we heard the National Anthem during the flag-raising. Local law enforcement and fire services were on hand in large numbers to help, as were Smith & Wesson employees.
Speaking of employees, the company did offer transfers to employees in the Springfield, MA plant, but they also created jobs in Maryville. As part of their tax package, the company was required to create 620 new jobs at an average wage of $25.97 per hour. Of course, that doesn’t take into account the amount of money that went into the local economy from the estimated $120 million building expense.
Of course, there were tons of vendors at the Smith & Wesson factory grand opening. Smaller companies like C&G Holsters and Liberty Ammunition were there, as well as power players like Trijicon, Holosun, and Safariland. There was also a never-ending line for the Smith & Wesson booth. Literally, from the time the gates opened at 12 pm until we left around 7, there was a long line waiting to buy S&W swag.
Also on hand were a number of charities and non-profits, mostly related to helping schools and veterans. In all, the event raised over $150,000 for local school districts.
the new Smith & Wesson factory also contains an indoor range. 500 people were allowed to use the new indoor range and shoot some of the product line. My wife and I were among those 500. To make things simpler, the company had dueling trees set up at about 10 yards for the targets. We shot a total of 6 weapons:
- Model 617 revolver: .22 LR
- M&P 22 M pistol: .22 magnum
- EZ380 pistol: .380
- M&P Competitor: 9mm
- M&P TR8 revolver: .357 magnum
- FPC carbine with a suppressor: 9 mm
I already had some time shooting the FPC, so I knew it was excellent. The surprise for me was the TR8 revolver. It was a laser beam. The Mrs. also loved the TR8 and the FPC the most. Maybe some Christmas shopping ideas…..
A fall festival can’t be complete without music and they had that covered. Some smaller country acts warmed up the crowd, but the 2 main artists were Joe Nichols and Josh Turner. Both did a set of their hits and some new material, including from Turner’s soon-to-be-released Greatest Hits album.
Some of the Smith & Wesson shooting team ambassadors were also on hand. We didn’t go to all the demos, but two of them were on our list. World champion shooter Julie Golob did a demo that didn’t just showcase her skills but encouraged people to become more involved in the sports aspect of the 2A community. During her demo, an activist group did a flyover of the Smith & Wesson factory, towing a banner with their anti-gun message, complete with false statistics.
If I’m being honest, one of the biggest reasons I wanted to be here was because of Jerry Miculek. Jerry is a living legend in the shooting community. The day before the festival, this 69-year-old man set 2 new world records on the same range as the demo we were watching. Jerry is an amazing shooter and I hoped that if I shook his hand, some of his mojo would run off on me. We’ll see what happens. Jerry put on an excellent demonstration of speed and skill. He also borrowed my wife as his assistant, giving her a balloon to hold and blindfolding her. Of course, he didn’t actually shoot the balloon from her hand (a firecracker and a pin to pop it took care of that) but it was still fun.
I saw tons of families. Youngsters and seniors were there. I saw African- Americans, Asian- Americans, and Hispanic Americans. There were people watching college football on the big screen, cheering for the SEC teams. I saw people enjoying the music. There was a play area for kids that included a mini-range that shot airsoft guns under adult supervision. Food vendors, ranging from Black Rifle Coffee to amazing local BBQ were there. I saw guys wearing well-worn cowboy boots and women carrying Michael Kors bags. I looked around and saw America. This was the melting pot we grew up hearing about. I talked to people from a lot of different states, as well as from right there in the Knoxville area. I felt at home.
You know what I didn’t see? Anything crazy.
The atmosphere is probably what stuck with me the most. Yeah, it’s cool to shoot new guns, hear good music, and see some amazing demonstrations of skill. But the people are what will stick with me. In a time when our Second Amendment rights are under constant attack, this weekend reminded me that I’m part of a community filled with good people and we have a voice. We just need to make sure it’s heard.