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The Economy of Guns In Southern Oregon

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WHITE CITY, Ore. — Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are discussing gun rights legislation, an emotionally charged topic that’s personal for many Americans.

Politics aside, there are several Southern Oregon based businesses that are cashing in on gun-related manufacturing and making an international impact.

Whether you support current gun rights or want more restrictions, the gun industry brings big bucks into the region, and we’re not talking about actual firearms, or the nearly billion dollars brought into the Oregon economy from hunting and fishing.

Southern Oregon is home to many leaders in the peripheral parts for firearms. It’s an analysis that the Oregon Firearms Federation says has never been thoroughly done before.

Warne Scope Mounts is a leader in that industry located in Toualitin; Nosler is a leading manufacturer of bullets, located in Bend. These are just some of the companies that are very respected in the firearms industry around the world and three of them are located within a few blocks of each other in White City. The smallest, but most visible among firearm enthusiasts, is a company called “Apex”.

“One of our employees, Jamie Kimme, had an idea for this hand guard, for the AR-15,” said APEX Owner Joe Ivory.

The hand guard is the piece that covers the barrel of an AR-15 and protects a user when the barrel heats up during use. Users say this one is revolutionary.

“It was the smallest diameter hand guard on the market, the first to have a feature, feature the gator grip for better grip but comfort and the ability to relocate rails where you want them, instead of having to deal with the guard rail all the time. You can make the hand guard fit your hand,” Joe Ivory explained.

It’s not the only product made by Apex, but in just 3 years it’s come to mean a lot to their sales.

“This year, we’re about 18% of our gross products, hand guards,” said Joe. “The combined with other firearms products that we do, it’s about 45%.”

Manufacturers like Apex are relatively unknown in our community. There’s not a lot of fancy signage or a big building. But they are well known in the industry, like with Pacific Tool and Gauge up the road and Cerakote Coatings around the corner.

Cerakote Coatings owners declined to comment about their product on-camera, but did tell us their 45 or so full-time employees help fulfill the orders that bring in about $10 million to Southern Oregon. The company is diversified, but it’s the firearms coating that put them on the map.

Manufacturers from 38 countries use the White City shop for the coating that protects weapons from corrosion due to heat use and time; it’s considered the gold-standard, as are the products made by Pacific Tool and Gauge.

“One of the top leading tool makers in the U.S., or perhaps overseas,” explained Kathleen Whiteman of Pacific Tool and Gauge.

From design, to creation, to quality-control, each product passes through a lot of hands before shipping out. Not only does Pacific Tool and Gauge bring money into the Rogue Valley, the company also contracts work out to other local businesses.

That’s just one sign of the growth Apex is experiencing as it continues to see success with an up-and-coming product that could be bringing more money, jobs, and attention to Southern Oregon – pending legislation on Capitol Hill.

“The hand guard industry will die for us, if the legislation passes that they’re talking about,” said Joe.

Pacific Tool and Gauge just purchased another building and says over the next year, they plan to more than double their staff. They hired 10 people in January, and are looking to hire more. You can find out about those jobs on their website.