Aiming at the civilian market

Kalispell-based weapons technology firm NEMO Arms is primed to make the Flathead Valley a hub of state-of-the-art firearms manufacturing. Having just announced the acquisition of a local gun manufacturer, NEMO's aim has drifted from military contracts to a new target: the civilian gun market.

NEMO Vice President Clint Walker says the recent acquisition of SI Defense, a 30-year-old firearms manufacturer owned by the Sonju family, is the company's first step in machining its own designs not far from its Flathead headquarters. NEMO and SI Defense will officially move under one roof in late January, he says.

"I don't know if there are any other companies in the firearms business that have the ability to concept an idea on a bar napkin and engineer that in-house and cut that part in a day," Walker says.

Those behind the company—mostly CIA, special forces and federal enforcement veterans—have worked together on military contracts for years. Walker says it's not uncommon for firearm manufacturers to have ex-military personnel on staff or working as product representatives. "What is uncommon is to have a pedigree that's behind the formation of a company."

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NEMO, which stands for New Evolution Military Ordnance, originally formed in spring 2011 with the intent of getting into the military market. Major General Paul Vallely, a Flathead resident, former counter-terrorist commander and two-tour Vietnam vet, says that all changed when NEMO and SI Defense both realized just how lucrative a joint venture could be. SI Defense's parent company, Sonju Industries, has specialized in aerospace development for decades. SI Defense will now allow NEMO to incorporate precision aerospace technology into its name-brand firearms.

"It was a merger that was just meant to be," Vallely says.

Vallely adds that as development progresses, NEMO will likely start employing veterans to test and fine-tune its weapons. Success on the civilian market could mean even more jobs for the Flathead Valley, Walker says.

NEMO plans to roll out a civilian-geared line of assault rifles within the next few months. But Walker says the company's long-term goals include working with another Flathead manufacturer to develop precision bolt-action rifles. They're also considering a handgun line; Walker says the company has no such designs yet, but with the recent acquisition, that goal is just a bar napkin away.

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