“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain
This famous quote by American novelist and humorist Mark Twain has been tweaked and altered over the decades, but the essential point remains the same: once the rumor mills get rolling, expect great exaggerations. Up to and including death.
And so it is with one of the shooting industry’s newest icons, Advanced Armament Corporation, or AAC — long considered the country’s top manufacturer of suppressors. As part of the corporate relocation that has AAC and other subsidiaries of the Remington Outdoor Company moving to new manufacturing and research digs in Huntsville, Alabama, AAC is most definitely going through some changes.
Apparently, all the activity at AAC got some people thinking — and maybe even overthinking. Massive layoffs and firings was the first rumor, with AAC getting folded under the banner of another Remington entity as the follow-up. And, of course, a-la Twain, as the rumors gained force there were many reports of AAC’s imminent death.
However, based on what Tactical Retailer has discovered, and the people we have heard from, Mr. Twain’s observation about sums up the reality. AAC isn’t going under.
As to the changes afoot, they are significant — no doubt about that. But they are changes, AAC management insists, meant to propel the company and its product line forward.
The Rumors Begin
The big news about AAC that got industry attention — and began to fuel industry and Internet speculation — was the December 2014 announcement by John Hollister that he was leaving AAC to join Sig Sauer as its new product manager. All by itself, his exit to Sig led to a cascade of the “AAC’s on the verge of folding” rumors.
Hollister was AAC’s national sales manager, and for years he was very much the face of the company. Open an AAC catalogue, click on a YouTube video featuring AAC products, go to a trade show and visit the AAC booth — there was John Hollister, demonstrating AAC products and educating folks on suppressors. If you were in the shooting sport media and had any sort of AAC-related question, it was a no-brainer: call up Hollister.
In reading the many Internet-posted speculations that sprang up after Hollister joined Sig, one is struck by the reality that no one apparently asked him why he made the move. Was he afraid AAC was going to collapse? Did SIG make him a mega-bucks offer he couldn’t turn down? Was he simply ready for one of those big life changes?
When Tactical Retailer initially contacted Hollister, he said he would tell us “the rest of the story,” as he called it, after he cleared it with Sig’s PR department. He added that, “As to my feelings about AAC … I still love the company, love the products we made and love the customers.”
While his promised “rest of the story” was never presented to us, despite numerous requests, in his contacts with TR, it should be noted that Hollister never said or suggested a negative thing about AAC.
It’s true that in 2015, AAC stopped production — for a short time.
Mike Smith, AAC’s top engineer, explains in a blog that AAC’s facility in Lawrenceville, Georgia, ceased production in February 2015.
“The relocation of equipment and personnel will take place between the cessation of production and early May,” Smith wrote.
Will AAC lose employees in that move? No doubt. And just as likely, it will be hiring new people in Alabama as production ramps up in Huntsville.
But location aside, will it be the same AAC that people have come to know over the years? Not if the folks in charge at AAC have anything to say about it.
Under New Management
“We have been a leading player in the suppressor and tactical market for years,” says Carlos Martinez, the new product line manager for AAC. “But we’ve certainly lost some ground over the last few years. No question about that. Now our job is to regain the momentum, take back that market share plus. And I think we are putting together the plan to do just that.”
Martinez became AAC product manager in 2014, after several different stints at Remington, including product manager for the company’s re-entry into the handgun market a few years ago when it launched its line of semi-automatic 1911 pistols, the R-1. In that case, Martinez noted, he and his staff put together a five-year plan for the R-1 line, and he’s aiming to do the same thing with AAC.
“AAC had an edgy marketing approach when [Remington] acquired it,” Martinez says. “I think we lost that somewhat. Frankly, our R&D had slipped a bit. And I don’t think we’ve communicated very well to our customer base, either, through venues like social media.
“Over that same time period,” Martinez continues, “AAC went from one of four or so suppressor makers in the country to one of 15 — or more. It seems like there’s a new suppressor manufacturer out there every month or two. Did we do a good job of separating ourselves from the pack? We did not. But we are going to do a much, much better job of it from here on.”
So, in 2015 AAC has introduced six new products.
- The SR-5, a fast-attach suppressor for 5.56 NATO platform rifles.
- The SR-7, also a fast-attach suppressor, but for 7.62 NATO rifles.
- The Illusion 9, a suppressor for 9mm semi-automatic pistols that sits low enough, there’s no need to replace existing factory sights with models that sit up higher (a common complaint of 9mm suppressors).
- The Ti-Rant 45M, a modular version of AAC’s popular Ti-Rant that can be downsized up to 2 inches, without tools. Optimized for .45 ACP pistols, but compatible with .40 S&W and 9mm pistols, too.
- The Aviator 2, a rimfire suppressor for .22LR handguns and rifles.
- The Mercury, an all-stainless rimfire suppressor made for .22Mag, .17HMR, and .17MachII rifles and pistols.
And there’s more to come, Martinez promises.
“We’re definitely putting the R&D muscle of the Remington Outdoor Company behind our new AAC products, and we think shooters, hunters and retailers are going to see that in a steady stream of new and better products,” he said.