Crosman Corporation

7629 Routes 5 and 20
Bloomfield, New York 14469
U.S.A.
Telephone: (585) 657-6161
Toll Free: (800) 724-7486
Web site: https://www.crosman.com

Subsidiary of Compass Diversified Holdings LLC
Founded:
1924 as Crosman Rifle Company
Employees: 400
Sales: $130 million (2017 est.)
NAICS: 332994 Small Arms, Ordnance, and Ordnance Accessories Manufacturing; 339920 Sporting and Athletic Goods Manufacturing

The Crosman Corporation manufactures and sells air guns, BB guns, archery equipment, and related accessories such as rifle scopes and laser sites. The company is a market leader in the United States and has an expanding sales presence in Europe. Crosman produces approximately 83 percent of air guns that are made or assembled in the United States. Its catalog of popular gun brands includes Benjamin and Crosland, but it also sells products under brands that are licensed from major firearms manufacturers such as Remington Arms Company, LLC and Marlin Firearms Company, Inc. The company's primary scope brand is CenterPoint.

BEGINNINGS

The present-day Crosman Corporation can trace its roots back to 1838, when Fred Crosman formed a seed company. Over time, its ownership passed down to new generations of Crosmans, and the name was changed to Crosman Brothers Company. In 1923 the company began making pellets for use in air guns and.22 caliber air rifles. The following year the company was sold to Frank Hahn, who renamed it Crosman Rifle Company. By 1940, the small company had a total of six employees.

In 1945 Crosman introduced a new line of air pistols, and as their sales took off it entered a period of rapid growth, with its workforce reaching 150 by 1952. The 1950s saw the company produce large numbers of air rifles under the brand names of major retail chains such as Sears, Roebuck and Co., Montgomery Ward, and Western Auto.

COMPANY PERSPECTIVES

Since its founding in 1923, Crosman has been driven by the steadfast pursuit of quality and innovation. Crosman's history is rooted in the airgun industry, where today Crosman remains the market leader in airguns, airgun ammunition, and consumables.

In 1958 Crosman introduced its first BB gun, a CO2-powered, lever-action repeating rifle, and in 1961 it brought out Powerlets, the first disposable CO2 containers. In 1966 the Model 760 Pumpmaster was unveiled. This short-stroke, compressed-air BB rifle, which was sold under the Crosman brand name, retailed for under $30 and quickly proved to be a success with the public. It would go on to be one of the company's signature products. By that point the company had moved its ammunition and receiving and shipping departments into a new facility in East Bloomfield, New York, about 30 miles from Rochester, and it shifted manufacturing and assembly of guns there in 1970.

SALE TO COLEMAN: 1971

In 1971 the company was sold to the Coleman Company of Wichita, Kansas, a manufacturer of camping equipment. Soon afterward, most of its remaining operations were moved from Rochester to East Bloomfield. The following year the company produced the 1 millionth Model 760 rifle, which it presented to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Growth continued during the 1970s and 1980s as Coleman helped Crosman win new accounts such as Kmart and Wal-Mart. The year 1984 saw the recognition of air rifle shooting as an Olympic sport, and Crosman became the first U.S. company to produce rifles that met Olympic specifications. The following year Crosman moved its sales division and headquarters to East Bloomfield.

In 1989 Coleman was acquired by MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings of New York, which sold the Crosman subsidiary for an estimated $41 million in August 1990. The buyer was Worldwide Sports and Recreation, a unit of the investment group Pexco Holdings, Inc., of Tulsa, Oklahoma. By that point the company had annual sales of approximately $40 million and more than 280 employees. It also had a 44 percent share of the U.S. BB gun, pellet gun, and air pistol market.

In July 1991 Crosman acquired the Visible Impact Target Company, which made targets for gun enthusiasts. That same year saw the introduction of another major product: the Model 1008 RepeatAir, a semiautomatic pellet pistol that was powered by CO2. It would go on to be a strong seller for the company.

In 1992 Crosman purchased the assets of the Benjamin Sheridan Corporation, a 45-year-old manufacturer of pneumatic and CO2-powered air guns, paintball equipment, slingshots, and related products. Crosman Premier Pellets, a new, highly accurate line of pellet gun ammunition, was also introduced that year. In 1994 the company closed Benjamin Sheridan's plant in Racine, Wisconsin, and moved its operations to the company's facility in East Bloomfield. Two years later Crosman introduced the Copperhead line of entry-level, spring-air guns.

In January 1997 ownership of Crosman was acquired by an investment group led by Leonard Pickett, who was named president and CEO of the company. During the year the company also began working to expand its distribution beyond mass merchandisers to smaller chains and dealers, started manufacturing steel shot, and made the CrosBlock trigger blocking safety device standard on all of its air guns. Crosman was a supporter of several organizations that promoted safe shooting, including the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Boy Scouts of America, and 4-H, and distributed more than 500,000 copies of a pamphlet on shooting safety to participants of gun safety programs.

SHERIDAN PAINTBALL DIVISION: 1998

During the late 1990s sales of paintball equipment began growing at a rate of 25 percent per year. Interest in the sport, in which participants shot paint-filled markers at each other in mock battles, had grown beyond a small band of enthusiasts to become a relatively mainstream activity. As a result of this trend, Crosman began boosting its production of paintball gear, and in 1998 it created the Sheridan Paintball division. The company later tripled the number of paintball items it offered to become a full-line supplier for the sport. By that point the company had also introduced its first camping accessory: the Pressuremate CO2 canister for camp stoves and lanterns.

KEY DATES
1923:
The Crosman Brothers Co. begins producing air gun pellets.
1924:
The company is sold to Frank Hahn, who changes its name to Crosman Rifle Company.
1945:
Air pistols are introduced.
1971:
The Coleman Company buys Crosman.
1990:
Crosman is acquired by Worldwide Sports and Recreation.
1992:
The Benjamin Sheridan Corporation is bought.
1997:
Investors led by Leonard Pickett acquire Crosman from Worldwide Sports.
2007:
Crosman is acquired by Wachovia Capital Partners
2011:
Crosman is acquired by Wellspring Capital Management LLC.
2017:
Crosman is acquired by Compass Diversified Holdings.

In 1999 Crosman introduced a new line of boltaction guns and opened a stock manufacturing facility in Stover, Missouri. In October it finalized a deal to secure $8 million in funding from American Capital Strategies, Ltd., and Stratford Capital Partners, L.P., to help continue its expansion. By that point its offerings had grown to include about 50 different models of air rifles and pistols that were marketed under the Crosman, Benjamin, Sheridan, and Copperhead brand names. It also made a number of accessories, including pellet and BB ammunition, paintball markers, Visible Impact Targets, Copperhead brand slingshots, and shooting dart games. Crosman was now recognized as the leading U.S. air gun manufacturer, with an estimated 55 percent of the market, and was the dominant manufacturer of CO2 cartridges for air guns, producing as many as 100,000 per day.

In 2000 Crosman added the Challenger 2000, a three-position CO2-powered competition air rifle that was priced below similar offerings from its competitors. During the year the company also became a partner of USA Shooting, which organized shooting events in the United States. Crosman would contribute a portion of every air gun sale's proceeds to the organization. The company was now sponsoring events such as the Crosman International Airgun Grand Prix, which was held in Toronto, Canada.

In November 2000 Crosman's 44-year-old CEO Leonard Pickett was killed in an automobile accident. Several months later, the company named a new president and CEO, Ken D'Arcy. In 2001 the company formed Diablo Marketing in partnership with Procaps to sell paintball products to mass merchandisers and upgraded its website to better facilitate online orders. In December Crosman became the exclusive North American distributor of Walther and Smith & Wesson air guns.

SALES GROWTH AND NEW OWNERS

Although the U.S. economy was in a downturn, especially after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Crosman's sales held relatively stable and in fact increased slightly after the attacks. During the year the company unveiled a new logo, which was based on one that had been first used in 1946 and announced a new line of spring-air guns.

In 2002 Crosman began distributing Umarex and Walther products in North America, as well as the Gameface Paintball line. It also introduced a new disposable four-ounce CO2 bottle, brought out the Soft Air line of recreational, low-impact target shooting pistols, and produced the 10 millionth Model 760 rifle.

Crosman expanded its offerings again in 2003 by signing agreements to market Beretta, Colt, and Logan air guns in the United States and to manufacture a line of Remington brand air guns for sale in North America. It also teamed with the NRA to sponsor a program that promoted safe sport shooting. Crosman would supply air guns, targets, and other equipment at a discount for use by NRA clubs and certified trainers. At the end of the year, the company introduced a new line of U.S.-made break-barrel air rifles—the Benjamin Legacy 1000 and 1000X models—which were capable of a velocity of 1,000 feet per second. They retailed for approximately $200. By that point Crosman was operating its plant around the clock, seven days a week, to produce more than 1 million air guns a year, along with large quantities of BBs, pellets, paint balls, and CO2 cartridges.

As an investment firm, Compass had acquired Crosman with the intent of eventually exiting the investment at a profit. Near the end of 2006, it did just that, selling most of its equity in the company to Wachovia Capital Partners, a major U.S. equity firm with a $1 billion investment portfolio.

MORE OWNERSHIP CHANGES

Under Wachovia's stewardship, Crosman established a new division that produced scopes, laser pointers, and other shooting optic products under the brand name CenterPoint. In 2008 the company introduced the Benjamin Discovery, a premium, precharged air rifle that was marketed at a lower-than-usual price point. Sales across the company's catalog continued gaining steam, inspiring management to hand out a total of more than $1 million in bonuses to all 275 employees when the final (undisclosed) financial results came in for fiscal 2009. Business was also booming overseas, with about 10 percent of company sales coming from Europe. During the spring of 2010 Crosman opened a new distribution hub in Shannon, Ireland, for its recently reorganized European operations. An office in Denmark coordinated its business on the continent.

In April 2011 majority ownership of Crosman changed hands again, as New York's Wellspring Capital Management LLC bought out the stake held by Wachovia (now known as Pamlico Capital). Through all the ownership transitions, D'Arcy had remained with Crosman as president and CEO and also as the owner of a significant minority equity stake. Wellspring hoped to operate Crosman synergistically alongside another of its properties, United Sporting Companies, a major U.S. wholesaler of hunting, fishing, and camping gear. To that point Crosman had distributed its product largely through general chain retailers such as Kmart and Wal-Mart. In contrast, United Sporting typically served independent outdoor sporting shops, and D'Arcy planned to move the company's products further into that sector.

Crosman largely withdrew from the paintball market during the summer of 2011. The sport's popularity had declined somewhat, and the division now accounted for just over 1 percent of company sales. In 2012 the company welcomed Phil Dolci as its new CEO. A former president of the U.S. Playing Card Co., Dolci took the reins from the departing D'Arcy. He started his job with a mandate to expand Crosman's European business and began ramping up activity in the market considerably by opening new facilities in Denmark and signing new distribution partnerships over the next few years. He also launched a profit-sharing plan for the company's employees. By 2015 Crosman's payroll had grown to more than 300 employees worldwide.

By many accounts, Dolci's efforts to expand the company's global business were generally successful, with Crosman reporting $130 million in revenues for fiscal 2017. That year, however, Dolci was replaced as CEO by Crosman's former CFO, Robert Beckwith, as the company changed hands yet again. The new owner was also an old one. Compass Diversified Holdings had decided to reacquire Crosman, impressed with its growth over the previous decade. As the acquisition was finalized, Crosman was also completing its own acquisition of the LaserMax brand of laser targeting sites, adding yet another promising product to its catalog.

Frank Uhle
Updated, Chris Herzog

PRINCIPAL COMPETITORS

Daisy Manufacturing Company, Inc.; Bushnell Incorporated; Bowtech Inc.

FURTHER READING

“Crosman and NRA Join Forces.” Shooting Industry, May 1, 2003.

“Crosman, Procaps Form Diablo Marketing.” Shooting Industry, February 1, 2002.

Deckert, Andrea. “Crosman's New Owner Commits to Region.” Rochester Business Journal, May 3, 2011.

———. “Leader Aims Company at Lofty Targets.” Rochester Business Journal, March 20, 2015.

———. “Paintball, Air Gun Sales Shoot up for Crosman.” Rochester Business Journal, December 17, 2004.

Elliott, Will. “While Others Go Splat, Crosman Paints a Rosy Picture.” Buffalo News, December 16, 2001.

Kelly, J. Michael. “Airguns, Pellets Are Big Business.” Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), October 17, 2002.

Levy, Mike. “Airguns Provide Sound Alternative.” Buffalo News, November 23, 2003.

Sheldon, Nicole. “Crosman Leader Keeps Sight on Growth.” Rochester Business Journal, September 8, 2017.

Spicer, Velvet. “Crosman Acquired, Gets New CEO.” Rochester Business Journal, June 6, 2017.