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The Mystery of Australian International Arms

An "Un-Review" of their Faux No. 4 - 7.62x51mm Rifle

AIANo47.62x39.JPG
7.62x39mm version shown

 Update - Summer 2011
.
Most people know that the AIA website has been down since June.
As of August, 2011, I am told by friends in Oz
that the phone number has also been disconnected.
 
 If anyone knows what's going on with them, please email.  Thanks.
 
AUSTRALIAN INTERNATIONAL ARMS PTY LTD
344 Queen St
Brisbane
Queensland
PC 4000


Telephone number: (07) 3366 5172
 
---
Who runs AIA? Where are they? The mystery begins to unravel!
I'll continue to investigate to find out more.
Some answers at the end of this write up!

Please note that NO ONE uses chrome lined barrels in serious competition!  No one would buy any AIA rifle for competition shooting because of the chrome lined barrels.  They are not condusive to accuracy.  Service rifle shooters have to use chrome lined barrels when they are using issue firearms, but that's it.

DO NOT BE FOOLED BY ADS DEPICTING RIFLES WITH CHROME LINED BARRELS AS BEING "COMPETITION, TARGET GRADE, TUNED" OR ANY OTHER DESCRIPTION. 

COMPETITIVE SHOOTERS DO NOT USE CHROME LINED BARRELS - PERIOD.

THEY ARE NOT ACCURATE.

The journey for information about the AIA No 4 rifle started innocently enough in July of 2006. I wanted to find out when they were coming to Canada and how much they would cost. A single email to that effect was sent to Marstar and everything that's happened since was a result of that request. I never imagined that a simple inquiry would involve so much work.

Before buying a rifle, potential customers want to collect as much information as possible before handing over any money. That was my aim. I thought that was prudent, given the $1000 price tag. I expected that I would be given the details in short order. It seemed simple enough. Every firearms manufacturer in the world has a mailing address and website. You can usually order a catalog or download a brochure. A phone number or contact person is always available too.

Strangely, none of this was available for the AIA rifles. The Canadian importer - Marstar - had them advertised at their website but were unwilling to give out any information - save the standard rifle specifications and prices. These few, skimpy details did not satisfy everyone. Many people wanted information about the company that others in the business - Remington, Marlin and Savage - for example, cheerfully provided to anyone that asked.

In July 2006, I started asking questions about the company - AIA - and their rifles. That's when the story began.

I've managed to get as many answers as is possible at this point in time - a full nine months after the journey started. There are changes coming this year and Ian Skennerton - www.skennerton.com will be publishing a new chapter in the updated version of his book The Lee Enfield Story for those people that are curious about the latest incarnation of the No 4 rifle.

If you have a subscription to Collector Magazine, issue #25 will be of particular interest to watchers of the AIA rifles. An article about them will be published.

Read on. If you're new to the story, welcome aboard. If you've been following the events since last year, welcome back!

Thanks for dropping by

Steve
________________________________________________

More information - here's their website (finally!!) and email address.
I wonder why they chose hotmail as an ISP?

http://www.australianinternationalarms.com.au

aia.oz@hotmail.com
___

This is an example of what I've been getting from virtually every Australian that's emailed -

"I read about your article on the AIA rifles they are sold here but most shooters think they are too expensive and look like a sporterised smle..."
__

27 September 2006

Years ago, Seven Up proclaimed themselves "the Un-cola". What a great advertising gimmick! Who'd of thought that years would go by and I'd be writing an "un-review"?

After months of waiting and many emails, I never got a rifle to test. In the end, I was disappointed with the whole experience. I got the feeling that Marstar wanted to back out of our "almost" transaction (or would that be our un-transaction?). At first, I assumed the delay in receiving a rifle was because they were looking after their retail customers. By the end of September - 9 weeks after my initial email inquiry about the No 4's price and availability - it was evident that the review wasn't going to happen. I feel that the company owner wanted the project terminated. That's too bad. The confusion turned away potential buyers.

I want to make it clear that I'm not angry with the employees. I have done a lot of reviews over the years and have acted as both a consultant and product evaluator on many occasions to bullet and equipment manufacturers. I have dealt with lots of nice people and am not new at this. Mike at Marstar was polite and gracious. So it wasn't what some people might say was questionable service. Still, the events of the un-transaction were what got me thinking. Guess what? I realized that a few answers to some simple questions goes a long way in better relations and clarity with the public. John, you confused a bunch of potential Canadian buyers by remaining silent.

THANKS DR. H

A very smart man once told me that if I had nothing good to say about a product, service, business or piece of equipment, it was best to say nothing. He is older and wiser than I and his words carried a lot of weight. He explained that even negative publicity would increase sales. Unintentionally, I would be helping them make sales, he said. As a result, I considered whether or not to put my thoughts on paper. In the end, I concluded that writing things down might help explain my concerns. Maybe if I got the word out, someone would read this and contact me to help put the pieces of this puzzle together.

DO I UNDERSTAND BUSINESS?

When I originally asked about price and availability and received the reply, I thought, "Why do these rifles cost so much?" Later, after an unexplained price increase, I thought, "Why did the price go up? Nobody's even bought one yet! And why did it go up so much?" Man oh man, business! I don't really understand it.

On July 17th, I was told by Marstar's owner that they would retail for $699. A few weeks later the price was hiked to $799! That's almost a 15% increase! Add tax and shipping and it would cost you $860 to $930 - depending on where you lived. But wait - it got worse. The Match rifle version was $100 more - $899. That's $970 to $1040! Wow! I could get at least two excellent, original condition No 4s for that price. Were people actually willing to shell out that much money for an un-Enfield? Did Marstar think that there was a bigger market than originally believed?

Marstar knew both the wholesale and shipping costs of the rifles when I emailed with my initial inquiry. They're businessmen, so costs, pricing and profits would have been worked out well in advance. When talk of their impending arrival picked up on a Canadian firearms website, I think they re-thought the potential market share. That's business. Charge what the market will bear.

But even if the cost had not increased - had they remained at $699 - that still would have been high; considering where and by whom they were made. Even with the cost of shipping from somewhere in Asia or Australia, the fact remained that the rifles were made in part around SE Asia. Unless the economists have been lying to us, goods made there are much cheaper to buy than comparable products made in North America. We see that demonstrated in dollar stores and Walmarts everyday. I kept thinking that someone was making money. I doubt the factory was raking it in. That only left AIA or Marstar.

MADE IN VIETNAM? YES! ER, NO...

There is the denial by Marstar that they are made in Vietnam. They say Australia. I think that AIA fed them a heaping helping of word convolution. Some Down Under sentence construction with subsequent interpretations that one needs a legal degree to untangle. In today's world, it seems inconceivable that a wholesale purchaser of large quantities of firearms would not know where they're made.

Maybe Marstar was confused with what AIA told them. What was it that Winston Churchill said of about the British and the Americans? They are two countries separated by a common language. That likely applies to Canada and Australia as well. In other words, the term "Made in Australia" means something different down there when compared to what we understand it to mean up here. Or, one could say that may not have the same legal meaning there as here in Canada. Confused? I think it's semantics. A word game. Here's a quote from their email to me, dated 9 Aug 2006 - unedited -

"These rifles are not made in Vietnam.... Some minor accessories are but not the rifles of this I am 100% certain .... We have them in stock if you wish to discuss you trials with one...."

Was Vietnam a factor when talking about the earlier US attempts at importation? That is still unclear. For American citizens, it certainly was a big issue. Many emailed saying that they were glad the rifles weren't coming to the US. The war in Vietnam is still a major influence. The sour reaction was understandable.

I could also understand the concern US Customs may have had with the country of origin. Tristar and then Sabre Defence Industries in Nashville, TN had thought to import them. The US State Department said no, allegedly because of an expired permit and put an end to that. It seems that, for Tristar at least, things didn't work out. The company said they had trouble with AIA and terminated their business relationship. The reason? I was told, "Delivery issues, and inability to work with the supplier. Long periods of no contact at all, and actually un-cooperative." Oh.

There is still much confusion as to why the rifles failed to successfully land in the US. For now at least, we'll have to wait to get the answers to what happened.

THE PRICE IS TOO HIGH! YEP...

I could understand the allure of having a new No 4 rifle. They haven't been made for years. There is an attraction to holding an updated rifle in your hands. In 2006, a rifle that shot 308 Winchester was much better than a 303 British. It's much easier to find surplus 308 or 7.62 NATO. Remember though that there are still lots of No 1 and No 4 rifles available on the market. Excellent specimens, in Canada at least, can be had for half the price of an AIA No 4!

If I wanted a 308, I'd buy a Savage Model 12 with either a 24 or 26 inch barrel AND an adjustable trigger for $579. With tax and shipping, I'd pay $630. It will shoot better than the AIA Match No 4. Of that, I've no doubt! And I could accomplish this for over $400 LESS than an AIA Match No 4 selling for $1040. Wow! I could get a really, really great scope with the savings! That may not be good enough for people that want to have an updated model however.

WHO IS AIA?

Finally, there's the company itself - Australian International Arms. No one knows much about them. Apparently they have an address in Brisbane, Australia but don't advertise. I'm told - but cannot confirm - that they are not in the phone book. There is no easy way for anyone to contact them. You have no choice but to go through a distributor or retail store. Australians that currently own 7.62x39mm rifles made by AIA, have said that they carry no spare parts or any inventory. Some of the rifles don't like to feed from the magazine. AIA is like a specter.

When I added it all up - the high price, potential warranty problems, no real people to contact about the rifle, the possibility of my money going to a Communist government, I'm glad that I did not buy one. Still, what or who IS AIA?

WHO OWNS AIA? WHERE IS THEIR OFFICE?

Update - 10 November, 2006

The company office is registered to a firm in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. AIA was incorporated with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on 24 Dec 1996. They are listed a manufacturer and wholesaler of firearms. Previously (or perhaps concurrently in addition to using the name AIA), they were known as Australian Collector Arms, apparently founded in 1993.

WHERE DO THE RIFLES COME FROM?

Update - 2 April, 2007

On April 2nd, I was contacted by Mr. Ian Skennerton. He provided answers to my questions about the rifles. I will not divulge everything about which we spoke. I do not wish steal his story. He was gracious enough to provide more details for me to publish however. Thank you, Ian. It seems there is an importer of rifle parts into Australia. So, there is the company and importer. The parts are outsourced primarily around the Pacific Rim. Earlier rifles had pieces imported from England and the US among others.

I have published some of the correspondence he and I have had. I would seem that the company owners are not at all good with websites or computers. Ian Skennerton may be helping with a company web page in the future. We can only hope. It's really needed.

I truly wish that AIA had taken the time last year to explain what was going on. Marstar too, could have helped and saved a lot of confusion by answering a few simple questions last summer (2006). Some details would have kept potential customers happy. When Marstar asked me to review the rifle last year, I had a full review and pictorial planned for potential customers who had more questions than answers. When they let the review fall through, many Canadians walked away because of the lack of information. I cannot tell you how many people told me that they would not spend $1000 on a mystery rifle. I can't say as I blame them.

The image of both Australian International Arms and the Canadian importer has suffered. Many people from around the world have contacted me since last July with questions about the AIA No 4s. I had few answers. They may not have been able to get a rifle at that time, but what about the future?

I am glad to see that we've finally made some headway on this story. I hope that soon, AIA will have a website that can answer all your questions. I do appreciate the kind words that many of you have sent. I especially appreciate the emails from Australia and Canada, expressing their thanks that I had pressed on with the story. The complete lack of information was frustrating. Some spoke of unanswered correspondence. Other spoke about repair problems. It appears that there's an end to the mystery at hand.

In the coming months, we should see more news about these rifles. Ian will be forwarding information to me in the near future that will help answer the questions that you have had. Here's what Ian wrote. I edited it for content.
_______________

Hi from Bangkok,

A new article in 'Collector' will answer many (if not most) of your questions regarding AIA. Their website? The guys have no expertise in that realm, they are making rifles and dealing with bureaucracy from a number of countries regarding import & export.

The new chapter in my 'The Lee-Enfield Story' (presently in Bangkok publishing it, as well as 'Collector' and 'Hayes Handguns') has a lot more on the new Lee-Enfield. It is wrong to call it a No.4. It has a heavier action body and is improved in many ways.

AIA has been led up the garden path a number of times over the past few years regarding supply to North America. Tristar, Sabre, the ATF, &c. It is unfair to lay the blame at their door when they have been 'dudded' by a number of U.S. 'distributors', who are now out of business anyway.

We should be in North America in late May/June to release and promote the new books.

The course of AIA production commenced in about 2000. There is no one place where the rifles have been made, but the prime place of development and assembly is Australia. Material and components have been sourced from a number of countries. Good hardwood at a reasonable price is not easy to find. AIA has used timber from New Guinea, Brazil, the United States, Laos and Vietnam. Timber in South East Asia is obviously set up there. To do it in Australia or North America would not be cost efficient, and also involved import restrictions.

Like WW2 British and WW1 peddled scheme Lee-Enfields, components are sourced from a number of countries. This has also changed over the past 7 years as new technology and suppliers come on line. Over the past 7 years, some parts have been made in Vietnam, just as some parts originated from England and the United States. Original some surplus small parts such as springs and screws were utilized, but these were found to be inferior to new made components. ALL components in AIA rifles now are NEW MADE. And there is no alloy, plastic or composite material used. Just good, old fashioned steel and wood. That's why the rifles are a little on the heavy side, but they shoot better!

An Australian company needs a North American distributor and this has caused some problems too.

The AIA product? I am impressed with the new models. All AIA new models are in 7.62mm NATO. I am doing a shoot at the Military Rifle Club Belmont range after I get back home, along with Brian Labudda, testing their new models. Will have some details and photos to put up on the site too, if you like. (Yes, that would be nice. - Steve)

Ian Skennerton
____________________

THE BACKGROUND

Timeline - 17 July to 25 September 2006

(All emails available upon request)

On 17 July 2006, I inquired with Marstar, the Canadian importer of the faux No 4, about the price and availability of this new rifle. A reply came a day later from the owner, saying that they had not arrived and the cost was $699 with accessories.

Two weeks later, on 2 Aug 2006, I inquired with Marstar about the availability of IVI 7.62x51mm brass. I also asked if they intended to import the 7.62x39mm rifles. Finally, I questioned them about the rifle showing at Connaught Range. The reply came from Mike the following day. He answered my questions as best he could and then asked if I'd like to do a review of the rifle. I agreed, requesting further information - specs, where made etc., how you're selling it (accessories) and anything else that's specific to the rifle.

On 9 Aug 2006 I asked if these rifles were made in Vietnam. I had read on three separate sites that they were from South East Asia but wanted to confirm that. I also laid out my outline for the review. I received a response from the owner the same day. He said that they were NOT made in Vietnam, just some minor accessories. He then said, "We have them in stock if you wish to discuss you trials with one...."

I told him where I had got the information about the place of manufacture. I repeated my request for as much information that he could provide to be sent. Specifically, its history, manufacturing facilities and any other data you feel is pertinent.

On 17 Aug 2006 I sent another email asking if they had received my Possession/Acquisition Licence information.

On 31 Aug 2006, I received an email from Mike. He said that the owner had given him a copy of my PAL but he needed additional information. I sent what he requested.

On 6 Sep 2006, the CFC completed my Firearms Registration Certificate. I received it on the 14th of Sep 2006. I let Marstar know that I had received the certificate and told them that I would let them know when the rifle arrived.

On 20 Sep 2006 I received what appears to be my final email from them regarding this rifle. Mike asked if I had a tracking order for the money order. The girls cannot find it.

I responded on 21 Sep 2006, saying that had not sent a money order and that something was amiss. I explained that they asked for a review and it was customary to pay for the rifle after the assessment was complete. I had not sent money. I then told them I was withdrawing and would destroy the certificate.