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Australian International Arms - Part 2

copyright 2008 - Stephen Redgwell

What has Australian International Arms Been Up To Lately?

About two years ago, I wrestled with the idea of getting an updated rework of the Lee Enfield rifle, made by Australian International Arms. I spent the summer of 2006 trying to get information from the manufacturer and a Canadian retailer. In both cases, I didn't find out very much. The manufacturer was unapproachable. It was impossible to get a hold of them; they did not return any emails or letters. The token North American importer wouldn't (or couldn't) provide any information either. But I suspect that they knew nothing because they were told nothing. You get what you give. Because no one could provide any data about their product, I passed. There was no way that I was going to drop $800 or $900 plus taxes for a fake Lee Enfield chambered for 308 Winchester!

After two years, my opinion hasn't changed. The reasons are still the same. They are too expensive and are not as accurate as their commercial cousins. And, as of 2008, the price of these rifles, made from parts produced around the Asian Pacific rim, has remained unchanged. It's hard for me to believe that a rifle from this area of the world can be worth more than a Remington or a Savage. It's time for AIA to reflect on what they've done and ask what the future holds. In short, it's decision time: they must get competitive, sell the company or fold.

What do AIA's owners know? This is what they see when checking out the competition. A Remington 700 SPS costs $600 new. A heavy barrelled Savage 12 FV is available for $550 to $600. Both outshoot the much higher priced $800 (sporting version) or $900 (target model) AIA rifle. Their new No 4 was not created as a competition piece, but you cannot make sales on so-so performance.

Remington and Savage rifles have better triggers. The mechanism is superior to what is installed in the AIA and both have a proven track record. Remington and Savage are more accurate out of the box. It beats me why anyone would want to buy a more expensive rifle that's less accurate and has no collector value!

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Last year, I bought a heavy barrelled Tikka Varmint rifle for $899. It was not a sale price. For the same cost as a "target" model faux No 4, I got a Finnish made tack driver with a Sako barrel, adjustable trigger and a functional stock. More importantly, Tikka has a much better aftermarket parts and service network.

I suspect that AIA has managed to hold on primarily because of outside help. The rifle is not in big demand but they are still in business because a few magazines have published stories about them. Perhaps they are in a questionable position financially. That is, they need money to expand but cannot gather the funds necessary to take it to the next level of production.

A few years ago, AIA tried, and failed, to get their rifles into the United States. What went wrong? While companies do not need to sell their wares in America to succeed, having a piece of this market is a big help! Two US businesses that wanted to sell AIA product walked away in frustration. Since then, the Internet has been floating a number of theories as to why the deals died. We may never know the real reason, but the fact is that AIA management made some mistakes. Consequently, they couldn't provide their product to what has to be the single largest firearms market in the world. As a result, they have only been selling their rifles in and around Australia. From the investment or business perspective, that's disturbing. They cannot seem to expand, despite their desire to do so.

Here are couple of suggestions for the owners. While these rifles may be pretty to look at, they're nothing special. The price has got to come down. Failing that, sell the company, possibly to a US investor. I'm confident that someone there would buy AIA and run the company more efficiently. The rifles would be produced less expensively as a result.They should cost $600 (sporting) and $700 (target) respectively.
 
The reason? 308 Winchesters are a dime a dozen. And that's what they are after all.