EAA’s Go-To Source For High
Quality Innovative Firearms.
By Mark Hampton
To be quite honest, when the invitation to visit a gun factory in Turkey arrived I wasn’t exactly busting at the seams with excitement. Perhaps it was preconceived notions of firearms being hammered out in a basement or a garage that had been renovated into an assembly line! Granted, Turkey is a most intriguing country with ancient history associated with long recognized names such as Hittites, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Alexander the Great and Emperor Constantine to name just a few. Add archaeology and a multitude of natural treasures to the mix and it can draw western visitors from all around the globe.
But manufacturing firearms isn’t the first thing coming to mind. Three other gun scribes and myself were there to inspect Sarsilmaz Arms, a fifth generation gun company now headed by Latif Aral Alis. The Roman theaters, bazaars, mosques, ancient cities hewn in rock, castles and numerous medieval settlements would be secondary. I wasn’t previously familiar with Sarsilmaz or the guns they manufacture. Even though I had been to Turkey on two other occasions, both hunting trips searching for the magnificent bezoar ibex and Anatolian chamois, an educational and eye-opening experience was in the making.
Ships sail through the Bosporus Strait which
both divides and unites Europe and Asia.
The Roman theater of Aspendos remains in a surprising state
of preservation; one of the many natural treasures to be
found in Turkey.
The factory was spotlessly clean and well-lit with an atmosphere
that appeared focused on employee satisfaction.
Our journey started in Istanbul, perhaps the only city in the world to be spread over two continents. We were accompanied by Keith Bernkrant, president of EAA Corporation (www.eaacorp.com) who is importing the Turkish firearms. Keith was familiar with the company and the country. He was a pleasurable host for the entire trip. The main objective was to demystify the modernization of this firearm manufacturer. The local culture was indeed fascinating but all of us were anxious to visit the Sarsilmaz plant. The company recognizes the fact many of us will have a difficult time pronouncing the company name correctly so the guns are imported to the states as SAR Arms.
When we arrived at the plant, two hours outside of Istanbul, I believe all of us were surprised at the sheer size of the 36,400 square meter facility. The plant was built just a couple of years ago. Sarsilmaz, which actually means “unshakeable,” has been manufacturing firearms since the late 1800’s and their newly constructed factory is quite impressive. As we toured the plant several things stood out and left a positive first impression. The entire floor space was spotlessly clean. Plants were situated throughout the facility. The factory was well-lit and seldom did any of the gun writers use a flash for pictures. The atmosphere appeared very employee focused. The cafeteria that provides meals free to all staff has a professional chef on hand. After eating lunch I realized how much the employees appreciate this perk.
The production of firearms in this integrated plant features the most up-to-date automated manufacturing process with state of the art technology. We observed new CNC machines, including a seven axis unit that has the capability of manufacturing the tightest tolerances possible with the least amount of human intervention. It was surprising to most of us to see sophisticated software running full simulation programs for future design, analysis and optimization to enhance research and development. The modern cutting edge technology and tooling systems, even injection molding, provide the capability for this company to manufacture every component imaginable, including their own magazines. They even design and produce their own plastic pistol cases. I found this aspect rather unique.
Cutting edge technology with the most modern, sophisticated
CNC machines, and other state of the art assembly units could
be observed throughout the plant.
7 Days A Week
The 350 full time employees are running three shifts, seven days a week. The company is the official supplier of pistols to the Turkish National Police and Turkish Armed Forces. The police are presently carrying the company’s K2 in 9mm and before purchasing this pistol, ran a 25,000 round test. This plant is now producing 65 different pistol models and revolvers in ten calibers. Yearly production capacity is over 100,000 pistols and approximately 85,000 shotguns, not counting their infantry rifle and submachine gun. Pistols are available in both polymer and forged stainless steel.
The staff informed us a forged steel frame is generally stronger and more reliable than casting. Their pistol barrels are solid drilled and cold forged with no use of tube or cold drawn pipe. Every pistol is tested with at least one full magazine before it leaves the plant. The company’s tactical shotgun was cool but I really wanted to shoot their over and under at the trap range. Unfortunately there weren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we desired. I must admit, those Turkish walnut stocks are easy on the eyes! The wood is simply beautiful. The factory is currently producing 28 models of shotguns in six different barrel lengths in both 12 and 20 gauge. At the first opportunity possible I will take their over and under the trap range for some clay target challenge.
Forged steel frames are used to build a variety of SAR Arms pistols.
The facility even manufactures plastic display cases.
The Turkish walnut stocks exhibit exceptionally good looking figure.
After our plant tour we all headed to the range for an afternoon of testing and evaluating. Getting to shoot a lot of different models of pistols, revolvers and shotguns gave everybody a better feel regarding reliability and function. I have heard other shooters state some Turkish firearms were reasonably priced but finding one that ran consistently and dependably was another matter. I was anxious to see for myself how well a variety of these guns functioned.
The 4″ and 6″ .357 Magnum revolver with adjustable trigger would be an ideal backpacking, hiking, fishing, utility-type of sixgun. The finish was a no-nonsense matte blue. We shot a ton of .38 Special loads through this revolver, busting rocks on a steep bank of clay. This is a no-frills, utility-type of revolver and I want one to keep in the Polaris Ranger at the farm or in the tackle box for fishing trips in remote locales.
The pistol I kept shooting all afternoon was the K2-45. I couldn’t seem to put it down. With factory ammunition, the pistol ran smoothly without mishap. This high capacity auto holds 14+1 and felt comfortable even in my small hands. Between the four of us, we probably ran over five hundred rounds through the pistol using factory ammunition, without one failure. The double-action auto weighs a tad over 40 ounces and comes in several options of grip color including coyote brown, desert, olive green and military khaki. The matte stainless exhibited a pleasing finish. I placed an order for one before we left the range. The three other writers all commented on the efficient functioning of this .45 compared to many others they have tested.
We had the opportunity to shoot a variety of their 9mm models too. They performed well all afternoon with hundreds of rounds sent downrange. The tactical shotguns we tested were all pump-actions and the company also produces semi-auto versions. Hunting scatterguns are manufactured in both auto and pump-action in 20 and .12 gauge. We didn’t have a chance to shoot the over and under models but that time will come.
This machine is cutting Turkish walnut stocks
for their over and under shotguns.
The production assembly in this plant features modern
a automated manufacturing process.
Meeting The Team
At the end of the day we sat down with the company’s staff, including their engineering team, production managers, even plant manager, and discussed our likes and dislikes with their products. They were very interested in our honest opinions. It’s not always the best idea to ask gun writers what they would like to see but that’s what they wanted to hear. Personally I would love to see their K2 in 10mm. Now that would be a neat hog gun in close cover. Other ideas were discussed and I believe we’ll see some innovative products in the near future, at an attractive price point.
I walked away from this visit with a different notion regarding Turkish firearms. Heck, I didn’t order two of their guns because I hoped to jump start the economy overseas. The modernization and state of the art automated technology in this integrated facility was quite unique. With exports to 70 countries today, SAR Arms will be on the radar screen here in the states before long.
The K2-45 is a well-made auto which performed flawlessly
during hundreds of rounds in an afternoon of shooting.
SAR Arms K2-45 is a high-capacity semi-auto holding 14 + 1.
Think of it as a sort of full-sized “duty” type auto.
The SAR Arms revolver is chambered in .357 Magnum, with matte
finish. It shot very well and would make a perfect rough-duty
sort of trail, fishing or hunting revolver.