They’re the hottest-selling rifles in the nation, with millions in circulation, and gun shops are having a hard time keeping them in stock. Malkowski’s factory cranks out 300 rifles a day — 6,000 a month — and he still has a year’s worth of back orders as he struggles to meet demand.
“We’re very proud of what we make. Very few things are made in the United States,” said Malkowski, 34.
Malkowski’s father, Ted, arrived in the United States from Poland at age 18 and became a machinist in New Britain. Mark worked in his dad’s shop, sweeping floors at first and gradually learning to use the lathes and drills. Ten years ago, with black rifles surging in popularity, Malkowski recognized an unmet market niche: What about left-handed shooters? Or shooters who, like him, were left-eye dominant? Malkowski — just 24 at the time — invented a sinistral version of the black rifle and opened Stag Arms in New Britain.
He’s now one of the top makers of black rifles for both right-handed and left-handed shooters. His armory is decidedly old-school, with vintage machines turning chunks of metal into gun barrels, the place whirring with industrial activity and grease puddling on the floor. His workers build every part of the weapon.
Malkowski defines an assault rifle as one that is fully automatic — a machine gun capable of firing bullets continually with a single squeeze of the trigger.
“We think there’s a lot of ways of keeping the state safe without looking at bans,” he said.
The gun industry here owes its existence to the U.S. government. In 1777, at the height of the Revolutionary War, Gen. Henry Knox, the head of artillery for the Continental Army, established an arsenal on a hill overlooking the Connecticut River in Springfield. In 1794, President Washington selected the site as one of two locations for a national armory for the manufacturing of military weapons (the other was at Harpers Ferry, in what was then Virginia, famously raided by John Brown in 1859).
The gun industry helped pioneer the concept of interchangeable parts, an innovation that powered the Industrial Revolution in New England. Precision manufacturing became a hallmark of Springfield and the region. By the 1920s, Rolls-Royce was making cars in Springfield, and Indian made popular racing motorcycles. Down the river, in Hartford, Pratt & Whitney began making aircraft engines.
“Eighty percent of all firearms ever made in this country were made within 20 miles of Springfield,” said Guy McLain, director of the Wood Museum of Springfield History. But he said some people don’t want to hear it. They’ve objected, he said, to the guns on display at the museum’s exhibit titled “Freedom’s Forge.”