Beretta Group Canada Interview, With Spyros Chrysochou (Video)
Exclusive interview with Spyros Chrysochou, General Manager, Stoeger Canada (Beretta Holding Group). Includes video transcript.
Topics Discussed By Spyros Chrysochou
- “Fantastic” year for Canadian firearm sales in 2021, and “exciting” outlook for 2022
- Rising demand for “tactical” firearms
- Benelli’s dedicated cult-like owners and the company’s commitment to innovation
- Exploding demand and record-high production for Tikka rifles
- Exceptional sales of the Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 and the Beretta A400 shotguns
- Why a $200,000 gun shoots the same as a $2,000 gun
- Bringing more Holland & Holland into Canada, and the Manurhin MR73 revolver
- Beretta Group sells more than 50,000 guns in Canada each year
- Bidding for Canada’s next military pistol, and the Beretta APX
- Navigating Canada’s volatile political-regulatory climate on personal gun ownership
- Lobbying quietly in private vs. loudly in public
- Why our passion for guns is our best defence against prohibitionists
- And more
(This computer generated transcript was edited for clarity.)
[00:00:00] Nicolas Johnson: Hi, and welcome to TheGunBlog.ca. I am Nicolas Johnson.
Beretta Holding Group is one of the world’s largest gun companies. My guest today is Spyros Chrysochou, who is in charge of the company’s Canadian operations as general manager of Stoeger Canada.
Hi, Spyros. Welcome!
[00:00:22] Spyros Chrysochou: Hi Nicolas. Thanks for having me here. I’m glad to be here.
Beretta Group in Global and Canadian Context
[00:00:27] Nicolas Johnson: Now, before we get into our conversation about the company, the products, the strategy, and all sorts of interesting topics, I wanted to communicate to everyone the economic and industrial significance of Beretta Holding Group and of your role.
Although Beretta can trace its roots to the 1500s and the Beretta family in Italy, today the corporate holding company owns some of the world’s most iconic and prestigious firearm and optics brands, including Beretta, Benelli, Franchi, Sako, Tikka, Chapuis Armes, Stoeger, Steiner, Burris. You see them up there on the screen.
With sales last year of 810 million euros, or almost USD 1 billion, Beretta Holding Group is in the top tier of gun companies worldwide. It’s one of the biggest actors in the Canadian firearm industry, where it operates as Stoeger Canada and manages imports from factories around the world, distribution to gun stores across the country, and advertising to customers.
And you Spyros, you’ve been general manager of the company since March of 2014. You’ve visited factories around the world, from the most-advanced computer-controlled factories to the most-ancient artisanal craft workshops. You have traveled around the world as a hunter, you’ve hunted around the world. And before that you were in charge of hunting education at the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.
I’m really excited to have you here.
[00:02:04] Spyros Chrysochou: I want to thank you. Thank you.
Beretta Group: Legacy, Credibility and Reputation
[00:02:05] Nicolas Johnson: What did I miss in my high-level overview of Beretta Holding Group and the company in Canada?
[00:02:12] Spyros Chrysochou: The Beretta Group, as you sort of imply, is very diverse and unique. The whole business model is very rare. We’re into 17 generations now of a Beretta owning and operating the company. And so that in itself is unique and it transcends a culture to all the companies.
And we’re many companies, you sort of mentioned the factory, some of the factories, and there are even more. Some are specialized into military and other areas. But we’re in 20 countries around the world. And it is quite unique.
As we see, being privately owned, the name and the company becomes critical. The Beretta family is always very concerned about what they put their name on, who they’re associated with, and what they’re doing. And so, so we’re not always chasing that bottom line. We’re chasing the credibility and the reputation. And the Berettas by generation are obliged to a legacy that continues through. And it gives us the autonomy in each country to be able to operate it with that same culture, that same integrity, all the way down. So we’re pretty excited about that.
[00:03:39] Nicolas Johnson: And that probably can’t be overstated.
I used to work as a financial journalist and the cliche, right, is that they’re not running a company for generations down the road, they’re running it for the next quarterly results. You’re immune from that type of consideration.
How does that affect the way you run the business?
Thinking From a Generational Perspective
[00:03:59] Spyros Chrysochou: It’s actually the big part of it. Like I sort of mentioned, what we’re doing, we don’t think in 1-year, 5-year, or 10-year terms. We’re looking at it from a generational perspective.
And so, it could be unique in how we built our facility and some of the features we have, where if you were thinking in even the 10- to 20-year term, you may not have done it, but when you think in 100-year terms, all of a sudden you’re willing to make that investment.
And so it’s really important to who we are and how we engage with our customers, how we engage with our own staff, and integrate with our other companies around the world.
[00:04:49] Nicolas Johnson: Another thing that I think is really interesting and why I’m really interested to have you here is that, although … I’m a gun owner, I’m a shooter, I know the brands, most of the brands – all the brands – that I listed, but I don’t know much about the company because you operate as B2B, business-to-business, as the importer, distributor. That’s more behind the scenes from what the end user sees. So I’m really happy to have you here to take us behind the scenes.
[00:05:19] Spyros Chrysochou: Sure, sure. And that’s a great point because Stoeger Canada in itself is our trade name within Canada since 1976. And so, each brand stands on its own merit and that’s really what the customer, the consumer, the end-user, needs to see and appreciate.
We love to see, for instance, we always reference sometimes the Benelli owner as a bit of a cult ownership, where they love Benellis and only Benellis. And so we as a company appreciate it and support that kind of thinking, even though they’re part of the group.
That’s top-down. Where one could look at, if we were a shareholder-type company, that there would be a lot of redundancies that you would want to eliminate.
Because we’re privately owned, they enjoy and encourage some of those redundancies because it keeps the companies innovative, stops them from blending everything into one look and feel. It keeps the differences within the brands, and keeps them fighting for their own market share.
It’s pretty exciting from the inside watching it because all the factories are coming to us and trying to gain our attention as well, so we could then bring that to the consumer. It’s pretty exciting to see. It’s an experience.
Benelli Innovation and Improvement
[00:06:54] Nicolas Johnson: So we’re going to have a problem here because you’ve already said a bunch of stuff that I want to follow up on, and I have a couple of pages of questions here.
But I want to just zoom in on something you said here, the loyalty to the Benelli brand. That’s really interesting because I would have assumed that you have the fan boys or the cult following for any brand in the world, not only brands of your group. Is there something special about the Benelli user?
[00:07:22] Spyros Chrysochou: Benelli, they came later to the game. Benelli’s history started in motorcycles. They were building race motorcycles and premium scooters in Italy and in Europe. And so the brothers that were owning and running Benelli at the time liked to shoot. They were very innovative and creative, and they started building this inertia gun. They thought it was really unique. And what we’ve seen is, the followers of the Benelli brand really cling to that and that thinking. So Benelli is very much about innovation, about their creativity, and about finding ways to maintain their market.
Now, their product lines are much narrower than, let’s say, a Beretta, but they found a niche within it. And when Beretta was looking, with their great gas guns, they realized that Benelli has become a real competitor for them. And so, like many things, you’ve got your choice: do you reinvent the wheel to compete with them, or do you buy them and bring them under the umbrella and let them compete with you, but all inside the umbrella. And that’s how they’ve chosen.
Just to digress for a second, part of Beretta’s model is, when we look at those brands, they don’t buy brands as as an investment. They buy brands to fit into a portfolio, and so each brand represents a space in a portfolio that’s very important to them.
By bringing them in, being able to apply expertise in production, production efficiencies, quality, quality control, engineering, and R&D, to create a product, that’s not driving costs up, and some cases bringing it down, but more importantly, improving a product, improving its production and the capacity of the factory, and then applying a global network of distribution for it. And so where the companies can really excel, it’s pretty exciting to see their transitions.
[00:09:48] Nicolas Johnson: Is that different from any other brand within the Beretta Holding Group or any other gun company in the world? It sounds like they’re just trying to say that this Benelli is in some way unique in wanting to improve and innovate and limit costs. But is that really unique?
[00:10:07] Spyros Chrysochou: Yeah, so two-tiered on that conversation. One, from Beretta’s model within the group, they’ve applied that to all the group brands. So every time they look at, examine a company for acquisition, it has to fit a certain model for them. It has to have room, it has to have good brand, good people, and room to really apply those those things to. Benelli itself is a top-tier brand. Their culture, when you think of where they’re located, to be able to go to Benelli, it’s in Urbino, which is a Unesco site. The whole town is a heritage site. The factory cannot expand. It’s imaxed out on its footprint in the region because the whole region is a sensitive region in that aspect.
So how they increase capacity is by increasing R&D and efficiencies within it. When you walk into the Benelli factory, it’s very much everybody’s wearing lab coats, everybody’s really a technician of sort. The robotics, the computerization, the efficiencies within it are much higher than many factories outside the group, and even inside the group as well. It’s something they’ve evolved to, to be able to make their improvements and satisfy global capacity or needs for capacity. So it’s quite quite unique in that sense.
[00:11:54] Nicolas Johnson: It’s fascinating. I want to come back to this stuff, there’s so much. I’m an ambitious guy, right, there’s so much I want to cover today with you. We don’t have all day, but you’re getting me to think that we really could do a deep dive on every single one of the brands has an incredible story, an incredible history, and hopefully an incredible future.
I want to switch to just change tracks here. We’re coming to the end of 2021. We’re recording this on the 14th of December 2021. And right now I want to look at a little bit of a year in review.
How was this year for you guys in Canada?
2021 Year in Review
[00:12:36] Spyros Chrysochou: Where to start? In a word, you could say: fantastic. Being sensitive to the global pandemic, and a lot of the sickness that people have gone through, but from our industry and from Stoeger Canada and the Beretta Group’s perspective, it was a fantastic year sales-wise.
We came into 2021. If we go back a year, in 2020 it was a fantastic year, driven by unfortunate circumstances, one being Covid coming in and the fears around Covid. We had fears of gun bans. Politics were really threatening and looming over our heads as a black cloud. The Order in Council came out, so there was a drive to purchase guns. Things we’re locking down. People had nothing else to do. Global unrest in the U.S. drove U.S. tactical sales, which in turn started driving Canadian tactical sales. And so 2020 was a terrific year as far as sales went.
Looking at 2021, we thought: Well, there’s no way to replicate that, things are going to settle, this pandemic can’t last.
And here we are, we were wrong, and 2021 was even more outstanding than 2020 was, and driven still somewhat along the same rationale.
But I think the big one for us in Canada, well, tactical sales are up. Tactical sales in Canada are a smaller percentage of the overall sales, so when they fluctuate, you can see as a percentage, they move quicker and easier. So we’ve seen that, and they they’ve done really well.
[00:14:42] Nicolas Johnson: What do you call tactical sales, is that police and military?
[00:14:47] Spyros Chrysochou: Not going into police and military. But if we want to talk about the tactical guns: the Benelli M4s, the SuperNova tacticals, and handguns as well would get put into that as well. In the U.S. they’d call it “home defence.” Here we just call it “tactical,” or “tacticool” in some cases. But hunting is still the core of the Canadian — hunting and sport shooting — is the core of the Canadian market.
So we saw a great increase in ’21, because the ranges were open for the full year. And so in sporting, competition shooting, precision shooting on rifles, on target, but also clay targets as well. Hunting, it was great to see a lot of lapsed hunters come back and get back into hunting. People couldn’t travel, so they took advantage of the outdoors and went out, whether they were shooting rabbits or up to big game, they indulged. And we saw that. We saw that enjoyment of the outdoors, and it was really, really something great to see long term.
Again, we talked earlier, we don’t work on short term. It’s nice to have some spikes here and there, but we like the long-term game. The more people that hunt, the more people that shoot competitively, recreationally, the more people in the outdoors, in the industry and involved, and that’s what feeds the long-term game for us.
[00:16:32] Nicolas Johnson: Let’s dig in a little deeper. What were some of your hot sellers of this year?
Tikka T3x TAC A1
[00:16:40] Spyros Chrysochou: Where to start? They all spiked!
If we looked at the black-gun/tactical side, there was the Tikka TAC A1 in a bolt rifle. The Benelli M4, which is the top of the food chain in shotguns, especially tactical shotguns, because it’s being unique where it wasn’t a hunting gun that got painted black and turned into a tactical gun with accessories. It was a gun designed for the law enforcement and military, and that is able to be used for recreational sport shooting as well, too. So it’s done really well. The pump actions did well, again talking the tactical side. Overall, though, Sako and Tikka, especially Tikka I would say in the hunting rifles, exploded this year as far as the demand for it.
The factory has produced more than they ever have, and have been adding labour force running around the clock, trying to keep up to global demand, but Canadian demand is a big part of it.
Canada is a unique country when you step back, ’cause within Canada we’re bogged down by a lot of legislation, regulation, and pressures against firearms. Globally, though. we’re still one of the main players. Of course, we exclude the U S because that’s half the world as far as its demands, but Canada is pretty well Number 2, right behind it. So it’s done really well.
[00:18:35] Nicolas Johnson: And when you say that, is that Canada’s Number 2 right behind the U.S. for Beretta Holding Group as a whole?
[00:18:41] Spyros Chrysochou: Yeah, yeah, it’s safe to say. And I would say in guns in general. There’ll be specific guns, specific action types, that might have an increase in other countries. But when we look at guns in general, Canada is very much a about gun ownership. The amount of guns an individual owns is high. The amount of guns and individual desires to own is high. We don’t have those restrictions where in some countries, in Europe, they’ll restrict them to three guns only.
And that’s where the modular-type guns of a barrel change, calibre changes are very popular, because then they count as one gun with a lot of different calibres. I typically find that in Canada, I’m guilty of it, the preference, I could buy even a shotgun with two different barrels, but at the end of the day, I’d rather have two shotguns than one with two barrels. And that’s what we see in Canada as a culture and really as industry, we appreciate it, and like I said, I’m guilty of that personally.
Benelli Super Black Eagle and Beretta A400
[00:19:54] Nicolas Johnson: It’s so interesting. I don’t know if you’re done your rundown of the hot products, but you didn’t mention the Super Black Eagle 3, which when I visited the room you’re in right now a few years ago, I’m just going to put up a screenshot of that here.
By the way, we’re recording this live. We’re not doing what a lot of people do, which is post-recording editing. We’re doing this on the fly here. I’m controlling, I’m my own production team.
I visited your offices in Oshawa, Ontario, in 2017, and at the time one of the big stars was the Super Black Eagle 3. I’m just going to get a photo of that up, which is hugely popular, I learned at the time, hugely popular with duck hunters. And you haven’t mentioned it, or you haven’t mentioned it yet.
[00:20:43] Spyros Chrysochou: I haven’t mentioned it yet. I haven’t mentioned it yet. I was moving, moving across.
Yeah, the Super Black Eagle 3, and again, that’s the Benelli fan club for sure. The Super Black Eagle 2, well, the 1 then the 2 and now the 3 is completely taking over in that hunting. And it’s very special, in the real appreciation comes in to those who hunt hard. The avid hunters are the ones who really take to it because it is the workhorse. You can’t stop it. When you spend a lot of time in the field, whether it’s waterfowl or other you learn to really appreciate what it does, how it feels, and how it shoots. So it’s done exceptional this year, as well as its main competitor, the A400, the Beretta. They always go head to head, and people argue about them, and you sort of laugh.
People always ask me, and I’ll give you an exclusive for sure right here: Which one, the A400 or the Super Black Eagle? And so the question is always, “Which one should I buy? Which one is better?” And so the answer comes down to which one fits you better.
Both of them are outstanding guns and will serve you for life without any problem. But at the end of the day, they fit differently. And so I always say: “You have to pick them up and shoulder them, and one will feel better than the other to you.” The configuration’s a little different, the balance is a little different, and there is a preference that people may not know, but until they pick it up, that’s when they find out.
[00:22:52] Nicolas Johnson: And is that something you can detect and notice with your body geometry and fit and so forth, is that something you can pick up in a store showroom, or is that something you need to fire a bunch of rounds through each one and you’ll only find out after you’ve fired a bunch of rounds?
[00:23:08] Spyros Chrysochou: No, you could pick it up right in the store. You’ll be able to feel the difference. The Benellis, and especially the Super Black Eagle, they’ve made it a little lighter. It’s slimmer profile, the forend’s a little slimmer. Benelli spends a lot of time on ergonomics, so there’s not a lot of excess anywhere. The pistol grip is slimmer and pulled back a little more versus the Beretta, the A400. I would compare it almost typically fitting a little more like an over-under. And so the pistol grip, some would argue, is a little more forgiving because it’s a little bigger. But it’s got a different balance, different feel, and really in a showroom, in a store, you can truly pick it up and feel the difference. And typically you’re going to have a preference at that point, but you got to pick ’em both up. That’s that’s the thing, right. ‘Cause both of them are going to feel great. And then when you put the two in comparison, that’s when you will see and feel a preference to one.
[00:24:19] Nicolas Johnson: It’s so interesting. And do you have, as the group, do you have your star either by dollar value or by volume, number of sales, that is your top three or your stand-out?
[00:24:32] Spyros Chrysochou: Yeah, we track all that. We don’t give that out because I don’t want to sway people’s opinions based on that. The market falls where the market falls. Units and price point always have varying degrees. For instance, the Stoeger 3500s are a great gun at a great price point and where you might see more units going out in those versus let’s say the Benelli Super Black Eagle 3, the dollars are quite different.
[00:25:08] Nicolas Johnson: Because the Black Eagle 3 is around $2,500, is that right?
[00:25:12] Spyros Chrysochou: Yeah, 25 retail, would be about $2,500-$2,600 and thereabouts. So you’re almost more than double the price of, for instance, the Stoeger, which is a great gun. And for a hunter who hunted a good amount of time, would appreciate it and have no regrets at all.
But again, where do you want to go with it, right? People have often compared: “Why would I buy a Beretta or a Benelli over some of the competitors?” And it’s a question of they’re all good. Really today, any of the name brands that are out there, they’re all good guns and good products.
It’s: what takes it to the next level? It’s almost, you can say GM is a great car. There’s nothing wrong with a GM. They’re good. They’re solid. They work. They’re affordable. But a Maserati has a little more to offer in the details. Right? In the engineering. Right? And, so it really starts becoming those kinds of comparisons where there’s nothing wrong with — not that I want to pick on GM — a Dodge, a GM, a Ford, any of those, pick one, Toyota, could be Nissan, doesn’t matter. But then you compare Maseratis and Ferraris and such, and you’re going, “Well, yeah, they’re both great vehicles. They both take you from A to B. But one takes you there a little differently than the other.” And we see that with guns too. The difference in how they perform, how they shoot, recoil management, reliability, is what starts making the difference down the road.
And so when we look at the Tikkas and the Sakos, it’s nothing new. For years they’ve been shooting minute or sub-minute groups out of the box. And we see that all the time. It’s guaranteed. But even when we transcend to law enforcement, and they really start looking at it from where accuracy and reliability is everything, the Tikka glued synthetic out of the box will compete with any of the sniper rifles that are out there globally. And, when you’re downrange. So it’s fantastic in that way to see.
[00:27:54] Nicolas Johnson: I want to pick up on this before we come back to some Canada stuff, but how do you advise people or when you’re making a distinction, I’m going to play with the Maserati-GM-Toyota thing. If I’m going into the back country, I’d much rather have a GM or a Toyota than a Maserati, right? You want reliable, you want: you’re going to turn the key, it’s going to start. And likewise, if you’re going halfway across the country, or you’re going to make a critical shot in your police, military, hunting — whatever application you have — you want to make sure that that shot happens the way you want it to.
How do you make a decision between the computer-engineered $1,200 Tikka versus the $30,000 or I don’t know,$100,000 craftsman piece-of-art shotgun. How do you put all that into, like how do you weigh all that?
$2,000 Gun Vs. $200,000 Gun
[00:28:46] Spyros Chrysochou: Yeah, so it’s a great point, because the one thing that we keep in mind is that the $100,000 gun is the same as — let’s say if we’re talking Beretta over-unders we can go $100,000, we can go $200,000, we can go half-a-million-dollar gun — is really the same as the $2,000 gun.
The difference is in the detail of the wood, the engraving, maybe the hand tuning, the polishing. It doesn’t affect reliability. It’s not where it becomes more temperamental if you take that $100,000 gun into the backwoods and into rough country, say, where it’s going to be less reliable.
You may get some scratches on it, and it may cost you more if you’re going to repair those scratches, or if you don’t just appreciate them as character. But functionality is going to be the same. And so really, the one thing we say is: whatever price the gun is, and whether you get up over into six figures or higher, the guns are made to shoot and they’re made to hunt, they’re made to shoot. We don’t make guns as show pieces. Every gun is made to be able to be used in the field, shot with perfect reliability.
I would always tell people in anything I’ve learned in my own years, buy the best you can, the most you can afford. Stretch a little. It’s a lot cheaper than trying to work your way up in a bunch of levels. If you could skip levels, it’s a lot cheaper in the end. But our guns are made for using. I’ve, I’ve seen, I’ve hunted with guys that, you’re looking at their guns going, I could buy a house with that, right?
A little harder nowadays in Toronto anyway.
[00:30:51] Nicolas Johnson: How many house-priced guns do you sell? How many half-a-million dollar guns do you sell in Canada a year?
[00:30:56] Spyros Chrysochou: Typically when we’re getting up into the big price points there, the factories are involved, and we’re bringing customer and factory together because at that point you’re not off-the-shelf.
There’s very much customizing, engraving, what kind of engraving. We’ve had, in gold, coat of arms for families, put engraved into the wood and with gold inlays and such. So he factories are very involved. We don’t count that as going out the door from Stoeger Canada, per se, where it’s really, it’s part of the family brand that we bring people and product together.
Beretta Group Buys Holland & Holland
I should just as a sidebar mention that we did exclude one of our newest purchases, which sort of falls in line with when we’re talking about price point, is Holland & Holland. So Holland & Holland was the latest purchase from the Beretta Group. And so that was just recently done in ’21. And it’s a great addition to the group. Holland & Holland have the classic calibres, .375 H&H and such. But their double guns reign king and even the queen shoots them, or did anyway. Prince Charles does. So they’re a classi English gun, again the pinnacle of double guns globally, really, and from the English perspective. And that was a joint sort of desire to come part of the Beretta Group, because they were currently owned by a designer, a clothing designer brand. And so that didn’t necessarily understand who they are, what they are. And it was just, Holland & Holland was the top of the gun haute couture .
And so that fell in line with the designer brand. And so by it becoming part of the Beretta Group, it was enthusiastically received from Holland & Holland, because now being part of a gun company that invests into gun companies, into new acquisitions, and doesn’t strip from new acquisitions.
So it’s pretty exciting. We’re looking forward to bringing more into Canada and getting more involved with even that brand. And again, your 200 grand plus, for when you start getting into those now.
[00:33:40] Nicolas Johnson: And just to provide an extra context, the .375 Holland & Holland is, or at least was, if I’m not mistaken, it was the African safari gun.
[00:33:55] Spyros Chrysochou: Yeah. It’s the benchmark. Yeah, for sure. And it’s still really the minimum calibre that you could use for dangerous game. I was fortunate a few months ago to get my Cape Buffalo with the .375, H&H. Performs great. Great calibre. Great shooting.
I still know guys that use it on moose and such here. It’s a great calibre. But yeah, the brand is a welcome brand for us. Holland & Holland also owns a shooting facility, a premier shooting facility in the London area as well. So that’s also part of the group, too. So I’m looking forward to being there in the spring. So we can do a recap.
[00:34:43] Nicolas Johnson: Love to, love to!
Bouncing back to Canada, so you sell a small number of very expensive custom-made firearms. Can you give a number of the total number of firearms you guys sell each year in Canada?
[00:35:00] Spyros Chrysochou: It’s definitely in the tens of thousands. It’s over 50 anyway, let’s say that.
The one thing, actually we hit a milestone this year as a Beretta Group, just to sidetrack, where we’ve sold as a group, over a million firearms this year. To give you an idea.
[00:35:23] Nicolas Johnson: This year? Congratulations!
[00:35:26] Spyros Chrysochou: So it’s been an exceptional achievement for the patriarch, Cavalieri Ugo Gussali Beretta. It was always a mark he wanted to hit. He’s stepped down as the head, but his sons are leading that charge and under their tutelage, we’ve hit a million gun in one year mark. So that’s a great achievement. We’re quite happy with that.
[00:36:00] Nicolas Johnson: to you and your colleagues.
When you’re deciding on the Canadian market, how do you decide between which models you will bring in, which new models, and which models you don’t want to bring in?
[00:36:15] Spyros Chrysochou: It’s an interesting approach. The government and the RCMP help guide us in that, ’cause they tell us what we can’t bring in even if we want to. But we really look at the trends within our product group. We’ll look at overall trends as well, but we’ll look at the trends within our product group.
And we we’ve learned to understand what is our core. And with that, we will bring in samplings or smaller numbers of some of the other ones to test the market, see what the reception is like. And so where we see an uptake in it, we can then increase and grow from there. So for the most part, we try and bring in as much as we can, but obviously we don’t want to spread too thin and, and have too much of something that the demand isn’t there for. We want to make sure we always meet the demands of the core. But it’s really playing with the market. And the great thing is we have that flexibility. So whether we want to bring in 5, 50, or 5,000 to test what the market uptake is.
And in some cases we’ll even do, as you mentioned in the beginning, we’re B2B, so we’ll work with our dealer network in some cases and pre-sell or pre offer, and go to them with, “Hey, here’s some options. Are these of any interest? Are your customers asking? We’re ready to bring them in either a finite number or an indefinite or a non-specific number and just keep bringing.”
So we’ll play with the market in that sense. But we’ll try and often where the European appreciation for some products is different than the North American one, we’ll often test. And with global marketing that the companies do and the factories do, we then get feedback from consumers as to just by nature of question and emails of, “Hey, are you bringing this in?” or watching social media, our own social media or factory social media, and to see where there’s interest and what’s tweaking people’s thoughts at that point.
Chapuis Armes, Manurhin MR73 Revolver
[00:38:38] Nicolas Johnson: Let’s zoom in on another case study here.
This is another company that recently just in the past year joined the Beretta Holding Group. That’s Chapuis Armes. This is the Manurhin MR73 Sport, iconic revolver that is a 50-year- old, almost 50-year-old design. It’s used by the GIGN, the French anti-terrorism/counter-terrorism unit. And this is, I believe, the revolver — not this one, but the model — that was used in the hijacking, they didn’t use ARs, they used the revolver to take down the hostage [takers] in an airplane hijacking. Something like this, it’s in Canada, it’s in stores. I’m seeing it priced from memory around $3,500. What’s been the interest in this kind of a model?
[00:39:33] Spyros Chrysochou: This one is really a special, special product specifically within the Chapuis Armes group, ’cause they do over-unders, they do a straight-pull, they do side-by-sides. But this specific product is really something special.
When Chapuis became part of the group, there was already a demand for these products in country, which really helped our transition because often, the waiting list on these could be one to two years from our distributor standpoint to get these in. So we were fortunate that there was already production allocated to Canada. And so when we took over and they became part of the group, we then just took over all that existing earmarked production. And so, we’re kind of fortunate here that we had the products, we have them and we got them out.
Like you sort of mentioned, it’s where it’s been used, and it’s somewhat unbelievable when we see all the police forces going with semi-autos and ARs and semi-autos, here they’re in a hostage-rescue situation. they’re pulling out revolvers. I had to buy one of these myself. I had to get it because once you pick it up and once you shoot it, there’s no turning back. It shoots so well, so smooth. It makes everybody look good. The tolerances are exceptionally tight. Its reliability is bar none. And that’s why in those cases, to be able to do the draw and the confidence in taking the shot and in those police and special taskforce requirements, once you pick it up and shoot, you don’t look back ’cause it really makes it easy.
I know I go to the range personally, and I’ve got all my different semis and that. Nowadays, if I know there’s people around and I want to impress them, I’ll just bring that. It makes you look good. It’s a fantastic gun. And like I said, we’re fortunate that we have them in country, and we have now a steady flow that will continue to come in.
The volumes at that price point for a revolver are very good, very good and surprising how steady it is.
[00:42:25] Nicolas Johnson: Can you give us an idea: would you sell in a year more than 100, less than 100?
[00:42:32] Spyros Chrysochou: It would be probably a little more than that, off the top of my head.
Once people touch them, it goes back to that Maseratis scenario, where this is the engineering, the detail, is so precise, which translates to performance.
We’ve got a couple shooters in Canada, Roly Miles and Mark … his last name just escapes me, both are top-five. Roly is a top-ranked world shooter, competitive shooter. He’d reached out to us because a Swedish shooter in the top 10, the world top 10, was using a Manurhin. So he reached out saying, “Hey, I want to learn about these. I’m interested.” Because he as a machinist would do a lot of work on his gun.
Mark Horsley, sorry, it’s his name. I’m sure they don’t mind me saying it because they’re top ranked. You can look them up. As a team, as a pair, they were number one in the world. And Roly was number one in the world, and Mark I believe is top five right now.
They said this was one of the only guns that would pass the barrel test, as far as the barrel chamber, for straightness and such out of the box. It just gives you an idea of some of the quality, so we’re pretty excited to have it part of the group.
[00:44:27] Nicolas Johnson: What percentage of your sales would you say are hunting, sport shooting, law enforcement-military in Canada? How’s the breakdown there?
[00:44:43] Spyros Chrysochou: I actually don’t have it off hand ’cause it’s very category specific, too. I’d say hunting is the greater percentage, sport shooting would certainly follow, and then defence and law enforcement would be under that. I guess you can go: hunting, competitive, sport shooting, tactical, and law enforcement/military specific as well. That one, although, fluctuates greatly based on tenders, based on what’s out in the market, what’s available and volume-of-sales specific.
Canadian Military Pistol Contract, Beretta APX
[00:45:28] Nicolas Johnson: Your products are used by everything from Olympic athletes to weekend plinkers to military snipers to a duck hunter. Like the default, a Super Black Eagle 3 again, is very popular in that. So you have the whole range, right?
I want to zoom in now on the military contract that’s underway in Canada. And I’m just going to put up here a slide with some of your government agencies clients. The military has a tender out for its new handgun. And I thought it was a shoe-in for the SIG Sauer P320. Glock’s distributor went to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to object to the terms and conditions of the tender offer, the language and what it said. You intervened with the distributor for SIG Sauer, M.D. Charlton. Where do things stand on that at the moment?
[00:46:39] Spyros Chrysochou: The RFP is still out. It hasn’t been withdrawn. When we go back, I started working personally on the pistol requirement with the Department of Defence in 2009, January 2009, the January SHOT Show 2009 I had started working on that. And so it’s been a long time in coming.
We’ve gone through probably three different options of pistol for it as the requirement has evolved and as the needs on the front line and operationally have evolved. So they’ve moved through it. The desire for the army Department of Defence to look for a modular pistol were really them looking forward into the future.
Canada is very well-respected in what it chooses, what it uses, globally with all the global military and police. It’s safe to say we can be very slow in our procurement. Hence the current Browning Hi-Power was a great pistol in its day and during World War II. Those those days have come and gone now, and it’s time for a change. And really, as a Canadian, I really look at it in first, we got guys out there in harm’s way, guys and gals out in harm’s way. And shame on us as Canadians that we ill-equip them while they’re out there doing what we’ve asked them to do, fighting for our ideology, fighting for our freedoms, fighting for what we believe is right. And then we ill-equip them. That’s a big concern for me. And so my first and primary desire is always that these service people have the equipment they need. The Department of Defence has, through a long and tedious exploration and discovery, have come up with a requirement that they want and wish in the pistol, in this case. And so it’s very future oriented. They don’t, they/we don’t know what the future holds, what the future theatre will hold and require. And so they desired a certain modularity or modular characteristics in a pistol that would help them transcend into that future. So anything that slows that down, as a Canadian I’m offended. And that’s outside of the Beretta Group and Stoeger Canada I say that as a Canadian.
And so right now, the tender is still out. It hasn’t been rescinded. The RFP, I should say, is still out and available for submission. And we’ll know in January what happens with it.
[00:49:58] Nicolas Johnson: Which firearm are you planning to tender?
[00:50:02] Spyros Chrysochou: I don’t want to get into the specifics, but if you looked at our assortment of hand guns, one of them would be/could be the Beretta APX. It’s certainly modular, similar to you mentioned the SIG 320 and similar along the same line. So that’s certainly a main contender for us that we would look at.
Gun Policy, Gun Politics, and Lobbying
[00:50:25] Nicolas Johnson: Understood. We’re watching that closely.
Generally, you’ve alluded to some of this in your comments in the past since we’ve been speaking, how as a businessman, as a businessperson, do you navigate the regulatory strictness, the May, 2020, May 1st in the middle of the day, a policy change? How do you navigate that? How does that affect your business?
[00:50:56] Spyros Chrysochou: It’s virtually day-to-day. We’re always expecting something and something is always, something is always looming over our heads. So it’s really the effort to track what is happening.
We really, I’d say from our perspective, make an effort to be proactive, to try and get ahead of the curve. Whether it’s political meetings, whether there’s lobbyists out there. Certainly in Canada, we have great, great lobby groups and member organizations, whether it is the OFAH or the other conservation/wildlife groups across Canada, or the CSSA, and there’s many that are out there, and working with them, keeping our ear really on the track, talking with politicians, understanding direction and trying to be preemptive on that. And seeing where there’s lag times, where we need to get ahead of something, and where we need to deal with it.
Our Canadian gun laws sometimes can be volatile. We saw Harper’s government with some sensible approach to gun laws, changed some of what was there, simplify it, and not affect crime in the sense where there was an increase or anything. They were sensible, they respect for the law-abiding person and going after criminals.
We’ve seen political smoke and mirrors. We knew with this election if the Conservatives got in, we certainly had their intentions to sort of look back at some of Harper’s thinking. I’m saying Harper, but it’s certainly the party’s and some of the advocates there.
But I guess the point, it’s: everyday you wake up and you wonder what’s going to happen. But we just try and stay involved. We try and stay involved with politicians, bureaucrats, policymakers, and consumers, businesses, and users, too. We even like to work with our embassies, that being such a diverse company of countries where we like to work with the embassies to gather support and insight through them as well, wherever we can.
[00:53:44] Nicolas Johnson: I’m very happy to hear you say that, as a, call it a gun-rights advocate. I’m very happy to hear you say that because I had the perception — and I think it’s broader than just me — it’s a kind of a disappointment in the perception that you’re very active, your company is very active in promoting the products, but sometimes when in the policy battle, we don’t see big companies such as yours. We don’t see them active, for example, in the court cases or taking out ads in the major media. How do you respond to that? How do you make that judgment about where you want to be active, where you don’t want to be active? Where do you want to be seen to be active, and where you want to play a more behind-the-scenes role?
[00:54:36] Spyros Chrysochou: It’s a great point. And we are very active in the behind-the-scenes at a higher level in supporting, let’s say, the industry groups to do what they can do.
There’s a lot of different groups out of there taking a lot of different approaches. And so, where we can’t and won’t necessarily just do a blanket investment on all, or pick one over the other, because they’re all doing good work, and some of them in different ways. Really as a corporate entity that we are, we are supporting businesses and consumers and the groups to make their approach.
We are working with legal teams, and politicians, and bureaucrats on the other side to really sway policy from a different approach.
[00:55:39] Nicolas Johnson: I’m assuming the reason we don’t really know about that is because you think that it works best in a closed-doors, private. Like you’re not sending out press releases and taking out full-page ads to slam this or that politician. You’re taking a different approach.
[00:55:55] Spyros Chrysochou: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s a different approach.
It won’t do us any good, it won’t do the community any good, ’cause we’ll burn a bridge there that otherwise we have, right? And we’re able to get the ear of certain people because we’re allowing the consumers, the organizations, the not-for-profits to really chase that from the front line, and we’re trying to work at it from the back line from a political view.
And that’s where I mentioned even the embassies, getting them involved, because there’s prohibitions and bans impact global trade. And so there’s different approaches that we’re trying to work on. And by all means, because we’re not doing press releases, it doesn’t mean we’re not active and we’re not supporting all those efforts, ’cause we do wherever we can.
Financing Gun-Rights Lobbying
[00:56:56] Nicolas Johnson: There was a proposal around Bill C-71 a couple of years ago of, I’ll just give kind of a shortcut: charge an extra 5 bucks per gun to create a special legal fund to do some high-profile court challenges, or an advertising fund. You’re buying a $1,000-gun or a $5,000-gun, or whatever. You’ll pitch it an extra 5 bucks. You’d have the option at the store to pitch in an extra 5 bucks, or just raise the price of the gun by 5 bucks.
As an industry, is there any kind of discussion about what can be done, something like that or something to raise the money to raise awareness, and contribute to the debate more publicly?
[00:57:38] Spyros Chrysochou: Sure, there’s been those discussions. When we look at the U.S., they’ve got the tax built into outdoor product lines and how it’s controlled, and it’s taken at the source.
The idea of doing it in Canada is a great idea. What hasn’t been sorted out is: who’s going to collect it, who’s going to pay it, who’s going to control it? And so it runs into to those areas. When we look at let’s say a U.S. model, if we looked at the NSSF in the U.S. and their expanse and strength, and their efforts, it’s a little more centralized. When we look in Canada, we have the CSAAA doing great work, but we haven’t unified it in Canada. So does a not- for-profit then control it? And it hasn’t really come onto a table where, do we set up a board of all the stakeholders, and is that board 5 people or 500 people, and how are decisions made, who controls it, how is it done? And so that becomes, unfortunately, the obstacle.
I’ve often said the greatest strategy for the anti-gun or anti hunting community is to put a bunch of hunters and shooters in a room and let them talk and they’ll end up fighting over everything. The muzzle loaders don’t like the rifle guys, the vertical bows don’t like the crossbows. We end up doing a lot of infighting. We can have our preferences, but it’s like a family. At the end of the day, when we get together, we need to be unified in that sense.
So to your point, it’s a great idea. It’s a matter of: who’s going to control it, and how do you manage it, and how do you get all the players in, and supporting it where one doesn’t feel they’re putting in the lion’s share and then therefore they should have more say. It’s the typical politics that happen within that kind of group. But in principle, great idea.
‘Fudds’ and Infighting Among Gun Owners
[01:00:06] Nicolas Johnson: Another thing that you just mentioned that I want to follow up on, and it’s really interesting to have your point of view, as you’ve been in your current role for eight years, before that you were in charge of hunting education at a hunting-rights, I’ll call it, a hunting-rights organization, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters: a lot of gun owners want more prohibitions.
I’m referring to the so-called “Fudds,” the gun owners who think their gun is somehow exempt, or their ownership will somehow be exempt, from the next wave of prohibitions and confiscations. And exactly the situation you described. This group thinks only they should have guns, the other group should have their guns confiscated. What’s the way out of that?
[01:00:51] Spyros Chrysochou: Well, it’s so difficult. We saw it in the ’80s with the rallies, where there was a big push to go back. Now, with this Order in Council, when they talked about “military-style assault rifles” and such, and then the shotguns, there was some pushback. We know politically, to go after what they call the “assault rifle” was really short and easy pickin’s for them. It was a small, as a percentage of all gun owners, a small percentage of the gun owners, a small percentage of the guns. The buyback would be nominal in comparison. They can get their taglines about banning guns, making Canada a safer place, yet having little impact on anything.
So really the issue, talk about what is it, what’s the answer. And it’s a change of thinking that, unfortunately, may take drastic measures. We often hear about the NRA in the U.S. about never giving an inch. Their motto was always around that, because they knew what we would often say is, “Well, that’s not so bad, that’s OK.” It could be safe storage, it could be trigger locks. The NRA’s approach was always: never given an inch, because then there’s never an excuse, right. You never have anybody upset.
But in Canada, we, unfortunately, we start saying, “Well, I don’t shoot handguns. Therefore I’m not worried about them.” Or, “I don’t have an assault…'” Or, “Why do you need an assault rifle?”
Even education within our own gun community becomes an issue where we will often hear, “Well, what do you need a 30-round mag for?” And you’ve got to remind, even within our own community: “Well, we don’t have 30-round mags.” Right?
From our marketing perspective, it’s great that we get inundated with U.S. marketing because that helps subsidize our own marketing here in Canada. But on the reverse to the negative, we get inundated with U.S. politics, U.S. gun laws, the old Texas-Florida approach that doesn’t exist in Canada, that all of a sudden we have a great group of people thinking that’s how it is, right? And so we need to educate and find that happy place within our own gun community, but within the average person. ‘Cause I’m sure you encounter it. We know, when you speak to somebody who’s not a gun owner, not a hunter, doesn’t necessarily come from it, sits on the fence. When you explain our gun laws, our regulations, they generally never have a problem. Yes, there’s a 10% or way out there on the extreme that we’re never going to convert. We don’t care, right, you’re just never going to do it. Don’t waste your time. Let’s gear it to the middle, right.
And again, we don’t necessarily want everybody to be a hunter and everybody to be a shooter. We don’t have enough ranges now! But just to appreciate that we are working within the law. We are not bad people and we’re engaging in an activity that is really productive and and people are passionate about.
Gun Imports: Behind the Stats
[01:04:54] Nicolas Johnson: I’d like to wind down by looking to the future, and I’m just going to put up this chart. I track the import numbers, the Canadian firearm-import numbers, which to my knowledge are the best — or the only — indicator of the market and the market outlook, the strength of the firearm industry.
The chart goes back to 1988. These are stats, these are numbers from Statistics Canada that are available at TheGunBlog.ca. And when I look at the past few years, we had a peak in 2014, and it’s pretty much been downhill since then. This year, there’s a little bit of an uptick, but is this the future of the industry? Like if I were getting into an industry, if I were buying stock in a company in this industry, this is not an industry that I’d want to get into. And my concern is the slow and steady decline of the Canadian firearm-ownership community. Is that legitimate?
[01:05:51] Spyros Chrysochou: It’s an interesting graph. And when we look back at that ’14 number, we see that spike in our own graphs.
And when when looking at the U.S., that’s there as well. I think it’s safe to say that we can thank Obama for that one.
[01:06:12] Nicolas Johnson: That’s the year you joined Beretta. I thought it was you!
[01:06:21] Spyros Chrysochou: I think from our company perspective, the graph is not in that kind of decline. We’ve seen, we’re seeing a different sort of graph. ’21 will show a greater number.
The statistics from Statistics Canada are based on import-certificate numbers and that. Canada really doesn’t have any good statistics when it comes to it. So it’s a trend, although the numbers are the number that that’s provided.
When we look at the overall trend, and if you take it back to 1999 and in this case and going forward, then we’re seeing it grow. And if you draw a line across from one to the other, we’re seeing an increase. There’s certainly, we could say, a saturation rate at some level, where there’s a lot of gun owners own a lot of guns.
We often see it with handgunners, where the peaks and valleys exist there. When there’s new guns, you see the spike. If nothing really new comes in the market, it levels off and starts to decline until the next one, because we have a finite number of handgun — “Restricted” — licence holders, versus let’s say a U.S. trend where we saw anti-gun people buying guns over the last couple of years, right. Because they could just walk in and get it with a driver’s licence and a quick check.
‘When You Invest in Passion, You’re Always Going to Win’
Overall, you can be fearful of: guns are all going to disappear and we’re going to be out of guns. Not going to happen in our lifetime. The challenges are too great.
There’s too much passion attached to it. It’s one thing when you’re selling nuts and bolts. When we’re talking about firearms, it’s about passion. It’s about a love for the outdoors. It’s a love for recreation. Whether it’s game meat, whether it’s sustenance in some cases, but at the end of the day, firearms equate to passion.
And while there’s always passion, there’s always a drive to be involved, to keep buying, to keep using, and really participating in what we all really love. And that’s where you go, you can invest in a graph and in static items, but when you invest in passion, I think you’re always going to win.
Outlook for 2022
[01:09:17] Nicolas Johnson: I’m inspired by hearing you say that, so thank you for having said that.
How does 2022 look for you?
[01:09:27] Spyros Chrysochou: 2022 looks exciting to say the least. Right now our response from our dealer partners has been over the top and hasn’t slowed. The demand and flow-through has been great in ’21 and they see that continuing into 2022.
We don’t know what the end of 2022 will hold, but the beginning of 2022 hasn’t stopped and will continue. The U.S. trend, speaking with my counterparts in the U.S., they’re predicting great numbers as well. The challenge for some of our competitors out there — in Canada, where a lot of their product comes in from the U.S. — always leaves them at odds.
If the U.S. is booming, it means Canada is short changed. We’ve been always fortunate, where our product comes from our factories, which are primarily in Europe. So therefore our supply chain is always strong –outside of the logistical challenges that we’ve all encountered — but our supply chain is strong and we’ll continue to see it.
We look at 2022, we’ve made huge commitments to our factory, who’ve allocated production capacity for us in Canada. And we expect to see continued flow into Canada, and to help service our dealers, but ultimately our end-user consumer: the hunter, the shooter, and just general gun enthusiasts out there.
Craftsmen Vs. Robots
[01:11:17] Nicolas Johnson: Again, I’m encouraged to hear that and I wish you every, every possible success.
I also want to ask you: you have traveled around the world, you’ve hunted around the world, you have been in charge of this operation for almost eight years, you’ve done a lot of other stuff. But how has this job and this role and visiting factories — the thing you said at the very beginning, visiting the most modern to the most ancient factories and workshops — how has all of this shaped your thinking and how you are?
[01:11:52] Spyros Chrysochou: It’s really been something, and you putting it in those terms just reminds me of how blessed I am that I’ve been able to travel the world, see what I’ve seen, do what I’ve done. It’s really something to be able to go into a factory or part of a factory and see the hand work, the way they’ve done it for 100, 200, 300, 400 years, and seeing it done the same way, and then visit a different part of the factory or a different factory altogether, and see the automation and the robotics. Beretta in Italy uses the same robots that Ferrari uses. It’s something to see those efforts and those differences in the detail.
At the end of the day, it’s never a sacrifice of quality in the production side, it’s always an improvement on it. But there’s just certain things that when by hand, when it’s done, selection of wood, when they’re picking grades of wood and how somebody walks around, looking at lumber and starts grading wood, to even when we’re in Sako is a great for instance where they have so much robotics there, yet they have so much hands-on there. Two things that stand out. One is for the barrels, when the barrels are made. Before they’re attached to a gun, they’re inspected by eye ’cause they’ve yet to find a laser or a robot that can check the interior of a barrel the same way and with the same efficiency as a human eye, because the human eye, the way it could judge the light, what’s going on through that barrel, so there they check that barrel against light before that barrel moves on in the assembly.
Sako and Tikka Accuracy
And also shooting. When we talk about the Sako and Tikka accuracy, one of the great things that whenever I bring somebody on a tour there and they see it. ‘Cause fortunately in Europe, all guns are proof tested with CIP. Our factories are big enough where the government has a proof house in the factory. But for Sako and Tikka, every gun is shot by a human to test for accuracy. And it’s not in a fixture. And this is the amazing thing is, we’ve heard that every gun gets shot for accuracy and it must shoot basically a minute or less or it doesn’t move on and doesn’t get put out for sale.
Everybody’s like, “Well, why wouldn’t you do it on a fixture?” Sako’s feeling is: if you put it on a fixture, you’re testing the fixture, if a human puts it on a bag and puts it on his shoulder and pulls the trigger, now you’re testing the gun. There’s guys, and that’s all they do is all day is they shoot every gun. Now, it comes up on a computer screen, it’s logged by serial number, and checked before it can move forward. That’s why we’re always so confident in the Sako/Tikka performance. But that’s an example of both robotics and equipment and the handheld, and that expertise. But it’s something to see in all our factories, because all of them have that special place from one extreme to the other.
‘A Place That Builds Dreams’
[01:15:51] Nicolas Johnson: It’s also really interesting, you see everything from the most-ancient type of human engineering to the most modern.
[01:16:01] Spyros Chrysochou: Oh yeah, absolutely, yeah. It’s something, its something. And that becomes a real part of the culture to what makes the product great, and what makes us — the factory and us, as part of it — so proud of all our products. It’s important.
And even if you saw some modern pictures of even the Beretta factory, they have plants and green spaces all throughout the factory, trees inside the factory, displays and chairs. They have so many delegations go through that the detail there is always visible to all the employees, all the visitors.
It’s that feeling of, you’re not just in a factory, you’re in a place that builds dreams.
[01:16:57] Nicolas Johnson: I wish — hearing you say that — I just wish that the politicians, at least, and policymakers who are in charge of firearm policy, would realize that. They like to talk about guns, but behind those guns, on every aspect, are the people who make them, who use them, who transport them, whose careers depend on them, whose livelihoods, whose passion — you talked about passion. That behind all of that hardware are people.
[01:17:28] Spyros Chrysochou: A hundred percent. Yeah. Well said, well said.
[01:17:34] Nicolas Johnson: Spyros Chrysochou, thank you very much for being my guest, and walking me through the business and the market and the products of Stoeger Canada, part of the Beretta Holding Group. I really hope that I can invite you back.
[01:17:50] Spyros Chrysochou: Hey, I’d love to come back. Thanks for everything, and thanks for having me.
[01:17:55] Nicolas Johnson: And thank you very much to the viewers of TheGunBlog.ca. You can find more on the website. Thank you very much.
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