At the World's Biggest Firearms Expo, Only One Company Is Hoisting the Philippine Flag
Las Vegas, Nevada—It’s easy to get lost if you happen to find yourself at the Venetian Hotel and Casino’s Expo this week, and that’s no exaggeration. The 45th annual Shooting Hunting, and Outdoors Trade Show, or simply SHOT Show is happening here, with firearms and ammunition manufacturers, traders, suppliers, journalists from all over the United States and across the world attending.
Although it isn’t open to the public—it’s an industry-only event—Shot Show does draw a massive audience enough to fill the cavernous convention center over four days. A total of 2,400 exhibitors are participating at this year’s expo, including a Filipino-owned company, Armscor Global Defense Inc.
Armscor's booth at SHOT SHow 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Armscor, of course, is the Philippines’ oldest and largest arms and ammunition manufacturer. Founded in the early 1900s, the company has been participating at SHOT Show since 1983, almost singlehandedly representing the country in the global firearms and defense industries.
“We’re carrying the Philippine flag, proudly, and bringing the best of the Philippines to the rest of the world,” says Martin Tuason, president and CEO of Armscor. “We have to, because it’s important to let everyone know that the Philippines is on the map.”
Armscor President and CEO Martin Tuason
Tuason, who is based in Las Vegas, says Armscor used to occupy a small, 400-to 600 square foot booth at Shot Show in its early days. Today, the company is going to toe-to-toe with the world’s best, with a massive 3,600-square-foot space in the Venetian’s main convention hall. He says Armscor’s booth this year opened up because of a last-minute pull-out from a major arms company.
Sharing space with Armscor in the same hall are revered names in the arms business such as Colt, Smith & Wesson, Beretta, and Benelli.
“The whole point is to let everyone know that Armscor is here,” Tuason says. “Whether it’s year 1 or 21 or 71, we want everyone to know…that we are no longer a little backyard operation. We are a player. We are to be respected.”
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, Senate President Miguel Zubiri, Armscor President Martin Tuason, actor Joe Mantegna, and Armscor SVP Lisa Tuason
Like many other manufacturers, Armscor uses Shot Show as an opportunity to debut new products and innovations in the increasingly competitive firearms business. This year, the company’s big announcement is its Rock Island Armory Brand 5.0. Made in the company’s barely year-old manufacturing facility in Cedar City, Utah, the 5.0 is a semi-automatic that uses nine-millimeter ammunition and carries a 17-round standard capacity magazine. It is designed for competition but could also be used as a defensive weapon.
The 5.0 garnered reviews that swung from respectable to rave during the industry and media day held the day before Shot Show at the Boulder Rifle and Pistol Club in Boulder City, Nevada, about 45 minutes from Las Vegas.
A selection of Armscor's shotguns
At day one of Shot Show, Tuason formally unveiled the 5.0 to a small crowd at the Armscor booth. He was joined onstage by VIPs that included Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Nevada Attorney General Sean Reyes, who is of Filipino descent; and Hollywood actor Joe Mantegna.
Zubiri, who said he is a firearms enthusiast, said the 5.0 is one of the finest guns he has fired ever.
Later the men were joined by three women who are instrumental members of the Armscor team: deputy CEO and SEVP Gina Marie Angangco; and cousins Elizabeth “Lisa” Tuason, SVP for marketing and public relations, and Cristina Tuason-Gonzalez, SVP and chief corporate relations officer.
Besides the one in Utah, Armscor also has an ammunitions facility in Stevensville, Montana called Armscor Catridges Inc., which is a partnership with local entrepreneur Darren Newsom. (Esquire Philippines was part of a group of local journalists invited to visit these facilities. Our report on these visits will be released in the next few days). It also has a smaller manufacturing and distribution facility in Pahrump, Nevada.
Plant manager and VP of Production Lynn Gomez shows off Armcor's Rock Island Armory 5.0
According to Tuason, total arms sales in the U.S. was 1.2 million units in 2022, which is down from 2.9 million in 2021. He said 2023 looks set to be another dismal year for sales, although the company still has hopes for an eventual uptick.
Meanwhile, the officials involved with the family’s core business say they have meetings lined up all week for the duration of Shot Show this year. Early reports say this year’s Expo is reaching near pre-pandemic levels, with attendees returning in droves to the annual gathering. It’s a good sign the industry in general, and Armscor in particular, which, as always, is hoisting the Philippine flag up at this year’s event, just as it has for nearly four decades.
Power women: Elizabeth “Lisa” Tuason, SVP for marketing and public relations; Cristina Tuason-Gonzalez, SVP and chief corporate relations officer; deputy CEO and SEVP Gina Marie Angangco
For more information on Armscor, visit their website.