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B EEMAN AND THE A DULT A IRGUN M ARKET IN A MERICA (T T D Y ?) HOSE HRILLING AYS OF ESTERYEAR "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear!" hile that may have been a great theme to introduce the Lone Ranger program on old time radio, yesteryear really wasn't very thrilling for the adult airgun market in America. Even if we only return to about 1970, we find a startling contrast with today. Even in England, there was no Airgun World or Airgunner magazine. Daystate had not even been founded and thus had not yet developed the first modern PCP airguns. In America also, there were no airgun periodicals, no airgun forums, and no airgun shows. Airgun Field Target shooting was unknown and the NRA didn't even have an Airgun Committee. Not only were there no national airgun standards, there wasn't even a Non-Powder Gun Products Association to develop them. One of the only serious collectors of airguns was the late Charter Harrison, who, as may be the fate of serious airgun collectors, ended up dying in a mental institution. AirSoft guns had not yet been invented and paintballing was restricted to a few forest rangers who may have splatted the backside of a fellow tree-marker. Even among the tiny handful of European airguns sold here, the top velocity was about 700 FPS. To be sure, Crosman, Benjamin, and a few others, had been producing some fairly potent airguns, and had been trying for decades to develop interest among adults, but the reality was that the overwhelming majority of those "fairly powerful" airguns were used by youths and virtually all Americans thought that "airguns were for kids"! Adult airgunning just was not any sort of significant market. Something happened during those three decades to give rise to a thriving adult airgun market in America. Steve Fjestad, head honcho at Blue Book Publications, was somehow convinced that Robert and Toshiko Beeman had a major hand in this development and asked me to record something about this matter. I feel rather diffident about writing about ourselves, and an outside viewer may have a clearer view, so I am just going to update and edit the well done, but now very rare, paper by the late Bill Bridgewater, then president of the National Alliance of Stocking Gun Dealers. This article, "Dr. Robert Beeman Selected to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award1 for Extraordinary Contributions to the Shooting Sports Industry" appeared January 1993: pp. 5-14 in the Alliance Voice. The Press Democrat newspaper in Santa Rosa, California announced on March 4, 1993 that "Robert Beeman, founder of Beeman Precision Airguns in Santa Rosa, was presented the 1992 Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Alliance of Stocking Gun Dealers. Beeman was hailed as the 'Father of the Adult Airgun Market of the United States.' Beeman, and his wife, Toshiko, founded this company in 1972 in their home in San Anselmo. After building it into a multi-million dollar operation that sells airguns in 50 countries, they moved the firm to Santa Rosa in 1986." Robert's interest in airguns started over one-half century ago when, as an eight-year-old, he received a Daisy Model 25 BB gun 1 21 By Dr. Robert D. Beeman W as a birthday gift. Many BB guns and pellet guns followed. He delighted not only in the shooting of these guns, but in taking them apart again and again to see how they worked and what he could do to modify them. Robert's first chance to actually design an airgun came years later while working on a Master of Science thesis on the migration of elk in the Selway/Bitterroot wilderness of Idaho. He selected a 200 square mile study area. One of the prime problems was to determine which elk moved from one point to another, and when, within their areas. He had different areas on his study map marked in different colors, and it occurred to him that if he could mark the elk with such colors, he could visually determine their movements. So, in the fall of 1954, he set about building some compressed airguns to mark elk with various colors of aniline dyes. Perhaps these were the first paint marker guns. Some of these guns were rigged along trails to fire as "trap guns." They were fixed and hidden in the bushes and tripped by the passage of a large animal along the trail. Perhaps not all of the marked animals were elk; there were rumors of some brightly colored hunters and forest rangers coming out of Beeman's study area! While teaching college in Southern California, Robert was selected by the National Science Foundation from a group of 100 U.S science teachers nominated as "most outstanding teachers" to receive full support for study towards doctorate degrees of science. He elected to go to Stanford University. He remembers this as a particularly fascinating part of his life because it ranged from a sailing ship scientific expedition in the South Pacific to radioactive cell marking to electron microscopy. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1966, he took a position as a professor at San Francisco State University where he helped organize, and became the first chairman of, that University's Department of Marine Biology. His scientific career included the publication of many technical articles and books, published all over the world. His specialty was the Aplysid mollusks. Less than a dozen other scientists, including Emperor Hirohito of Japan, were authorities on this group. Robert's Japanese in-laws were duly impressed to think that someone in their family actually corresponded with the Emperor (through the Grand Chamberlain, of course!). Beeman's interest in airguns was unabated. Responding to a small classified ad in a gun magazine, Robert obtained several fine European spring piston airguns from Bob Law, an airgun hobbyist in West Virginia who had started a small business called Air Rifle Headquarters. These guns renewed his interest in airguns. The Beemans soon discovered that virtually all of the true adult airguns of this century had been made in Europe. Therefore, in 1972, Dr. and Mrs. Beeman visited the four leading European airgun makers: Weihrauch, Feinwerkbau, and Dianawerk in West Germany, and Webley and Scott in England. The European airgun factory owners all lamented that they felt that there had never been a truly successful introduction of true adult airguns into the United States. They simply could not understand why. Some ship- Less than ten such Lifetime Achievement Awards have been made. Among other persons selected by members of the Alliance of Stocking Gun Dealers were: Roy Weatherby, John Browning, Horace Smith & Daniel Wesson, Bill Ruger, etc. 22 Beeman and the Adult Airgun Market in America, cont. ments had been brought in by a few U.S. gun companies, and more recently, very limited numbers had been imported by Air Rifle Headquarters. However, none of these attempts had been followed by a substantial flow of orders. Although "adult airguns" had been known in the United States even before the advent of the large bore airgun carried by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1802-06, and although there was a small surge of "gallery" airguns after the Civil War, there really wasn't a significant adult airgun market in the United States prior to 1972. Little did the Beemans realize that rather soon their firm would be importing adult airguns into the U.S. at over one hundred times the peak volume of Air Rifle Headquarters and would end up selling over 100 million dollars worth of adult airgun products. In 1974, the Beemans had determined that over 99% of American shooters had never even heard of such guns. Almost all gun dealers told them that the only airguns that they knew of were domestic BB and pellet guns and that there "wasn't any demand for anything else." The basic problem seemed to be that the only significant attempts to introduce these guns had been through major American gun companies who introduced them at the distributor/jobber level. It was clear to the Beemans that the problem had several facets and was going to need several new approaches. It wasn't just that the U.S. market was almost completely unaware of these guns and their makers. If that had been all there was to the problem, the Beemans' job would have been far simpler. What overshadowed that lack of knowledge was that most U.S. shooters and dealers already had a very clear image of airguns, and that image was of domestic BB and pellet guns. Use of such guns then was almost completely restricted to youth. Shooters couldn't conceive of paying as much, even more, for an airgun as for a firearm. Dealers didn't want to stock them because "nobody would buy a 'BB gun' that costs that much, and besides, I don't want kids hanging around my shop." So, the sale of airguns largely was restricted to youth-oriented domestic airguns sold by chain stores and discount houses. All of the right ingredients came together for the development of the American adult airgun market about 1975. Products had reached a good level of development in Europe, the U.S. market evidently was ready, and Robert and Toshiko Beeman seem to have been just the right people, with the right background and the right approach, to finally make "adult airgunning" emerge in the United States as a significant, commercial success. What the market was ready for was Beeman's information-intense approach about excellent and intriguing products, direct to consumers, rather than through the conventional chain of distribution. The Cover of Lifetime Award Issue, Jan. 1993 Beemans' background of academic communication on one hand and marketing experience on the other seems to have been the ideal catalyst. Robert Beeman "wrote the book" on the subject for that period and circumvented their original lack of promotion funds by a blitz of ready-to-publish material for gun magazine editors and others involved in public information—even those as "far out" as the Whole Earth Manual, Mother Earth News, Soldier of Fortune, and Survival magazine. It was natural for Dr. Beeman to draw on his decades of experience as a technical writer and science professor to start what amounted to an educational writing campaign. Editors always need articles and illustrations, so he started writing articles about adult airguns, providing ready-made color photographs for gun magazine covers, preparing the first Airgun Digest book, stimulating gun writers to write about adult airguns, and producing Beeman's own national airgun newsletters and a catalog. And that certainly wasn't "just a catalog"! The Beeman "catalog" intentionally was big and technical; really an educational introduction and guide. At that time, a simple catalog of these special airguns would Beeman and the Adult Airgun Market in America, cont. 23 Beeman Airgun Scopes - the Beeman company shunned the idea of cheap telescopic sights for airguns and specified the design of the first top-quality scopes for adult airguns. Upper: Beeman 66R scope—first scope designed for hunting and field use with high power field airguns, 27X, objective lens focused, parallax-free, from 7 yards to infinity. Lower: Beeman SS-1. Beeman designed "Short Scope" for use on compact adult sporting air rifles. (This specimen is an extremely rare "camo" version.) not have meant much. Most of the readers literally would not have understood the products. Very early, the Beemans decided on a strategy of applying a single, "American" name, Beeman, to several products whose names were not only unfamiliar, but hard for Americans to pronounce. This gave coherent identity to the products. Beeman created a snowballing support by means of a deliberate program to develop the Beeman name as synonymous with quality and uniqueness in adult airguns. The simultaneous development of high quality, new Beeman products was always linked with a program to make these matters news and of interest throughout the industry and gun-oriented organizations. Between 1975 and 1993, Beeman products appeared on more gun magazine covers than products of any other airgun company; even more than those of most firearm companies. This continuing drive led to a continuing growth of sales. The strategy of developing deep market penetration of the Beeman brand as synonymous with quality was extremely successful. An extensive dealer survey revealed that 95% of dealers felt that Beeman's adult airguns were the best in the market; 99% said that the Beeman Precision Airgun Catalog/Guide was excellent, the best of its kind. Ninety percent expressed satisfaction with doing business with the company. Quite a development for an "escaped professor" who claims that he "didn't know anything about business"! Although Beeman started as retail mail order, they quickly realized that the only way to volume and real growth was through wholesale sales. To that end and to break the "Catch 22" logjam of dealers not buying such products because they were convinced that there was no demand for them, they started a program to turn their thousands of mail order customers into salesmen to the dealers! That is, even though Beeman then had virtually no dealers, the Beeman newsletter started to direct consumers to ask for special sale prices on Beeman guns "at their local Beeman dealer." They also set up a nationwide network of about 40 sales representatives to call on dealers in all 50 states. Most of the dealers probably didn't pay much attention to it when they got their first inquiry. However, when several real live customers, virtually with money in hand, had asked for Beeman products, their interest was up! About the same time, the Beemans saw to it that the mail brought each dealer a Beeman Dealer Newsletter and their big catalog/guide. The arrival of the Beeman Sales Rep, with Beeman guns in hand, sale priced and sold on a guaranteed sale basis (they only ever received three guns back as unsold!) coincided with this. They followed this with large displays of Beeman products at the national trade shows. At that time, Beeman was the only one displaying such products, thus they were very newsworthy for the media and drew the curiosity of many dealers, particularly those who had already been hit with that one-two-three punch. After two or three years of dealer development, Beeman used almost the same approach to develop the jobbers. That is, they announced specials to the dealers which were "available through your local jobber." Jobbers who had never heard of these products suddenly started to receive calls from dealers who wished to purchase Beeman products. Then the newly-created Beeman Jobber Newsletter started arriving, followed by the Beeman Sales Representative in person, backed up by a newly-expanded Beeman telemarketing program direct from Beeman's headquarters in California. Of course, well before this had gone very far, Robert had to retire from his position at the university and ask Mrs. Beeman to leave her position as a buyer in a major department store to come and work with him and the small Beeman staff. At first, she was not convinced there was enough for her to do. When Beeman's staff hit 50 persons and the sales were several million dollars per year, this complaint was not heard again! As Beeman grew, the U.S. firms that had not been able to get imported airguns into the mainstream of the American gun market withdrew or dropped away. Beeman bought out the final airgun inventories of Winchester, Harrington and Richardson, HyScore, and Air Rifle Headquarters.2 Over 95% of the airguns above the toy level from Germany and England were being imported by Beeman. Webley & Scott, Weihrauch, Westinger and Altenburger (FWB), Norica, and the makers of H&N and Silver Jet/Jet pellets all assigned exclusive American distribution contracts to the Beeman company. Westinger and Altenburger even assigned Beeman the American ownership of the Feinwerkbau trademark and name. The Beemans knew that if they were successful in creating a large scale interest in adult airguns among American shooters and gun dealers that eventually they would create competition. 2 Air Rifle Headquarters was forced to close by severe health problems of Bob Law. Beeman's helped him stay afloat for a couple more years by supplying him airguns at their landed costs, even though his orders had become far too small to directly qualify for such quantity import prices. Their final help was to buy some of his equipment and literature, but, of course, since they were supplying his last guns only as he needed them, they never did buy any guns from him at closeout prices. 24 Beeman and the Adult Airgun Market in America, cont. The Weihrauchs and Beeman worked closely to produce the Beeman R1. The late Hans Weihrauch and Christel Weihrauch, co-owners of the Weihrauch company, rushed half-way across Germany to confer with Robert Beeman at a Bavarian Autobahn rest stop to settle final details of the then radically new R1 stock. Such was the partnership of the two companies for decades. Beeman R1 Magnum Air Rifle - 20th Anniversary Commemorative Model Beeman's strategy was to take the position of leadership in the production of regular production adult airguns, to obtain deep and high quality penetration of the market with the Beeman name, and to continue to grow as the market grew. By the time they retired in 1993, although they then had attracted several competitors, Beeman's imports of adult English and German airguns was still greater than any other U.S. company. The Beeman name had became synonymous with quality, even a generic term to many, meaning "high quality, adult airgun." Certainly not as generic as Kleenex or Scotch Tape, but a real factor! "Just like a Beeman" was rarely true, but it was one of the key lines of salesmen selling competing products and an unintended acknowledgment of Beeman's position. While the size of Beeman's early orders only justified the production of regular models with special specifications, Robert was soon developing specifications and design ideas for new adult airguns that would be uniquely suited to the demanding American market. He was surprised to find that apparently all of the spring piston airguns previously on the market had been developed empirically. That is, the guns were designed and built with very limited theoretical considerations and then tested to determine their performance. Early in 1979, Beeman jumped forward by utilizing the field's first computer simulations. These simulations, varying one factor of the gun after another, and then in various permutations of each other, quickly did what it might have taken scores of experimental prototypes to accomplish. In effect, the Beemans could see, via these simulations, what various design permutations should cause in the way of performance. The result was the first imported airgun actually designed for the American adult market, performing at what was then an entirely new power level (up to 1000 FPS). Development of this gun included the production of the first American-styled adult air rifle stock. This was interactively designed by Robert Beeman and Gary Goudy, one of America's top custom stock makers. An automatic safety, to protect the gun from "bear trap" damage also was incorporated. The sum result was the Beeman R1 "magnum" adult air rifle. Introduced in 1981, it broke all previous American sales records for adult airguns. (A plainer version, generally of lower power, spun off in Europe as the HW80, was not as successful because of European power restrictions.) Even in 2005, a quarter century after its birth, adult airgun experts are still writing3 that the Beeman R1 is the standard by which all other spring-piston air rifles are judged. Incredibly accurate, tough, handsome, uncomplicated, easy to shoot, and self-contained—needing only pellets—the Beeman R1, in calibers from .177 to .25, became all the air rifle that most hunters would ever need. Tom Gaylord, one of America's leading airgun writers [see articles in this book], enthused that "the Beeman R1 is the rifle that brought America fully into the world of adult airguns."4 Previously, airguns traditionally had been produced in .177 and .22 calibers. One of Beeman's main accomplishments was to produce the first full line of precision .20 and .25 caliber airguns and pellets and actually create the first commercial success of these calibers in adult airguns. The .20 caliber served as a perfect compromise between the .177 and .22 calibers and soon became Beeman's biggest seller for sporting use. The .25 caliber proved to be the only bore that could efficiently handle the air flow of their most powerful air rifles. The most thoroughly Beeman gun of all is the Beeman P1 magnum air pistol. Beeman produced the first design drawings of this gun in 1981, and produced their own detailed model of the P1 in their plant in 1983. The first production appeared in early 1985. Beeman had designed the P1 to fit a market gap for a high power, spring piston sporting air pistol. It was an immediate success, and went on to set adult air pistol standards and records. One of the first prototypes of the P1 was a single stroke pneumatic. This version was later developed as the Beeman P2 Match Pistol. Fine pellets were always one of the mainstays of the Beeman business. The Beeman Silver Jet, a unique pointed pellet with multiple sealing rings, which they introduced in 1973, and sold in especially handsome silver-foil, Beeman-designed boxes, color-coded for caliber, was the leading precision field pellet for many years. At first, Beeman labeled established designs of pellets, specifying only certain quality control and specification levels. (Makers privately admitted that they resold pellet lots, which Beeman 3 Elliott, Jock. 2005. A Perennial Favorite- The Beeman R1. The Accurate Rifle, Jan.pp.53-57. 4 Gaylord, Tom. 1995. The Beeman R1. GAPP Inc. 174 pp. Beeman and the Adult Airgun Market in America, cont. 25 Beeman P1 Prototypes I and II: When Beeman Precision Airguns was designing the Beeman P1 air pistols, the Weihrauch Factory in Mellrichstadt, Germany sent prototype I (upper item). This functioning prototype followed the Beeman specifications but not the styling. So the Beemans made this exact scale plaster model (Prototype II, lower item). Look carefully; it is an extremely fragile item, hand-carved from a block of Plaster of Paris and finished with black shoe polish. Only the grips and rear sight are real! The production Beeman P1 and later, the HW 45 (its overseas copy), followed this model exactly. Courtesy of Beeman Collection. wouldn't accept, to other markets.) Again, it shortly became apparent that Beeman's sales volume and the special needs of this growing market justified the production of special Beeman pellet designs. Their first airgun pellet design, the world's first hollow point pellet, was the Beeman Silver Bear. While still selling well, the Silver Bear hollow point was increasingly upstaged by another Beeman development, a heavy, "big mouth" hollow point pellet amusingly trademarked the "Crow Magnum"! Beeman also developed several scopes especially suited for adult airguns. Originally, gun makers thought of airgun scopes as cheap, small tube devices. Beeman moved way up to top grade one-inch tube scopes with reticles resistant to the two-way snap of springpiston airguns, quick adjustment elevation and windage knobs, and introduced the concept of using objective focus rings, with settings as close as five meters (sixteen feet), on lower power scopes specifically built for their American airgun customers. These generally are credited with being the first true adult airgun scopes. A rather surprising product story resulted from Beeman's development of their famous Short Scopes: the Beeman SS-1, SS-2 and SS-3. The short, incredibly precise optical column of these scopes had been computer-designed at great cost for another, unrelated optical purpose. Beeman had this optical arrangement built into a super tough scope form by one of Japan's leading optical companies. These scopes combined the concept of using lenses of camera quality, rather than binocular quality, in a short, rugged optical column. It was originally planned that these would be ideal for adult airguns, compact and proof against the unusual, sharp two-way snap of the spring piston mechanism. Although the Beeman SS scopes were very well received for that purpose, they were also very successful on semiautomatic and full automatic assault rifles and sub-machine guns. When such guns were equipped with Beeman SS scopes, they could go from high firepower to almost sniper level accuracy just by switching the gun to semi-automatic. When the Beemans first produced these scopes, they didn't dream that they would be so popular with SWAT and anti-terrorist teams and military and police groups around the world! Robert's extreme attention to detail extended to an unusually wide range of accessories which helped build the company's special market position. Most of these were his own design, or at least considerable improvement. Old time Beeman customers remember the special Beeman lubricants and gun care items, Pell-Seat, Pell-Size, Adjustable Muzzle Brake cocking aid, special cases and holsters, adjustable base aperture sights, scope stops, pellet pouches, "Professional" carved leather slings, targets, special cleaning rods, custom stocks and grips, and a wide range of promotional items, even including a musical teddy bear version of the company bear cub mascot, "Boswell." The Beemans promoted their products not only by trade shows, shooting event displays, and hundreds of display ads in virtually all of America's sporting publications, but also in their own publications: mail and dealer counter versions of the Beeman Shooter News, Beeman Dealer News, Beeman Jobber News, Dollar Notes to Beeman Reps, scores of Beeman Technical Bulletins, owner and shop manuals, the world-famous Beeman Used Gun Lists, and the star item, the Beeman Precision Airgun Guide. These were produced by their own in-house ad agency, DavKan Associates. (A name derived from Robert's and Tosh's middle names: David and Kanzaki.) DavKan's fully professional staff, and their illustration and typesetting equipment, would have been the envy of many outside advertising agencies. Airguns Can Be FINE guns! One of Beeman's basic marketing strategies was to parallel Beeman airguns with the tradition of superb airguns of past ages and to re-establish the concept of high end airguns. In the foreground is a Beeman R1 air rifle stocked with a Beeman/Goudy custom stock—the first airgun in the four-figure price range since the 19th century—when the fine .40 caliber Austrian double-barreled air/percussion rifle in the background was made for royalty—with fine leather covered stock, deep engraving, gold inlays, etc. This strategy, and the much sought after Beeman Used Gun Lists, also gave airgun collecting its biggest boost ever. 26 Beeman and the Adult Airgun Market in America, cont. market until it had grown many fold and were content with a majority of the much greater total market—when they sold the company! The route of raising prices was completely unexpected by the DN folks, and one of their top men later quipped that it was "unfair"! Robert's role in the establishment of airgun standards is a key part of the Beeman legacy. Early in the 1970s, the main American airgun makers formed the Non-Powder Gun Products Committee to work with ASTM and the Consumer Products Safety Commission to develop safety standards for airguns in America. This was an excellent move to pre-empt legislators and governmental clerks from establishing inappropriate standards. While the standards were to be voluntary, they would have the force of law because they would become industry and government approved guidelines for all airgun legislation and liability lawsuits. Robert was one The Weihrauchs and Beemans meet in the Weihrauch home. Left to right: Hans Hermann of the first members and stayed almost two Weihrauch (director-to-be of Weihrauch), Christel Weihrauch (wife of Hans Sr. and co-director of decades to become their vice president and Weihrauch), Robert Beeman (President of Beemans), Toshiko Beeman (VP and General longest term member. While he thoroughly Manager of Beemans), and the late Hans Weihrauch Sr. (then co-director of Weihrauch). approved of the group's basic objectives, he saw Robert Beeman has written and produced over 200 airgun pub- the potential for major problems if standards aimed at Americanlications, manuals, etc. It may well be that the depth of this cov- made, youth-oriented airguns conflicted with the needs and guns erage is unmatched throughout the world's gun market. The of adult airgunners. In addition to decades of helping the commitimpact of the Beeman newsletters and other publications, reach- tee, Robert created a lasting benefit to the adult airgun market by ing hundreds of thousands of the world's airgunners, was aston- creating special categories and exemptions for adult airguns, match ishingly impressive. Some market experts credit this writing out- and training airguns, custom made airguns, tranquilizer and scienput as being the key factor in developing the American adult air- tific purpose airguns, paintball guns, etc. He literally left his marks gun market from almost zero to its present position. by adding the word "death" to required warnings and by establishSometimes progress came in a sudden unexpected jolt. At one ing international marks, to be stamped on the gun instead of of the big IWA gun trade shows in Nürnberg, Germany in the English words, to indicate whether it was designed for pellets, early 1980s, the Dynamit Nobel/Diana/RWS folks invited the darts, lead shot, and/or steel shot. Beemans into their booth's backroom, thanked them for developing the "impossible USA market" and announced that they would Biographical Sketch of Robert and Toshiko Beeman now "shoot Beeman out of the water" with prices which Beeman Robert and his wife, Toshiko, form a very close partnership, could not afford to meet. The Beemans were pretty worried when both from a personal and business standpoint. Many people are they returned home and wondered what to do. Robert felt that there was only one answer—and it was based on the fact that the guns which he had designed and Weihrauch was producing to their very tight design and spec controls really were better than the other airguns. So, instead of an answering volley in a futile price cutting war, they announced a significant increase in prices and launched a new quality awareness program—based on a "Tap the Cap" theme—referring to tapping the solid, beautifully-machined, steel rear receiver block of the Beeman rifles (see a Beeman R1) vs. the thin sheet metal receiver cap on the competitors' sporters. The Beeman sales soared and they kept the majority of the Toshiko Beeman is honored by the Webley Company. The late Keith Faulkner, President of Webley and Scott, presents Mrs. Beeman, in Robert's office, with the last of a Webley & Scott .410 shotgun, made and decorated just for her. We later hired Keith away to become Vice President and Chief Engineer of Beeman Precision Airguns. Beeman and the Adult Airgun Market in America, cont. It Wasn't All Work! Webley and Scott, England's leading airgun maker, hosted Toshiko and Robert on a salmon fishing trip on the corporation's section of the River Tay up in Scotland. Here Robert, with his two Scottish gillies, delightfully shows three of the big salmon that he has taken on flies. 27 amazed to find a husband and wife who worked in close harmony in the same hard-driving business. Robert served as the President with the role of directing the business, writing copy for the Beeman catalog and a constant flow of technical bulletins and articles, plus directing marketing and financing, while Tosh served as Senior Vice President and General Manager, running the operation on a day-to-day basis. While Robert also directed research and development, Mrs. Beeman also was a key member of the Beeman overseas factory design teams which have been responsible for the development of so many advanced airgun products. Together they served as a very strong product development and negotiation team in their travels throughout the world. Robert's background in German, French, Spanish and Italian was helpful, and Tosh's fluency in Japanese was invaluable. Both are avid shooters and gun collectors, and their hands-on experience with both airguns and firearms in the shop and field has been crucial to the development of airguns and other gun products. Robert and Tosh have enjoyed many hours together in other activities such as backpacking, fishing, photography, world travel, etc. One of their special shared joys is the Beeman vintage and antique airgun collection, the largest such collection in the world, covering thousands of airguns from all over the world from the early 1700s to the present time. Robert and Tosh's interests and ability to work together also extended to some other large projects. Together, with their own hands, they built their own home in the beautiful wooded hills of Marin County, California, and then did much of the construction work when they moved the Beeman Precision Airgun business from their home to a commercial area near the shores of San Francisco Bay. After expanding into five adjacent warehouses there, they realized they should have their own facility. Robert's building experience and study qualified him to pass the examination for a California General Builders Contracting License. So, in addition to running the rather large Beeman gun business, he was the general contractor for the construction of their new home on a ranch in the California wine country and the 25,000 square foot Beeman Building in Santa Rosa, California. Well before the move to Santa Rosa, the Beemans hired Keith Faulkner, then President of the world famous, venerable gun firm of Webley & Scott in England, a mechanical engineer and expert in spring piston airguns, to be a Vice President of the Beeman Company. The combination of Dr. Beeman, with his scientific, airgun, and marketing background, and Keith Faulkner's engineering was very productive. However, Mr. Faulkner was to enjoy the beautiful view from his new office in Santa Rosa only for a short time. He passed away, in his 40s, due to an incredibly rare bone marrow disease in December of 1986. This stimulated Robert to begin serious plans for retirement. Dr. and Mrs. Beeman developed very close relationships with the top staff and family owners of key European airgun and pellet factories and Japanese optic and pellet factories. Although these relationships grew from the amazement of these companies as to the growth and volume of Beeman sales, they became not only lasting friendships but smoothly working teams to mutually develop new products. The Future of Adult Airgunning in the USA Robert Beeman firmly believes that not only are adult airguns one of the few growing and healthy profit centers in the shooting market, but that airguns may well be the salvation of the shooting sports! Most potential and inactive shooters are now urban or suburban. Their opportunities for shooting firearms have been greatly curtailed due to urbanization, legislation, social changes, and fewer places to shoot lethal Meeting in the Black Forest: "Feinwerkbau" is really Westinger and Altenburger, a very sophisticated arms maker in the Black Forest at the headwaters of the Neckar River in Germany. Here, in a historical meeting at the factory, are (left to right) the late Ernst Altenburger (co-founder of FWB), his wife Frau Altenburger, their son Jörg Altenburger (director/chief engineer of FWB), and Robert Beeman. 28 Beeman and the Adult Airgun Market in America, cont. This future has already happened in Europe where most recreational shooting by adults is now done with airguns like Beeman's models. Thousands of dealers who would not have considered airguns, especially adult airguns, as part of their product mix just a few years ago now consider adult airguns an essential part of their inventory. Some of Beeman's best dealers report that they have made a major section of "adult airguns" in their stores, even going so far as to make these guns a feature area at the expense of their sluggishly selling long firearms or hunting clothing. Robert Beeman feels that adult airguns are now in a "win-win" position. If the shooting sports increase, adult airgunning will increase as a now accepted part of those sports. If firearms are subject to greater restrictions of purchase and use, people will turn (as they did in Europe) Robert and Toshiko Beeman relax on a favorite rock outcropping on their California ranch. to airgunning for the pleasures of shooting. He is emphatic that the long-term weapons. However, these very factors work to the advantage of air- trend for the adult airgun market can only lead up for the very gunners; airguns may be shot in suburban, and even indoor, loca- long foreseeable future, and that most gun dealers who survive the tions without heroic measures to contain bullets and with no air next decade will indeed develop adult airgun centers. Robert and pollution problem. And, airguns continue to be far freer from Toshiko should be proud of their key role in the development of oppressive legislation. One of the few ways remaining for persons what is now a key part of the U.S. shooting market. to become introduced, or re-introduced, to the pleasure of shootPost-script: The Beemans sold Beeman Precision Airguns to S/R ing is via airguns. It has been shown again and again that such Industries of Maryland on April 1, 1993. S/R moved the business, new, or renewed, interest in shooting leads to purchases, not only including many of the former employees, to Huntington Beach, of airguns but to purchases and greater recreational use of California to be close to Marksman Products, another of their comfirearms. Without an influx of new shooters into the market, own- panies. Robert and Toshiko retired to their cattle ranch in California ership of sporting guns will dwindle and the Second Amendment and have become so immersed in world travel, art, airgun research, eventually will become of academic interest only! over a thousand hours a year on the Blue Book of Airguns, and mainMore and more gun and sporting goods dealers are seeing the taining the world's largest airgun website (www.Beemans.net) that "handwriting on the wall" concerning the future of firearm sales. they wonder how they ever had time for running a business. As the Beemans entered their well-earned retirement, promoting the concept of adult airguns no longer seemed to be a matter of pushing that mythical big rock up the hill! ! Additional information on the Beeman story and a wealth of airgun information may be found at www.beemans.net. (The Beemans, and this website, no longer have any connection with the new Beeman Precision Airgun Company.) Hans Hermann Weihrauch and Robert Beeman hiking on the Beeman Ranch. Hans Hermann came to live in the Beeman's home and work in the Beeman Company to learn more about the American market—and to prepare for becoming the director of the Weihrauch Company in Germany. To this day, the Weihrauchs and Beemans consider each other almost as family.
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