Barnes Bullets: New Owners, Same Focus

Oct 7, 2020

With the breakup of Remington Outdoor, several brands that had been captured under a single, albeit flawed, banner now find themselves, and their employees, under the auspices of new ownership. Safe to say, another period of uncertainty that can be downright trying for most.

Others will find the changes not only welcome, but relieving.

After all, going to a new company, even if you’re not certain what the future brings, is certainly simpler if you no longer have to worry about crushing debt, corporate intrigue, or the chance your new owner will just decide to close the doors, liquidate the equipment and take the tax write-off.

I’ve written about several of the groups that have acquired units of Remington, and how they have big plans to advance the brands: Vista Outdoor has no plan to change their newest ammunition manufacturing acquisition in Arkansas, Roundhill plans to move itself into Remington’s old Ilion, New York, facilities and get back into business ASAP, and Ruger is making plans to welcome Marlin into its existing facilities, where it will remain a separate brand. No homogenization planned.

Of all those acquisitions potentially headed for brighter futures, none seems more custom-fitted than the Clarus Corporation’s acquisition of Barnes Bullets.

Already the owner of Sierra Bullets, Clarus’ acquisition fits into the company’s “innovate and accelerate” growth strategy.

It makes even more sense when you realize both companies have avid, and in some cases, near-rabid consumer bases.

Owning a pair of successful companies with an extensive line of premium products (many of which are also staples in other successful companies’ ammunition) makes great sense. Growing market share generally comes down to one of two actions: innovating or acquiring new opportunities.

Clarus’ acquisition of Barnes, long known for their innovation in premium solid copper hunting bullets, brings market share and innovation in a single acquisition.

Both are long-established brands. Sierra began in Missouri in 1947. Barnes began in founder Fred Barnes’ basement workshop in Bayfield, Colorado in 1932. Since those beginnings, both have grown into established companies with premium offerings in everything from home defense to dangerous game hunting.

Both have followings Sierra Bullets President Keith Enlow describes as “Super Fans.” And for a longtime industry executive like Enlow, it’s an opportunity like few others.

“I’m so excited,” he told me, “and so blessed to be allowed to lead these two great brands.”

Although he’s relocating to Sedalia, Missouri, Sierra’s longtime home, Enlow is very enthused at the idea of splitting his time between Sedalia and the 75,000 square foot facility that’s been Barnes’ home in Mona, Utah, since 2008.

More than anything else, he says, there’s one thing that excites him in both places: the people.

“The teams are amazing,” he says -repeatedly during our conversation, “I’m excited because we’ll be helping honor the people of Barnes and what they’ve accomplished over the years by helping them continue to grow their brand.”

While he’s quick to acknowledge all the accomplishments made by both companies throughout their histories, he’s even more excited at what they have the potential to accomplish under Clarus’ ownership.

“There’s no looking back in the rear-view mirror,” he says, “we’re all looking at moving forward, and part of that forward momentum is the fact Barnes is staying here, in Mona. The people who have made Barnes successful are still here, and we’re excited that this is the best solution for the business- and the people.”

“When I spoke with the leadership team here, I asked each one of them what they thought was the single thing that had made them so successful,” he said, “they all told me the same thing: the people.”

“It’s the same at Sierra,” he confides, “the people in Sedalia are equally proud of their company, their products and what they’ve done to this point.”

“I’m a lucky guy,” he says, “I have a pair of ‘best of” companies to focus on and grow.”

If Enlow has one concern, it’s that the Barnes “Super Fans” think there are big changes coming for their brand.

There aren’t he assured me. “We want to let the industry and Barnes’ consumers know we are dedicated to ensuring the quality of Barnes products, and understand the importance of continuity.”

“Our plan,” he says, “is to invest in and grow the Barnes Brand as a category leader in premium bullets, right here in Utah.”

If you’re one of the many Western big game hunters, shooters, or handloaders who are part of Barnes’ Super Fan base, that’s the kind of news they’ve been hoping to hear.

— Jim Shepherd