NEMO Arms Acquires SI Defense

By Beacon Staff

NEMO Arms, a relatively new Kalispell-based company that develops weapons technologies, is acquiring firearms manufacturer SI Defense and forming a joint venture partnership with Sonju Industrial.

The acquisition, which officially took place Dec. 15, creates a unified business that aims at putting Montana on the map for firearms manufacturing by innovating assault rifles for military and commercial use. The company’s first collaboration, two new assault rifle platforms, is scheduled to be released next year.

NEMO will be headquartered in a new facility south of Kalispell on U.S. Highway 93 that will officially open in January. An additional 23,000-square-foot facility for Sonju Industrial’s manufacturing operations and a firing range is planned, according to company officials.

“We have had the privilege to evolve and develop our capabilities to the point where we have manufactured parts on some of the most sophisticated weapon systems the world has ever seen,” Dick Sonju, the president and founder of Sonju Industrial and SI Defense, said.

Founded in 1978, Sonju Industrial is an aerospace manufacturer based in Kalispell. Following successful engineering growth in the defense and aerospace sectors, the company branched out to firearms in 2008 with SI Defense.

“For us this was a good partnership to grow,” Josh Sonju, who will be joining NEMO, said.

NEMO was co-founded earlier this year by U.S. Army Major General (Ret.) Paul Vallely, Clint Walker and Kirk Leopold. The company previously worked with manufacturers to develop and build weapons technologies.

Now NEMO can design and build everything in-house, a luxury very few companies have, Walker said.

“We’re very excited to pull this together,” he said. “That’s the biggest splash with NEMO. Now we’re coming out of the dark, so to speak, and launching a consumer brand based on the latest innovation and design and manufacturing capabilities.”

The two businesses appear to be a good match. NEMO touts an extensive military pedigree, particularly with Major General Vallely who retired in 1991 after 15 years of military experience in special operations and civil-military operations.

SI Defense has focused on making better assault rifle platforms by utilizing the same engineering capabilities that launched Sonju Industrial to success.

“This will be the best of both worlds,” Walker said of the NEMO and SI Defense merger.

Assault rifles, also called modern sporting rifles, are the fastest growing segment of firearms, Walker said. However, most models are more than 50 years old, like the classic M-16 that was designed in 1957.

The opportunity certainly exists for innovation, both for the military and sporting public, Walker said.

The company plans to release two patented weapon designs in the coming months that “will truly be, in the firearm business, a very big deal,” Walker said.

One platform features an AR-10 and AR-15 assault rifle with magnum cartridges, which has never been done before, he said.

Walker could not go into detail about the other platform but said it will quickly catch the industry’s attention.

NEMO will continue to develop weapons for military use as the demand for high caliber, precision firearms remains constant. The company also has its sights on the commercial market.

“It’s a very big untapped market for us,” Josh Sonju said.

“Technology is moving so fast. Everything is so innovative. You really have to look ahead,” he added. “Personally I think we could make a pretty good dent on the market.”

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