A Czech arms company has bought America’s classic Colt. It is not a joke; it is a sign of times at several levels.
First, American brands still have the magic.
Second, foreigners feel safe enough to invest in American products.
Third, at least at this level, capitalism works.
And fourth, Czechia has come into its own: from a Communist basket case in the greater Soviet co-misery sphere to a free market powerhouse, or at least seriously on the way to claim that status.
Why the Czechs? Why not?
The Czechs have snatched U.S. Colt, and its Canadian subsidiary, for a cool $220 million.
The company that has acquired Colt is a formidable brand in its own right: Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod (CZ), or the Czech Armory at Uherský Brod.
It is a weapons engineering firm. It owns factories in Czechia, Germany, and the United States, as well as an optical outfit in Sweden.
And the CZ obviously has the cash to guarantee the continuation of Colt which was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2015, and only recently came out of financial dire straits.
Officially founded in 1936, the Czech Armory pedigree is of rather fresh. It amalgamated several other similar enterprises, which benefitted from the fact that Bohemia and Moravia were the most industrialized parts of the Habsburg Empire.
After 1918, some of the old outfits rebranded themselves with Czech names; others emerged as new private or state-owned entities.
They produced everything from side arms through hunting rifles all the way to advanced military grade weapons. For example, CZ light machine gun was arguably the best in its class in the 1930s and 1940s. And the Czech Armory was not a fluke. It was the industrial norm that Prague was rightly proud of. As a result, Czechoslovakia arguably fielded Europe’s most technologically advanced armed forces. Its military was armed to the teeth.
Too bad the Czechoslovak government capitulated before Hitler without firing a shot in 1938. The Third Reich thus inherited a vast Czech armory and cutting-edge weapons technologies. And the Wehrmacht turned it against Poland and, later, the West.
Because of the distances involved and the lobbying of the Czech government in exile, Bohemian and Moravian industries, including the Czech Armory, were largely spared the depredations of our strategic bombings during the Second World War.
The CZ continued to churn out weapons after the Communist take over of the country in 1948. Once again, they were at a high level. Following the systemic transformations and the implosion of the Soviet Union, the Czech Armory emerged from behind the Iron Curtain and began offering its wares in the West and elsewhere.
I attended a gun show once in Virginia and to my surprise I discovered that the replicas of an AK-47 offered by one of the dealers were actually Czech knock offs. I was not astonished that they were made in one of the (former) Warsaw Pact countries; it was only to be expected. Rather, I was impressed that Czech weapons manufacturers sought out American dealers and got them interested in their wares. Before Covid-19, gun shows were the best places for gun manufacturers to show off their offerings and start a buzz.
Incidentally, the Czechs were not the only ones from the Intermarium, the lands between the Black, Baltic, and Adriatic Seas to attempt to woo the American client. For example, in 2014 Łucznik (Archer) Radom weapons maker from Poland announced its intension to launch a factory in Texas.
I should say therefore say that not only the Czech Republic but the Intermarium, lands between the Black, Baltic, and Adriatic Seas, are up and running in a competition for the American market and, ultimately, companies. They provide jobs to Americans and help our economy. It is not just guns and relatively small-scale manufacturing. For example, Polska Miedź (Polish Copper) maintains extensive operations in Nevada (as well as, among others, Canada, Chile, Poland, and other places). It is a major employer. Indeed, it is world’s largest copper company.
Hardly anyone here in the US has heard about any of that because the Intermarium companies who show up here consistently tend to punch below their weight. That’s an inferiority complex they must get rid of if they want to compete in the American market. Meanwhile, we’d better get used to the fact that the Czechs, Poles, and others are here, providing jobs and doing business in these United States.
A disclaimer: I own a Colt M-4 myself, not an iconic revolver, but a precise carbine. So, I also have a pony in the running here. I’ll be watching the Czechs to ascertain they uphold a storied American tradition.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
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