"A lot of people had seen the Iraq war on television, and there are a lot of recreational shooters," Grody said. "They want the gun that the military guys have. It's easy to shoot, easy to aim and doesn't have a big kick. People like that military feel, and the big magazine to fire off a lot of shots without having to reload. It's a convenience factor."
It began to aggressively win back market share. As a result, the past two years have been highly successful. Specifically? "I can't say, our 10-K isn't out yet," Grody said, referring to a report that publicly owned companies file with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Grody's GC counterpart in Colt Manufacturing is Joseph Dieso, who was not available for an interview last week.
Inside, the gun factory has the aroma of metal-cutting lubricants, and some corner rooms have the grimy feel of a well-used, small town auto garage. Under harsh fluorescent lighting, women assemble small parts for pistols with the precision of watchmakers.
Inside cages, two giant yellow robots quickly carve parts from flat blocks of aluminum. Their choreographic moves are a cross between ballet and martial arts.
In one part of the factory, scores of heavy cardboard boxes are stacked on pallets, 10-feet high, filled with rifles for the Malaysian Army. In other corners, orders are being filled for tactical rifles that meet stands for sale in California; they require a tool to change magazines. A Connecticut-legal version in Grody's office has a gun barrel tip that is tough to fit with a silencer, and a lever that would make the stock adjustable is non-operative.
Many assume Grody's litigation file must include product liability suits. In fact, he says, the answer is, "Zero. Never. Not one. I've been here since Labor Day 2005, and gun liability issues are not on the diet of the legal department of Colt Defense."
Never a claim of an injury from a misfire? "We have problems with [claims], sure. But do they turn into legal issues that we have to deal with? No. It has to do with our customer base. It's military customers here, and all around the world, and law enforcement. For a variety of different reasons none of this ever turns into litigation. People in the Army, I'm not sure they have a right to sue. It's just not an issue."
Claims of misfiring have turned out to be based on defects in ammunition or the magazine, which Colt does not make. "If the gun doesn't work properly," Grody said, "the problem will always be ascribed initially, by the amateur, to the gun. Our job is to run that to ground."
In Grody's eight years as GC, he's had several run-ins with OSHA.
In 2007, inspectors came in, looked at the premises as a single company's property, ended up doing wall-to-wall inspections on both Colt companies, and found several violations. At that time, Grody was helping both companies with OSHA issues. "We have lots of machines. You have to have guards on the machines, labels on everything, electrical cords have to meet certain specs throughout the factory," he explained.
During another visit, safety inspectors noted a completely different problem. The single biggest health issue is lead dust created in the shooting range. Every rifle that is shipped to a customer is pre-tested with 45 rounds of firings for smooth functioning and barrel consistency. The amount of ammunition expended is prodigious. Cardboard bins six feet across and four feet high are filled with brass shell casings, awaiting the smelter. One by-product of all this is lead dust.