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H i s t o r y
A little background
TEN GENERATIONS OF GUN MAKERS SINCE 1650

 
T
he eldest son of a family that had already been gun makers for nearly two centuries, Claude Verney was born in Saint-Etienne in January 1800. In 1820, he took part in a "Concours d'Armurerie" held by the City of Saint-Etienne and won first prize, the just reward for a magnificent mounting on a carved gun stock. The Museum of Art and Industry now owns this work and ranks it among the most beautiful specimens of this era. This event marked the beginning of the firm (renamed Verney-Carron in 1830, after Claude Verney married Antoinette Carron, herself a daughter and grand-daughter of gunsmiths), as from the date of his marriage, Claude Verney decided to sign his name on his products.
   

His first son, Jean, was born in 1839 and, together with his younger brothers, he later took over the management of the business. On Claude Verney-Carron's death in 1870, the business appropriately took on the name of Verney-Carron Frères (Brothers), which it retained until 1917. Jean Verney-Carron having died the year before, his eldest son, Claude, born in 1868, re-formed the business under the collective name Verney-Carron.

At the end of the First World War, the decision was taken to set up a proper factory. This new operation, undertaken in 1926, allowed the employees and equipment of another manufacturer, Auguste MARZE, to be assimilated into Verney-Carron. Owing to the large investment required to finance the new factory, the financial resources of the family and the friends of the two businesses, were invested in the new Verney-Carron S.A.
 


The Paris shop,
place de la Bourse, in 1910.
 The great crash of 1929 and the depression that followed prevented this new company from reaching its full potential. As a result, it was decided to gradually changeover from a direct sales operation into a manufacturing company selling through a network of firearms retailers. It was during this period that the publication of a yearly company catalogue enabled it to add the production and sale of firearm accessories and hunting equipment to its firearm manufacturing sales. Starting in 1936, Verney-Carron added fishing and tennis equipment distribution, and bicycle manufacturing to its business portfolio. This diversification helped the company to survive the difficult years of World War II.
 
Claude Verney-Carron died in 1941. At the end of World War II, his son Jean, with the support of Auguste Marze, undertook the task of rebuilding a company with a depleted work force and obsolescent equipment. He succeeded in assembling, under the name "Groupement d'Exploitation des Fabricants d'Armes Réunis (GEFAR), six manufacturers, all of whom all contributed their own resources. Over 150,000 firearms were manufactured, despite competition from the national arsenals, most of them under the brand name "Pionnier [Pioneer]" adopted by Verney-Carron.
 
Claude Verney-Carron, the son of Jean, joined the business in 1948. He encountered the representative of a little known Italian manufacturer, which had just completed the development of a very light semi-automatic hunting shotgun. A license for the manufacture of this product was signed in 1954, marking a new turning point in the history of the firm. In effect, Verney-Carron entered into the era of modern industrial production.
 
Jean Verney-Carron died is 1961. Albert de Veron de La Combe, nephew of Auguste Marze, assumed control along with Claude and Henri, Jean's sons. SIFARM (a combination of the venerable manufacturers Berthon Frères, Francisque Darne, Didier-Drevet, Gerest and Ronchard-Cizeron) was absorbed in 1963, along with the famous Canonnerie (Barrel makers) Jean Breuil. Verney-Carron now effectively controlled all its manufacturing, and Henri Verney-Carron, Technical Director, fully mastered the secrets of barrel-making. He decided to abandon earlier techniques, putting in place modern processes and installing efficient new equipment, thus producing barrels ranking among the best in the world.
 
The Sagittaire, the first mass-produced French over-and-under firearm, was brought out in 1966 and immediately became a real market leader. 1970 to 1975 was a period of unprecedented progress during which production doubled. Unfortunately, a very difficult period followed up to the 1980s. Claude Verney-Carron took action, closing down the facilities at Cours Fauriel and concentrating operations at the mechanical workshops of Boulevard Thiers.
 
During this period, Verney-Carron won the contract for the manufacture of sub-assemblies for FAMAS, the new French Army assault weapon. This arrangement lasted over ten years and contributed to total renovation of the company's quality control. Several innovations permitted Verney-Carron to expand steadily in a continually depressed market. After the unexpected demise of Henri Verney-Carron in 1986, his cousin Pierre Verney-Carron continued with a policy of modernization.

In 1985, an over & under Sagittaire with a light alloy receiver was introduced. It was an immediate success and ensured that the Sagittaire's retained its No.1 market position. Three years later, in 1988, the new Super 9 was introduced in the "Trap" model. This first model was followed by many others, notably in 1993 with the launch of the "Plume [Featherweight]" model. The Super 9 gradually replaced the older Sagittaire line, but one model, the "Double Express", was introduced in 1989, which, added to the "Impact" rifle, improved the sales of rifled firearms.

The marketing of a brand new defensive weapon called the Flash-Ball started in 1990 and has since been adopted by several police and law enforcement agencies.

The development and success of the new Super 9 range raised the question of the future of the Sagittaire. The decision was taken to compete against imported low-priced arms with a completely new product specification and using ultra-modern production methods. This model called the "Sagittaire Nouvelle Technologie", was lauded by the whole hunting press when it was introduced in 1994, and it has been enthusiastically taken up by hunters.
 
Claude Verney-Carron retired in 1995 and, to ensure that the transition occurred without problems, he changed the company's structure to a Board of Directors and a Monitoring Council.
 
 Jean, who represents the sixth generation, has joined the Board of Directors where his cousin Pierre is already the Chairman, and is already head of production. Claude Verney-Carron is Chairman of the Monitoring Council that mainly consists of family members.

 A new rifle, the Impact plus, completely designed by Verney-Carron, came out in 1996. Its mechanism, ergonomics and quality of manufacture immediately guaranteed its success.
 
 At the end of this century as the company celebrates its 180 year history, the company's spirit is more than ever present and innovations are going to follow each other in rapid succession.
 
   In 1999, a new Flash-Ball intended for the security sector, called the "Super Pro" would slowly become one of the basic weapons for the French Police Nationale and is waiting to equip the Polices Municipales.
 
  In 2000, the launch of the Impact Auto carbine, the first and only automatic hunting carbine manufactured in France. Its success builds on that of the bolt action version launched four years earlier.
 
 In 2002, the launch of the latest over and under Super 9 which had numerous improvements and has a truly luxurious definition that was much appreciated and made it the range leader.
 
 Also in 2002, the decision to start an often sought diversification. Verney-Carron decided to launch a line of clothing and later accessories under its brand - and its reputation ensured a reception for them that was beyond our hopes.

 To end this provisional list, we should mention the distribution agreement made in 2003 with the creator of the "L’Infaillible" sights which will be sold under the Optimum brand, a brand that has been used to develop a range of telescopic sights and accessories which complements the range of Verney-Carron products on the market.
 
 Over the years, the company has been able to marry tradition and innovation using the internally developed know-how and skills to ensures the loyalty of customers which has ensured the company's continued success, generation after generation.

The Verney-Carron factory, Cours Fauriel,
St-Etienne, in 1926.
 
 
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