Gunmaker crafts its own brand of shooting stars

July 14th, 2016

Precision manufacturing operation in Fort Wayne makes history with one-of-a-kind space-based pistols

By Aimee Ambrose | Fort Wayne Business Weekly 

A company operating in Fort Wayne took leaps into combining industry and art with the development of firearms made from a source not of this earth.

Cabot Gun Co. extended the manufacturing frontier by crafting a set of fully functional pistols from a meteorite.

No, joke. These guns are made from a prehistoric meteorite.

This is what Cabot does.

The Pennsylvania-based business specializes in producing a niche of high-end guns, sometimes made with rare materials, using aerospace engineering at a facility in Fort Wayne.

The two meteorite pistols, developed and made here, are the latest innovation.

“Nobody’s ever made a mechanical object from a meteorite,” said Rob Bianchin, Cabot’s president.

The company unveiled the pair of matching right-handed and left-handed guns during the National Rifle Association’s annual meetings and convention in Louisville in May. The pair is valued at $4.5 million.

Meteoric prize

With a passion for aesthetics and a fascination for space, Bianchin acquired a 77-pound piece of the Gibeon meteorite, a large prehistoric iron meteorite that was discovered in Africa in the 19th century. The company then began a painstaking process to build the exclusive pistol set with the material while keeping its natural beauty intact.

A team of 10 workers put in thousands of hours of precision engineering to complete the process of carving the rock and sculpting the gun parts.

Cutting the meteorite in half took 11 hours, he said.

“If you tried to put together a dream team of engineers, tool makers and machinists, etc. – I’m sure there’s not another firearms company that could pull this off,” he said.

The meteorite, which is estimated to be 4 billion years old, has a pitted surface with a crystalline pattern that formed during its trek from space, to its superheated plunge through earth’s atmosphere and its subsequent cooling over eons embedded in the ground.

“It’s like being heat-treated by God,” Bianchin said. “We wanted to take this really extraordinary material, which is so rare, and honor it by how its nature is brought out.”

The team used a delicate form of acid etching to outline the pattern and emphasize its style on the guns.

Triggering success

Cabot Gun Co. launched in Pennsylvania about five years ago, specializing in producing luxury versions of a 1911 pistol. The iconic model was introduced in 1911 and served as the standard handgun for the U.S. military into the 1980s.

“It has a real tie to classic Americana and American history,” Bianchin said.

The business expanded into Fort Wayne with the opening of a manufacturing facility in November 2015. The plant also doubles as a research and development center for new firearms innovations.

Cabot was attracted to this area’s pool of workers skilled in engineering, tool making and other precision manufacturing roles, as well as the prevalence of aerospace industry employers. They match the company’s style of applying aerospace technology to craft bullseye-accurate firearms.

“You really have some of the core highly skilled people to fit the way we approach our tech,” he said. “We really build stuff the way an aerospace company would approach a project.”

Most of the company’s guns are made from blocks of steel and domestically sourced materials using engineering techniques that defy standard firearms manufacturing, he said.

Incorporating natural artifacts into the pistols is another of Cabot’s hallmarks. Previous sets included guns with grips made from meteorite, wooly mammoth tusk, amber and fine burled wood.

With the new meteorite guns, dubbed the Big Bang set, now on the market, Bianchin would like to see the R&D department further experiment into incorporating more rare materials. Ideas he listed included making grips out of coral, or fossilized wood, or possibly part of a fossilized antler from an extinct breed of deer.

No. 1 with a bullet

Cabot doesn’t mass produce firearms. These are primarily luxury pieces for collectors and connoisseurs with plenty of disposable income. About a quarter of buyers come from overseas.

Prices for the company’s standard 1911 model start at about $3,500 and go up from there depending on the models or sets available. Many of the one-of-a-kind pistol designs range from about $10,000-$50,000 and are sold out, according to Cabot’s website.

“We’re happy to be a small niche player,” Bianchin said.

The company has also made custom guns for VIP clients, including kings, heads of state and celebrities, he said.

The two Big Bang meteorite guns, which Bianchin said drew intense interest from potential buyers, are still listed for sale at $4.5 million on Cabot’s site.

The model also led to Cabot earning the title of most innovative, the No. 1 award on the Blue Book of Gun Values’ Top 10 Firearms Industry awards list, according to a statement by Blue Book in March.

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