By Ed CarrollArmas Ugartechea, founded in Eibar, Spain, in 1922, has ceased production. Like many gunmakers in the region, the company was known for producing guns by older, small-shop craft methods. Ugartechea became known in the US for a range of side-by-side shotguns that included high-grade sidelocks, but it was especially popular for hitting the least-expensive end of Spanish boxlocks.
No public announcement has come from Ugartechea, and an e-mail to the company was not answered. But John “Buck” Koritko, the largest importer of the guns in the US for nearly 30 years through his company Lion Country Supply, in Pennsylvania, confirmed the end of production.
In early summer Canadian importer Will Bilozir, who has sold Ugartecheas through his business Bilozir Fine Guns, in Alberta, made a similar announcement on his website (bilozir.net). In a phone interview Bilozir said, “We’ve been their exclusive importer in Canada for eight or nine years. We have a personal relationship with Ignacio [Ugartechea] and his wife, and we have visited with them several times.”
Both importers said they had been told that labor issues and a generally weak economy were the dominant reasons for the closure. Bilozir also noted that, generally, Spanish gunmakers have relied on traditional craft in small, labor-intensive shops and have not modernized their machinery and methods the way Italian gunmakers have. “So the labor costs have become a real problem,” he said.
According to Bilozir, there are approximately 40 finished “stock” guns at the factory, and he is offering a 25-percent discount on previous retail prices to help Ugartechea liquidate the inventory. At press time, those guns were expected in Canada by September and would be sold on an “as-is, where-is, paid-in-full” basis.
Koritko said that Lion Country Supply will not be bringing in any more guns from the maker. He added that, compared to his usual inventory of about 150 Ugartecheas in stock, when news of the closure came, “I had around 100, and they’re going fast.”
In a written announcement, Koritko looked back to his beginnings with the second-generation owner in 1987: “I immediately developed a positive relationship with owner Ignacio Ugartechea and knew his line of handcrafted firearms were a fit for Lion Country Supply. Ugartechea built solid side-by-sides for a reasonable cost. I knew they would be a winner in the American market, and they were!
“We will continue to offer our unbeatable, written two-year warranty on every single one of these great upland classics sold at Lion Country Supply. Warranty repairs are few, because our master gunsmith of 30 years is meticulous and spends a lot of time on each gun.”
Both importers said that they were planning trips to Europe to look for gunmakers that could fill the void left at the low end and middle of the side-by-side price range.
“I’m looking for a reliable maker that . . . can help me keep a gun under $2,000,” Koritko said. “Ugartechea made a hell of a gun for that price. Our meat and potatoes is where I’m going to stay, with good guns that we can stand behind.”