A brief history of Beeman and Air Rifle Headquarters – Part 3
by B.B. Pelletier
There wasn’t supposed to be a Part 3 to this report, but two things happened after Part 2 was published. First, one of our readers sent me a very interesting Beeman pamphlet that firmly establishes the relationship between Beeman and Air Rifle Headquarters. Apparently, he is an advanced airgunner who had dealings with Beeman for a very long time. And two, another reader named larspawn asked me if it was possible to document the years Beeman was located at certain addresses such as San Rafael and Santa Rosa. I told him I would have to dig into the literature, but I possibly could establish those dates.
These two things are actually linked, because the early (very early) Beeman pamphlet is sent from their first address in San Anselmo. In those days, they were operating out of their house, and the address was P.O. Box 542. The pamphlet is the Rosetta Stone to the early Beeman years. In it, Robert speaks of distributing the ARH catalog and that they (Beeman) were an ARH dealer. But, he says, until our first Beeman catalog is published, you can read about our other guns in our article in the 1974 Guns Illustrated. That volume was written in 1973, so this pamphlet dates from approximately that timeframe. Also, the first Beeman catalog was published in 1974.
Two more interesting things in the pamphlet. First, at the top of the page they announce their return from their “airfun safari” to Europe, and that Beeman’s Precision Airguns is open for business again. Second, Dr. Beeman mentions that since their line now differs so much from the ARH line, it would no longer be fair to continue as ARH dealers, so they severed that relationship.
From all of this, we may deduce the following. Beeman was initially an ARH dealer and were very closely associated with Robert Law at one time. In 1973, they were still too small to have a staff to run the office while they were out of the country. But since their first catalog was to be published in 1974 (to coincide with the article appearing in Guns Illustrated that year), they were already poised to expand.
San Anselmo was first
And so, larspawn, I can tell you that anything that has the San Anselmo address and the Beeman name on it is among the absolute earliest of all Beeman products. And now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit to you Exhibit 1: my Feinwerkbau 124 with Beeman’s San Anselmo address stamped into the spring tube!
And there it is! The first Beeman address. No doubt that Beeman sold many guns from this address, but since they were connected with ARH all the time they were here, you won’t find that many items with the San Anselmo address on them — especially guns.
Jim Maccari said my 124 was shooting slow because all the early ones did. And now I know how early mine is. If Beeman brought it into the country with the San Anselmo address stamped into the side, they ordered it in 1973 or earlier. It might have been unsold until they moved to their next address, because they wouldn’t have messed with the metal stamping on the gun, but it proves that mine is a very early 124. Just prior to this time, there were no 124 rifles. There were only 121 rifles of various flavors. The 124 didn’t come out until about this very time.
I had a communication from Robert Beeman when I first published the story of my entombed 124 in The Airgun letter. He noted the San Anselmo address and said it was one of the very first 124 rifles sold by Beeman’s. He was actually surprised by the fact that the address was stamped on the gun, because he didn’t remember any that were.
San Rafael was second
My special revised 1975 Beeman’s catalog (the second catalog to be published) was published with the address 47 Paul Drive, San Rafael. If you’re a Beeman collector, the San Rafael address is considered the early one. San Anselmo seldom comes up at all, unless the collector is really aware of the Beeman history.
San Rafael and San Anselmo are very close to one another. San Rafael was located just over the Golden Gate bridge and up the northern peninsula about 10 miles or so. That’s where the Beeman shop was when I returned from my tour in Germany in late 1977 and went up to buy a 124 (not this one) from them. So, I put them into the store some time in 1974, and they remained there until about 1987.
The 14th edition of the Beeman catalog was published from San Rafael in 1986, while the 15th edition was published from Santa Rosa in 1988. The move had to occur between those bracket years. And, from 1988 until the company was sold in April 1994, the Santa Rosa store was their home. Santa Rosa is quite a few (50?) more miles north, up Redwood Highway (Hwy. 101) and into what is known as the California wine country. It’s a lush, hilly part of California that attracts visitors year long for the wine and scenery.
So Beeman was located here during these years:
Beginning to 1974
1974 to 1987
1987 to 1994
1994 to 2009
In 2009, Beeman was purchased by the Shanghai Industrial Company, who wanted the U.S. distribution outlets the company had built up (read that as Wal-Mart, et al). They sold the rights to import, distribute and service the high-end Beeman airguns and products to Air Venturi.
Not what it appears
Now, everything with one of these addresses stamped or printed on them may not have been sold from the address stamped or printed on the product. Airguns, especially the most popular ones, were commonly purchased in the hundreds at one time, and undoubtedly some would have been moved to a new address when the company moved. However, the reverse is not true. A gun or product will not have an earlier address than when it was brought into the company.
You cannot use this information to parse months, but it works quite well for years. For month, you can research the serial numbers of many airguns. The Weihrauch company, for example, is very accommodating about dating their products by serial number. And when you get stuck, my default is to ask on the Vintage Airgun Forum, which is the finest research place on the internet for collectible airguns.
I believe this is all I can do on the Beeman history.