Val Trompia, in Lombardy, is considered home to the Italian firearms industry and provides over 5,000 families with their livelihoods. One shining example of the area’s success is Marocchi, where Mark Peacock paid a visit.
Most of the gunmaking companies in Italy are still family affairs, proud of their history, their products and their repuation.
Carrying the name of its original founder, Stefano Marocchi, the tradition has been continued by the third generation of the family, headed by Stefano’s grandson Mauro. As with many family run concerns in Italy, the Marocchi dynasty lives in its own accommodation on site.
Marocchi began life producing parts for upmarket side-by-side shotguns, including Holland & Holland and Anson, but also started making and selling components for other manufacturers.
A real breakthrough came in 1953 with the development of its first over-and-under gun, the Marocchi ’53, and winning the top invention award at the Brussels Salon in 1957 with the world’s first CO2 semi-automatic rifle.
Other awards soon followed and provided the impetus to set up manufacturing of over-and-under and CO2 guns in Sarezzo, where the factory remains today.
In 2010 a further breakthrough occurred with the shrewd acquisition of Breda from the Finmeccanica empire, adding semi-automatic shotguns to the inventory.
Further expansion of precision manufacturing facilities utilising precision gunmaking techniques led the company into the automotive industry.
Under the CD Europe banner, precision car components and the Breda and Marocchi brands come off the production line under one roof. All this ensures consistency of quality control and manufacture.
It is important to emphasise that, although Marocchi shares the same manufacturing facility as Breda, the two brands are completely different in strategy, philosophy and construction.
Whereas Breda is the gun brand that many aspire to for its reputation for longevity, durability and classic design, Marocchi has a broader, fresher appeal through a subtle mix of competitive price points and manufacturing quality.
“We are in a very competitive area with many other brands” explains sales manager Michele Marocchi, “but it is our proposition to the retailer which sets us apart from others.”
Marocchi works very closely with its trade customers to achieve fair retail margins that benefit both parties and ensure durable business relationships. Many of the businesses in the 40 countries to which it exports have been customers for more than 30 years.
“We are also extremely flexible in the way that we operate. If one market sector comes to us with ideas for modification we can react very quickly,” reveals Michele. This reinforces the impression of youth, freshness and versatility that is the Marocchi brand.
Great gun manufacturing is a wonderful blend of the human brain, traditional materials and modern technology. Marocchi’s approach typifies this.
From cutting metal to final despatch takes an average of two months for an over-and-under gun, with a barrel taking up to 45 days to turn.
“A smooth barrel is the heart of the gun and is the result of years of dedication to perfection in manufacture,” says Michele.
The company has close to a century of experience in barrel production with each barrel drilled from a solid blank. High tensile steel to the Saint Etienne standard is used exclusively, ensuring consistently high performance at greater distances. By the time the barrel is finished, less than 10 per cent of the original steel blank is left.
Everything starts with an idea drawn up in the R&D department, backed up by the latest CAD software that can even replicate working internal parts on screen.
Equipment for manufacturing has been developed over several years to ensure accuracy and precision.
A substantial investment in machinery – horizontal CNC (for frames and receivers) and vertical twin spindle, with each costing just shy of €1 million – ensures a steady turnaround of blank materials into precision working parts.
A dedicated team of workers oversee every stage of manufacture – welding, plating and finishing – through to final assembly. Prior to assembly each component undergoes tolerance checking under the tight scrutiny of the quality-control team. If it doesn’t get past them, it doesn’t get built. Failures are very, very rare.
Guns are then assembled from their component parts stage by stage on a series of six workstations by a dedicated team of assemblers, all obsessive about their work.
Each worker spends an equal amount of time on each workstation. “This gives them a complete picture of what they are building which, in turn, makes them versatile, multi-skilled and better motivated,” says Michele.
Once assembled, each gun is test fired in a special range in the factory basement, using a variety of ammunition, to make sure that the customer has a properly functioning and safe product. It is then cleaned and boxed in a dedicated packing area before despatch to trade customers all over the world.
The Marocchi collection boasts six models in total, with up to six variations of each, covering a wide range of sporting activity.
Marocchi’s latest addition to its over-and-under range, the Finn 612, provides the shooting sportsman with the flexibility of interchangeable shotgun and rifle barrels or combination rifle/shotgun – effectively one shooting system for a variety of hunting and other sporting situations. Wonderfully light, it is an ideal gun for the new shooter.
In addition, the Super SJ has been introduced, a semi-automatic shotgun using the pioneering intertial system. Available in three finishes the Super SJ is versatile enough to take 28g to 64g ammunition.
The mainstay of the Marocchi range has been the SI 12/20 semi-automatic range, with seven models in the line-up.
The Zero3 and 100 ranges are for the dedicated sporting clay shooter. All guns have the facility to take 70mm or 90mm choke tubes.
Marocchi has seen sales increase dramatically in Russia so Mauro Marocchi has taken on a new business partner, Oleg Benedichuk, as vice-president.
Permanently resident in Italy, Oleg’s background in corporate finance combined with his own shooting knowledge makes him ideal for this role and the company is looking to build its eastern European markets very quickly.
Sales of its guns remain strong in France, Canada, USA and Kuwait, while Marocchi is also looking for growth in the Far East and Africa. Its presence at Huntex brought its first trade customers from South Africa. Soon Marocchi Russia will be operative and is part of the worldwide strategy.
However, with any success come challenges, chief of these being products being copied and passed off by firms in other countries.
Mauro is always quick to stamp on the practice but leaden-footed government bureaucracy in dealing with licences remains an irritant.
“Our sales manager, Olivanda Ziliani, would be twice as productive if she did not have to spend so much time chasing civil servants for paperwork,” sighs Mauro.
The Marocchi brand is a mix of Italian tradition coupled with state-of-the-art manufacture, and rock-solid family values mixed with a modern business attitude and approach.
‘Made in Italy’ is more than just a logo stamp. Any components not produced on site are sourced from other Italian firms (stocks are produced by Minelli).
From the machine-room floor right up to the boardroom, the same obsession with producing the perfect gun pervades. With solid business attitudes and manufacturing roots, and an eye to where growth will come, Marocchi is a company set to grow in influence for many years.
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