Colt’s Struggling To Stay Afloat, Bankruptcy Looms

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The news stories about Colt’s have been piling up recently. I admit I am not as well-versed in financial-ese as I could be, which has made me hesitant to cover the subject. It’s a good thing, then, that Hognose of WeaponsMan has covered the ongoing saga of financial flailings better than I could have:

We’re hearing rumblings about something we’ve discussed before: the perilous financial state of the privately held, and hedge-fund-looted, firearms manufacturer, Colt.

Colt’s hedgies (several generations of them, currently Sciens Capital) have taken it through multiple unnecessary reorganizations, each time stripping as much cash out of the company as possible, pocketing as much as they can get away with, and leaving it saddled with unsustainable debt. The company has hundreds of millions in debt that it has no reasonable chance of repaying. Now, faced with inability to pay a $10.9 million interest payment owed this month, the company’s managers seek to stave off default with hedge-fund chutzpah: offering investors the “opportunity” to take a 70% haircut on $250M of their bonds, or, alternatively, the company will bang out bankrupt — in a prepackaged bankruptcy modeled on that of the Government Motors rip-off and using the same obscure section of the bankruptcy code. Like the Chrysler and GM  bankruptcies, this plan will preserve the equity of favored creditors — the hedge fund managers — while ruining, or at least haircutting, disfavored creditors — like the bond holders.

Colt bonds have had a very high effective rate, reflecting their high risk, for a long time. In 2012, two or three fits of borrowing ago, it was already 19%, deep in “junk bond” territory. (The $250M they’re trying to replace is 8.75% due in two years, but it’s trading at a deep discount. The new bonds are nominally 10% due in 2023 — as if managers can keep kicking the can down the road another eight years — and they will also trade at a deep discount, if they’re ever issued).

So it’s not as if bondholders didn’t know that theirs was a speculative gamble. But now, Colt is saying, essentially, “give us 2/3 of your investment, or we’ll take it all.” But their move, described in a press release that was slipped onto the Colt site last month, is extremely risky: if they can’t get the bondholders to accept the 70-30 haircut or the prepackaged bankruptcy (“prepack”), bondholders can and probably will sue, plunging the 1858-vintage company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy or even Chapter 7 liquidation.

They’re gambling that the bondholders’ fear of being left holding a bag containing much less than 30% of the company’s capitalization, divided among the holders of $330 or so million in secured and unsecured debt, will be stronger than their indignation at being 70% expropriated so the managers and hedges can be made whole.

I highly recommend our readers click through and read the whole thing.

In this light, Colt’s looks like more a victim of financial malfeasance than a poor product lineup (which is not to say the latter isn’t true).



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Isaac Newton

    Corporate raiding is not uncommon. This is why public companies are focused on stock price and having enough cash. I recommend the movie the movie Pretty Woman it explains it a little plus it will put the ruthless moneymen in a better light.

    • Marcus D.

      Or the original Wall Street movie, even more. Leveraged debt is the way these guys roll, and it is responsible for the last “recession” and the looming next recession because they refuse to change their ways. This country as 40 trillion in bad debt due to leveraged “derivatives.” All a derivative is is a debt interest–these guys sell you debt, and they take the cash. Colt will soon die.

  • SirOliverHumperdink

    Their troubles go back to the 4 year UAW strike.

    • tts

      Nope. All their current issues are due to hedge funds just like its detailed in the article.

      Same thing happened to Hostess even though the blame was pawned off on others publicly too.

      • David

        Basically this and what Isaac said. Some hedge fund/PE fund needs to make good on returns to their investor clients so raids a company or two in their portfolio for quick cash by over leveraging said company so they can extract equity as cash.

        If you want to see a really unethical hedge fund, take a look at “pirate capital”.

        • Vitsaus

          Hedge funds are the source of most of this country’s economic woes. The hedge funders should be rounded up and charged with treason.

          • BKE Evers

            Any evidence of that? How about government, they seem to be our biggest obstacle to prosperity these days.

          • Max Glazer

            Try your corporate boards. How about they take a damn pay cut and give all the BOTTOM rung employees a raise so that there are no working poor in USA any more? All you bosses/upper management had been giving yourself nice fat pay rises as productivity has been growing, eating up all the increased profits while the workers wages stayed same. Workers aren’t at fault for disgraceful financial machinations that BOSSES engage in. And now the lowly worker that can barely make ends meet and asking for a decent deal is at fault for pathetic management? Unions are at fault for standing up for workers rights? Its not just the hedge funds who should be thrown in jail but big business bosses that drove the company into the ground too.

          • lomaxima

            And hung.

          • LouAnnWatson

            guess chelsea clinton is happy she left the one she was working for

      • Jay

        They are bancrupt because they are lazy, greedy and bet everything on the government cash. As firearms design company, they were irrelevant for the last 100 years.
        Let them die already.

        • M

          Pretty much. I always just saw them as the company who filled the gap left behind when Springfield armory shut down

      • BKE Evers

        Actually Hostess was broken by the unions. Being a former vendor/consultant for Hostess I am familiar with the serious problems mandated by the unions like too many truck routes and paying higher retirement/legacy costs than they were paying out in wages. Forbes had a great article about the guy who bought the company and now makes as many twinkies with 1/9 the staff and 1/3 the factories as the prebankruptcy IBC did.

        • tts

          No. Racking up nearly $1 billion in debt, through various financial shenanigans even after multiple bankruptcies and slashing retirements and wages, while paying multi million dollar bonuses to the chairmen was what sunk them.

          The final wage and benefit cut that was rejected was a smokescreen. Management knew they’d reject it since it was so low many workers couldn’t survive on those wages.

          Switching to more automated factories and changing the ingredients to make the snacks last longer is why they’re profitable now. It has nothing to do per se with cutting worker wages or benefits.

          • LouAnnWatson

            yes, the bankruptcy broke the union contract. since you stated the wage was too low to survive, what was the total worker wage cost per hour to the company factoring in the bloated benefits package? numbers are Important to prove your argument

          • tts

            You’re reading my post wrong. The wage cut offered would leave the workers making too little to survive. They could drastically cut their standard of living and still lose their homes. 20-50% pay cuts will do that.

        • petru sova

          Yeah and they did it by paying the workers slave minimum wages with no benefits or retirement. Of course management will still get obscene multi million dollar salaries while the worker slaves starve. Its probably what Hostess had in mind from the beginning. Unions had little to do with the companies problems, its just that the greed mongers that raped the company raped its capital until nothing was left.

      • LouAnnWatson

        the union at hostess refused to agree with the company on the new contract…they wanted the typical increase in their bloated wage and benefits package. the company closed. but hostess twinkles are once again available…mmmm. the union duped those workers, they lost their jobs and the union fat cats still have theirs.

        • tts

          No. They’d agreed to multiple cuts several times. The last one was the final straw, it was too much of a cut and management knew it and they knew they could then blame the workers as a smoke screen.

  • J.T.

    I really hope that if they do go bankrupt that Vista Outdoor swoops in and buys them. Colt is making a comeback as far as their products go and it would be a shame if that would all be for nothing.

  • kipy

    Make new Pythons! Why won’t you let me love you Colt?

    • Ko I

      Are you going to pay $3000 for one? IIRC, that’s the suggested price if they were to make those again, today.

      • Scott Peacock

        That is the price of a good 1911. 2 to 3000 isn’t out of the question if they are as good as the old ones

        • The Brigadier

          Too much for a revolver. $750 is a more realistic price. For 3 grand you can buy a Scar S, a powerful battle rifle.

      • Bowserb

        That’s what a lot of used Pythons are going for anyway.

    • Mike Frank

      Thats a large part of the problem. Colt quit making what everyone loved and bought, and what they make now is less then stellar in quality.

      • Bowserb

        That’s not true. Nothing but Internet-speak. I’d defend myself with a Colt before I’d buy a Kimber, a Brazilian Springfield, or any of the overpriced designer 1911’s. My four year old XSE has not had a single malfunction of any kind with any ammo, and it is exceptionally accurate (for me anyway).
        They quit making the Python because people weren’t buying them. Just like the Cadillac convertible. Then when they stopped, everyone wanted one…also just like the Cadillac convertible.

        Colt’s problems have been with them for most of the last hundred years. Bad management and blood sucking unions. That’s a tough combination to beat. It’s what should have done in Chrysler in the 1980’s, when our government bailed them out (and then bought nothing but their products for the next ten years) and GM in 2008. I will not ever buy a car made by Obama Motors. As for Chrysler, I still have my jacket: “When I die I’m going to Heaven. I spend my time in hell. Dodge Intrepid 1993”

        And Mike, that should be “less THAN stellar…” That’s right. The grammar Nazi’s are back.

        • cjsays

          Why is it that some people want to blame the unions. Unions got you a 40 hour work week, overtime, vacation pay, vacations, healthcare,etc. Did you not read the article and see how management, managers and these hedge fund destroy companies and just walk away with there cash in had.

    • Nashvone

      I want an Anaconda!

    • Preacher BLB

      Pietta of Italy had some of their new Python & (I believe) a S&W Mod. 29 (it’s named the Dirty Harry) clones on exhibit at the NRA Convention in Nashville. The importer/distributor will be EMF and they expect the first shipments to arrive in August. If they’re as good as their SAA clones they will be some fine guns. They won’t even be close to $3,000.00

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Government Motors rip-off

    Lol, it’s OK you don’t know the financial dealings all that well… Neither does your source.

    • Andrew Hobby

      Hush now! The facts and final payout of that financial project don’t fit in nicely to the term “Government Motors Ripoff”.

    • nadnerbus

      Do explain.

      I know less about high corporate finance than either of them, but Hognose is usually pretty spot on with the other topics he writes about.

      I’d be interested to see an actual argument on your part rather than the usual snotty comment.

    • BKE Evers

      Actually the source does and the GM deal was a rip off of the bond holders. They did not follow protocol of priority of debt holders. The Bond holders had priority over the other factions but were endarounded or ignored by the government.

      • LouAnnWatson

        obama set the example with little timmy…save the union contract at any cost, not because they love unions, they love the money they get back from them

    • xandersaml

      You are incorrect.

    • Pam Dunn

      And you just displayed your total Ignorance of the FACTS and Truth about GM.

  • Slim934

    We would do well to pay attention to Andrew Mellon this time and “Let them fail.”

  • Little Johnny

    Just taking a peek at their financials for 2014, all of which have not been filed. There is a growing trend. Their inventories are huge but their cash is low. This is a bad sign, they are not selling what they are making. As a fan of Colt I would like them to pull through. But it is plain to see that they realize they are making products that no one is buying. Why spend more just for a name. Unfortunately they can’t keep going this way and their new owners are striping every bit of available cash from them. Without government contracts they won’t make it and unlike the auto industry and banking industries they don’t have enough friends in Washington to pull the strings they need.

    • NotoriousAPP

      I would love to get a peak at their manufacturing metrics and hold some Kaizens there although I have a feeling the bigger picture is that they just run the business side of Colt very poorly. You can only cut so much from the bottom line, at some point you need to build top line sales.

    • Colt Guy

      Tell them to send all that inventory to my local gun shop, which has Colts backordered.

  • Lance

    Easy move to right to work state and make more ARs for civilian use.

    • NotoriousAPP

      Agreed. All business/industry should leave no right to work states. Scum.

    • Dustin Sandage

      How precisely did you conclude this had anything to do with “right to work” status?

      • HSR47

        Because union labor is typically more expensive than non-union labor.

        • tts

          True but not necessarily a good thing nor were worker wages Colt’s problem per se.

          Given the rising cost of living (ie. housing, college, food, gas, healthcare, retirement, inflation, etc) you want wages to be going up anyways to maintain a healthy economy in the long run.

          • LouAnnWatson

            it’s not the wage, it’s the over stacked benefits on top of that.

          • tts

            Source? Googling isn’t turning up any solid information on that. Just what the original article said: their problems are due to financial shenanigans and mismanagement loading the company up with huge amounts of debt.

            In general most companies short their employees benefits and that trend is only increasing with time so without solid information I’m inclined to not give you the benefit of the doubt.

          • Guido FL

            Colt is in a high tax state with a high cost of living. If a real manager was to take it South they could survive. But after being looted only the name remains sadly.

          • Ergo

            wages, taxes, utilities transportation costs general overhead keep the individual unit prices higher. If colt moved south they could spit out 6920’s at a per unit cost that is 10 to 20% less than what they are now.

          • tts

            That won’t save them from bad management or fictionalization debt loading schemes though which would just eat up any additional profits and them some by moving the factories to a cheaper state.

        • Dustin Sandage

          And mismanagement is even more expensive still. You don’t think the details mentioned in this article are the more important issue? Hedge fund looting, etc?

      • Dragonheart

        The reason Colt is in trouble is because they can’t compete price wise and lost their long held government contracts. So yes, paying more for labor and benefits dictated by unions have taken many a company down and shifted the jobs overseas. Unions are notorious about killing to goose. Some don’t like to hear the truth, but that’s it.

        • Dustin Sandage

          Again… how did you conclude that worker wages were the more significant problem, rather than the hedge-fund-looting mentioned at the top of this article?

          Other companies survive paying better wages, but instead of declaring mismanagement you’ve somehow deduced it must be those darn unions. I’m just curious to see your evidence.

    • sam

      Sounds like a good idea to me.

    • Guido FL

      Losing the highly skilled labor is not the answer. The corporate rip off artists are the root cause.

  • Richard

    I think Colts main problem is that they haven’t stayed competitive in the civilian market due to their pricing. Yes they make fine guns, but near the same quality can be had for less and better quality for a little more. I think they haven’t adapted with the times as well as companies like Ruger but instead tried to stay afloat on their name alone.

  • Southpaw89

    So the regular investors lose their shirts and the hedge fund managers who ran Colt into the ground (or at least had a major hand in it) walk away unscathed. Am I the only one struggling to make sense of this?

    • nadnerbus

      Welcome to America.

    • mcrognale

      Yup. Exactly the same crap that Obama pulled when he stole GM and Chrysler from the rightful owners and gave them to the unions. Why i will never buy any product from either company ever again.

      • petru sova

        Yep Obama made the right move as both companies did not go bankrupt and thousands of employees still have their jobs and the greed Mongers at the top had to take only a pennies less out of there multi-million dollar paychecks while they tried to starve their workers to death. Are you missing something here?

        • mcrognale

          No, but you are. The bond holders who spent their hard earned money to help GM and Chrysler with liquidity got NOTHING.Not pennies, NOTHING. They were completely left out in the cold and they lost MILLIONS of dollars. Next time do real reasearch.

          • petru sova

            Yes I hear a lot of right wing stories like that. Documentation?

          • MichaelZWilliamson

            “Right wing.” “Greed monger.”

            Clear evidence of conspiritard. No debate warranted.

        • Yohei556

          Yeah i dont think the union employees were going to starve to death at $27 an hour. Had they went into bankruptcy they probably wouldnt have lost their jobs but had to restructure their benefits and to a liberal that would have been a travesty.

      • cjsays

        First of all most people believe that we live in a true free market. We don’t. In the case of GM and Chrysler be thankful that we don’t. I would dare you to go to a GM or Chrysler plant and say to them that President Obama was wrong to do what he did in saving all those jobs and for that matter GM and Chrysler. Don’t get me wrong. Manager’s who run companies into the ground need to be fired and in some cases placed in prison. They definitely do not deserve the golden scutes that they get for F ups. You also have to ask is all the money that I am going to get from selling out worth it. Look at Colt. I have a couple of older Colt Diamond Backs. Damn good guns; so what did top management of Colt have to sell out.

        • mcrognale

          I wasn’t addressing jobs. I was speaking of the outright theft of the companies from the actual owners. You know, the bond holders who gave the company capital to keep the company going so that the workers would have the jobs? Obama stole their money. He had no legal authority to do it yet, because the congress was controlled by the democrat/traitor party, they went along with the theft.

    • The Brigadier

      Nope, this is standard SOP in our nation ever since 2007. The theft with Merscorp is now around 65 billion in fraudulent home foreclosures, and the banks were given the right to sell securities by George Bush and that figure now equals 4.8 QUADRILLION dollars worldwide. When the banks are unable to pay the service on that debt the world will enter the Second Dark Ages. I urge of all of you to keep your weapons in good repair, have at least five years of food, water purification systems, vitamins for two years and any topical medicines and antibiotics you can reasonably obtain and store for the long haul. The financial collapse is coming either this year and no later than next.

  • uisconfruzed

    I want to send my Anaconda in and have it checked/timed.
    I’m afraid to put it into their shaky hands & possibly not get it back.
    It’s a tack driver with an Aimpoint T-1.

    • Ko I

      Find an excellent gunsmith (possibly one of the ones that used to work for Colt during the “snake guns” days) and don’t sent it to Colt. Not the same quality of work there, anymore.

      • petru sova

        I called Colt some time back about repairing a Python and they said they do not even have any parts to repair them anymore and are unwilling to make any more either. When you know that they could make parts and sell them for a profit it makes you wonder what idiot is running the company.

  • lomaxima

    The planned destruction of America is inevitable.

    • Matt Grizz Gregg

      Lol

  • bernardg

    Ah… The free uncontrollable capitalist economy at it’s finest.

    • Tony P.

      Doesn’t sound like a free market when the govt. Gives bail outs to some but not others. Cronyism sounds more like it.

  • Guido FL

    As a Chrysler retiree I can attest to looting by “partners”. Once the vultures get control they leave only the picked over bones. The best remedy is for Colt to go Chapter 11 or even 7 and hope the name is sold off to a real entity.

  • Jarhead0369

    More banker gangsters looting investors! Hey, it worked for the government bailout and no one went to jail. Unfortunately, I guess Colt just isn’t “too big to fail”. Amerika indeed.

  • Shawn Morris

    Not sure the Government would allow Colt (an evil firearms manufacturer) to file under the same laws as GM.

    • Dustin Sandage

      Why is that? Why do you think the government would treat one differently than the other?

      • Shawn Morris

        Perhaps you did not catch the evil firearms manufacturer part. Add the fact that the auto manufacturers were tied heavily into the Unions and their pension plans. So the Democratic President would never have let a Democratic supporting organization fall. But a gun company the Obama Presidency would gladly let crumble.

        • Dustin Sandage

          Sounds like you’re operating on pure speculation and anti-democratic prejudice rather than precedent and proof.

  • Charles Newman

    Bubye, Colt. You have loved and lost…

  • Captain America

    Call the Kock’s. Get a patriotic backer and get the hedge fund guys out. We have to save all arms manufacturers.

  • RPK

    Poor product lineup? The LE6920 in varying configurations and AR15A4 are FAR from a poor product lineup. Flush out your head gear, FNG! Colt provided our military with reliable, quality and accurate firearms for DECADES only to be cast to the side after their usefulness was over. Sounds a lot like our military retirees and Veterans. All used up and did your time? Then forget you and on top of that, fat chance to receive the benefits you were promised at time of enlistment. Especially the ole’ timers. Any valid arguments from military retirees or combat Veterans?

  • Jack Farquhar

    Although I would hate to see an American icon and premier arms maker disappear, bankruptcy by Colt would increase the value of the four that I own greatly.

  • Follow Me Boys

    This is so much BS. They have had government contracts since the beginning of killing other people after WWI became in fade. Somebody with a COLT fire arm should shoot the POS in the head who did this to the company. That is why there is so much corruption. All they face is some time in Club Fed IF they get caught. IF. But a head shot makes people honest. Example: See Zapruder film.

  • desert

    Gully Vern,,,sooprise, sooprise…..lower your outrageous prices and stay in business…or get the hell out…plenty of choices without Colts ridiculous prices!!

  • H.A.O.

    Probably to much water under the bridge by now. What a shame a manf that helped win the west & then some, well over a century old, glad i own a couple revolvers & will never sell, but diff era & can only last so long on the name & many more competitors in the mix, that drive prices down & they were to dependent on government contracts.

  • Pam Dunn

    NIce load of absolute left winger moronic spew and jargon with NO truth.

    • anonymous

      NIce load of absolute left winger moronic spew and jargon

      Do you seriously believe that Glenn Reynolds and the Wall Street Journal are left-wing sources? Or that questioning why folks in the financial sector make more money than doctors and engineers makes the questioner some type of socialist?

      Oh, and I see the only person who modded your comments up was yourself. Just hover the mouse over the 1 ^ Ha! Ha!

  • Pam Dunn

    The REAL parasites are morons like you and the Unions Who have DESTROYED more companies and driven others out of the country with their outrageous demands and greed while support left winger dimocraps and setting themselves up with HIGH salaries and NICE retirement packages (SCREW the Hourly workers).

  • sometrend

    too bad. I`ve got my dads python and it is a work of art! Made in 1962,it was built when colt still had talented craftsmen….there is no smoother action on any revolver I`ve ever handled. It`s had a primary diet of mild handloads with cast bullets so it`s still nice and tight too. I doubt colt could do as good a job now though

  • petru sova

    When companies go bankrupt it is always the fault of greedy corporate managers who steal the assets of a company while at the same time cheapening the product to the point even the dumb consumers stop buying it. Of course the corporate managers then blame the workers who in most cases have had their wages and benefits cut to the bone so many times they are literally working for free for the Company.

    • Doom

      Not sure you know what literally means…

  • Donald Darr

    If we can’t get your guns, we’ll get the companies that make them. We already know that far too many banks (finance giants) are anti-gun so they’re in a good position to use their powers to close companies like Colt down.

  • Doom

    Too bad a deadly mix of killing popular guns, greedy CEO’s, greedy Unions, and Bad quality control has killed this company.

  • Phil

    Good thing that Colt Canada is a separate entity! (With one heck of a great product line up, and yes I am only slightly prejudiced since I used to work there and am currently a distributor of their line!) I only wish you guys in ‘Merica could see the Canadian gear. It is very cool and truly world leading. (Yes they have the tests to back that up.)

    Phil @ O’Dell Engineering Ltd.

  • petru sova

    When you look at how the Japanese run their companies it makes you physically sick to compare them to American Companies. The Managers do not make exorbitant salaries and work right on the floor near their employees. They treat their employees as an extended family not as mindless worker slaves to be exploited. Union Employees have tried many times to improve their product and reduce waste but are always told, “you are not paid to think” but to work, we at the top will make all the decisions” which usually means they spend all their time trying to increase their exorbitant salaries while cutting wages and benefits but of course never their own.

    • To what extent do these execs value hard-working Americans? These companies want to be “American-made” while banking on paying salaries equivalent to those in China.

  • silvestris

    Read “The Creature From Jeckyl Island” by G. Edward Griffin and all will become clear. It is the Elites versus the rest of us.

  • The Brigadier

    The problem with Colt was the strike that first greatly crippled the company and the two anti-gun New York lawyers who bought the company with the intention of shutting it down. All of this occurred over a decade ago. The striking workers were all fired and new lower cost workers were brought in. The two scumbag lawyers were told by the DOD that there were critical government contracts at stake and they expected them to be filled or the DOD would file a national seizure lien for breach and offer the company to any investors willing to buy it and honor the contracts.

    The lawyers were hamstrung, but cancelled all the pistol lines except for the cowboy six shooters because like the DoD the Cowboy Shooters organization threatened Colt with millions of dollars in damages if the new owners didn’t honor their contracts. The lawyers now had to run the company they wanted to quickly sell and get their modest investment back and shut down the company. Instead they got out and sold for a modest profit to a group of investors who now have effectively bankrupted the company by intentional financial mismanagement as described above. Too much of this kind of financial theft going on in America right now.

    The lawyers must be laughing over their martinis while they contemplate the final dismantling of Colt. The only thing that will keep Colt operating and require a government bailout and another opportunity for financial theft is those two pesky contracts with the DOD and the Cowboy Shooters.

  • The Brigadier

    The Greed Mongers were also millions of average citizens like you and I who lost their entire investments. They were NOT made even partially whole by the bankruptcy judge who arbitrarily gave the company to the unions who were paid whopping sums for their level of work knowledge. That was a first time occurrence and after the Democrats are thrown out of office before the coming financial collapse much of what has occurred can be reversed. I hope the bankers who engineered the collapse will be arrested by the communists in the White House before the collapse happens. That way both groups will perish along with the other billions who will be victims of their greed and ineptitude.

    • cjsays

      You don’t have to tell me about loosing money in investments. I guess that is why they tell you that you could loose money and you should read prospectus before you invest.

  • EstebanCafe

    Makes one wonder: are these hedge fund guys running just another “put gun makers out of business” scheme ? If so, it’s brilliant: strip them of everything but debt. Kind of like Mssr Obama is doing to the rest of your country, no ?