Zenith Firearms is a family-owned company based in Afton, Virginia. I remember them clearly from my last SHOT Show visit, where one of their employees took a lot of time and effort to show me around and explain their products. I appreciated that, a lot.
I also know Turkish MKE (Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation) fairly well, but mostly from a firearms point of view. I don’t own one, because with the limited firearms we can own where I live I had to make a choice between B&T and an MP5 clone and I went with the modern alternative. However, I have a lot of friends who own firearms from MKE, anything from short MP5s to HK G3 clones, and shot one as late as last week.
Zenith Firearms and MKE have a long relationship, but all things come to an end.
Below you can find a long, detailed and interesting explanation about the end of MKE imports by Zenith Firearms.
This press release serves as an announcement that Zenith Firearms will no longer be importing MKE-produced firearms. The philosophy that Zenith has always carried is to reach for excellence with integrity. The product that we brought to the US market is high-quality, the customer service that we provide is superior, the ammunition that we now import is of excellent quality. Zenith is just getting started. We have opened a retail gun shop in Afton, VA, and continue to service and custom-build all manners of firearms. Zenith will continue to service those models that were imported under its brand and will continue to work on roller-delayed firearms sent to us for repair, upgrades and refurbishments. Zenith arguably has one of the most capable gunsmithing workshops in the US.
Those with a love of the roller-delayed platform, watch for Zenith’s US-manufactured product launch in 2021!
Many have asked what happened between Zenith and MKE. So, here is a factual account. Please note that MKE is a government entity and in many ways immune to retribution, and business rationale is a secondary consideration.
MKE had a product liability lawsuit dating from 1976 with the plaintiff, Mr. Ohntrup, in Pennsylvania, in which judgement was entered in favor of the plaintiff with a significant monetary award. MKE refused to settle with the Pennsylvania defendants and the award grew to nearly $42 million (https://casetext.com/case/ohntrup-v-makina-ve-kimyaendustrisi-kurumu-1). Consequently, MKE products were prevented from importation into the US. ATI attempted to import their product in 2009-2010, but were quickly prohibited.
In 2011, one of Zenith’s owners, who had been a longstanding representative for MKE in other countries, was approached by buyers from Walmart to import MKE ammunition during the period of ammunition shortage. Zenith went to work, first settling MKE’s legal matters to ensure imports would not be stopped, by preparing a $4.47million settlement to Mrs. Ohntrup (the widow of the plaintiff), and then preparing contracts with MKE and Walmart for the first year of product importation. This led to the successful importation of 111million rounds of ZQI ammunition in 2012-2013, and the relationship formed the foundation of Zenith’s firearms business with priority given to the importation of MKE-made firearms.
When the ammunition shortage ended, Walmart essentially liquidated their stock of ZQI ammunition below cost and destroyed the market for ZQI and its partners. The contract with MKE however was set to continue ammunition imports for an additional 12 months at a price no longer viable in the US. Knowing that Zenith would be suffering a considerable loss due to the ammunition pricing, the defined agreement between Zenith and MKE was that the loss would be borne by Zenith but corrected through firearm imports and the cooperation of Zenith and MKE in order to build a robust US market for MKE products. The aim was to eventually manufacture 922R parts here in the US, as a joint effort between Zenith and MKE. Unfortunately, in the end, Zenith absorbed all the loss and paid the settlement, and was left in debt to MKE.
In 2015-2016, MKE’s factory manager, Mr. Tanriverdi, attempted to elicit a bribe from Zenith’s owner, Kutlay Kaya, to be given the technical data packages of the Z-series firearms and the new MPT-55 and MPT-76. When MKE’s management failed to deal with the problem, Mr. Kaya took the case to the authorities which led to the arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Tanriverdi for treason (https://www.dailysabah.com/investigations/2016/12/14/man-faces-prison-term-for-saleof-weapon-project). Instead of this action bringing forth better relations, it appeared that it was the beginning of a troubled relationship with MKE.
Just when Zenith was anticipating an increase in firearms imports and the release of long-awaited WWII surplus ammunition, the July 2016 coup attempt occurred and all MKE’s effort was diverted to the local needs in Turkey. Zenith waited. MKE focused on manufacturing their new infantry rifle, the MPT, and Zenith continued to wait. Management at MKE changed several times, and each change meant less understanding of the value of Zenith’s reintroduction of MKE products, brand and impact on the US market. Certified delivery schedules became meaningless and late deliveries missed critical market deadlines, in one instance resulting in a $1.8million loss. Additionally, product prices increased with inflation at 10% per year, even when no product was delivered in a given year. Zenith remained protective of MKE’s reputation throughout and continued working towards establishing honest trade which would have brought great success to both parties.
In January 2019, a new agreement was put in place with much effort to ensure shipments would be on a monthly basis. MKE used more subcontractors to overcome their filled capacity as the MPT production remained a priority and it led to manufacturing and quality deficits. Intentional sabotage was even suspected. However, Zenith corrected the significant quality control issues here in the US while making the concerns known to MKE. MKE accused Zenith of being in breach of contract according to payment schedules and Zenith countered that the quality issues constituted a priority breach and prevented products being put into the market. To this day, funds that were sent to MKE in mid-2019 for product orders have been diverted to the ammunition debt that Zenith has been working to clear since 2016. This act alone is illegal since the financial matters were in two separate companies (Zenith Firearms vs Zenith Quest International). It appeared that MKE’s then deputy manager, Mehmet Unal, was set on working with others, cancelling Zenith’s contractual exclusivity as Zenith refused to line pockets and were insistent on necessary corrections being made. Management changed again in late 2019, and at Shot Show 2020, MKE informed Zenith that they appointed a new company as their exclusive representative to the US. They have since proceeded to select Century Arms as the company that they will use to import MKE’s MP-5 clones. In October 2020, Century released a video in which they showed their AP-5 with black tape over the manufacturer and importer names. One can
only assume it is because “Zenith Firearms” is actually engraved on the receiver.
The focus of Zenith remains on servicing the US firearms industry with excellent product and service. For more information on our services and products visit www.zenithfirearms.com and www.zqiammunition.com.
Source: Zenith Firearms Blog
Unfortunately, there is no more information about their new product release for 2021, and I guess you’re as excited as I am. All we know at this time is that it’s going to be a roller-delayed platform and that it’s going to be Made In the USA, two things that will summon a lot of interest and customers.