While plenty of industries are driven by innovation, the shooting industry absolutely thrives on it. Modern shooters are constantly demanding new products and technologies that increase performance, accuracy, dependability, and good old-fashioned fun. Never satisfied with the same old stuff, tactical experts, competition shooters, and hunters are always looking for the next best thing.
Firearms and accessories manufacturers are in a constant race to stay ahead of the herd. This is good news for shooters, because it means firearms, optics, and ammunition are constantly evolving and improving.
We’ve compiled this list of what we consider the 12 most innovative firearms (and accessories) manufacturers in the world. Honestly, with so much cool new technology emerging in the industry each day, it was hard to keep the list to only 12.
The list definitely isn’t exhaustive, so don’t feel slighted if your favorite company didn’t make the list.
Formerly Transformational Defense Industries (TDI), Kriss USA is the North American extension of the Switzerland-based KRISS Group.
The company is named after a type of wavy-bladed weapon (called a Kriss) once commonly used in Indonesia.
This avant-garde company is at the leading edge of firearms technology, specializing in helping military and law enforcement personnel maximize their shooting speed and accuracy, particularly when engaging multiple targets.
The company is most famous for their Vector series of weapons, which have an unusual futuristic look. Although the appearance of these weapons is slightly unusual, everything about their design is intended to minimize recoil and muzzle climb.
Vector weapons utilize an inline format and an unconventional delayed blow-back system that allows the bolt and an inertia block to move down behind the magazine well when fired. This allows the energy that would typically drive rearward to produce felt recoil to instead be directed downward.
Also, when Vector weapons are fired, the barrel axis remains in line with the shoulder as well as the shooter’s hand. This inline design combined with the downward bolt path reduces muzzle rise, allowing the shooter to get back on target quickly for more accurate follow-up shots.
Smart Shooter is an Israeli defense firm that specializes in developing optical technologies for law enforcement and military professionals. The company is best known for its SMASH series of fire control systems.
The SMASH family includes rugged and highly advanced optical devices for small arms (including the M4 carbine). The devices increase shooting safety and effectiveness by reducing the effects of stress and physical effort (both common on the battlefield) that inhibit first-shot accuracy and lethality.
This cutting-edge electro-optic can track potential targets in daylight or darkness using a simple, traditional red dot sight picture. Once the target is “marked,” the soldier or law enforcement officer holds the trigger, even as his breathing and muscle fatigue may cause his weapon to stray off target.
The smart trigger prevents discharge if the soldier is expected to miss. Once a solution is calibrated, the bullet is discharged, hitting the marked target and only the marked target. This system effectively increases the number of rounds that find their target while preventing accidental damage to non-targets.
The SMASH system has been used by Israeli Defense Forces since early 2018. It has also been successfully tested by the United States Spec Ops and the Australian Defence Force.
Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, EOTech pushes the firearms technology envelope with their holographic sighting systems, tactical lasers, illuminators, and thermal imaging equipment. The company is dedicated to developing and manufacturing quality, battle-tested electro-optics to both law enforcement and commercial markets around the globe.
EOTech’s first holo sight made its debut at the 1996 SHOT Show. Designed to increase the speed of target acquisition as well as accuracy, EOTech was presented the Optic of the Year Award from the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence.
EOTech’s EXPS3 Holographic Weapon Sight
The company’s innovative holo sights use a laser and mirrors to transmit the image of a reticle back to the shooter’s eye. Through the magic of technology, the reticle appears to float in front of the optic transposed over the target. This allows the shooter to more easily focus on both the reticle and target while keeping both eyes open to maintain maximum situational awareness.
Since 1996, EOTech holo sights have seen major improvements in size, battery life, ease of use, temperature stability, and affordability. Today, EOTech’s proprietary holographic sights are used by law enforcement officers, hunters, competitive shooters, tactical experts, and military personnel around the world.
A global company headquartered in McLean, Virginia, FN America produces several series of handguns and sporting rifles for civilian and law enforcement applications, as well as the M4 carbines, M16 rifles, M240 machine guns, and the MK19 grenade launcher currently used by the United States military.
The FN SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) was developed to address the shortcomings of the direct-gas impingement operation system used in modern battle-ready weapons. During the firing and ejection cycles, carbon and other by-products of combustion are pushed into the bolt and receiver, increasing weapon fouling, reducing reliability, and requiring frequent maintenance.
FN addressed the problems of reliability, accuracy, and safety in the field by developing their proprietary FN SCAR design. The design utilizes a short-stroke gas piston system which routes a portion of the propellant gases through a regulator to the gas piston located below the front sight post. The routed gas drives the internal mechanics to eject the spent case and load a new cartridge from the weapon’s magazine.
Since excess gas is vented forward rather than into the bolt or chamber, the rifle’s critical mechanics are kept cooler and cleaner. The result is improved reliability and accuracy and a reduction in necessary maintenance.
One of the world’s most renowned small arms manufacturers, the SIG Sauer company actually started out as the Swiss Wagon Factory, building sophisticated wagons and rail cars.
The company broke into weapons design in 1860, when they submitted a cutting-edge rifle concept to a competition held by Switzerland’s Federal Ministry of Defense. As a result of their success in the competition, the company received a contract from the Swiss government for 30,000 Prelaz-Burnand rifles.
From those humble beginnings, SIG Sauer Inc.continues to forge new paths in weapons design. In 2015, SIG Sauer expanded its business to include suppressors, high-tech optics, and high-performance ammunition.
The Sig Sauer SOR1P100 Romeo1Pro Reflex Red Dot
One of the company’s most notable accomplishments is the P320 handgun, which became the US military’s handgun of choice in 2017, replacing the M9 model (Beretta 92FS).
More recently, the SIG Sauer P365 micro-compact pistol was awarded the 2018 Golden Triggr Award for Innovation in Firearms. The P365 was also chosen by Shooting Illustrated Magazine as their Golden Bullseye winner for the 2019 Handgun of the Year.
The Sig P365 is a high-capacity, double stack, striker fired, short-recoil handgun. Perfect for EDC, this small semi-auto pistol is currently the top-selling handgun in the United States. In 2019, SIG released an Anti-Snag (SAS) version of the popular P365. With no front sight, flush takedown and slide catch levers, and an embedded fiber optic rear sight, the P365 SAS is perfect for deep concealment.
Established in 1995, KelTec is an American company that designs and manufactures innovative, high-performance firearms. The company has developed a wide variety of firearms, ranging from semi-automatic handguns to semi-auto rifles and shotguns.
KelTec is currently one of the top five handgun manufacturers in the United States and one of the largest in the world.
KelTec is brave enough to try things no other manufacturer has attempted. Their accomplishments include products like the PLR-16, a long range pistol chambered in 5.56 NATO. The PLR-16 uses a multi-lug rotating bolt design and breech-locking system with a gas piston system (just like the AR-515). This innovative semi-auto pistol was designed for recreational target shooting, although it also works well for hunting varmints and small game.
KelTec is also well-known for its folding pistol caliber carbines (like the SUB-2000). These weapons allow you to run your rifle on the same magazines (including Smith and Wesson M&P, Sig Sauer P226, Beretta 92 & 96, and Glock 17, 19, 22, & 23) as your favorite sidearm.
Another awesome line of products from KelTec is their series of high-efficiency rifles dubbed the RFB (Rifle, Forward-ejection, Bullpup). These bullpup rifles feature a patented forward-ejection system. This unique system utilizes a tube placed over the barrel that ejects the spent case forward away from the shooter, making this weapon totally ambidextrous.
Founded in the early 1990s, TNW Firearms originally produced historical weaponry and accessories for gun collectors, museums, and movie companies. After relocating to Vernonia, Oregon in 1994, TNW was able to conduct on-site testing, allowing them to expand their business into firearms research and development.
In 2012, TNW released its new, innovative Aero Survival Rifle (ASR). Designed for practicality in extreme survival situations, this pistol-caliber takedown rifle incorporated technology and features never before seen in the carbine rifle market.
The TNW ASR is a blowback-operated semi-automatic, making it tough and reliable, even in harsh wilderness conditions. While lightweight blowback carbines are nothing new, what really makes the TNW ASR stand out is its removable barrel, easily convertible caliber changes, and collapsible stock.
In terms of portability and convenience in a survival or remote backpacking situation, TNW went one step further with their Aero Survival Pistol (ASP). Like its big brother, the ASR, the ASP is a takedown firearm. Portable, rugged, and reliable, the ASP is compact, lightweight, and easily assembles and disassembles on the fly. With an extended handguard and tactical SOB arm brace, the TNW ASP shoots like a pistol but with the increased velocity and range of a rifle.
This small Czech company was founded by a group of firearms professionals dedicated to revolutionizing the gun industry. Laugo Arms was founded in 2001 as an independent design platform. It’s most recognizable design to date is the Laugo M8A sub machine gun, currently manufactured by CZ Firearms as the Scorpion EVO 3.
Dissatisfied by the mass production of often obsolete gun designs, Laugo split from CZ Firearms in 2013. After moving its operations to Prague in 2017, Laugo Arms became a fully independent firearms manufacturing company focusing on highly advanced futuristic gun designs.
Introduced to the US market at the 2020 SHOT Show (where it won Best in Show), Laugo’s Alien 500 competition pistol features one of the most innovative designs to hit the industry in decades.
Boasting the lowest bore axis in the world, the semi-auto Alien pistol features several patented and unique technical solutions to common pistol problems. Most notable is the low bore axis (just 1.7mm under the shooter’s grip), which results in a near flat recoil angle and zero muzzle rise.
Another impressive design feature on the Alien 500 is the permanently fixed barrel. Completely attached to the pistol’s frame, the barrel remains stationary during the firing cycle, free-floating like the barrel on a sniper rifle.
The slide moves only on the sides of the weapon. This keeps your sights from moving during the cycle. WIth a permanent line of sight, the shooter’s eye can easily focus on the target, allowing for rapid and accurate follow-up shots.
The Alien 500 packs a ton of innovative features into one compact package. Hitting the firearms scene with a major splash, Laugo Arms promises to grab our attention and shake things up with future designs.
CZ is a Czech-based engineering company whose primary focus is the design and production of firearms for hunting, sport shooting, and law enforcement. In 2019, in cooperation with CZ-USA (the American-based distribution and service company for CZ products), a CZ production facility in Kansas City opened to manufacture limited models in the United States.
One of the top ten small arms manufacturers in the world (and one of only 5 that produces automatic weapons), CZ products have been pushing firearms design boundaries for more than a century.
CZ’s exciting recent designs include the Bren 2 Ms. A rifle caliber pistol, the Bren 2 Ms is a robust, yet surprisingly lightweight AR-style (but not an AR) weapon. The Bren 2 Ms also comes in carbine form. Built to meet 922(r) compliance, the Bren 2 Ms carbine comes with a 16 ½- inch barrel and an adjustable, foldable stock.
In the realm of pistols, CZ has melded their own ergonomics and magazine capacity with the single action fire control of a Dan Wesson 1911. CZ isn’t afraid to take the best elements of the best guns and combine them to make something even better. That’s what they accomplished with their USPSA Limited edition Dan Wesson DWX. The result is a high-performance handgun built to dominate the competition field.
Founded in 1999 by former Marine Corps sergeant, Richard M. Fitzpatrick, Magpul Industries focuses on high-tech polymer and composite firearms accessories. The company takes its name from their very first product, the Magpul magazine puller, an accessory used by NATO forces to pull STANAG mags from pouches.
Magpul Original Mag Assist
Magpul mostly designs and manufactures polymer magazines and accessories (particularly for the AR-15 platform). Their high-quality parts and accessories include stocks and pistol braces, grips, handguards, rails, sights, bipods, and suppressor covers.
The company has recently forged a path into the protective eyewear arena. Their new line of impact resistant ballistic protection glasses has all the quality and durability consumers have come to associate with the Magpul name.
Most models exceed MILSPEC and ANZI Z87.1 industrial safety standards. Not only are Magpul safety glasses virtually indestructible, they are also comfortable, stylish, and have a special anti-reflective coating that minimizes glare and guarantees a crisp, clear field of view.
Magpul eyewear also provides protection from liquid, corrosive chemicals, and ultraviolet light.
These are easily the best protective eyewear ever developed for shooting.
Magpul Terrain Sunglasses
Magpul’s recently introduced line of DAKA gear is another exciting new development from this innovative company. Made from anti-slip polymer infused fabric, these products are completely waterproof, chemical resistant, and built to stand up to dust, mud, dirt and rough use.
FoldAR is a veteran-owned company dedicated to developing revolutionary products primarily for military and law enforcement personnel. They specialize in producing high-quality, compact, foldable AR platform firearms.
Legitimately earning the title of the most compact AR, FoldAR weapons fold down to a meager length of 10 ¾ inches, making them super easy to store, carry, and conceal. Available in both rifle and pistol configurations in a variety of calibers, these foldable weapons deploy instantly, are guaranteed to return to zero, and offer precision 1 MOA accuracy.
FoldAR weapons can also be fired with the stock in the folded position, making them convenient, fast, and highly versatile.
The weapons are outfitted with high-quality Magpul furniture, Rise Armament triggers, M-Lok handguards and top rails, and Deadfoot Arms folding braces.
Although FoldAR uses quality components from other firearms manufacturers, the technology of the weapon is thoroughly proprietary.
The foldAR has a low-profile hinge on the left side of the weapon that fastens the receiver to the forend and barrel. On the opposite side of the weapon is a hook-and-latch system. To fold the weapon, you simply pop the latch and fold the rifle. To deploy, just place the hook in the lock and squeeze the latch until it locks into place.
Voilà! You have an instant AR.
It’s hard to talk about innovation in the field of firearms without mentioning ammunition. After all, a rifle, shotgun, or pistol isn’t effective unless it’s loaded with good, quality ammo.
Hornady was founded in 1949 as a simple two-man operation with one driving goal: “Ten bullets through one hole.” From those humble beginnings, Hornady has grown into one of the most respected names in the shooting world.
With a desire to provide modern shooters with the most accurate, deadly, and dependable ammunition possible, Hornady has been a major innovator in the industry. When you hold a box of Hornady ammunition, no matter the cartridge or load, you know you are holding the best bullets, brass, and propellants money can buy. Plus, you know the box contains cartridge designs backed by the leading ballisticians, technicians, and press operators in the industry.
Hornady has been stirring up the world of ammunition for more than 70 years, and they continue to lead the field in quality and ammo technology. The company’s Outfitter ammunition is one of their most recent developments. It features waterproof nickel-plated cases and monolithic copper alloy GMX bullets that deliver controlled expansion, excellent weight retention, and deep penetration. These are the perfect hunting loads for the gamut of North American game animals.
If you prefer hunting with a handgun over a rifle, Hornady has you covered there as well. Their new Handgun Hunter line built around their innovative MonoFlex projectile. This unique handgun bullet is built with a special elastomer material that fills the bullet’s hollow point cavity. Upon target impact, the material compresses, pushing the edges of the cavity outward and causing rapid and massive expansion.
But don’t think that Hornady focuses only on hunting ammunition. Hornady produces highly specialized ammo for self-defense and serious competition shooting.
Each year, a ton of new firearms and gear hit the market. Keep your eyes on the companies on our list. Many of these manufacturers release new products and technologies annually, constantly changing the shooting world and making us all better shooters. We’re certainly excited to see what these innovative companies come up with next.