To an outsider, Newington is strip malls and the Pease Tradeport. A dark patch opposite all the glowing neon that straddles the Spaulding Turnpike. The small residential section of town sits protected by the brackish waters of Little Bay, seemingly doing its best not to be noticed.
But with its hometown company Sig Sauer winning a $580-million, 10-year contract with the United States Army last month, Newington may find itself with a slightly higher profile.
“Sig is a very good company, glad they got the contract, glad they still have their Newington address,” says Cosmas Iocovozzi, a resident who has spent the past 20 years on the Board of Selectmen.
“I had to correct the [Sig Sauer] CEO one day, when we first met awhile back when they were coming. I had to remind him we’re not in Portsmouth, you are in Newington.”
Sig Sauer’s headquarters occupy 200,000 square feet on the Newington side of Pease. The company also has a plant in Exeter, and a training facility in Epping. It’s pistol, the P320, reportedly beat out 11 other entries to become the new standard issue sidearm for all Army soldiers, replacing the Beretta M9.
It’s a major victory for Sig Sauer, in part, because of just how rarely these weapons come up for bidding.
“The M9 was adopted back in 1985 and before that, the M1911 made by Colt, another manufacturer, had been in service for about 75 years,” says Matthew Moss, a military historian and author. “So it’s a big deal that Sig has won the new contract.”
The Sig Sauer pistol, which will be called the M17, is built with modular components. That is, parts can be easily swapped out for different uses and sizes, including the grip. As more women enter combat roles, that ability to custom fit a weapon is important. Moss says even civilians will now likely see more of the P320.
“It will definitely become one of those recognizable handguns that you do see in movies and on TV.”
The contract calls for 280,000 P320s to be delivered, and certainly raises the profile of Sig Sauer. But it isn’t clear just how much it will impact Newington immediately.
“Newington was the best kept secret for the longest, longest time,” says resident Dennis Hebert, who sits on the Planning Board and served 34 years in the Air Force.
“I think the people here in Newington are super. We have a lot of history, families that have been living here for generations. They really want to maintain what we have, especially the rural character of the town.”
But with real estate in the Seacoast now so valuable, there are houses going up in Newington where there used to be farms. More people mean there need to be more jobs, and that’s what this Sig Sauer contract will ultimately do for the region. That, and a bit of bragging rights.
“It’s pretty exciting stuff. Especially to have homegrown, made in New Hampshire, made in America right here in our backyard,” says Hebert.
Sig Sauer isn’t allowed to grant interviews yet on the contract. It did recently announce it’s building a new factory in Arkansas, though. Energy costs, the company said, are too high here. But Sig will build all of the M17 handguns for the Army locally.
Every soldier carrying a bit of New Hampshire on his hip.