FAMAE — Founded 1811

Even though Europeans were endowed with all the right stuff for colonization, namely guns and disease, they had a difficult time going up against Chile. Because even as early as 1578 when Sir Francis Drake tried to colonize Chile, he failed. Why? Chile had the largest, most well-equipped standing army in Latin America.

The colonists inadvertently bolstered Chile’s military might by introducing iron smelting there. The mining of copper and iron became the country’s economic mainstay. FAMAE, the oldest defense company in Latin America, has led the production of infantry weapons and ammunition since October 8, 1811, when Francisco Ramon Vicuña was mandated to commission an arms factory.

During the period between 1879–1883 when Chile battled against Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific, it gained significant land on its northern frontier. This annexation proved especially useful because of the area’s massive nitrate deposits, (the raw materials needed for weapons and ammunition). It ushered in decades-long national wealth, expansion and trade.

Knowing how to mass produce weapons and being state-run enabled FAMAE to expand quickly, but its social responsibility did as well. The operations were the center of everything for its workers and their families. Health clinics, schools, and residential development and services fell under the enterprise’s umbrella.


FAMAE provided well for the highly trained craftsmen and technicians who created its weapons. Obviously, quality control is even more important in a weapons factory where mistakes of millimeters can be deadly. Its long-term investment in human resources also helped recruit more specialized talent as the weapons of war grew more complex.

Today, FAMAE has an extensive portfolio of products from submachine guns to rockets and missiles that are used both domestically and internationally. As military engagement has become exceedingly more complex, this venerable institution has been able to anticipate the necessity for more targeted and precise weaponry. I imagine the data sets they compile are irrefutable. Simply stated, “Did it work, yes or no?”

One of the things that can make a company have longevity is producing something that you’re reasonably confident somebody is always going to want. Now it’s not possible to ascribe those qualities to many of the companies I’ve talked about so far. Pharmacy? Rum? Even a construction company may not be absolutely necessary.

But guns? Absolutely. Because as long as there is basic human aggression, there will be the need for tools to attack or defend. Since 1811, FAME has been operating a business that has a sustainable and everlasting market. It’s a rarity to have that kind of certainty in a business model, but whether you agree or not, weapons have and probably always will be needed by someone somewhere.

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