Abu Dhabi has its sights set on becoming a leading manufacturing hub in the global arms trade, with this year seeing record worldwide sales of UAE-made handguns. Caracal International, an Abu Dhabi-based manufacturer, is now selling 40,000 of its semiautomatic pistols every year and has gained attention as a maker of competition firearms.
The company, which is owned by the state-run Tawazun Holding, has its sights set on Europe, the US and Asia as potential markets for its handguns. Guillaume Gerrier, the founder of the Caracal Shooting Club in Abu Dhabi, said the Caracal pistol showed the UAE was a strong competitor to established manufacturers. "It's lightweight, it's modern, it's accurate, simple and very user-friendly - all you need from a gun," he said.
Founded in 2007, Caracal International has grown quickly and now supplies handguns to the security forces of a number of Middle Eastern countries. Eighty per cent of the company's workforce is Emirati. Two of the biggest customers have been the UAE Interior Ministry and armed forces, each of which have purchased 10,000 guns. Bahrain and Jordan also purchased Caracal pistols for their security forces.
However, competition shooters in Europe are also proving keen customers, with Italy a leading market, according to Fratelli Tanfoglio, a company that imports the handguns for sale in Italy. "It wasn't easy to introduce a pistol produced in Abu Dhabi and unknown to everybody until one year ago," said Massimo Tanfoglio, a partner in Fratelli Tanfoglio. "But after one year of sales, we can confirm that Caracal has its place in the Italian market, with a reputation as a reliable pistol with zero defects and a very good after-sale service."
He said the Caracal models were recognised as good pistols for sport shooting, and his company was selling a large number of pistols to International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) shooters. Named after the small species of cat that hunts in the deserts of the UAE, the Caracal is the product of research by Wilhelm Bubits, an Austrian firearms expert who previously played a key role in the design of the Steyr M pistol.