Byrna HD personal safety device

This cutaway shows the Byrna HD personal safety device, which will be made in Fort Wayne.

2020 has been a year of fear when it comes to personal safety. And an emerging personal security devices company says it plans to address the resulting surge in demand for its products soon by bringing production online in Fort Wayne.

Wakefield, Massachusetts-based Byrna Technologies Inc. makes the Byrna HD, which it says requires no license or permit to own and uses carbon dioxide to fire projectiles with pepper and tear gas.

The company, which trades over-the-counter under the BYRN ticker symbol, reported record online sales the last weekend of May “as civil unrest and wide scale looting in cities large and small across the United States drove demand,” according to a news release.

It received more than $160,000 in online orders May 30 through June 1, compared with $924,000 for its entire previous fiscal year ended Nov. 30.

Protests took place across the country that weekend in sympathy with George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in May in Minneapolis. Video recording showed him begging for breath as police officers kneeled on his neck. The protests have continued throughout the summer.

“Byrna’s customer service chat line exploded with calls from homeowners and shop owners looking for a non-lethal means of protecting their family and their property amid reports that police departments across the country were overwhelmed and unable to respond on a timely basis,” the company’s release said in June.

“To keep up with the growing demand for the Byrna HD personal security device, the company is accelerating plans to bring its U.S. manufacturing facility online by the end of August,” it said.

“The current manufacturing facility in Pretoria, South Africa is intended to be used to meet local South African demand as well as international orders while the U.S. facility in Fort Wayne, Indiana will be dedicated to fulfillment of U.S. orders.”

Demand for the device exploded again in mid-June when conservative commentator Sean Hannity suggested non-lethal weapons such as the Byrna HD might be a solution for individuals who felt threatened by recent events, a news release said.

Online orders for the product exceeded $2.4 million the night he suggested that, and a few hours before midnight the product’s website was modified to let customers know there would be a waiting period of more than eight weeks to fulfill them.

The website now says the wait period is 10 weeks.

“Last night reinforced our strong conviction that people on all sides of the gun debate can agree on one thing — there is a need for a truly effective personal security device that can stop a would-be attacker without the risk of permanent injury or death,” Bryan Ganz, Byrna’s CEO, said in the release.

“We will move heaven and earth to fill the recent influx of orders in the next few months.”

The non-lethal weapon has virtually no recoil and can be fitted with a laser for accurate shooting even by individuals who have never used a gun. Unlike pepper spray, stun guns or Tasers, the company said it provides a safety zone of 60 feet.

It comes with magazines Byrna said are easy to reload, which can hold five chemical irritant rounds designed to burst on impact, burning an assailant’s eyes and respiratory system.

Until recently, the product’s sole manufacturer was the private South African company, Roboro Industries, which Byrna acquired early in May for $500,000 in cash.

Byrna had been outsourcing the manufacture of its main product to Roboro, which shipped it to a Fort Wayne distribution center. The recent surge in demand for the Byrna HD moved up the timetable for establishing its U.S. production in the Summit City.

“With the technical knowledge and human resources acquired through the Roboro acquisition, we expect that the company will be able to bring the U.S. production facility online much more quickly,” Ganz said in a release.

“This should help address the other big challenge we have faced this year: a shortage of finished goods inventory in the United States due to a very constrained airfreight market,” he said.

“With the major airlines drastically reducing the number of international flights, it has been difficult to book space in this post Covid-19 world.”

Talent brought onboard through the Roboro acquisition also would help Byrna establish a U.S. components vendor network, which could benefit the company by providing it with redundant sources for many critical parts, the release said.

Lisa Wager, who handles Byrna’s investor relations, could not be reached for comment on the penny stock company’s Fort Wayne manufacturing plans.

An emailed response to questions that did not provide the size of investment or workforce required for local production, or the location of the plant, said Byrna was working around the clock to fulfill orders while ensuring quality.

Following the mid-June demand surge, the company hired additional workers and added shifts. And it said it reached out to critical vendors to do likewise to fulfill open orders as soon as possible.

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