Ars Mechanica

Driving innovation

The Herstal Group, proud of its history

The Herstal Group, composed of FN Herstal for the military, police and security forces market, and Browning for the civilian (hunting and sports shooting) market, is about to celebrate its 135th anniversary. Few Belgian companies, above all, can boast of forming an international group thanks to a worldwide commercial network and an industrial tool positioned in Belgium, Finland, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Japan and the United States.

In 2021, the Ars Mechanica Foundation, guardian of the Herstal Group’s heritage since 2008, redeploys through a new visual identity and new communication tools. It is making a strategic shift and extending its activities internationally, with the aim of consolidating the company’s brand image. At this precise moment the publication of a new book recounting its history was decided. Indeed, its singularity and the considerable expansion experienced by the Liège-based company in recent years deserve to be updated and revealed once again. “Once again”, because this is not the first book devoted to the history of the Herstal Group, but the fourth of its kind since 1964, when the first monograph on the subject was published. This first book, produced for the 75th anniversary of the Fabrique Nationale, as it was known at the time, was followed by two other books in 1989 and 2008, published respectively for the 100th and 120th anniversaries of the company.

The phrase “Driving Innovation”, which has always resonated in the company’s history, was a natural subtitle for this new book. It has also permeated its production, as it is the carrying out of a complete overhaul of the texts and illustrations, with a layout that has been brought into line with today’s aesthetic tastes. This new 400-page book, published by the Mercator Fund, is presented in an uncluttered composition, leaving room for large-format images, creating an emotional charge through the singularity and the striking choice of the subjects represented. The iconography is supported by extensive captions and, as a novelty in the genre, the book is punctuated by technical sheets on the products that have marked the history of the Group, from the Browning B25 over-under shotgun to the FN EVOLYS® machine gun, via the FN 4-cylinder motorbike and the FN® FAL automatic rifle. These detailed notes highlight the major innovations brought by the Herstal Group to the field of contemporary armaments and mechanical arts in general. This technological aspect is supported by the chronology of the story, which will allow history enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the rich industrial history of the Herstal Group.

The reader begins in 1889 with the first order for 150,000 Mauser rifles placed by the Belgian government, and then moves on to the five generations of men and women who succeeded each other in building the company according to opportunities and circumstances, thanks to the sometimes-daring policy of diversification, innovation and internationalisation pursued by the company. Through this history, we also understand how mechanical engineering has enabled a factory to evolve from the second industrial revolution, that of steel and electricity, to the fourth industrial revolution, that of digital technology. But also how the deliberate policy pursued by the Herstal Group over the last fifteen years of investment, innovation, redeployment, diversification of its business sectors and modernisation of its industrial tools have made it a world leader in its two sectors of activity: Defence & Security through the FN Herstal brand and Hunting & Sports Shooting under the Browning and Winchester brands (Winchester Firearms is a brand registered by Olin Corporation).

On 3rd July 2024, the Herstal Group will celebrate 135 years of technological innovation and unique know-how that have enabled it to design, manufacture and market quality and ever more innovative products, with the aim of achieving the greatest satisfaction of its customers and partners. A tradition and a commitment highlighted in this new book, which the company and all its staff intend to perpetuate.


See here some pages from the book:

Release date is imminent. Follow us on LinkedIn and discover soon how to get a copy.