Four years after being acquired by a private equity firm, Bushmaster Firearms International plans to close its manufacturing plant in Windham, effective March 31.

The firearms manufacturer, which was founded in 1973 and is based in Windham, employs 73 workers in Maine.

A media release from Madison, N.C.-based Freedom Group Inc., Bushmaster’s parent company, said the Windham plant’s staff will be given “comprehensive severance packages” and assistance in finding new jobs.

Freedom Group will retain the Bushmaster brand but move the manufacturing of products now made in Windham to other facilities. Freedom Group owns other firearms manufacturers, including Remington Arms Co., Dakota Arms Cos., Parker Gunmakers, H&R 1871 and Marlin Firearms.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation called the closure a blow to the Windham community.

“The workers of that company have earned an international reputation for the quality of their work … It’s very disappointing to see them cut out of the respected brand they have worked so hard to build,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree in a prepared statement.

A statement from the offices of Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins said Bushmaster “has provided good jobs to workers in the Windham area, and the facility’s closure will be a great economic loss to southern Maine.”

Bushmaster makes short-barreled and long-barreled rifles, including the M16 military rifle and the related AR15. Those models are used by law enforcement agencies, private security firms and the militaries of 50 countries.

Bushmaster guns are made from aluminum and advanced carbon fiber and are used for hunting, recreational and competition shooting and home defense, according to the company’s website.

Bushmaster made news in August, when R.J. Grondin & Sons proposed building an enclosed firing range at its quarry in Windham for weapons testing by Bushmaster. The proposal followed months of complaints by residents about noise from high-power weapons testing at the quarry.

Bushmaster was acquired in April 2006 by the New York City-based private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, which also acquired Remington, DPMS and Marlin from 2006 to 2008.

All were placed under the ownership of Freedom Group, a company owned by Cerberus.

In a 2009 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said the acquisitions were intended to create “the world’s leading firearms and ammunition company.”

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or at:

jhemmerdinger @mainetoday.com