Is Blackwater back?
A full-page ad in the January/February edition of Recoil magazine features the original bear-paw logo of the controversial private security firm below the words, "We are coming."
A December Military Times story connected the ad to President Donald Trump's newly announced plans to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, suggesting a resurgent Blackwater might contract with the government to carry out a privatized war.
Or it might just be a clever campaign to draw attention to Blackwater Ammunition, a fledgling joint venture between Blackwater founder and CEO Erik Prince and Italian gun and ammunition designer Nicola Bandini.
Another full-page ad appearing in firearms magazines this month appears to indicate the latter: a precision round with the text "Back in black" superimposed and the website for Blackwater Ammunition listed on the bottom of the page.
Whatever the case, it appears the new ammo company wants to prolong the suspense.
Bandini, reached by Military.com by phone in Italy, said he couldn't confirm or deny the meaning of the ad campaign, saying Prince would be at the SHOT Show weapons expo later this month in Las Vegas, talking more freely about his plans.
"It is not only for Blackwater Ammunition," Bandini said of the ads. "It's the larger operation, but still in the tangible industrial field. Anything else, I don't want to elaborate."
When Blackwater Ammunition launched at the IWA & OutdoorClassics sporting and weapons show in Bavaria, Germany, last March, Bandini said he observed "desperation and anguish" among other industry brands at the prospect of a new disruptor joining the group.
"This gave me the perception that innovation, credibility and brand is a powerful mixture," he said.
Bandini, who is perhaps best known for designing the AF2011-A1 double-barrelled pistol, based on the M1911, said he has known Blackwater founder Prince for a decade and had been eager to combine his own design prowess with Prince's tactical expertise.
"Most of the civilian breakthroughs in technology and materials come from the military sector," he said.
While Blackwater Ammunition features the distinctive logo of the original Blackwater USA security firm, Prince's original venture is now operating under different ownership and a different name.
Blackwater Security Consulting found itself embroiled in controversy after employees of the firm killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more during a convoy escort in 2007. The episode resulted in the firm's prohibition from working in Iraq and convictions for four Blackwater security guards in 2014 on charges including murder and manslaughter. A 2017 appeals court decision, however, voided one conviction and ordered resentencing for the other defendants; legal proceedings are ongoing.
In 2010, the company, known as Blackwater Worldwide, was sold. It later was renamed Academi. The firm still operates as a division of the Constellis Group but has no current connection to Erik Prince.