Federal Ammunition on Why Bigger Is Better

Federal Ammunition 224 Valkyrie Ammo

USA – -( Being the world’s largest ammunition manufacturer helps Federal deliver a wealth of benefits to hunters and shooters.

Modern factory ammunition is now built to such a high standard that many shooters and hunters obsessed with accuracy and performance no longer have to handload to achieve the desired result. They simply trust factory ammo to do the job.

Federal, the world’s largest ammunition manufacturer, has led this charge. It’s obsessed with accuracy and totally dedicated to performance. And it’s been so for nearly a century.

A World of Difference

Federal Poly-Wrapped Hollow-Point Syntech Defense Bullet
Federal Poly-Wrapped Hollow-Point Syntech Defense Bullet

Being the largest isn’t just boasting, however. It matters because it allows Federal to deliver a wide range of benefits to the actual consumer.

It means they can produce the quantity needed to fulfill military and law enforcement contracts, while also offering an unmatched variety to everyone—rimfire, shotshell, handgun and rifle ammo, as well as primers, cases and component bullets for reloaders. Federal makes hundreds of SKUs ranging from .22 LR to .500 Nitro Express, for everything from competition and plinking to big game hunting and law enforcement.

This manufacturing capacity means hunters and shooters of all stripes can get the exact product that best meets their needs.

It also means more new products. In 2018 alone, Federal introduced more than 34 items, including Hydra-Shok Deep, Nosler Ballistic Tip in .224 Valkyrie, 3rd Degree with HEAVYWEIGHT TSS, and Syntech Action Pistol. In 2019, Federal will add more than 25 new products, including HST 10mm Auto, Barnes TSX, Berger Hybrid Hunter, Black Cloud TSS, Syntech PCC (Pistol Caliber Carbine) and Fusion 450 Bushmaster.

Finally, Federal’s size allows it to give back to the industry and country by investing in legislative and conservation efforts that protect the Second Amendment and support the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, which ensures that future generations of American hunters will enjoy the great outdoors.

Humble Origins

Federal began humbly in 1922 when Charles L. Horn took control of a three-year-old fledgling ammunition manufacturer. Knowing he faced fierce competition from a pair of established ammo companies, he embarked on a novel strategy. Horn worked to get his products—which at the time consisted only of shotshells produced in a 9,000-square-foot factory—onto the shelves of barber shops, gas stations, and grocery stores. He also succeeded in establishing a contract to sell Federal Ammunition through Montgomery Ward & Co., and Sears. The strategy worked and helped the company grow. In 1941, Federal secured a contract worth $87 million from the U.S. government to build and operate the Twin City Ordnance Plant in Arden Hills, Minnesota, which was a critical contributor to military ammunition and other defense products production during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict.

Today, Federal is part of Vista Outdoor, Inc., an outdoor sports and recreation corporation which also owns CCI, Speer, Estate, Blazer, Independence, Alliant Powder and more—all brands are run by Ammunition President Jason Vanderbrink.

The Federal Ammunition factory in Anoka, Minnesota, is now a 700,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility where 1,400 employees work in three shifts, 24/7, to produce millions of rounds of centerfire, rimfire and shotshell ammo per day.

The factory is vertically integrated, which means raw materials enter one door and finished product rolls out the other end. Importantly for quality control, the factory is also self-sustaining—all the personnel needed to build quality ammo are on site, including machine operators, plumbers, and electricians. There’s a machine shop, equipment maintenance, manufacturing engineering, product development engineering, marketing, and sales. And to make sure the ammo performs at that high level, the site also contains 16 test ranges—10 centerfire, one rimfire, and five shotshells.

“We don’t just buy parts and put them together, or have other companies load stuff for us,” said Vanderbrink. “We do it all on site, and every day our manufacturing facilities consume tons of plastic beads, lead, brass strips, copper, steel, and chemicals. These materials are used to build our own bullets, pellets, cases, primer parts, primers, shotshell hulls, shotshell heads, and more. The consumer benefits because we have complete quality control, and our seasoned operators have decades of experience.”

Also, Federal has a contract with the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri. The facility is the single largest supplier of small-arms ammo for the United States military, with an output of nearly 1.4 billion rounds per year. With the capacity to produce millions of rounds per day, all with Lake City’s famed mil-spec brass and bullets, the facility ensures that Federal can continue to provide its customers with the ammunition they need and the quality they expect.

Although Lake City is not a Federal property (it is owned by the U.S. government), it is like other Federal factories in that the facility’s reputation is built on hard work, attention to detail, and the dedication to produce the very best. Its 76-year track record of crafting high-quality ammunition speaks for itself, and Lake City components have earned the trust of the most discriminating shooters.

Federal’s sister companies, Speer and CCI, based in Lewiston, Idaho, also generate industry-leading products. The size and output of these two companies adds to Federal’s overall strength and consumer reach.

“CCI and Speer are separate companies and brands with their own production teams,” said Vanderbrink. “However, all brands work together to share business insights, research and development, factory capacity, manufacturing best practices, technology, safety, innovation, and more. Taken together, it allows us to build better products. Our competitors simply do not have multiple factories and pools of knowledge, experience and expertise in every field. But, we do, and we take every advantage of that.”

The ability to instantly access the knowledge and experience of the teams at Federal, CCI, Speer and other brands gives the company an enormous advantage over other manufacturers. It makes Federal larger and stronger, and those deep resources pay off in product development and serving the market.

Industrial Powerhouse

Shooting Federal Ammunition AR15 Rifle
Shooting Federal Ammunition AR15 Rifle

According to the 2017 annual report prepared by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Federal had purchase numbers of 21 percent for end users who bought shotshell, 11 percent for the amount of rifle ammo purchased, and 14 percent of the handgun ammo sold. But when you factor in the other brands under the Vista Outdoor umbrella—the totals are even more impressive. Share of buyers for rifle ammo is 30 percent, handgun 37 percent and shotshell is 26 percent. Considering that in 2017 more than 200 million boxes of ammo were purchased in the United States, you can see just how big Federal’s ammo operations have become.

Vista Outdoor Company is a publicly held corporation, and it is required to file annually with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the most recent filing, Federal is now number one in market share. It is also number one in purchased rifle ammunition and number one in purchased law enforcement ammo.

Federal and Speer lead the law enforcement market. “Although ammunition produced for the law enforcement market isn’t tracked in the same manner as consumer ammo, we know our Speer LE brand is number one, based on the number of contracts we have with law enforcement departments nationwide,” said Vanderbrink.
CCI is the leader in rimfire, making a wide variety of loads for varmint and small game hunters, as well as competitive shooters and plinkers.

Not Just Numbers

But the story is not just about numbers. Over the years, Federal has been a leader in safety. Today’s upland and waterfowl hunters take for granted the fast and easy way to determine the gauge of a shell—by its color. That wasn’t the case before 1960. But Federal led the way by color-coding its hulls.
Federal has also pioneered by reducing the lead footprint in ammunition through its Syntech product line. The polymer-encapsulated Syntech bullet eliminates both lead and copper barrel fouling, and the exclusive Catalyst lead-free primer provides the cleanest, most consistent ignition possible. Those are just a couple of the reasons it received the 2017 NRA Golden Bullseye Award.

Federal has been a leader in innovation as well. In 1977, it created the Premium line of centerfire rifle and shotshell ammunition. The initial Nosler Partition and the Sierra boat-tail hollow point offerings both brought handloader-level accuracy and performance to everyone. The number and variety of Premium items swelled over the coming years, and today you can find a Premium product in every category. And whether it’s a 22 LR round for small game, a trap load for competition, self-defense ammunition or anything in between—all Premium products share common threads.

“They all offer what we call ‘The Premium Difference,’” said Vanderbrink. “No matter what kind of product it is, each is built with the finest components and held to our tightest quality standards.”

For centerfire rifle hunting ammo, for example, that means Gold Medal primers, the finest in the industry, as well as nickel-plated brass and specially formulated, clean-burning propellants that provide the most consistent and reliable performance.

Lasting Legacy

But the company’s lasting legacy just might be its dedication to conservation and its leadership in supporting programs that help develop the next generation of American sportsmen and women. Horn was a dedicated conservationist, and he made sure Federal supported passage of the Pittman–Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, the cornerstone of American conservation efforts. Among other sweeping reforms, the act created a self-imposed excise tax on ammunition and firearms, which has raised billions of dollars to help preserve wildlife, habitat and the American sporting tradition.

Federal was an early supporter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation and Pheasants Forever, and it continues to support these groups today. It also supports the Ruffed Grouse Society, Ducks Unlimited and Whitetails Unlimited.

Last year Federal announced its continued sponsorship and support of one of the largest and longest-running gateways to a variety of shooting disciplines—the National 4-H Shooting Sports Program. It offers boys and girls ages 8 to 18 instruction and competitive opportunities in disciplines including archery, muzzleloading, pistol, rifle and shotgun. Currently, more than 450,000 youths and 20,000 state- and national-certified volunteer instructors are active in 4-H programs directed through the Cooperative Extension Service of the Land Grant Universities in 47 states nationwide.

Federal and CCI are also the Official Shooting Sports Partners of the Boy Scouts of America. The shotshell and rimfire ammunition partnership supports 1,620 Scout camps that offer shooting sports across the country. The brands are also the exclusive ammunition sponsors at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, home of the Boy Scouts National Jamboree and high adventure courses.

“Federal’s history is directly tied to conservation and conservation organizations,” said Vanderbrink. “We started making shotshells in 1922—the low point for most game species—so investing in conservation and restoration of wildlife was an important business strategy if we were to make it as a company. In 1937 we began investing in 4H Conservation Camps specifically to help the next generation avoid future dustbowls. As we have grown, we have seen new conservation issues emerge, and new conservation groups.”

Federal’s support of these organizations pays off in ways many hunters might not realize. The partnership with NWTF, for example, was critical in getting states to modernize their shot size restrictions to allow turkey hunters to use the smaller pellets in Federal’s new, more powerful HEAVYWEIGHT TSS payloads.
Federal’s size and reach also allow it to work effectively and tirelessly for American sportsman in the halls of power.

“We have brought our internal government relations staff to bear on issues such as public lands and CRP in the Farm Bill,” said Vanderbrink. “It is a powerful force multiplier when a large company that employs thousands of people talks to policy makers about how access and conservation are critical to our business and to jobs in their states. It simply means more coming from us rather than from non-profit advocates. But what really separates us from the rest of our industry is that we have and deploy a conservation and government relations staff to benefit the industry as a whole, so when a consumer chooses Federal they are also supporting conservation, the Second Amendment and public lands.”

Why Big Is Best

Federal’s drive to be the world’s biggest ammunition manufacturer has never been rooted solely in creating profits for investors. It has always been based in the far-larger desire to build something uniquely American. To provide well-paying jobs for employees so they can support their families and contribute to their communities. To build superior products that perform at exceptionally high levels, whether the end user is a member of USA Shooting competing at the Olympics, a backcountry elk hunter who hears the electrifying sound of a bugle at first light, or the weekend plinker at the range with their son or daughter and a .22. Federal is guided by its abiding belief that hunting and shooting are integral American pursuits that need to be cherished and passed on to new generations. By leveraging its resources and position, it accomplishes all these goals and more, yielding benefits for all who love to shoot.

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