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Thread: Ammo manufacturing
07-21-2008, 11:28 PM #1
I'm interested in manufacturing ammunition in the future and was wondering if anyone knew of any good resources like books, or web-sites on the subject. I'm involved in a gunsmith apprenticeship at work, and I plan on manufacturing guns as a career, but I also want to get into ammo. production. I've asked a few people at work about this, and they didn't seem to know where to start. I've heard of the book by Ken Howell on forming and designing custom cartridges, but I wasn't sure if the book covered the actual manufacturing side of the cartridge. I'm not just looking to re-load, I want to know what it takes to manufacture the case, the bullet, the primer, the powder and what equipment is required to do this on a mass production scale down the road. Any info is appreciated.
07-22-2008, 12:29 AM #2
NRA had a book on that called Ammunition Manufacturing written by an engineer that worked for Winchester and a firm in the Philipines.Lots of serious machinery and a lot of competition from Remmington,Federal,CCI, Winchester.
Olin(Winchester) is the only ammo manufacturer that gets all the form itself.They own copper,lead, and zinc mines,paper mills for cellulose etc.
I had planned to get into commercial ammo remanufacturing but insurance is a killer.
07-22-2008, 01:11 AM #3
I've heard of smaller companies like black hills ammo, and Amer-i-can doing pretty good business, and I've always been interested in learning how to make ammo., but it sounds like there might not be much room for the little, little guys.
07-22-2008, 01:48 AM #4
Do a search for Corbin Engineering. Their equipment is primarily a low volume custom bullet stuff but they offer jacket, lead core supplies and bullet swaging dies. Case forming will require both annealing and brass drawing equipment.
07-22-2008, 01:56 AM #5
Ammunition Making, by George E. Frost
This book was published by the NRA and I think you will find it very interesting.
I've been out of the guns and ammo loop for a few years now, but I'd be surprised if Black Hills manufactured their own cases. My guess is that they contract with someone else to make the components for them.
For such a seamingly simple object as a round of centerfire ammunition there is a tremendous amount of equipment and infrastructure required.
The brass line begins with coil or cups and is formed on large draw presses. Then it is headed, head-turned, body tapered, and trimmed. Each step is its own process and equipment. Don't forget the annealing and wash cycles in between each step plus the QC equipment to monitor case hardness and wall thicknesses.
Then you have another set of operations to build primers and yet another to assemble bullets which include jacket draws and swagers, etc., etc.
As an example of cost, a carbide profile die for a bullet assembly machine is manufactured to .0002" tolarance and cost around $800 these days. I couldn't begin to guess how much capitol cost it would take to get into serious mass-production.
There are several smaller companies who have carved out a niche, primarily in bullets, like Sierra, Barnes, Nosler, Hornady. A couple others draw bullet jackets, J-4 jackets come to mind, IIRC. Fewer still, are those who manufacture brass or primers. But they all started somewhere, usually with a good idea of how to make something better and the gumption to do it.
Enjoy the book,
07-22-2008, 03:03 AM #6
The manufacturing of both ammunition and firearms are two different breeds of cat. The companies that currently do both are very old and established. Enthusiasm is a wonderful thing but both can be very expensive to dabble in.
Without checking all the books on firearm history the only person I can think of off hand that designed both firearms and the ammunition for same (at least the most current one) was Eugene Stoner who was employed by ArmaLite. In the early 50's he developed both the AR-15 and the 5.56MM cartridge for the rifle.
07-22-2008, 03:12 AM #7
+1 on the Frost book, very interesting, making your own cases etc would be a HUGE investment. Team up with somebody like Starline to make cases for your needs.
Try making custom bullets first with equip from Corbin and see how you like it, You'll get a great idea of what it takes just to make the projectile. There is a great niche market for bullets these days. but unless you can make cartridge cases with great precision then you might just end up making brass like A-merc where there are several differences in rim thickness and case dimensions within just one lot of brass.
07-22-2008, 05:27 AM #8
No one ever did anything big without planning to, I admire your ambition.
Here are a few examples of guys starting out small who have found a niche making ammo componants, you could do worse than to read up a little on them and perhaps speak to any who are still alive.
Bear in mind that many other people have had the idea of making bullets cases etc and the good ones found a proffitable niche and are now supplying the market with what it used to be short of.
You need to find a niche supplying something the market is short of, perhaps because yours is better, cheaper, or completely different and a must have.
some stuff is high price, but that is probably coupled to a small market, so the cost probably partly reflects stocking stuff that stays on the shelf for a long time, e.g African big game numbers. some of those are very demanding to make as well, eg loads for double rifles must shoot to the same point of impact out of both barrels, you'd need access to a lot of double rifles just for load development!
You will never compete with govt arsenals working with tax payer's mega$$$$, don't even try current military calibres. there might be mileage in good target or hunting loads in obsolete military calibres, e.g. .303, .30-40, 7mm mauser.
RCBS started out making .22 bullets with re swaged .22rf empties for jackets. They may still supply the dies for doing it on a hand press. I think it was in the 1920s or 30s they started, and factory made bullets were hardly available.
One of the Brothers who founded RCBS set out to make cases, but i think he had trouble securing the right quality of brass on a consistant basis. i think that was late 40s or 50s.
There is (or was until recently) a guy called Jim Goodwin who traded as North Devon Firearms services, who used to make dies and things like .577 snider and .577/.450 Martini henri cases, turned from solid. Britain wasn't exactly the biggest or most friendly market for that sort of business.
The benchrest and long range target shooters have a whole string of guys making custom bullets to very tight tolerances. Bench resters are always looking for that extra something to give them an edge and shoot a lot of bullets. They also tend to be analy retentive obsessive types who'd weigh and measure every aspect of every single bullet, and likely some would bitch about anything they could to explain a bad score. You might be better selling them lots of dies, so they can junk them at the first measurable sign of wear, rather than have them blame you for not doing it...
Is B.E.L.L. still on the go making solid drawn cases?
If you're still reading
How about doing the rounds of the guys who are doing the small scale custom bullets, cases, and commercial re loading, talking to them and mabe work for one or two to suss out how the market and the manufacturing side work and if it is for you?
07-22-2008, 05:53 AM #9
Alpacca Fortyfive is correct. If you have your heart set on something you would like to do give it a try.
You never learn without trying.
07-22-2008, 09:13 AM #10
True, but if you get blown into very small pieces trying to make primers your opportunity to use your new knowledge is somewhat limited.
It was a while back so I don't know if it was "Shooting USA" or its predecessor "American Shooter" but Jim Scoutten did a tour of Federal's ammo plant which showed the entire process. Very cool to see. You might want to contact them and see if one of the DVDs has that show.
07-22-2008, 09:54 PM #11
Being a Benchrest shooter, both short and long range, I can't let your comments go by without adding my own.
You are right, Benchrest shooters are always striving for that extra little bit of accuarcy but you're wrong to call us "analy retentive obsessive types." If you'd observe a Benchrest match today you won't find any of us weighing and/or measuring things like bullets. We don't even weigh powder charges anymore. Why? Because the custom bullet makers are so good that there is nothing to be gained by checking their products. Powder throwers are so accurate that weighing charges is no longer necessary. Custom made loading dies are so well made that they can produce cartridges that cannot be bettered by any other method. And the dies do not wear out. I've used the same die set for my 6mm PPC for the past 15 years and they're still as accuarte as the day I bought them.
Only a very few Benchrest shooters will blame their equipment for a bad group or score. With the high quality of everything we use we know who is ultimately responsible when things go bad.
This should tell Alhof something if he's still reading this far. It is, strive for quality. If you make ANY shooting related product and you make it better than anyone else you will never be wanting for business.
07-22-2008, 10:06 PM #12
Thanks Alpacca Fortyfive, and hagar. I don't think there is anything wrong with having a vision of what you want to accomplish, but I do believe maybe things aren't always meant to be, and the only way to find that out is to try. The whole purpose of the gun is to shoot out the bullet, and without the cartridge the gun is useless. The gun is designed around the cartridge, so at the very least, I'd like to learn as much as I can about ammo. design.
On another note, when I first got into firearms, and I learned more about the way guns function, all I could think about was how old the process of using gun powder, and the mechanics of how the gun worked seemed to be. Look at the 1911, or the m2hb. Even though modifications have been made over the years, were talking about a gun, in the 1911's case, that was designed a 100 years ago, and is still in use today. There's got to be some other technology, that we haven't tapped into that is just waiting out there to be discovered or further developed, and even if we never find it, we can still try and improve on what we already have. There may never again be a John Moses Browning, but we may be able to go to another level using his discoveries.
07-23-2008, 01:48 PM #13
If that's the case your best bet would be to see if you can work your way into a job at DARPA.