Ever wondered how Hornady bullets and ammunition are made? You’ll see every stage of production in this interesting video from the Outdoor Channel. Starting with raw materials (lead, copper, and brass), this 9-minute “factory tour” video shows how bullet cores are produced, how jackets are crafted, and how cartridge cases are formed, headstamped, and inspected. If you watch carefully you’ll also see the massive, multi-stage cartridge loading machines. Now one of the most successful manufacturers of ammunition and reloading components in the world, Hornady Manufacturing has come a long way from its early days. In 1949, Founder Joyce Hornady started the company “making bullets… in a garage down on 4th street” in Grand Island, Nebraska.
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Lead cylinders are pressed into lead wire used for bullet cores.
Spools of flat copper are fed into cupping machines. The punched cups become bullet jackets.
All cartridge cases and loaded rounds are hand-inspected.
Hornady Manufacturing — The Early Years
During World War II, Joyce Hornady served as a marksmanship instructor at the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant. Following the War, Joyce and his family stayed in Grand Island, Nebraska and opened a small sporting goods retail store that sold everything from basketballs to shooting supplies.
After WWII, shooters and hunters used surplus military ammunition. This surplus ammo however, did not offer the accuracy or performance needed for target shooting, big game, or varmint hunting. Recognizing the need for better bullets, Hornady and his original partner Vernon Speer built a machine that converted spent 22 rimfire cases into bullet jackets, and then into bullets. The business relationship between Hornady and Speer later faltered, and Vernon Speer moved to Lewiston, Idaho. Using a surplus bullet assembly press in a rented garage on 4th Street in Grand Island, Nebraska, Joyce Hornady began to produce his own .30-caliber bullet.
The first year of business, Hornady Bullets had total sales of $10,000 – a figure that increased three-fold the next year. Hornady added equipment and workers, confident that more growth lay ahead. During the Korean War, Hornady earned contracts to produce a variety of products not associated with bullets — aluminum hearts for bracelets, and condenser cans for the government. After the war, the can material and the technology developed to produce them was utilized to make ultra-thin copper jackets for varmint bullets.
In 1958, the company moved to its present location on the west edge of Grand Island. The new, larger facility featured an 8,000-square-foot plant. In 1960, Hornady added a 200-yard underground testing facility.
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Hornady’s annual Get Loaded™ redemption program has become one of the company’s most popular promos. The 2014 Get Loaded™ program offers a lineup of quality reloading tools and accessories that qualify buyers for either 500 or 100 free bullets (from a list of ten bullet types).
Buy Hornady Gear, Get Free Hornady Bullets
Here’s how it works — if you buy Hornady reloading gear, you can get free bullets. Purchase a Hornady Lock-N-Load® Ammo Plant, AP Press, Classic Kit, Classic Deluxe Kit, Precision Reloaders Kit, or Hot Tub Sonic Cleaner from January 1 through December 31, 2014, and you can receive 500 free bullets. Purchase Custom Grade Die Sets, or the Lock-N-Load® Case Prep Trio and receive 100 free bullets. Application is required. CLICK HERE for more details.
Looking for quality, name-brand projectiles at a bargain price? Then check out the Hornady Bulk Bullets Specials at Grafs.com. Currently, Grafs.com has a variety of popular Hornady rifle and pistol bullets on sale. Get one hundred 75gr .224-caliber BTHP bullets for just $16.99 (Item #HRN2279B). If you favor .30-caliber cartridges, you can get one hundred 110gr FMJ bullets for $18.99 (Item #HRN3017B).
Your Editor just ordered some .45-caliber 185gr SWCs for his S&W 1911. These .451-diameter Hornady-made FMJ bullets are $19.89 per 100 bullets (Item #HRN45137B). Round-nose 230gr .45-caliber FMJ bullets are also offered for $22.39. If you shoot a 9mm pistol, you can order 147gr FMJ bulk bullets for just $15.99 per 100 (Item #HRN35597B). These prices are comparable with the cost of cast lead bullets from other vendors. When you consider that many indoor ranges no longer allow non-jacketed lead bullets, you may want to get some Hornady bulk bullets from Grafs.com while supplies last. NOTE: the stated prices include shipping after one flat handling fee of $7.95 per order.
Product tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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If you wonder how ammo is made, starting with raw metal, check out this video from Hornady. It shows how bullet jackets are formed from copper, followed by insertion of a lead core. The jacket is then closed up over the core with the bullet taking its final shape in a die (a cannelure is applied on some bullet types). Next the video shows how cartridge brass is formed, starting with small cups of brass. The last part of the video shows how cases are primed and filled with powder, and how bullets are seated into the cases, using an automated process on a giant assembly-line.
At its 100,000+ square foot factory in Grand Island, Nebraska, Hornady produces millions of rounds of ammunition annually. The Grand Island factory is open for tours Monday through Thursday. Hornady Manufacturing, which now boasts over 300 employees, was founded by Joyce Hornady in 1949. The business is currently run by his son Steve Hornady who took over after his father’s death in a plane crash in 1981.
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Content of all kinds is going digital, and that includes Reloading manuals. Now Hornady is offering an eBook version of the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading (9th Edition). Priced at $18.99, the eBook version of the Hornady Reloading Manual is now available for iOS (Apple) devices, for Android devices, and for Kindle eReaders.
For Apple products such iPads and iPhones etc., you can source Hornady’s manual from the iTunes iBook store. For Android tablets and Kindle readers, you can get the Kindle edition from Amazon.com. (NOTE: Android users must install a free Kindle App.)
Hornady’s latest Handbook of Cartridge Reloading features over 900 pages of information, including much new data for the 9th Edition. For many cartridge types, load recipes for new propellants such as Power Pro Varmint, AR-Comp, and CFE-223 have been added in the 9th Edition. Cartridge additions include the 17 Hornet, .327 Federal, .356 Winchester, .416 Barrett and .505 Gibbs. You’ll also find expanded data on over 20 favorite cartridges including: .223 Rem, 300 Whisper/AAC Blackout, .308 Win, .25-06, .257 Wby Mag, and many more. And of course the load recipes provide cover popular Hornady bullets V-MAX, SST, InterBond, InterLock, A-MAX, XTP, NTX and more. Each cartridge write-up features applicable Hornady bullets along with velocity/powder charts for quick and easy reference.
In addition to the comprehensive reloading charts, this reference manual provides helpful explanations of internal, external and terminal ballistics. To learn more about the eBook versions of Hornady’s latest Reloading manual, visit iTunes or Amazon.com.
eBook Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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E. Arthur Brown Company, Eabco.com, has been a faithful sponsor of this site for many years. Right now, EABCO is giving back to its customers, with a special 15% Off discount on all inventory in stock — that’s right, all inventory on the shelves (no back-orders). Eabco carries a wide selection of shooting accessories, reloading tools and dies, plus a full line of reloading components, including Lapua brass, and bullets from Barnes, Berger, Hornady, Lapua, Nosler, and Swift. EABCO also offers popular rimfire and centerfire ammunition. This special year-end Inventory Reduction Sale is good through 8:00 am CST on December 30th, 2013. So you have two more days to enjoy the 15% Store-wide Savings. To qualify for the 15% discount, use Promo Code 15EAB at check-out.
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It’s nice to see a leading firearms industry company fund “good works” and help charitable organizations. Hornady Manufacturing recently donated $38,009 to GRACE Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving cancer patients, cancer survivors, and their families. Founded in 1949, Hornady is a family-owned business in Grand Island, Nebraska. The donation came from proceeds of the sale of Hornady® Critical Defense® Lite™ ammunition from November 2012 to November 2013.
“We at Hornady Manufacturing wanted to play an active role in the fight against cancer,” said Renae Waltemath, Director of Sales. “By donating a portion of the proceeds of each box of Critical Defense Lite ammunition sold over a 12 month period, we can directly assist organizations devoted to that cause. Choosing GRACE Foundation to receive a donation was easy since they help so many people in the Grand Island area, some of whom may be Hornady employees or family members affected by cancer.” Lisa Willman, co-founder of GRACE Foundation, said the gift significantly expands the number of people the organization can serve. “To give you an idea of what this means,” Willman explained, “the GRACE Foundation gave out over $21,000 in assistance over the entire third quarter of 2013. So a gift of $38,009 from one source is a huge help.” The Hornady gift is the largest single donation the organization has ever received.
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For many cartridge types, Hornady Superformance ammunition provides enhanced velocity compared to some other types of factory-loaded ammo. However, Hornady has found that there may be issues when Superformance ammo is shot in gas-operated guns with barrels under 20″, or with barrels fitted with suppressors. This is because the gas returning from the barrel port may cause the bolt to begin unlocking prematurely. Hornady has published the following information concerning the uses of Superformance ammo in direct impingment and gas piston self-loading rifles.
Internal Ballistics of Superformance Ammo in Semi-Auto Guns
Superformance™ ammunition is tested and is safely within SAAMI pressure guidelines. Gas operated (direct impingement or gas piston) firearms are perfectly safe to use with Superformance ammunition. However, Hornady ballisticians have conducted testing with a variety of guns (including guns equipped with suppressors), and our findings conclude that some systems work far better with Superformance ammunition than others.
It is recommended that to get the best functioning with Superformance ammunition in gas operated/gas piston semi-automatic or select fire guns, rifle length gas systems with 20 inch or longer barrel lengths are best for reliable firing and extraction. Any other configuration — particularly shorter barrels/gas systems — are best served with the installation of an adjustable gas system, ESPECIALLY if a suppressor is to be installed.
Due to the longer duration of peak pressure produced by Superformance, the post peak/declining port pressure at common carbine and mid-length gas port locations is still higher than that produced by standard propellant. This has a tendency to flood the system with a larger volume of gas, at a higher velocity, that tries to open the bolt of the gun too fast. It’s a timing issue. The cartridge case is still swollen from the application of pressure during firing while the gun is simultaneously trying to extract the cartridge case before it has had an opportunity to settle back to its original size, or more simply: the gun is still in the process or firing while it’s trying to extract the cartridge case.
If the firearm and the ammunition are not in sync, there can be what is commonly identified as “pressure signs” on the cartridge case. This is exhibited by the movement/marring of the head of the cartridge case, cratered primers, flat primers, ripped or ruptured cartridge cases, “popped primers”, and/or any combination of these effects. If any of these “pressure signs”; are apparent, stop firing immediately. If an adjustable gas system is installed, it is advisable to reduce the amount of gas flowing through the system by closing the gas port until the gun operates correctly.
With the installation of an adjustable gas system, gas pressure can be metered to a point that enough gas is applied to open the bolt, but at a slower rate to allow the cartridge case to return to its original diameter prior to the movement of the bolt, and thus allow for proper extraction.
Pressure VS Gas Port Location
Due to the longer duration of peak pressure produced by Superformance™, the post peak/declining pressure at common carbine and mid-length gas port locations is still higher than that produced by standard propellant. However, there is very little difference in port pressure between Superformance™ and standard propellants at the rifle length port location.
Superformance and Suppressors
The use of suppressors on rifles creates yet another dynamic in firearms design that is not commonly understood or communicated. Consider the suppressor on a firearm the same as a muffler on a car. The suppressor works as a filter for the gas (noise) that is escaping the barrel during firing. As a “filter”, it takes longer for the gas to leave the confines of the firearm, and thus, it creates back pressure. This back pressure, ESPECIALLY in a gas operated firearm forces an extensive amount of gas back through the firearm’s operating system that may create too much thrust too early during the firearm’s cycle of operation.
To counteract this back pressure, the use of an adjustable gas system is advised. By metering the gas system to ensure that it will cycle the firearm correctly and not flood the system with gas/pressure, the gun will work properly and will still benefit dramatically from the increased velocity potential of Superformance ammunition.
Get an inside look at the how ammunition is made with this step-by-step production guide from Hornady. The video begins by showing the stages in production of a lead-core jacketed bullet with exposed tip, such as the Hornady Interlock. Next, at the 1:38″ time-mark, the video shows how cartridge cases are made, starting with small brass cups (photo right). The brass is lengthened in a series of stages involving annealing, drawing, polishing, and the formation of the case head with primer pocket. Finally, at the 2:40″ time mark, the video shows how bullets and powder are seated into cartridge cases on the Hornady assembly line. In the final production stages, the completed ammunition is tested and packaged.
Watch Ammo Production Video
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Hornady plans to start producing .50 BMG ‘Match Grade’ Cartridge Brass. MSRP is $131.99 for twenty (20) cases (Item #8772). Hornady claims the new brass will have very uniform case wall thickness, and very consistent case weight and internal capacity. Hornady has not stated when its .50 BMG brass will start shipping. When the Hornady .50 BMG brass (Item #8772) does hit the market, we expect it will be in high demand. Our friends at the Fifty Caliber Shooters Association (FCSA) tell us that it is “getting harder and harder to get your hands on good .50 Cal brass these days.”
Here’s a great deal on an electronic powder dispenser/scale unit. Amazon.com now has the Hornady Lock N Load Auto Charge on Sale for just $184.46. That’s a real bargain — these dispensers sell for as much as $250.00 elsewhere.
And here’s another good deal on Hornady’s Auto Charge if you need a range bag as well. Grafs.com is currently offering the Hornady Lock-N-Load Auto Charge powder scale/dispenser for $209.99. To make the deal even sweeter, Grafs.com will include a medium-size range bag for FREE. Hornady says the range bag is worth $34.99, making your effective cost for the Auto Charge around $175.00. CLICK HERE for Dispenser/Range Bag Combo.
While we have a lot of positive experience with the RCBS Chargemaster, we haven’t done any long-term testing of the Hornady AutoCharge. However, user reviews have generally been positive. We suggest you do your own research and then make your own decision. Both the Hornady LnL AutoCharge and RCBS ChargeMaster offer load precision to ±0.1 grains. Both the Hornady Autocharge and the RCBS ChargeMaster are sold with a one-year manufacturers warranty.
Features and Specifications:
Scale capacity of 1000 grains
Large backlit display
Automatic and manual dispense options
Three speed settings
Easy Outflow Powder Drain
One-year manufactuer’s warranty
This Youtube video shows the Hornady Lock-N-Load AutoCharge in action.
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If you load pistol or rifle ammo with a progressive press, we strongly recommend you get a Lock-Out Die from RCBS. This unique reloading die will prevent your progressive press from advancing if the dispensed powder charge is more or less than about 0.3 grains too high or too low. The Lock-Out Die really works. Your Editor uses it on his RCBS 2000 progressive press. I can affirm that a Lock-Out Die has “saved my bacon” a half-dozen times over the years when there was an over-charge (which could cause a Kaboom) or a low charge (which could cause a squib load).
The Lock-Out Die works by using a central die detection rod that sets its vertical position based on the height of the powder column in the case. Through an ingenious design, if the powder column height is too low or too high, the rod locks in place as you start to pull the press handle. This halts the press before the ram can lift and the cartridge plate can advance. Unlike a beeping alarm system (which can be ignored or defeated), the Lock-Out Die physically stops the movement of the press ram and prevents a bullet being seated in the “problem” case.
It takes a bit of tweaking to get the Lock-Out Die detection rod setting just right, but once it is correctly positioned, the Lock-Out Die works smoothly in the background. The Lock-Out Die won’t interfere with the loading process unless it detects a high or low charge — and then it positively stops the progressive loading cycle.
While crafted for use in RCBS progressive presses, the RCBS Lock-Out Die can also be used on a Dillon XL Progressive (see video below) or Hornady Lock-N-Load progressive — though it does take up one station which could otherwise be used for a final crimp die (after the seating die). The RCBS 2000 has one more station than a Dillon 550/650, so it’s an ideal platform for using the Lock-Out Die.
Learn More at UltimateReloader.com
On the UltimateReloader.com website, run by our friend Gavin, you’ll find an excellent two-part series on the function and set-up of the RCBS Lock-Out Die. Part One explains how the Lock-Out Die functions, using cut-away illustrations. Part Two shows how to install and adjust the Lock-Out Die on various progressive presses. The video below shows setup of the RCBS Lock-Out Die on the Dillon XL-650 progressive press.