What does it take to MANUFACTURE ammo?

What does it take to MANUFACTURE ammo?

This is a discussion on What does it take to MANUFACTURE ammo? within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I know a lot of people reload, but the components are almost as scarce as the finished ammo. What does it take to manufacture ammo ...

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Thread: What does it take to MANUFACTURE ammo?

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    Member Array cayman_shen's Avatar
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    What does it take to MANUFACTURE ammo?

    I know a lot of people reload, but the components are almost as scarce as the finished ammo. What does it take to manufacture ammo from scratch? Lathing brass, casting lead, and some chemistry for the primers and powder, sure. But how about legally? Seems like a cottage manufacturer could fill a need right now and make a mint, perhaps. There isn't enough ammo, someone should make more is my math!


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    I guess a guy could cast up some lead bullets but I doubt its a good idea to purchase live ammo from somebody building it from their basement or garage.
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    Not sure, but I think the cottage industry of ammunition manufacturing was comprised of cotton patches, lead balls and black powder.
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    I'd also imagine that with the large quantity of explosives involved for manufacturing, that there is some sort of oversight or regulation.

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    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    Here's a link to a 2011 discussion on AmmoSmith forums: make brass?
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    I used to have an FFL to do this in the 1970's. It was not profitable as I shot up most of the profits. You will need lots of liability insurance and more home owners insurance in addition the the license from the Feds that will come inspect your set-up. At this point and time it does not look like a viable investment for a single owner doing this part time.
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    it takes hoarders not hoarding......
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    Member Array cayman_shen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccw9mm View Post
    Here's a link to a 2011 discussion on AmmoSmith forums: make brass?
    Good read, thanks.

    I still think someone with manufacturing know how (like access to real factory quality tools, not a dude in his garage apparently!) could make a killing by starting up a new ammo company right now. I bet people would invest, I bet people would buy. In the big scheme of things, there aren't THAT many ammo manufacturers in the world. Damn I wish I'd gone to business school. Or engineering school. Or something other than getting a BA in English haha!

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    From scratch? You mean like ammo manufactuers do now? Don't you think the basic materials needed just might be on the short side also?

    Sure you can make your own ammo--no problem. But if you want to make it and sell it, now you're in for a paperwork nightmare.
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    VIP Member Array Tubby45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cayman_shen View Post
    I know a lot of people reload, but the components are almost as scarce as the finished ammo. What does it take to manufacture ammo from scratch? Lathing brass, casting lead, and some chemistry for the primers and powder, sure. But how about legally? Seems like a cottage manufacturer could fill a need right now and make a mint, perhaps. There isn't enough ammo, someone should make more is my math!
    Powder making is best left to those that know what they are doing. Remington doesn't make their own powder, they buy it. Brass is drawn, not machined (except for the extractor groove). Primers are best left to those that know what they are doing. The priming compound is safe to handle when wet, but is explosive when dry (like when handloaders and manufacturers handle them). It's what makes them work. That leaves bullets and assembly. Assembly is easy and volume is numbers from there. Bullets can be swaged by hand, by machine, or cast by either. Most "manufacturers" being ammunition assemblers buy the components to load on their press.

    Quote Originally Posted by MrBuckwheat View Post
    I guess a guy could cast up some lead bullets but I doubt its a good idea to purchase live ammo from somebody building it from their basement or garage.
    Been a licensed manufacturer for 7 years. Cast bullets and load ammo. Never had an issue with my ammunition or my bullets.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Thunder View Post
    At this point and time it does not look like a viable investment for a single owner doing this part time.
    Depends what you do. I'm a one man company doing this part time at 75% profit margin working out of my home. Very low overhead, pretty decent profit.
    Quote Originally Posted by cayman_shen View Post
    I still think someone with manufacturing know how (like access to real factory quality tools, not a dude in his garage apparently!) could make a killing by starting up a new ammo company right now. I bet people would invest, I bet people would buy. In the big scheme of things, there aren't THAT many ammo manufacturers in the world. Damn I wish I'd gone to business school. Or engineering school. Or something other than getting a BA in English haha!
    Right now is the worst time to start. You can't get anything. Primers, powder, bullets, brass. When you get it, it's not at "reasonable" price and certainly not in the quantity that you need. I laugh at all the new 06 FFLs that try to board the gravy train only to slip on the second step.

    As far as legality, local licensed aside, you'll need an 06 FFL which is $30 for 3 years and also need to register with the US State Department under ITAR annually for $2,250 per year. Doesn't matter if you don't export. All small arms ammunition .50 caliber and under is a defensive article by definition and you are required to register annually. Basic general liability insurance will cost about $2,100 per year. Looking at about $4300 or so annually for just the federal stuff.
    07/02 FFL/SOT since 2006

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    Senior Member Array jem102's Avatar
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    From ground zero on all components? Better do some research on what it takes to make modern casings, primers, powder and projectiles.

    This is what "I" would do and it would still be a huge investment for the average guy unless you have some really good marketing skills or a $200,000.00 + line of credit. Really not a lot of money in today's small business world.

    First "I" don't see the ability, technology/engineering and/or tooling to procure the raw materials let alone produce primers and powder within the reach of a "small business". To my knowledge, it is not possible to manufacture these items for modern high intensity cartridges in small batches. Further, the licensing, storage, manufacturing requirements (read LAND, blockhouses, chemical containment motes and fire control to satisfy OSHA and the government) for the explosives manufacturing would most likely end your venture then and there. We are not manufacturing firecrackers but top line ammunition that operates at 35,000 + PSI two feet from your face...it has to be a precision operation.

    So you would have to get contracts with companies already mass producing components that would be "willing" to take on another wholesaler, for lack of a better definition, and have the capacity to do so in today's market.
    I believe CCI would sell you the primers, Hodgdon (maybe IMR) the powder and Starline the brass as more than the others this is their business...but who knows?

    I "would" make my own projectiles. This could be handled by Corbin that already sets up small manufactures and with you owning the tooling you could come up with "designer" bullet weights and hollow points tailored to specific barrel lengths and velocities better than the big boys giving you a special niche at your market level. You can get everything you need from Corbin; tooling, presses, jackets, cores and ballistic design help in one package.

    Add 2-3 Dillon Super 1050's, packaging which could be as simple as white cardboard ammo boxes with your own computer printed labels, hire 6-8 decent people 2 of which would need to be a combination of accomplished reloaders with a machinist/toolmaker background to keep your machines running within specifications. For liability you would need to send samples of each manufacturing batch to H.P.White or some other ballistics lab to document you are following SAAMI guide lines.
    Get all necessary local, state, federal licensing and insurance.

    Within 90 days of acquiring the complete setup you could be shipping 100,000 rounds a week. To get and supply, on a regular time line (the only way you will get them), the kinds of sales outlets you need to accomplish the goal of "cottage manufacturer" that is the "go to" supplier to fill in the voids and supply chain lag left by Olin and the others.

    This plan could be scaled back many thousands of dollars in the beginning stages by buying the bullets as well as the other components rather than buying the bullet making equipment. Corbin will also put you in contact with small manufactures that use their equipment the last I heard which might result in a "sweetheart" deal for both of you. You could reduce your marketing efforts to gun shows and LGS's to whom you deliver or work your own stand at the show.
    This could be done and still have the 100,000 round/week capacity so as your product becomes known you can add the other tooling, packaging and marketing although over a much longer time curve. Depends on what you want and when you want it.

    "I" believe there is a place for this type manufacture and wish anyone willing to venture the capital the best.
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    Distinguished Member Array lionround's Avatar
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    A LOT of great information from jem102. There is a lot to digest there. My only suggestion as someone who knows diddly squat about making ammo would be you also hire a good web designer that can build and maintain a decent inventory system. As a consumer, it is highly frustrating to go onto a website, click on "In Stock Only" only to get to the checkout process and find out the product you want is backordered.
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    jem102, great post.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jem102 View Post
    From ground zero on all components? Better do some research on what it takes to make modern casings, primers, powder and projectiles.

    So you would have to get contracts with companies already mass producing components that would be "willing" to take on another wholesaler, for lack of a better definition, and have the capacity to do so in today's market.
    I believe CCI would sell you the primers, Hodgdon (maybe IMR) the powder and Starline the brass as more than the others this is their business...but who knows?
    Yup. Powder and primers you buy, as you won't make them. Starline, Quality Cartridge, Jamison Brass will draw brass for you and stamp your custom headstamp for a $750 setup fee to make the custom headstamp (exclusively yours) plus a minimum order. Generally 100,000 pieces per run. Now load .380, 9mm, .38 Special, .357 Mag, .40, 10mm .44 Mag, and 45 ACP and do the math for 100,000 pieces of each cartridge plus $750 setup fee for each custom headstamp per cartridge. Eight cartridges is more than $15,000 in custom headstamps alone. I looked into this a few years ago.

    I "would" make my own projectiles. This could be handled by Corbin that already sets up small manufactures and with you owning the tooling you could come up with "designer" bullet weights and hollow points tailored to specific barrel lengths and velocities better than the big boys giving you a special niche at your market level. You can get everything you need from Corbin; tooling, presses, jackets, cores and ballistic design help in one package.
    Me, I wouldn't bother with jacketed or even plated bullets. I'd do cast bullets only. Cheaper, simpler, uses less powder in loads, just as accurate if not more accurate than jacketed and makes a better hunting bullet.

    Add 2-3 Dillon Super 1050's, packaging which could be as simple as white cardboard ammo boxes with your own computer printed labels, hire 6-8 decent people 2 of which would need to be a combination of accomplished reloaders with a machinist/toolmaker background to keep your machines running within specifications. For liability you would need to send samples of each manufacturing batch to H.P.White or some other ballistics lab to document you are following SAAMI guide lines.
    Get all necessary local, state, federal licensing and insurance.
    I bulk pack my ammunition using the "indestructo" mailers from Uline. I've been using printed labels for a while but am getting quotes for custom printing. Uline will drop ship to my local printer who'd then print my information on the boxes and I'd go pick them up when they're ready. To save money, I have one box size that has the general information printed on it by the printer and the caliber specific info is computer printed labels. Quantify of ammo in a box ranges from 50rds to 250rds depending on the cartridge. One box size bought in bulk for all my needs reduces cost. Kind of how DoubleTap has the standard print design and just sticks a 2 inch address label on the ends to ID the actual load. Same concept.

    Remember with hiring employees all the overhead and garbage that comes with it. Unless you've got the finances to pay those employees a full year's salary, I'd think differently.

    Within 90 days of acquiring the complete setup you could be shipping 100,000 rounds a week. To get and supply, on a regular time line (the only way you will get them), the kinds of sales outlets you need to accomplish the goal of "cottage manufacturer" that is the "go to" supplier to fill in the voids and supply chain lag left by Olin and the others.
    Optimistic on time for sure. For a nice story about the little guy starting bigger and giving 'em hell, look at Cooper Cartridge. He is home based and makes 300 Blackout ammo that he sells to Brownells at 20,000 rounds a week with another dealer buying the rest of his production. But he's at his loading press 10 hours a day pulling the handle. That's a lot of fatigue.
    07/02 FFL/SOT since 2006

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