Joyce Hornady sold his first bullet in 1949, a .30 caliber Spire Point weighing 150 grain. He was using a surplus bullet assembly press in a rented garage, where his company was born from his desire to build a better product that he could use himself – because first and foremost, Joyce was a shooter. His company would grow to become a force in the ammunition and reloading markets. Hornady Manufacturing grew rapidly during its first few years, increasing sales by 300 percent by the second year.
The Origins of Hornady Manufacturing
It all began with Hornady Sporting Goods Company, a business centered around baseball bats, bicycles, team uniforms and the like. When Joyce went to the bank for his first business loan to expand into ammunition, the bankers were confused. Bullets? For reloaders? That wasn’t a business model with any future, he was told. But he went ahead anyway, partnering with Vernon Speer, a name familiar to many ammunition and shooting aficionados. Their first foray into the world of ammunition was a machine that converted spent .22 rimfire cartridges into bullet jacket and then full rounds.
Hornady Bullets and Hornady Reloading
During World War II, Hornady’s founder, like many Americans, had to make due because of wartime shortages. These shortages led to the discovery that became the engine of Hornady’s business. He was able to take a .22 rimfire cartridge case and transform it into a bullet, which could then be loaded into centerfire ammunition for varmint shooting.
Hornady saw opportunity because while the market was flooded with surplus ammunition, virtually none of it was suitable for hunting. With this in mind, he began manufacturing a .30 caliber, 150-grain Spire Point on a Waterbury Farrell out of a former auto body shop. During the company’s first year, they sold a scant $10,000 worth of ammunition. However, while it would be several years before they were able to break even, sales tripled the next year and the company’s staff grew to four.
Above all else, the goal was on quality, and the founding Hornady wanted a shooter to be able to put “ten bullets through one hole” with his ammunition. This goal belies Hornady’s dual shooting lineage. First, he was a shooter of both game and targets. Later, he acted as a marksmanship instructor during the Second World War due to being too old for active duty service. It was the latter experience that tipped him off to the need for accurate, reliable ammunition for the United States military. The ammunition of World War II was better suited for close quarters than long-distance rifle work.
Business was looking up for Hornady Manufacturing – until the Korean War, which created unanticipated shortages of important raw materials. But rather than give up and let the company fold, Hornady won contracts for producing alternative products not associated with ammunition, including aluminum hearts for bracelets and condenser cans for the U.S. government. Once the war ended, the materials that Hornady had used for the cans and the technology he developed to manufacture them were applied to form ultra-thin copper jackets for varmint bullets.
Hornady Ammo Ballistics Testing
In 1958, Speer and Hornady split, with the former focusing like a laser on .30 caliber rounds. Local venture capitalist Fred Abrahamson gave Hornady a much needed infusion of capital for growth. Hornady moved to an 800-square-foot plant (now a 145,000-square-foot facility) in Grand Island, Nebraska, built specifically for the purpose of manufacturing ammunition and where the original press employed is still in use today. Joyce added a 200-yard underground range so he could perform onsite quality testing of his products without interference from the weather.
Hornady Manufacturing continued their pace of rapid growth and expansion into the 60s and 70s – with their ballistics lab supporting U.S. Army ballisticians in their experimentation of aerodynamically efficient bullet designs, eventually leading to the adaptation of the secant ogive. This later became the Hornady bullet signature profile and is now used almost exclusively for all bullets made by Hornady.
Hornady acquired a number of erstwhile competitors along the way. Acquisitions of Hornady Manufacturing include Pacific Tool Company, West Coast Shot Company, and Frontier Ammunition. These were later incorporated into a single entity with Hornady Manufacturing, with new names like Hornady Custom Ammunition and Hornady Tool Company. During this reorganization, the company came into a dispute with one of its partners and began manufacturing all cartridge cases in house.
Joyce Hornady’s Death and the Future of Hornady Ammunition
Joyce Hornady's death dealt a severe blow to the company. In January of 1981, along with lead engineer Edward Heers and customer service manager Jim Garber, Hornady died in an airplane crash on the way to the SHOT Show. The Hornady family stepped forward to lead the company, and they soon began producing their cartridge cases in house, now led by Steve Hornady, who is also a member of the NRA’s board. The younger Hornady was scheduled to be on the plane, but had to miss the trade show to care for his wife while she recovered from surgery. Today, they enjoy a reputation for manufacturing some of the best brass available.
While the company is very much a family affair (Steve’s son Jason is the Vice President), members of the family are required to work outside of the company for ten years before they are even allowed to interview for a position. Jason took a 50-percent pay cut to come to work for his father after a lucrative career in outdoor sales. While family is a priority, quality is even more so.
Hornady Manufacturing continues to expand and innovate, always working to advance bullet technology. They make more than excellent bullets, they also manufacture complete ammunition for pistols, rifles and shotguns – earning true respect for the amount of research and development that goes into each of their products. Recent additions to their product line include the Hornady TAP and Critical Defense premium ammunition for law enforcement agencies and military use. Hunters are well served by the Hornady LEVERevolution and Dangerous Game ammunition series, which represent some of the most advanced bullet technologies available. They have also ventured into the world of competitive shooting, selling their lines of Custom Match and Steel Match ammo. From the mighty mouse .17HMR to the burly .500 S&W Magnum, Hornady sells ammunition for practically every shooter, including those waiting eagerly for the zombie apocalypse. Yes, that’s right – Hornady makes ammunition specifically for gunning down legions of the undead. Just make sure you have enough food stockpiled while you’re at it.
Hornady has been, and remains committed to, manufacturing high-quality products for shooters of all persuasions, reloaders and armed professionals. Producing with excellence and innovation, Hornady Manufacturing will no doubt continue to be at the cutting edge of ammunition manufacturers. And hey, if and when the dead begin rising from their graves, there will be only one ammunition specifically designed to send them back to their resting place.
Where is Hornady ammo made?
Hornady ammo is manufactured in Grand Island, Nebraska, the same town in which the company was first established in 1949. Although it started in a former auto shop, Hornady has grown into the largest independently-owned ammunition company in the world.
Who makes Hornady ammo?
Hornady ammo is made by the Hornady Manufacturing Company. The company is under the leadership of Steve Hornady and receives active support and involvement from others in the Hornady family. Jason Hornady, Steve’s son is currently the company’s vice president.
What is Hornady Critical Defense ammo?
Critical Defense ammunition is the personal defense line created by Hornady. These rounds feature a FTX bullet, a hollow point that eliminates clogging and increases expansion. These cartridges also include low-flash propellants to ensure night vision is not disrupted. Critical Defense ammo is great for concealed carry or home protection. It’s found in rifle cartridges (.223, .30 Carbine, and .308 Win) and pistol cartridges (.32 ACP, .380, 9mm, .38 Special, .357 Mag, .40 S&W, .44 Special, .45 ACP, and .45 Colt), as well as 12 gauge and the rimfire .22 WMR.
What is Zombie Max ammo?
No longer in production, Hornady Zombie Max was a specialized ammo developed for shooting zombies. Known as Z-Max, the ammo featured a polymer tip that improved ballistics and quickened expansion and an AMP jacket that had minimal variation in wall thickness, ensuring consistent performance. Zombie Max was available in pistol cartridges (.380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP), as well as rifle cartridges (.223 Remington, 7.62x39, .30-30, and .308 Win) and 12 gauge.
What powder is in Hornady Precision Hunter ammo?
Hornady Precision Hunter is a factory loaded ammunition designed to maximize ballistic performance. These hunting rounds use a clean burning propellant that is uniformly loaded to ensure consistency, regardless of weather and temperature.
Is Hornady ammo good for hunting?
Hornady Precision Hunter is a superior hunting cartridge, regardless of weather scenario. These rounds feature a Heat Shield tip, which retains its shape throughout its entire trajectory, bringing unprecedented aerodynamic efficiency. These rounds come in a variety of rifle calibers, including .243, .308, and .30-06, among others.