RIO was established by parent company MAXAM Outdoors in 1896, a global leader in the explosives industry and provider of munitions to more than 60 countries. They entered the American market at long last in 2002, and are now considered a major international player in shooting sports.
Curiously, RIO’s parent company MAXAM was founded by Alfred Nobel, who is both the inventor of TNT and the founder of the Nobel Prize, which, of course, includes the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Strange Story of Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel made his fortune off of armaments. So how did he become the man after whom the Nobel Peace Prize was named?
Born in Stockholm, Nobel was the son of an inventor and engineer, so innovation was in his blood. In fact, the elder Nobel invented plywood and was part of the team who developed the torpedo. He was one of eight children, but only four of these survived to see adulthood. Nobel only received 18 months of formal education as a child.
After school, he went to Paris for an apprenticeship under the inventor of nitroglycerin, Nikolai Zinin. Zinin was against any application of nitroglycerin, which he considered to be too unpredictable. Nobel, however, began looking for a way to use it. He then traveled to the United States, where he trained under John Ericsson, designer of the USS Monitor. Nobel filed his first patent for a gas meter in England in 1857. His first patent filed in Sweden, during that same year, was for “ways to prepare gunpowder.”
The Nobel family’s factory produced armaments for the Crimean War effort, but had a hard time adjusting to life after the peace, leading them to file for bankruptcy after the war. Nobel’s older brother Ludvig took over factory operations and greatly improved its fortunes. In fact, Ludvig became the richest of the Nobel brothers, eventually achieving the ranks of the world’s richest men.
After Ludvig got the factory back on its feet, Alfred began working in earnest on the development of innovative explosives. The quest for a safe way to use nitroglycerin nagged at him and formed the centerpiece of his research. In 1863, Nobel invented a new kind of detonator. Two years later, he invented the blasting cap. In 1864, there was a major explosion at one of Nobel’s factories, resulting in the death of his little brother Emil. This led him to redouble his efforts at a more stable form of nitroglycerin. He finally succeeded in 1867, with the invention of dynamite.
Patented in the United States and the United Kingdom, dynamite was primarily used for mining and clearing tough terrain for the construction of railroads. In 1875, he invented gelignite, which is even more stable and powerful than dynamite. And in 1887, he invented ballistite, which was the precursor for cordite. All told, Nobel acquired 355 patents and owned 90 armament factories.
The punchline? Nobel was a pacifist. Indeed, when his brother Ludvig died, several French newspapers published obituaries for Alfred, not Ludvig, having mistakenly thought that he died. One of these stated “the merchant of death is dead” and dressed down Alfred for his participation in the arms industry.
This was, according to legend, the obituary that shook Alfred Nobel to his very core. He did not want to be remembered as an arms manufacturer. Unbeknownst to his family and friends, he left the majority of his fortune to establish the Nobel Prize, including the Nobel Peace Prize – amounting to 31.2 Swedish kronor. By 2012, the Nobel endowment was worth 3.1 billion Swedish kronor, or approximately $472 million. This means that, accounting for inflation, it has more than doubled since being bequeathed by Alfred Nobel. Note that the Nobel Prize is given for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. The so-called “Nobel Prize for Economics” is given by the Bank of Sweden and has long been derided by the Nobel family.
RIO Shotgun Shells
RIO is a member of Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI), so you can rest assured that it’s one of the best, especially for hunting and other forms of sport shooting. In Europe, hunting is popular, but primarily associated with the rural upper crust hunting on their own estates. Thus, the American market, where hunting has a far more populist (and popular) character, just made sense. What’s more, American hunters are known for accepting only the very best out of their ammunition.
RIO shotgun shells are primarily what the company is known for, specifically for its RIO 12 gauge shotgun shells – a popular choice for hunting North American game.
RIO sees shooting as a way to enjoy life, a way to share outdoor experiences with others. And their ammo quality matches their emphasis on the joy of shooting. A true part of the European hunting heritage, RIO pairs tradition with innovation in the 500 million shells they produce annually.
RIO Royal in the United States
Debuting in America in 2002, the original factory was located in McEwen, Tennessee. However, this was damaged in a severe explosion, which the ATF investigated and ruled to be an accident. The matter was then handed over to the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA). This was only one of six investigations into serious arson or sabotage the ATF performed in 2014, the year of the accident. The ATF found no safety violations during its preliminary investigation, nor had TOSHA received any complaints regarding the organization’s safety procedures.
The facility is now located in Texas, where it continues to manufacture the same high-quality and innovative ammunition RIO has always been known for. It opened to great fanfare with luminaries from the Texas state government and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and it represents an investment of some $19 million. Proprietary technological research takes place onsite as part of RIO’s commitment to innovation, research and development.
This facility likewise works with the United States military, working to demilitarize ammunition. It produces approximately one million shotgun shells on a daily basis. This level of production is precisely how RIO is able to offer such a high-quality product at a discount price affordable to the average competitive shooter or huntsman.
After coming to the United States, the company expanded into the world of reloaders, providing further options for hunters.
With plants in Spain and the UK, RIO opened a state-of-the-art 105,000-square-foot facility in Texas in 2015 – where they assemble a wide range of hunting and target loads for American shooters. This opening of the American plant represented an orientation toward the American market in general from RIO. From duck shooting with BlueSteel to shooting sub-gauge targets at the range, RIO offers the complete outdoor experience.
RIO Elite is the first product RIO designed completely from scratch. It was not simply a modification of an existing product. These rounds are designed specifically with the American market in mind. RIO Bismuth is the company’s attempt at a lead-free product available at an affordable price. It is currently available in a wide array of gauges and payloads, offering just about anything a hunter wants.
It’s this innovation and drive to produce cutting-edge ammo that makes RIO stand out among ammunition manufacturers across the globe.