Hunting is widely regarded as America's oldest tradition, but you can be sure a major factor contributing to its longevity is the consistency of the business that drives it. Firearms have played a role in hunting practices since the 16th century, but would've been useless without reliable ammunition. Many of the firearms and ammo brands we know and depend on today have been in circulation centuries, and today we're going to focus on the latter, diving into the brands that own the lion's share of their respective market.
Ammo manufacturers produce millions upon millions of round that feed the firearms we count on in the field every season, as well as those we shoot for fun out at the range in our free time. Because there's so much history behind many of the popular names, both hunters and range regulars tend to stick to whatever they were first introduced to as a child, unless they've experienced better performance out of a fellow shooter's firearm. Let's take a look at the biggest ammo companies in the world.
Remington, CCI, and Federal Premium Ammunition
Three of the biggest ammo makers in the U.S. are now owned by the same company. Vista Outdoor, which already owned Federal Premium and CCI (as well as Speer), purchased Remington Ammunition when Big Green was broken up for sale after two rapid bankruptcies.
Remington and Federal manufacture a host of ammo varieties, both centerfire and rimfire, and for all applications, including a number of high-quality defensive hollow-point handgun offerings under the Federal brand. CCI, on the other hand, is one of the most prominent rimfire ammo makers in the world.
Marcellus Hartley and Partners, which owned Union Metallic Cartridge in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Winchester Repeating Arms, bought ownership of E. Remington & Sons in 1888. The naem eventually changed to Remington Arms Company, and Remington still makes UMC ammo today.
Meanwhile, Federal has been cranking out handgun, rifle, and shotgun rounds since Federal Cartridge was founded in 1922 in Anoka, Minnesota, producing everything from plinking and practice ammo to high-quality hunting and defensive cartridges.
CCI (Cascade Cartridge, Inc.) manufactures rimfire ammo and centerfire ammo under the Speer brand, as well as primers for reloaders, in Lewiston, Idaho. Founded by Dick Speer (brother of Speer Bullets founder Vernon Speer) in the early 1950s, CCI was first to produce mini-mag rimfire ammo back in 1963, and also developed the high-velocity .22 LR Stinger cartridge in 1975, changing the way people perceived a fairly dated caliber.
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Winchester Ammo began with one cartridge, the .44 Henry rimfire, one of the earliest metallic cartridges made for Henry 1866 rifles, which was the first successful repeating rifle. Ever since, Winchester has been a leading designer of rifle ammo and has been responsible for creating an array of landmark cartridges, including the .30-30, the best selling hunting cartridge in history, as well as the .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO, currently one of the most popular hunting cartridges in the world and a cartridge widely used by various militaries.
Today, Winchester Ammo is owned by the Olin Corporation, which itself began as the Western Cartridge Company in the 1800s. It bought the ammo branch of the company, which was sold separately from the firearms branch, which at the time was known as U.S. Repeating Arms, and now, Winchester Repeating Arms. Currently, Winchester focuses on shotshells (especially for competition use) and cowboy action loads for revolvers and lever guns.
This high-end ammo company has some interesting roots. It was founded by Joyce Hornady, who got started in the ammo business in the'40s when he teamed up with Vernon Speer to make bullet jackets from sent brass rimfire cases. After WWII, Hornady bought up surplus manufacturing equipment from the U.S. government, like Waterbury-Farrell transfer presses which are still in use today. Hornady began manufacturing rifle and pistol ammo in 1964.
Today, Hornady makes target ammo, hunting ammo, and self-defense rounds. The company made a splash in 1990 with the Hornady XTP and has been the primary developer of innovative loads like the .17 HMR. The company also revolutionized lever action rifle ammo with its LEVERevolution line, allowing the platform to use Spitzer bullets with tubular magazines. It also produces a range of reloading equipment and components.
Hornady has worked closely with Ruger to develop a new line of Ruger cartridges including the .480 Ruger, .204 Ruger, and .375 Ruger.
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While Cor-Bon is a younger, smaller company, it's played a very important role in the innovation of defensive ammunition. Founded in 1982 by Peter Pi, Sr., Cor-Bon sought to develop ammunition that could address complaints of hollow-point bullets not consistently expanding upon impact, and was successful in doing so.
Cor-Bon produces a nice variety of lineups serving the defense, competition and hunting markets, but also introduced the Glaser Safety Slug category, which uses bullets filled with small shot pellets suspended in a polymer to cause significant damage while simultaneously limiting the possibility of over-penetration. The Safety Slug Blue, Safety Slug Silver and the Powerball lineups have become household names among hunters and shooters alike, but Cor-Bon as a whole has unquestionably become a leader in the ammunition industry.
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Fiocchi Munizioni has a long history in the ammo business. It was founded in Lecco, Italy in 1876 by Giulio Fiocchi, an accountant by trade, who took over an ammo production plant already based int eh town that produced small-caliber ammunition right around the time breech loading firearms began replacing muzzleloaders. By the early 1890s Fiocchi was producing complete metallic cartridges and stopped producing black powder.
Fiocchi has been around for the entire history of metallic cartridges and has made everything from pinfire ammo and shotshells to rimfire and centerfire rounds. Today, they are known for making rare cartridges for collectors and enthusiasts and high quality shotshells.
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