A century after its founding, Federal Ammunition is stronger than ever, and shooters are reaping the benefits.
Every round is promise. Whether it leaves the muzzle on a hunt, in a match or during a day with friends at a range, it simply needs to perform. It has to hit the mark, make an impact, and in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, go farther—both literally and figuratively. Federal, the world’s largest ammunition manufacturer, has led this charge. And after a century of doing so, the company’s size and innovation has created a golden age for American shooters.
Being the largest isn’t just boasting. It matters because it allows Federal to deliver a wide range of benefits to the shooter. It means the company can produce the quantity to fulfill military and law enforcement contracts, while also offering an unmatched variety to everyone—rimfire, shotshell, handgun and rifle ammo, as well as primers, cases and component bullets for reloaders. Federal makes hundreds of SKUs ranging from 22 LR to 500 Nitro Express, for everything from competition and plinking to big game hunting and law enforcement. This manufacturing capacity means hunters and shooters of all stripes can get the product that best meets their needs.
It also means more new products. In 2020 alone, Federal introduced more than 130 items in 34 product categories, including Terminal Ascent, Punch, FireStick, HammerDown, Hydra-Shok Deep 380 Auto, .224 Fusion component bullets, MeatEater 3rd Degree with HEAVYWEIGHT TSS, Solid Core and many more.
Finally, Federal’s size allows it to give back to the industry and country by investing in legislative and conservation efforts that protect the Second Amendment and support the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, which ensures future generations of American hunters will enjoy shooting and the great outdoors.
It all began humbly in 1922, when Charles L. Horn took control of a three-year-old fledgling ammunition manufacturer. Knowing he faced fierce competition from a pair of established ammo companies, he embarked on a novel strategy. Horn worked to get Federal products—which at the time consisted only of shotshells produced in a 9,000-square-foot factory—onto the shelves of barber shops, gas stations and grocery stores. He also established a contract to sell Federal Ammunition through Montgomery Ward & Co. and Sears. The strategy worked and helped the company grow. In 1941, Federal secured a contract worth $87 million from the U.S. government to build and operate the Twin City Ordnance Plant in Arden Hills, Minnesota, which was a critical contributor to military ammunition and other defense products during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict.
Today, Federal is part of Vista Outdoor, Inc., an outdoor sports and recreation corporation which also owns Remington, CCI, Speer, Independence, Alliant Powder and more—all brands are run by Ammunition President Jason Vanderbrink.
The Federal Ammunition factory in Anoka, Minnesota, is now a 700,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility where 1,400 employees work in three shifts, 24/7, to produce millions of rounds of centerfire, rimfire and shotshell ammo per day.
The factory is vertically integrated, which means raw materials enter one door and finished product rolls out the other end. Importantly for quality control, the factory is also self-sustaining—all the personnel needed to build quality ammo are on site, including machine operators, plumbers and electricians. There’s a machine shop, equipment maintenance, manufacturing engineering, product development engineering, marketing and sales. And to make sure the ammo performs at that high level, the site also contains 16 test ranges—10 centerfire, one rimfire, and five shotshell.
“We don’t just buy parts and put them together, or have other companies load stuff for us,” Vanderbrink says. “We do it all on site, and every day our manufacturing facilities consume tons of plastic beads, lead, brass strips, copper, steel, and chemicals. These materials are used to build our own bullets, pellets, cases, primer parts, primers, shotshell hulls, shotshell heads, and more. The consumer benefits because we have complete quality control, and our seasoned operators have decades of experience.”
Federal’s sister companies—Remington, based in Lonoke, Arkansas, and Speer and CCI, based in Lewiston, Idaho—also generate industry-leading products. The size and output of these three companies add to Federal’s overall strength and consumer reach.
“Remington, CCI and Speer are separate companies and brands with their own production teams,” Vanderbrink says. “However, all brands work together to share business insights, research and development, factory capacity, manufacturing best practices, technology, safety, innovation, and more. Taken together, it allows us to build better products. Our competitors simply do not have multiple factories and pools of knowledge, experience and expertise in every field. But, we do, and we take every advantage of that.”
The ability to instantly access the knowledge and experience of the teams at Federal, Remington, CCI, Speer and other brands gives the company an enormous advantage over other manufacturers. It makes Federal larger and stronger, and those deep resources pay off in product development and serving the market.
According to the 2017 annual report prepared by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Federal had purchase numbers of 21 percent for end users who bought shotshell, 11 percent for rifle ammo purchased, and 14 percent of the handgun ammo sold. But when you factor in the other brands under the Vista Outdoor umbrella—the totals are even more impressive. Share of buyers for rifle ammo is 30 percent, handgun 37 percent and shotshell is 26 percent. Considering that in 2017 more than 200 million boxes of ammo were purchased in the United States, you can see just how big Federal’s ammo operations have become.
Vista Outdoor Company is a publicly held corporation, and it is required to file annually with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the most recent filing, Federal is now number one in market share. It is also number one in purchased rifle ammunition and number one in purchased law enforcement ammo.
Federal and Speer lead the law enforcement market. “Although ammunition produced for the law enforcement market isn’t tracked in the same manner as consumer ammo, we know our Speer LE brand is number one, based on the number of contracts we have with law enforcement departments nationwide,” Vanderbrink says.
Not Just Numbers
But the story is not just about numbers. Over the years, Federal has been a leader in safety. Today’s upland and waterfowl hunters take for granted the fast and easy way to determine the gauge of a shell—by its color. That wasn’t the case before 1960. But Federal led the way by color-coding its hulls.
Federal has also pioneered by reducing the lead footprint in ammunition though its Syntech product line. The polymer-encapsulated Syntech bullet eliminates both lead and copper barrel fouling, and the exclusive Catalyst lead-free primer provides the cleanest, most consistent ignition possible. Those are just a couple of the reasons it received the 2017 NRA Golden Bullseye Award.
Federal has been a leader in innovation as well. In 1977, it created the Premium line of centerfire rifle and shotshell ammunition. The initial Nosler Partition and the Sierra boat-tail hollow point offerings both brought handloader-level accuracy and performance to everyone. The number and variety of Premium items swelled over the coming years, and today you can find a Premium product in every category. And whether it’s a 22 LR round for small game, a trap load for competition, self-defense ammunition or anything in between—all Premium products share common threads.
“They all offer what we call ‘The Premium Difference,’” Vanderbrink says. “No matter what kind of product it is, each is built with the finest components and held to our tightest quality standards.”
For centerfire rifle hunting ammo, for example, that means Gold Medal primers, the finest in the industry, as well as nickel-plated brass and specially formulated, clean-burning propellants that provide the most consistent and reliable performance.
But the company’s real legacy just might be its dedication to conservation and its leadership in supporting programs that help develop the next generation of American sportsmen and women. Horn was a dedicated conservationist, and he made sure Federal supported passage of the Pittman–Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, the cornerstone of American conservation efforts. Among other sweeping reforms, the act created a self-imposed excise tax on ammunition and firearms, which has raised billions of dollars to help preserve wildlife, habitat and the American sporting tradition.
Federal was an early supporter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Pheasants Forever, and it continues to support these groups today. It also supports the Ruffed Grouse Society, Ducks Unlimited and Whitetails Unlimited.
Federal recently announced its continued sponsorship and support of one of the largest and longest-running gateways to a variety of shooting disciplines—the National 4-H Shooting Sports Program. It offers boys and girls ages 8 to 18 instruction and competitive opportunities in disciplines including archery, muzzleloading, pistol, rifle and shotgun. Currently more than 450,000 youths and 20,000 state- and national-certified volunteer instructors are active in 4-H programs directed through the Cooperative Extension Service of the Land Grant Universities in 47 states nationwide.
Federal and CCI are also the Official Shooting Sports Partners of the Boy Scouts of America. The shotshell and rimfire ammunition partnership supports 1,620 Scout camps that offer shooting sports across the country. The brands are also the exclusive ammunition sponsors at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, home of the Boy Scouts National Jamboree and high adventure courses.
“Federal’s history is directly tied to conservation and conservation organizations,” Vanderbrink says. “We started making shotshells in 1922—the low point for most game species—so investing in conservation and restoration of wildlife was an important business strategy if we were to make it as a company. In 1937 we began investing in 4H Conservation Camps specifically to help the next generation avoid future dustbowls. As we have grown, we have seen new conservation issues emerge, and new conservation groups.”
Federal’s support of these organizations pays off in ways many hunters might not realize. The partnership with NWTF, for example, was critical in getting states to modernize their shot size restrictions to allow turkey hunters to use the smaller pellets in Federal’s new, more powerful HEAVYWEIGHT TSS payloads.
Federal’s size and reach also allow it to work effectively and tirelessly for American sportsman in the halls of power.
“We have brought our internal government relations staff to bear on issues such as public lands and CRP in the Farm Bill,” Vanderbrink says. “It is a powerful force multiplier when a large company that employs thousands of people talks to policy makers about how access and conservation are critical to our business and to jobs in their states. It simply means more coming from us rather than from non-profit advocates. But what really separates us from the rest of our industry is that we have and deploy a conservation and government relations staff to benefit the industry as a whole, so when a consumer chooses Federal they are also supporting conservation, the Second Amendment and public lands.”
Why Big Is Best
Federal’s drive for growth has never been rooted solely in creating profits for investors. It has always been based in the far-larger desire to build something uniquely American. To provide jobs that pay well so employees can support their families and contribute to their communities. To build superior products that perform at exceptionally high levels, whether the end user is a member of USA Shooting competing at the Olympics, a backcountry elk hunter who hears the electrifying sound of a bugle at first light, or the weekend plinker at the range with their son or daughter and a 22.
Federal is guided by its abiding belief that hunting and shooting are integral American pursuits that need to be cherished and passed on to new generations. By leveraging its resources and position, it accomplishes all these goals and more, yielding benefits for all who love to shoot.
A Whole New Federal
And fitting of Federal’s current position as the world’s largest sporting ammunition manufacturer, the company recently unveiled an exciting new look and feel. The brand shooters once knew as Federal Premium is now Federal. Simple. Proud. And more focused than ever before.
“For many years, we were known as Federal Premium,” Vanderbrink says. “But the fact is we manufacture a huge list of ammunition products via several sub-brands, and Federal Premium is just one of them. Granted, it’s our exclusive sub-brand crafted at the highest tier of quality, but by using it as our overall name, Premium began to lose that meaning.”
Vanderbrink explains that over the years, as the company focused on its many outstanding sub-brands and launched numerous specialized products, the Federal brand faded into the background, losing some of its consistency and strength on the shelf.
“That has all changed,” he says, “with a new, modern logo and redesigned packaging. It was all part of a comprehensive effort to revitalize the Federal name, while also treating Federal Premium as it was always meant to be—an exclusive category of the best ammunition available.”
The new Federal logo features a stronger, bolder font that’s been customized to show motion and cutting-edge technology. Its simpler, stronger design is derived from the original Federal logo, harkening back to the company’s roots, but it has a contemporary feel with the iconic Shockwave logo.
“The font inspires strength, heritage and forward motion—both in the technology of our products and the attitude of our employees,” Vanderbrink says. “We’re always looking ahead, driving to be the best.”
The new packaging design makes it easier for consumers and sales associates to quickly identify Federal products on the shelves. Beyond the bold, eye-catching aesthetics, the most important attributes of the product, such as caliber, bullet weight and use, are clearly, consistently communicated across all Federal product families.
“With so many ammunition options at retail, we made sure this packaging stands out and immediately communicates what we know consumers want to see,” Vanderbrink says.
Despite the new look, all products that have existed under the Federal product category will continue to do so within the new structure and packaging. This includes proven favorites like Federal Power-Shok, Top Gun, Speed-Shok, Fusion and American Eagle, as well as more recent additions like Syntech, Train + Protect and Non-Typical.
Premium Still Reigns
Although Federal Premium is no longer the overall brand name, all Premium products are still active at the heart of the company. Federal started the Premium line back in 1977 by doing something that was unheard of at the time. Rather than just load its own bullets into its centerfire rifle and handgun cartridges, Federal began using the top projectiles from companies across the industry and loading them to its own extremely tight specifications. This produced handloader-quality from factory ammunition, changing the company—and the industry—forever.
As the decades passed, Federal Premium products were introduced in shotshell, rimfire, reloading and muzzleloading categories—including game-changers like Black Cloud, Prairie Storm, HEAVYWEIGHT TSS, and Hunter Match. Though the products themselves varied, the common thread was superior quality.
“Federal Premium products are the absolute top-performing, most technologically advanced ones in every category,” Vanderbrink says. “Whether you’re hunting elk with Terminal Ascent, shooting a match with Gold Medal Berger, dropping ducks with Black Cloud, or defending your home and family with HST, Federal Premium delivers what nothing else can.”
Considering that performance and legacy, Federal Premium products have received more significant packaging updates that makes them even richer and more appealing on the shelf, further separating them from the competition.
“Our very best ammunition, Federal Premium, is easily identified by high-impact packaging with eye-catching gold foil, aspirational imagery and detailed product insets,” Vanderbrink says. “This truly sets it apart, letting both consumer and retailer know the ammunition is designed for the best possible performance.”
Ready for The Next Century
Its size and strength. Its technological and logistical advantages. Its branding and reputation. It all comes together to make Federal the industry leader in sporting ammunition, a position the company is eager to maintain and expand upon in the coming decades.
“It started a century ago with our founder, Charles Horn, and we’re proud to carry on that legacy today,” Vanderbrink says. “Federal is stronger than ever, and we’re looking forward to serving shooters for the next 100 years.