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How is factory ammo made?

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Old December 17th, 2010, 02:06 PM   #1
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How is factory ammo made?

Just curious how factory handgun ammo is made. Specifically, the equipment. Is it totally automated or do they just have a bunch of folks running some Dillon XL650s or something? I have tried to find a video of the process. I have seen some amazing progressives out there with all kinds of gizmos and bells and whistles that look like they could really crank out the rounds if kept fed somehow on a continous basis.



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Old December 17th, 2010, 02:17 PM   #2
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Old December 17th, 2010, 03:49 PM   #3
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Interesting video, but, I'm still curious how the ammo is made. I assume they just use an automated progressive press similar to the high end Dillons with all the powder, primer, powder charge and other electronic monitoring equipment hooked up to computeres or something. I think it would be cool to see that in action!
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Old December 17th, 2010, 03:54 PM   #4
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MidLife, I use to operate a commercial loader for 38 Specials back in the 60's and I'm sure that process is quite dated. No doubt, many of the mechanical functions have been replaced by computer driven electronics. The machine I ran had 12 stages and was fully automated with one exception ... it took a full time human to keep the hoppers full of brass, primers, bullets, and powder. The machine (made by Winchester) was about 10 feet long, 2 feet wide, and weighed over a ton. It was motor driven (actually several motors). If you could imagine ... a steady stream of cartridges marching in a straight line in a "jerky motion" from the first stage to the final product bin. The machine sounded much like a jackhammer and if the reject rate was minimal, it would crank out 2 rounds per second. We were very happy to see 100 rounds a minute.

The first stage was a hopper filled with brass cases. It would sort the brass and set a case base down in a "loading channel". A shot of compressed air was injected through the primer pocket that temporarily "inflated" the case. If it held pressure, the case moved to the next stage. If the primer pocket was obstructed or if there was a crack in the case or even an irregular case mouth, the case would not hold pressure and would be flipped into a reject bucket. The next stage primed the case then the check station would squirt a blast of compressed air into the case mouth. If the case held pressure, it meant the primer was seated. Another check station "inspected" for high primers. If all was well, the case moved forward to the next stage where the case mouth was belled slightly. If not, it was flipped into a reject bucket. The powder drop stage was quite complicated. It had a small conveyor belt with calibrated "holes" for precise powder measurement. The powder hopper held 8 lbs. As the case moved forward, the conveyor belt moved sideways and dropped powder in the case as it passed by. This process was "sealed" so powder did not get spilled. Again, another check station confirmed powder drop then advanced the case to the bullet seater. Bullets were sorted in a hopper and delivered via a tube (base down) to the case mouth. A seater die would push the bullet to an exact depth. Another check station would "inspect" for proper seating depth and make sure the nose was pointed up. A crimp die was then use to apply a roll crimp. Finally, the cartridge was positioned flat with the nose pointing forward. A device much like a tubing cutter was use to rotate the case and press a crimp line cannelure into the case. At this point, the cartridge was finished and dumped into a bin.

This same machine was available as a "reloader" too. Everything was the same except it started with a decapping die then a sizing die before starting the above loading process. It's interesting to note ... there were no "combined" stages like sizing and decapping, seating and crimping, or belling and powder drop, rather each function was totally separate so it could be adjusted to perfection. I remember one time when we changed from a 158 gr FMJ to a 130 gr FMJ. This took a full day to get the powder charges, bullet seating depth, crimp, etc set and wasted several thousand cases, primers, and bullets in the process.

This process did not include making the brass cases nor did it include making the bullets. I have not seen those processes but I sure would like to. I would also like to see new millenium loading machines. I'm sure they are even faster and more precise than the old 60's era machines.
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Old December 17th, 2010, 04:47 PM   #5
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Interesting. Thanks.
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Old December 19th, 2010, 12:04 PM   #7
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Cool Stuff! Thanks for posting!
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Old December 19th, 2010, 12:38 PM   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MidLife View Post
Just curious how factory handgun ammo is made. Specifically, the equipment. Is it totally automated or do they just have a bunch of folks running some Dillon XL650s or something? I have tried to find a video of the process. I have seen some amazing progressives out there with all kinds of gizmos and bells and whistles that look like they could really crank out the rounds if kept fed somehow on a continous basis.
While we are talking about HOW ammo is made, can we talk about price? I can buy 9mm for $10/50FMJ +/-. When I get to .38spc. the cheapest new ammo is $18/50FMJ. Clearly, there is a "slight" increase on component cost, but, certainly not enough to justify that much deferential. Going to .357 is cataostrophic(sp?)! $26/50!

I'm sure comeone can help me understand this phenom......
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Old December 25th, 2010, 09:39 PM   #9
 
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Volume, most likely. Due to 9mm Parabellum being a NATO cartridge, there's simply more of it made nowadays. I'll bet back in the day .38 Special, the standard police cartridge, was the "inexpensive" cartridge, too, until everyone started going to semi-auto pistols.

Ever consider reloading your own? I reload .38 Special, and it's very cost-effective to do so.
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Old December 26th, 2010, 04:14 AM   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MidLife View Post
Just curious how factory handgun ammo is made. Specifically, the equipment. Is it totally automated or do they just have a bunch of folks running some Dillon XL650s or something? I have tried to find a video of the process. I have seen some amazing progressives out there with all kinds of gizmos and bells and whistles that look like they could really crank out the rounds if kept fed somehow on a continous basis.
MidLife, I live a short distance from Georgia Arms here in the south they are very popular and put out a very good product they use both automated and manual loaders for the manufacture of ammo. The manual process is more for the hunting and self defense ammo that they sell online and at gun shows in the south. Last year they were running 24 hours a day 7 days a week to try and keep up with demand. Anyone can drive up and go inside but only as far as the shopping area to make a purchase. Only employee's are allowed to go into the working part of the business. hope this helps. Bill.
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Old December 26th, 2010, 05:19 AM   #11
 
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Originally Posted by 78CJ5 View Post
MidLife, I live a short distance from Georgia Arms here in the south they are very popular and put out a very good product they use both automated and manual loaders for the manufacture of ammo. The manual process is more for the hunting and self defense ammo that they sell online and at gun shows in the south. Last year they were running 24 hours a day 7 days a week to try and keep up with demand. Anyone can drive up and go inside but only as far as the shopping area to make a purchase. Only employee's are allowed to go into the working part of the business. hope this helps. Bill.
they actually allowed me to take a look the last time i was there. sales person walked me through the door and explained what everything was. needless to say - i only buy from them now.
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Old December 26th, 2010, 09:12 AM   #12
 
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Originally Posted by Cowboy T View Post
Volume, most likely. Due to 9mm Parabellum being a NATO cartridge, there's simply more of it made nowadays. I'll bet back in the day .38 Special, the standard police cartridge, was the "inexpensive" cartridge, too, until everyone started going to semi-auto pistols.

Ever consider reloading your own? I reload .38 Special, and it's very cost-effective to do so.
You're probably correcrt. I've been saving all my brass for the idea of reloading.
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Old December 26th, 2010, 09:29 AM   #13
 
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Originally Posted by WGSNewnan View Post
they actually allowed me to take a look the last time i was there. sales person walked me through the door and explained what everything was. needless to say - i only buy from them now.
Cool I only buy there ammo.
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