August 22, 2023
Some companies start with an idea, others with lofty hopes of success. Nosler, one of the most trusted names in the outdoors, began with a failure. The story is an old one, but it is worth telling since it remains part of the company’s core culture. In September, 1946, John Nosler traveled to British Columbia in search of moose. He took a bull at close range, sending round-after-round from his .300 H&H into the vitals—six in all. When the bull finally succumbed to the onslaught, Nosler inspected the wounds. All of the bullets had hit where he’d intended, but most had disintegrated on the mud-caked hide and failed to penetrate. Ever the problem-solver, Nosler set out to build a bullet that would not fail regardless of the conditions.
Nosler found a scrap of paper in a Wonowon, British Columbia coffee shop and sketched out his concept of two bullets in one—a projectile that would both expand and reliably penetrate. On what was likely a napkin, the Partition was born. Nosler effectively invented the controlled-expansion bullet before he’d even arrived home in Oregon and, ever since, his legacy has continued to drive his company to the forefront of innovation.
Back in Oregon, Nosler enlisted the help of a machinist friend and added a screw machine to his small shop. They worked with copper and lead as they methodically tackled the constant design challenges that accompany real innovation. By the next Fall they’d created a working bullet and it was back to British Columbia for redemption. On the trip, Nosler took the first ever animal with his brainchild—a moose that fell to a single shot. His hunting companion took another bull, also with just one bullet. A year later, the Nosler Partition Bullet Company was delivering the groundbreaking Partition bullet to the hunting public. On this, the Partition’s 75-year anniversary, it remains the hunting bullet by which all others are judged.
Given the success of the Partition, Nosler could have easily rested on his laurels. Instead, he and his growing firm continued to drive for better products, better processes and better results. One of these innovations was the impact-extrusion method of bullet manufacturing. This technique, first employed with Nosler’s Zipedo bullet, resulted in jacket concentricity that surpassed anything seen previously. Impact extrusion was eventually applied to the Partition, creating a bullet that provided not only terminal reliability but excellent accuracy.
Other bullet designs followed including the Solid Base (1972), the Ballistic Tip (1984), the Accubond (2003), the lead-free E-Tip (2007) and others. Each of these bullets were tested rigorously in the field, often by Nosler himself. All along the way, the company has remained family operated. John’s son Bob, who grew up in the business, eventually took the company’s reins. Bob believes strongly that a company’s strength is its culture. As he stated in his excellent book, Born Ballistic, “Attitude is a choice, like love is a choice. We are in charge of our attitude. And we are in charge of our company culture.” Nosler’s culture is one that John Nosler, his son Bob and his grandson John can be proud of.
Today, John Nosler, the founder’s grandson is at the company’s helm. Like his father and grandfather before him, John is a hunter and a shooter himself. Many of the company’s employees share that passion. It is probably that passion for success afield and respect for the game that has continued the company’s growth and dedication to quality. Controlled-expansion bullets are not easy to make, nor are they inexpensive. Nosler has never cheapened the brand by creating budget-priced bullets for game, even during unprecedented demand. They remain true to their core mission of building products that will not fail their customers the way John Nosler’s bullets failed him so many decades ago. Though the company is proud of its history, it isn’t looking backwards. This attitude, this culture, is what drove Nosler to move beyond bullets and into completely new product categories.
In 2004, Nosler Bullets, which had become Nosler, Incorporated, entered the rifle market with the introduction of the company’s Trophy Grade Rifle, later known as the Model 48. The design was praised widely by the outdoor media as a hunting rifle befitting of the Nosler name. The Nosler Trophy Grade line of loaded ammunition was introduced in 2009, giving hunters and shooters a wide variety of high-quality offerings. Sadly, among all of the company’s success, John Nosler passed away on the 10th day of the 10th month of 2010—closing the first chapter of the company’s proud legacy. His family and their employees set their eyes on the future, expanding their rifle offerings and moving yet again into new ground—cartridges.
Nosler’s entry into cartridge design came about organically. Nosler produced its first loading manual in 1976 and became a leading authority in the field. That expertise allowed Nosler engineers to build their line of proprietary rounds based on long experience. Introduced in 2014, the 26 Nosler was an immediate success, launching 6.5mm bullets such as the Partition, Accubond and the then-new Accubond Long Range at impressively lethal velocities from a beltless magnum case. That success was followed by the 28 Nosler (.284 inch, 2015), 30 Nosler (.308 inch, 2016), 33 Nosler (.338 inch, 2016), 22 Nosler (.224 inch, 2017) and the 27 Nosler (.277 inch, 2020). Each of those cartridges has proven to be versatile and effective, allowing hunters to push the envelope when it comes to range and lethality.
Nosler, Inc. was born out of a real-world hunting need and, 75 years later, continues to address the challenges that hunters face in the mountains, tundra, prairies, hardwoods, jungles and savannas. With his grandson John at the helm, the company remains true to the legacy that John Nosler built. Like his namesake, John is a hunter first and continues to foster a culture of innovation and quality. The company has not only a proud history, but a bright future ahead. Here's to another 75 years.