August 09, 2021
By Sam Forbes
After facing bankruptcy for the second time in 2020, America’s iconic Remington Ammunition brand faced an uncertain future. During the subsequent firesale, Vista Outdoor purchased the ammunition and accessories side of Remington’s business, and the new ownership didn’t skip a beat at getting the historic Lonoke plant back into production. Hundreds of Americans have been hired and millions of dollars have been invested to ensure the ammunition brand we all recognize is back on shelves across America.
What is unique about the buyout is the fact that Vista owns Federal Ammunition. Arguably two of the biggest ammo manufacturers are now under single ownership. But Vista has been very clear about the path forward together. Remington will remain Remington, and Federal will remain Federal. The two teams will work to develop their own ammunition advancements before coming together to help improve their separate ideas. This allows both brands to retain their heritage, their following, and their name, all the while being improved through partnership, and not shoved into one ugly conglomerate.
Recently, we got an up-close look at the new-and-improved Remington when the company invited several journalists to Lonoke for a day-long tour of the factory, followed by an evening of shooting in the Arkansas twilight. Stepping through the front doors of the Lonoke Ammo facility I was greeted by Nick Sachse, Director of Product Management. Sachse has been with Remington for more than twenty years, and needless to say, he was ecstatic to have a group of media folks back for a visit.
We started our summer day by first visiting Remington’s iconic shot tower. At the base level, we walked past numerous rows of pallets holding raw material. There seemed to be no shortage of material ready for production, though the reality is, Remington, like all ammo manufacturers, is scrambling to find all the raw goods they can get.
The elevator ride took us up eleven stories to the small, hot and loud room where molten lead was being poured through the properly sized discs for the day. As the hot material began its fall, it formed hardened and circular shot thanks to the power of gravity. Midway down the tower, we visited a room where shot rained from above. Back at base level, the pellets ran through a series of ramps to ensure roundness. What didn’t jump the gaps was not round enough to be qualified as safe shot, so back up the tower it went for another melt and fall. It was a massively efficient work of machinery, and a place all its own.
The round pellets that did make the cut then headed to another room of large rollers. These rollers gradually got bigger as they went down and therefore acted as an automatic sorter of shot size. Sachse then guided us back to ground level to show us where brass, primers and plastic shells were being made.
Once again, we passed rows and rows of raw material. Large rolls of brass were lifted into big green and yellow machines that formed, labeled and punched the brass end of a shotshell you’d recognize. The production floor was busy, and forklifts buzzed about. Each Remington worker we passed moved with an exciting rush. All the hard work I witnessed should put an end to the rumor that ammunition manufacturers aren’t making and shipping ammo as fast as they can.
When we turned the next corner, it was obvious that we had made it to the plastic side of production; the heat and smell was an immediate giveaway. Green and black tubes rolled through long cooling tanks before being cut down to the size of that day’s production: 2 ¾” Club Target Loads in 8 shot. Seeing one of the most classic shot shells of my shotgunning past being produced right in front of me further drove home the message that Remington was indeed back and making its classics again.
Within the plastic-smelling room also rolled conveyor belts full of clear wads. The two pieces traveled together to be packed, primed and loaded by more teams of specialized employees.
Remington ammo is one of the few ammunition facilities that produces its own primers. This has always been a huge asset to the brand, but it will become even more instrumental in the future as it offers one less piece to have to be bought and received through the warehouse.
The time taken to assemble a box of shot shell took place in record time and very soon we were seeing loads being perfectly organized into big green boxes. More conveyor belts carried the shot towards an assembly line of quick-handed packers. The pallets were stacked and wrapped for shipping and more forklifts buzzed about.
What struck me the most was the uniquely balanced combination of old and new technology that ran alongside the busy employees. As we weaved in and out of the assembly lines, our group received one of two responses: either a big smile and welcoming wave, or an unwavering focus that was not to be interrupted by our camera lenses and notepads. In both cases—an impressive showing of employee dedication and happiness to be back at work.
After seeing shotshell production, Nick then took us to tour the rimfire wing of the facility. Manufacturing rimfire ammunition requires much different machines than shotshell. Obviously the change between the two was a stark contrast, yet one thing remained the same: the employee ethic.
What looked like miniature rail-road cars full of gold, were just bins of .22 bullets and brass casings. As we made our way through the assembly lines and into the loading rooms, things got much more serious. Safety was at the top of the priority list, and it showed. Once the gunpower became involved there was no more messing around. I watched as countless 500 round boxes of Thunderbolt .22 rolled towards the packing department and filled another warehouse with pallets of ammunition to be distributed.
It was about mid-way through the day when we left rimfire and Nick asked us if we wanted to see the latest addition to the Lonoke plant. When we all agreed to go, Nick led us past the shipping docks and out of the building towards the newest facility they call “Eli” (a name that pays tribute to founder Eli Remington, 1816).
Inside the Eli building, the factory floor was open and the ambient noise in the room was much quieter. We were introduced to one of the young engineers who explained the efficiencies of their more modern machinery. What took the older side of production numerous rooms to accomplish, Eli’s floor did in just one machine. The technology being used within the Eli building was not just impressive, it was another confirmation that Remington is not just back up and running; they are also growing with new technology and expanded product offerings. As you read this, both classic favorites and new developments are being produced in mass quantities.
While I agree there hasn’t been much ammunition on the shelves recently, the Remington production facility is back up and running 24/7. They are producing more great ammunition now that ever before, and that should help meet some of the unprecendented demand all manufacturers have been experiencing over the last 18 months.
After spending the day in Lonoke, I can unequivocally say Big Green is back. Get ready to start seeing those iconic green and yellow boxes on store shelves again soon. Also be on the lookout for further coverage on new products that will be announced right here on PetersensHunting.Com.
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