"Ten bullets through one hole" was the philosophy of Joyce Hornady, the company's founder. This great idea of accuracy and perfection has continued from the first bullet made more than sixty years ago, right through today.
Like so many successful companies, Hornady Manufacturing was born out of one man's vision of a better product for his own use. Joyce Hornady was an avid shooter and needed a steady supply of good, accurate bullets. While commercially available bullets were usable, Joyce felt that better bullets could be made.
Hornady, the son of a pastor, was named for a prominent Methodist bishop, Bishop Joyce, who oversaw church affairs in Colorado and western Nebraska. Joyce grew up learning to shoot and hunt – a lifelong passion that would forever change the shooting industry.
During World War II, Joyce had taken a job as a marksmanship instructor in a guard training unit at the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant. He and his family moved to Grand Island from Lincoln, Nebraska. Following the War, Joyce and his family stayed in Grand Island, and opened a small sporting goods retail store that sold everything from basketballs to hunting and shooting products. There was no doubt however, that his true love was shooting and hunting.
In the first years following the war, shooters and hunters used some of the vast surplus of military ammunition for their sport shooting. This surplus ammunition however, did not offer the accuracy or performance needed for target shooting, big game or varmint hunting. Joyce realized the need for better bullets and he responded to it. Hornady and his original partner Vernon Speer of Lincoln, Nebraska built a machine that converted spent 22 rimfire cases into bullet jackets, and then into bullets. Advertised in the American Rifleman Magazine, these bullets sold well all over the country. Ultimately, the business relationship between Hornady and Speer faltered, and resulted in two independent companies. Vernon Speer had already moved his portion of the business to Lewiston, Idaho, the current location of Speer Bullets. Using a surplus bullet assembly press in a rented garage on 4th Street in Grand Island, Nebraska, Joyce Hornady began to produce his own 30 caliber bullet. From the initial production in 1949, this 30 caliber bullet (30 caliber, 150 gr Spire Point) remains one of our most popular bullets to this day.
The first year of business, Hornady Bullets total sales were $10,000 – a figure that increased three-fold the next year, the staff grew to four, and business indicators were positive. Hornady added equipment, confident that more growth lay ahead. The Korean War and the shortages it entailed were not anticipated, but rather than let the company wither, Hornady earned contracts to produce a variety of products not associated with bullets – aluminum hearts for bracelets, and condenser cans for the government. After the war, the can material and the technology developed to produce them was utilized to make ultra thin copper jackets for varmint bullets.
In 1958, growth led the company to move to our present location on the west edge of Grand Island, Nebraska. The facility featured an 8,000 square foot plant, and in 1960, added a 200 yard underground testing facility that allowed bullets to be tested in an environment unaffected by weather. This was a welcome addition, since Joyce had previously tested each individual lot of bullets by driving to the Grand Island Rifle Range, winter and summer, rain or shine, to shoot the bullets to ensure that they met his standards for accuracy. In addition, the number of full-time employees increased to 40.
Market diversity is a hallmark of Hornady Manufacturing Company. Our first venture into a shooting product other than bullets was in 1964 when Joyce started Frontier Ammunition, a line of remanufactured ammunition that initially utilized surplus military brass. During the Vietnam War surplus military brass sources were scarce, and it was at this point that Hornady began to use newly-manufactured cartridge cases. The ammunition business continued to grow and has matured into our very successful line of Hornady ammunition, comprised of Custom, Match, Varmint Express, LEVERevolution, Dangerous Game Series, Superformance, Steel Match, Critical Defense and TAP premium law enforcement and military ammunition.
In 1971, Hornady acquired Pacific Tool Company and diversified into the reloading tool market. The Pacific operations were moved from Lincoln, Nebraska to the newly built reloading tool facility of the Hornady manufacturing plant in 1972. Under Hornady leadership, the Pacific product line was reinvigorated, and introduced the Model 105 shotshell press. The addition of Pacific Tool Company and its existing products, as well as new product development fueled the company's growth.
Through the 1970's Hornady continued to prosper and grow. New bullet designs and ammunition were added to the line as well as different styles of reloading equipment. In the late '70's, Hornady acquired the West Coast Shot Company of Reno Nevada, and renamed it Hornady Magnum Shot. It became an independent company in the early 1990's when it was sold back to its original management, and still produces premium grade lead shot..
Just as quality had always been highly prized within the company, so, too, was innovation. It took new form in the early 1960's with the first major change of bullet design the company had undertaken. While the bullet catalog ranged from 22 caliber to 45 caliber, all spire points retained the traditional conical point shape of the tangent ogive. Originally developed by US Army ballisticians, the Hornady ballistics lab supported experimentation that led to the adaptation of the aerodynamically efficient, secant ogive that has now become a signature profile of Hornady bullets, and is used almost exclusively across the entire Hornady bullet line.
In January 1981, along with engineer Edward Heers and customer service manager Jim Garber, Joyce Hornady was killed when the company plane they were flying crashed en route to the SHOT Show in New Orleans. The linchpin of the company was suddenly gone. The company's founder, visionary, spokesman, leader, and strategist was tragically killed.
The family needed to regroup, and so it did. Steve Hornady became President and sister, Margaret Hornady - David and her husband Don became Vice President and Chief Engineer respectively. Don retired in the early 2000's and Margaret in 2009.
At that time, the InterLock feature, the most recent bullet improvement, was only four years old. Since then, the line has grown to include XTP Pistol bullets as well as polymer-tipped rifle and muzzleloader bullets such as the A-MAX, V-MAX, SST, InterBond and our latest innovations, the FTX, MonoFlex, NTX and GMX bullets.
It wasn't until 1983 that Hornady Bullets, Frontier Ammunition and Pacific Reloading Tools were merged into one corporation. To signify the complete merger, Frontier Ammunition became Hornady Custom Ammunition, and Pacific Reloading Tools became Hornady Reloading Tools.
The ammunition line was beginning to progress, and the ability to feed the plant with outsourced component cartridge cases became increasingly difficult. Inevitably these sourcing issues led to the decision in 1984 to start making cartridge cases "in-house". From very humble beginnings of only a select handful of products, we now produce a comprehensive line of cartridge cases that run the gamut from pistol brass up to the very largest dangerous game offerings that we load in our factory ammunition and sell as component products for reloaders. Our brass is all built to the highest tolerances in the industry, and is a preferred component product for match shooters and hunters alike.
It was in the late 1990's that the Hornady reputation for industry leading ammunition development and innovation really emerged. As an independent component manufacturer, not simply an assembler of ammunition, we trained ourselves and built and adapted machinery to help in all facets of product development and manufacturing. One of the first advents was a solo project with the introduction of Light and Heavy Magnum loads. Working with partners in the propellant manufacturing industry, Hornady developed loads for established cartridges with technologically advanced and highly progressive powders that would provide increased velocity without increasing pressures. Following this development came requests and partnerships with various gun manufacturers to introduce new chamberings that would maximize performance from their firearms. One of these developments, introduced in 2002, began as a pet project of Hornady ballistician Dave Emary – it was a complete departure from anything the company had ever done before - a rimfire cartridge. Now a staple of the shooting industry, the 17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire, or HMR is the only cartridge to wear the Hornady name in its title, and is a favorite cartridge of millions of shooters throughout the world.
In addition to these proprietary projects, Hornady has developed, brought back to prominence, and/or introduced numerous cartridges to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute for adaptation and standardization within the firearm and ammunition industry.
In 2006, Jason Hornady, Steve Hornady's son, and third generation of the family, joined the company after working for over 15 years as an independent sales rep and sales manager in the shooting and hunting industry. His extensive experience made him a natural fit to lead the company's efforts as Director of Sales, and in 2009, he became VP of Sales and Marketing for the company.
Today Hornady Manufacturing has over 300 employees, occupies over 108,000 square feet of production space, and in one day– on one press– is capable of producing more bullets than the company's entire first year production. Our market includes the entire United States as well as international distributors and customers in locations throughout the world.
The continued growth rate of the company's business led to a building expansion project that added roughly 37,000 square feet of additional manufacturing, distribution and office space. This expansion, along with another building project started in 2010, will, for the first time, unite the company's different manufacturing divisions under one contiguous roof, enabling swift transfer of components and raw materials, thus greatly increasing overall efficiency..
We continue to be one of the largest independent producers of bullets in the World. We sell bullets as separate components, loaded in Hornady Ammunition, and also to other ammunition companies to be loaded in their premium grade ammo. Our employees exhibit our products at trade shows and shooting matches across the country, and our product lines are represented to dealers and distributors by over 70 independent sales representatives.
Hornady Manufacturing has been the recipient of many industry awards and has also given generously within the community of Grand Island, where we make our home. Organizations supported include the United Way, the Platte River Charity Shoot, the Heartland Public Shooting Park, Hope Harbor, the Central-Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross, Stuhr Museum and the list goes on.
Hornady was the leading founder of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Fund, and we support or serve on The National Shooting Sports Foundation, Honored American Veterans Afield, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, The National Rifle Association, and many others. As a member of the shooting and hunting sports industry, Hornady realizes the need to give back to the sports that keep us in business and maintain our heritage..
The stature of Hornady Manufacturing Company within its industry has never been higher. Combine the best customer base with the best employees, throw in the family/management team running this business; it's hard not to be successful.
Quality. Continuous improvement. Innovation. Responsiveness. Looking to the future, it appears that the Hornady heritage and the Hornady vision will continue to shine brightly.