By Christopher R. Bartocci Black Hills Ammunition BHA is one of the most recognized names in the industry for premium quality ammunition for hunting, self defense, law enforcement and military customers. The biggest customer for BHA is the U. They manufacture perhaps the most regarded and well known 5. Black Hills Ammunition manufactures several other custom combat loads for various other U.
Any quality gun manufacturer will test fire their firearm for function and accuracy prior to shipping. Due to Black Hills Ammunition manufacturing ammunition for military use, every effort is made to ensure the ammunition is combat reliable and as absolutely uniform lot to lot as is humanly Blackhllls. SADJ: For your commercial line you have hunting ammunition and you have cowboy action ammunition. At every point in production, as you saw earlier in your tour, Blackhills bullets brass have an inspection Blackhills bullets brass at every step. This is for several reasons; the most important is that the Earch for sex knows the machine completely. Secondly, the U.
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I have used several. This company is by no means a modest Blackhills bullets brass, as they have secured military contracts, but they are not the giants of industry that some of the better known names are. The bullet bumps internal organs and exits, often leaving a highly mobile and angry felon for the defender to deal with. Ammunition must ship UPS ground. All ammunition is to be shipped to an FFL. Much of what matters in personal defense is the shooter's Learn about thongs. Illinois- Entire State. I have enjoyed excellent results Blackhillls Black Hills ammunition. Mid frame revolvers simply could not take the pounding of such loads, and the shooter had extreme difficulty in managing this load. Used by all 4 branches of the Military, Black Hills ammo has earned the reputation as one of the most Blackhills bullets brass ammo brand to go with, no matter what the caliber is but specifically the 6. If State law or local ordinances establish Blackhiills higher minimum age, the dealer must observe the higher age requirement. August 3rd,PM.
Notice the box of Black Hills Ammunition 7.
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By Christopher R. Bartocci Black Hills Ammunition BHA is one of the most recognized names in the industry for premium quality ammunition for hunting, self defense, law enforcement and military customers. The biggest customer for BHA is the U.
They manufacture perhaps the most regarded and well known 5. Black Hills Ammunition manufactures several other custom combat loads for various other U. The quality of BHA is second to none; they do not compete in most orders requiring the lowest bid.
They have extreme pride in their quality of ammunition and are not willing to take away the man hours of inspections of components and final ammunition to compete in low bids. However, this keeps them out of the law enforcement market due to the fact that almost all law enforcement contracts go out for bid.
Generally due to budget restraints, the main concern is cost and over-all reliability. The military on the other hand has the opposite view on ammunition. They have exceedingly high standards and are willing to pay for the best ammunition in the world. They also have many different missions requiring specific needs. This is where BHA comes in. There are no engineers at BHA as they are an assembly plant not a design firm. When Jeff Hoffman is presented with a requirement, he seeks out the proper components.
These close relationships with ammunition component manufacturers to develop new and improved products have made Black Hills Ammunition one of the highest quality manufacturers of ammunition in the world.
The facility was converted from a dairy plant and was well suited for the needs of BHA. There is a main manufacturing plant along with an additional storage facility and primer and powder storage containers that all conform to U. Department of Defense DOD regulations for storage of powder and primers. Like any U. DoD contracting location, security is very strict with many levels of restricted access areas.
Not to be unheeded, the front door is guarded by a large overlooking gargoyle. The first stop on the tour was the warehouse. The warehouse was loaded with projectiles of all sorts, primers and large caches of cartridge cases.
The military production components are kept separate from the commercial. BHA purchases as much components as possible when they become available and will store them. In the last couple of years ammunition components have become quite scarce. BHA is an ammunition manufacturing facility and without components their loading machines sit idle.
Every effort is made to keep enough stock so the chances of production being halted due to running out of components is left at a minimum. The second place Jeff Hoffman showed was one of the two ballistic laboratories used in the development and testing of ammunition. Proof barrels are installed in the main unit. Pressures, velocity and various environmental conditions can be tested. The test barrel is fired through three tires, then through three sky screens that capture velocity and the projectile is captured in a snail trap.
These systems may be used for development of new products or to test various lots of ammunition to ensure it conforms to the specifications. There are two ballistic labs; one for commercial and one for military ammunition. Next we were shown the Gel Room. This is a dedicated room for mixing and preparing ordnance gel in testing all types of ammunition.
There are two large refrigerator units that are always filled with gel. There are various length molds as well. This is a critical testing procedure, particularly when manufacturing military ammunition. The gel also will give immediate feedback if the projectiles will maintain their weight or fragment as well as a very good visual regarding the permanent cavity damage the projectile will make.
Due to Black Hills Ammunition manufacturing ammunition for military use, every effort is made to ensure the ammunition is combat reliable and as absolutely uniform lot to lot as is humanly possible. They have a humidity environmental chamber that is used to condition reference ammunition to assure the most accurate results possible in referencing Black Hills Pressure test barrels.
Quality control starts with each and every component. When your reputation depends on the performance of the ammunition, BHA does not take the word of their vendors that everything is within specification. BHA offers two different types of ammunition, new and factory reloads.
In the case of the reloads, brass is accepted from sources which BHA is sure they are only once fired. Each fired cartridge case is visually inspected for serious scratches, damaged rims, bent mouths or any other anomaly that may make the cartridge case speculative of performance in a reloaded cartridge. New cartridge cases are inspected at the loading machine.
Depending on the type of cartridge case, they may require priming or in the case of military ammunition, the cartridge cases may already be primed and have the primer pocket crimped. In the case of the primed cartridge cases, the loading machine operator will hand inspect each round prior to it going into the hopper of the loading machine.
The slightest blemish on military contract ammunition will be rejected. One of the more common manufacturing defects noted will be the lack of uniformity or a missing flash hole.
The new unprimed cartridge cases go through the same process but the additional step of priming is added to the assembly process. Primers go through inspection as well and there is a separate room where the primers are examined.
Each primer is inspected to assure all three components are present cup, anvil, firing mixture. Mostly Winchester primers are used exclusively by BHA. On very rare occasion a primer will have one or all of the components missing or the primer is assembled incorrectly. Although a very tedious process, this quality control measure guarantees to the extent possible, that the round will fire when struck by the firing pin. Once the primers are accepted, they are fed into a machine that loads the primer tubes each that are fed into the loading machines.
Bullets are also inspected. Due to the degree of accuracy required, projectiles are inspected and weighed to make sure they conform to the specification. Depending on the projectile type, they are checked to make sure that cores are complete and uniform.
BHA uses numerous manufacturers of projectiles including Hornady, Sierra and Barnes to name a few as well as cast lead projectiles. Depending on the order, the projectile is procured. Much research and development is done on behalf of customers to find projectiles to meet a specific requirement.
BHA will find that projectile and if it is not available they will work with the manufacturer to design and manufacture it for that customer.
Propellants are another very critical component in the cartridge performance. Depending on the particular caliber, projectile weight and cartridge case, there are numerous propellants that may be used.
The military has different requirements than a hunter. They will need flash retardants for nighttime firing. Some propellants burn faster and some slower. Modern propellants now can increase the performance of older calibers by the improved propellants that give similar or better performance with less volume of propellant.
Military weapons offer their own set of challenges where propellants are concerned due to the need of both a certain chamber pressure but also a certain port pressure. Depending on the location of the gas port and the distance from the gas port to the muzzle, various propellants may be needed to control the pressure curve so as not to over or under pressure the operating system.
As new requirements come up, BHA research and development people work with the powder manufacturers to design proper blends to accomplish the task at hand. The propellant used in the Mk Mod1 is a custom blended propellant just used in that cartridge. This is done for several reasons, with one of the most important being storage of proper components where they are to be used. By industry standards, the BHA loading machines are quite slow, though that is just fine with Jeff Hoffman.
The type of detail the machine operators must have could not be done as well with high volume machines. The operators are normally assigned to one loading machine. This is for several reasons; the most important is that the operator knows the machine completely.
The operator can tell by the sound or feel if something is just not right. The operator is responsible for keeping the hoppers full of projectile, powder and cartridge cases and in other cases primers as well. However, at the same time they are inspecting every cartridge case that goes into the hopper and when the loaded cartridge comes out the loading machine.
The cartridge is tested with calipers for overall length as well as chamber gauge. Throughout the day, one of the four managers goes to each machine, pull cartridges, inspects the powder charge, quality and lengths of the cartridges to ensure everything is right.
There are also cartridge gauges that are inserted into the loading machine to check all the settings. There is a rigorous inspection of the loading machines to ensure the best product is being produced.
The loading machines are totally automatic with the operator just feeding in the components. In the case of military ammunition, the decapping and priming steps are skipped due to the cartridge case already having the primer seated and crimped.
Some of the stations of the military production include length die, slight flaring of the mouth die, charging, dropping of the projectile into the mouth of the cartridge case, seating and crimping of the projectile. After the cartridges are assembled and inspected, they go to the tumbling room. There are several tumblers with corn cob media to clean any contaminants or fingerprints off of the cartridges ensuring against corrosion of the cartridge.
From this point on, the cartridges are handled with cotton gloves. Depending on the customer, most cartridges are left in for only a brief time so the annealing marks are not removed as per military specifications.
In the case of commercial ammunition, these are often polished out. Once the ammunition is cleaned it is ready to be inspected one more time. Also depending on the customer needs, some military ammunition is subjected to an additional primer and mouth sealant.
General Accuracy Results. The author used several thousand rounds of Black Hills ammunition during a test of the H and K pistol. Sadlak Industries LLC. Italian Gun Grease. Eley Ammunition. Baby Eagle.
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Notice the box of Black Hills Ammunition 7. In the world of high quality military ammunition, the name Black Hills Ammunition is on top of the list. Jeff Hoffman is the one on the speed dial for the U. Special Operations Command when they need a custom load for a specific purpose. Small Arms Defense Journal was granted an interview with Jeff Hoffman, the man behind the highest quality ammunition in the U. His story is of an industry practitioner who worked his way up by his bootstraps from working a Dillon press as an employee to him and his wife Kristie owning one of the most successful munitions manufacturing companies in the U.
Hoffman: The first one that I remember, specifically firearms as in burning gun powder and not with things like BB guns was my grandfather and father taking me to the range and teaching me to shoot a. And I remember it being just magic to be able to be in one spot and create an effect in another spot with that rifle. I was hooked right there. SADJ: You have a background in law enforcement, can you tell us a little bit about that? Hoffman: I made friends with the local cops when I was in high school and it was interesting.
I was more interested in walking uptown and hopping in a patrol car and going on patrol then I was on going out to drink beer. I spent a lot of time in a patrol car and thought that this was fun. I graduated with a degree in criminal justice and got hired by the Rapid City Police Department in Actually, prior to that, I had interned in my home town when I was 19 years old.
I believe I was the youngest cop in the history of South Dakota. I had to get a special dispensation from the Standards Commission to be a cop at It was kind of funny when I went in front of the Standards Commission the Chief of Police from my hometown went with me and vouched for me so that I could get hired with him. But after interning and getting my degree I came to Rapid City. And then a year later I switched to the Sheriffs Reserves. I served in that capacity until earlier this year when they made me a regular deputy.
It started as Black Hills Shooter Supply. I spent my life on the phone negotiating things, I could be a negotiator. Kristi and I bought in to that company in March of When I had joined the police department they found out in pretty good order that I could shoot pretty well — my grandfather taught me to shoot — and I could shoot a pistol pretty well and never had any problems qualifying. I hate losing, so since I was then on the pistol team I had to win, and to win you had to practice, and to practice you had to buy ammo.
And so, I was buying ammo from our local range master who was making it on a progressive machine in his basement. Do you think I could make a living making ammo full time? And I started working for him immediately cranking a Dillon. That was my third job. I was a police officer, also I was working security at the Hilton Hotel, and my third job was making ammunition. And as much as I cranked that Dillon along with all the other part-time officers that were doing it, we could never catch up.
I would make ammunition during the day and at night I would ship ammunition, and I realized that I was wrong and there is a big market for this. And I remember clearly thinking that I wished I had a piece of this and then later on like most businesses, that business needed some additional cash flow, so Tom, the principal owner of Black Hills shooters Supply, offered to let Kristi and I to buy into the business.
At that point the business had two primary product lines: we sold components, brass, bullets and powder and we also sold loaded ammo. At that point a business decision was made to split the sheets. Kristi and I took the manufacture of ammunition and our former partner took the sales of components and we split the companies, and now we became Black Hills Ammunition.
Hoffman: That would be the Army Marksmanship Unit in We had a gentleman by the name of Mike Harris call up and suggest that we bid on this bid. I know all about this and I can help you win the bid. And so we bid on it and surprised ourselves by winning the bid.
They tested our stuff. They had impossible specifications. The specifications, ballistically, were impossible to meet, and I told them that. We provided the round that gave them the desired accuracy at an acceptable price to them and that was our first contract with the U. Government, the Army Marksmanship Unit in SADJ: At the time that you did this how many people did you have working for your company?
Hoffman: We can. So we started working with them. We increased the charge. We modified the propellant. The brass has been modified to make it better. And ultimately, the result of that is what we have now the Mark Mod 1.
We also, along the way, have gone through several generations of propellant, and mod 0 has a different propellant than mod 1 does. SADJ: With the amazing popularity and success that the Mark has had, can you tell our readers about how you were able to bridge the gap between combat reliability and match accuracy in a combat rifle round?
Hoffman: When the military came to us to produce this the primary requirement was an accuracy round, and we knew how to make accuracy. Primarily you get accuracy by careful selection of components well suited to the task. In this case the bullet that we ultimately ended up with was a Sierra 77 Matchking, a very accurate bullet.
And then you assemble those carefully selected components with extreme care. One lot of primers, in one lot of brass, with one lot of propellant and one lot of bullets assembled on a single line machine in one continuous run. We had to have the brass modified. We had to have a cannelure added to the bullet, which Sierra was reluctant to do. We went through several generations of powder, ultimately ending up with a propellant that was designed specifically for this application.
Those things combat hardened a marksmanship round. SADJ: Can you tell our readers the difference between a boat tail match hollow point and an open tip match? Secondly, the U. The Hague Convention basically says that you cannot use a bullet which unnecessarily deforms or is intended to cause unnecessary harm or suffering. The U. Judge Advocate General JAG has addressed these concerns specifically with this bullet and with some prior open tip match bullets to answer those concerns.
Basically open tip match is the U. The hollow point is not there in any way to cause the bullet to deform, fragment or do anything. In the case of the Mark , that hollow point does nothing to enhance terminal effect. When you recover any bullet fragments from a gelatin test you can find that little nose, which some people would call a hollow point, still perfectly closed shut in the recovered gelatin, which demonstrates the JAG ruling in this regard is absolutely correct.
And, if so, what are the differences between the commercial Mark and the military version? Hoffman: After word got out about us making the Mark there was an extreme civilian demand for it. It was incredible. But the only way that it was available to the civilian market was the ammunition that we would pull from our military runs.
We have a very detailed inspection process; every round of ammunition is hand inspected. And we would pull off ammunition that had the slightest cosmetic defect, and it would not go to the military. We would sell those as cosmetic seconds. There was always an incredible demand for those. I considered it a military term. So we sold it as and we started offering the exact same product. Nobody was hurt but that plant happened to be our Mark propellant. We had to give priority at that point to the military so we had to use a substitute propellant recently for the commercial 5.
It gives the same performance but we believe in being absolute transparent. The current production commercial ammunition does not use the standard military Mark propellant, but it gives the same performance levels.
Could you give it a longer range, higher velocity, better BC bullet, push it faster? It was shooting minute of angle out of a semiautomatic weapon. It was performing very well. Every time that we tried to improve the performance by shooting it faster or using heavier bullets we would run into some sort of a problem. And one thing I learned is there are some semiautomatic weapons out there that will drop primers even with ammunition perfectly within proper pressures, so there was a limitation there.
This is good ammunition. So I did some testing and confirmed what he said. I learned that the propellant really could be better, and I submitted a letter to that effect to Naval Service Warfare, Crane, Indiana, and they started on a program to improve it. We competed on that contract. We feel a certain amount of satisfaction in being a part of a program that improved the performance of the ammunition for our warfighters.
What makes you guys shine above the rest? Military, because the DOD came to us and said we need something that will do this.