Hornady Remains True to Innovation, Growth

From military surplus to lab-driven ballistic innovation, Hornady drives the industry forward.

Hornady Remains True to Innovation, Growth

In 2019, Hornady's facility in Nebraska was updated with the latest technology and expanded to meet demand. 

Joyce Hornady saw opportunity in rural Nebraska after the close of World War II. He was already invested in the Hornady Sporting Goods Company and taught training techniques and marksmanship at the Grand Island Arsenal during the war.

There was a tremendous surplus of ammunition available at the time, but little was adaptable for hunting. Hornady believed there was a need for quality hunting bullets for reloading, and knew the abundance of surplus inventory from the war could be put to use in filling the void. Excess ammunition, leftover cartridge cases and idle machine tools provided the foundation, and the initial startup kicked off in an old auto body shop. Hornady was off and running with the .30 caliber, 150-grain spire point — a sign of good things to come.

Throughout the company’s history that first production bullet has continued to be one of its most popular. The company’s “accurate, deadly, dependable” slogan was used from the start and remains to this day a foundation of its marketing efforts. 

Early Growth

After several years of constant investment, and despite a setback from shortages created during the Korean War, Hornady’s momentum led to expansion at the company’s present-day site in Grand Island. Construction of an 8,000-square-foot plant along with a 200-yard underground shooting range commenced in 1958. The range was included as a time-saving measure since Hornady himself tested every bullet lot, which previously required him to drive to an off-site range in every imaginable Nebraska weather scenario.

Innovations accompanied growth, and testing in the Hornady ballistics lab resulted in the secant ogive spire point. It’s a breakthrough still common in all pointed bullets. Hornady had become known for its bullet innovations when in 1964 the company announced the Frontier Ammunition line based on military brass loaded to specifications with Hornady bullets. Later, when the Vietnam War pushed the company to switch to new custom-made brass cases, Frontier Ammunition gave way to a new venture: Hornady Ammunition.

From that point, the company grew significantly. Hornady’s son Steve and Steve’s wife Marval joined the company in the 1970s and eventually took over as president and chairman of the board after a tragic plane crash took Joyce Hornady’s life.

Additional family members, invested in other industries, left prosperous careers to help lead the company into an historic era. By 2006, Steve and Marval’s son Jason returned and now holds the position of vice president. Hornady has been charging ahead at blistering speed ever since. 

Pushing Forward

Hornady’s continuing innovation is why many sporting goods retailers stock their products. Today they not only push the industry with advancements like their new A-Tip bullet, a low-drag aluminum projectile, or the ELD-X, considered by many to be the ultimate hunting bullet, but they also have also been innovators in new calibers.

Their launch of the 6.5 Creedmoor has created a caliber now considered to be the ultimate for big game hunting. They’ve also been noted for caliber achievements like the 6.5 PRC, .300 PRC, .204 Ruger, .17 HMR and the .375 Ruger, just to name a few. Interestingly, the Frontier Ammunition line returned to the forefront of the Hornady lineup in 2017.

Neal Emery, communications manager for Hornady Companies, says launching new products each year keeps Hornady innovation front and center.

“We’re known for innovation and people have come to expect it,” he says. “Also, new products give our reps yet another reason to spend time talking about our products with the retailers. The length of time it takes to launch a product varies greatly. Some products are years in the making, like Critical Duty and Precision Hunter/ELD-X, while others happen unbelievably fast, sometimes taken from an idea to working products in a matter of a week.”

Products typically are launched in fall. But Emery says once a new product is given the green light and the timing is right for customer use, Hornady will release it to ensure it gathers steam quickly with the purchasing public.

“Most years we launch all of our new-for-the-next-year products in October. Occasionally we will do a mid-year launch, but it’s fairly rare,” he said. “For example, we launched the new A-Tip line of match bullets in May of 2019 so that the products would start being available with the majority of the competition season still to go. If we had waited until October it wouldn’t have gotten near the use until the following summer.”

But there’s more to helping retailers than just shipping great product. Hornady understands this well.

Hornady continually seeks ways to improve the customer experience, whether it's with ammunition or apps to help shooters in the field.
Hornady continually seeks ways to improve the customer experience, whether it's with ammunition or apps to help shooters in the field.

Retailer Enrichment

Hornady has long recognized that it relies on retailers manning the front lines to move ammunition into the hands of customers. The company teams with distributors to move product to the customer’s hand and that puts them one stage away from retailers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do everything possible to drive people through the doors of sporting goods outlets.

“Because of the two-step distribution method, we often don’t work directly with retailers,” Emery says. “They generally purchase through a wholesaler or distributor. That said, we try hard to offer an easy way for retailers to list their business with us so customers who visit our website can easily find stores in their area. We get quite a lot of web traffic, and any time we can assist in pushing a potential customer to the stores that carry our products the better.”

Hornady also extends its marketing arm to retailers in a variety of ways, including packaging design, product displays and training. Having sales representatives routinely attend training also guarantees that retailers understand the benefits of selling Hornady products to customers.

“There are quite a few ways we try to help with retailers. Apart from the obvious about making products that are innovative and the marketing we do, we put quite a bit of thought into packaging,” Emery says. “We try to make our products easy to identify and to stand out on the shelves. Some products, like our cartridge cases, we make to easily be able to stand on a shelf or be hung on a rack. Some product lines were developed with easy identification in mind, like American Whitetail and the Hornady Black lines.

"We also do quite a bit of point-of-purchase development and work with some retailers for end cap designs, and more. We’ve assisted with training of staff and one of our main methods is making sure our sales reps are well trained because they typically work more directly with the stores. We have mandatory meetings every year along with bringing all of our sales reps to the factory in Grand Island for intensive training every one to two years.”


Emery says Hornady is in it for the long haul and is currently heavily investing in the future. The company has added new space and constantly adding and updating it machines, embracing new technology.

“We’ve experienced major growth in recent years due to our innovation,” he said. “We’ve gone from the small company that nobody saw coming to a company that the big guys, our competition, actively markets against. None of us feel the least bit like resting or taking a break. We’re always looking to improve what we do and incorporate new technologies into design and manufacturing.”


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.