Vista Outdoor extends deal to keep Federal Premium at Lake City Army ammo plant

The Army, through its system of ammunition plants and contractors such as ATK's Lake City plant, shown here, is the primary manager for the DOD's small arms ammo. (Photo credit: John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)

Vista Outdoor said Orbital ATK will continue manufacturing Federal Premium ammo at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, pictured here. (Photo: John Sleezer/Kansas City Star)

Vista Outdoor announced this week Orbital ATK will continue manufacturing ammo for its Federal Premium line — just days before a decade-long exclusive agreement between the two companies was set to expire.

The Lake City Army Ammunition Plant — managed by Orbital ATK — in Independence, Missouri sustains its operations by prioritizing commercial customers when military demand is low, said Whitney Watson, the plant’s communications manager, during an interview with Shephard Media.

“If we didn’t manufacture ammunition for companies like Hornady and Vista and Fiocchi, we wouldn’t need half of our workforce,” he said. “So rather than having 1700 people we would have 800 people with a bunch of idle buildings with idle machinery. But machinery likes to run; it doesn’t like to sit idle.”

In July, the company announced several long-term agreements with unidentified commercial ammo suppliers worth in excess of $400 million through 2020. The plant hired an additional 200 workers last year to help fulfill the new contracts, according to a report from The Examiner.

“Our primary mission is, and always has been, to manufacture and provide the highest quality ammunition to the United States Armed Forces and our allies,” said Jim Nichols, vice president and general manager of Orbital ATK’s Small Caliber Systems Division of the Defense Systems Group, in a July press release. “Supplementing military production, commercial supply agreements like these are beneficial to both Orbital ATK and our Army customer as they provide an expanded business base for our Lake City operations, workforce, and key suppliers, and help ensure that we stand ready to quickly increase production of small-caliber ammunition for the U.S. Army when needed.”

The plant will manufacture primarily 5.56mm and .223 caliber rounds, according to Orbital ATK. Vista Outdoor said Federal’s XM855 5.56x45mm 62-grain green tip full metal jacket and XM33C 50 BMG full metal jacket both come from the Lake City facility.

“Like Federal, the Lake City facility’s reputation is built on hard work, attention to detail and the dedication to produce the very best,” said Federal Premium Centerfire Product Director Mike Holm. “Its 76-year track record of crafting high-quality ammunition speaks for itself, and Lake City components have earned the trust of the most discriminating shooters. We look forward to working together for many more years to come, delivering quality ammunition to customers worldwide.”

The renewed focus on production comes eight months after an explosion tore through the plant’s primer mixing area, killing 55-year-old Lawrence Bass and wounding four others. Investigators ruled the incident accidental and the plant reopened three days later.