Minnesota's Federal Ammunition on Wednesday is celebrating the company's centennial, saluting its first 100 years in operation. 

Founded April 27, 1922, the date Charles L. Horn took control of a fledgling shotgun shell manufacturer from Louie and Harry Sherman, the Federal Cartridge Corporation began with a 9,000 sq. ft. facility. After pushing to make it a household name by marketing its shells in everyday locations such as filling stations, grocery stores, and even barbershops, Federal eventually made its way into Sears and Montgomery Ward.

Along the way it acquired the American Cartridge Company of Kansas City and, after moving its line to Minnesota, rebranded it as American Eagle. 


Federal ammo plant, 1924
Federal's tiny original factory, circa 1924. At the time the plant had as few as seven full time employees. By 1930, this grew to 500 workers. 
Federal shell posters
The company's shells and rimfire ammunition, with its Dixie, Reliable, Monark, Favorite, and Hi-Power Oval branding, were commonly seen in small stores, garages, and shops of all stripes. 
Sears branded shotgun shells Federal
A load of Sears-branded 16 gauge paper hulled shells heading out the door from Federal's plant. By 1940, Federal was shipping 450 million rounds per year.


Wartime Service and expansion


By World War II, Federal went federal, winning a contract to establish and run the Army's Twin Cities Ordnance Plant in Arden Hills, Minnesota. 


Twin Cities ammo plant and poster
Twin Cities was a critical contributor to military ammunition and other defense products such as mortar ignition shells during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.


By the 1970s, William B. Horn introduced Federal's Premium series centerfire cartridges, later adding self-defense products like Hydra-Shok and Hi-Shok loads, and is currently owned by Vista Outdoors, a company that includes other well-known ammunition brands including Blazer, CCI and Speer. 


Federal ammo posters
The 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, saw Federal continue to grow and expand its catalog. Federal led the industry in introducing color-coded shotshells, helping to eliminate the “12-20 burst,” caused when a 20 gauge shell was dropped into a 12 gauge shotgun and followed with a second 12-gauge shell. In 1965, they were one of the first makers to introduce plastic shotgun hulls. In 1973, they would introduce steel shot for waterfowl. 
Federal ammo plant 1960s
Even at that, it remained a Minnesota-based company. 


Just getting warmed up


Today, the modern Federal Ammunition factory in Anoka is 700,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility. Inside, over 1,400 employees-- everybody from engineers and machine workers to plumbers and electricians-- work three shifts, around the clock, to produce millions of rounds of centerfire, rimfire, and shotshell ammo per day. The emphasis, says the company, is to be self-sustaining as much as possible. 

"We don’t just buy parts and put them together, or have other companies load stuff for us," said Jason Vanderbrink, President of Federal, CCI, Speer and Remington. "We do it all on site, and every day our manufacturing facilities consume tons of plastic beads, lead, brass strips, copper, steel, and chemicals. These materials are used to build our own bullets, pellets, cases, primer parts, primers, shotshell hulls, shotshell heads, and more. The consumer benefits because we have complete quality control, and our seasoned operators have decades of experience."

Check out the below tour of Federal's Anoka plant-- it has 16 different firearms ranges inside-- and for more on Federal's 100th-anniversary events, check out the company's dedicated website. 



revolver barrel loading graphic