This popular ammo brand started as a bicycle company.

Founded in 1916, Federal provided ammunition to the U.S. military for World War II and the Vietnam Conflict. Today, Federal’s 1,000+ employees produce high-quality self defense and hunting ammunition entirely from their plant in Anoka, Minnesota. 

Perhaps best known for its Premium brand launched in 1977, Federal Ammunition has its humble beginnings in an ammo and bicycle company founded in 1916 in Anoka, Minnesota. While Federal no longer sells bicycles, they still make ammo in their Anoka headquarters, where a single plant manufactures dozens of calibers. Federal was eventually purchased by Charles L. Horn in 1922, two years after the company shut its doors. Horn is considered the founder of the company, as he built the brand into what it is today. 

Horn’s hustle is what made him the father of Federal, aggressively marketing his ammunition across America – in gas stations, grocery stores and barber shops. This approach eventually paid off. In 1941, the U.S. government awarded him an $87 million contract to manufacture ammunition for the war effort. Federal continued fulfilling America’s military needs for decades, supplying ammunition for the Korean and Vietnam Wars

The Diverse (and Innovative) Federal Ammunition Catalog

Today, the company manufactures thousands of different options. This includes a complete line of centerfire, rimfire and shotshell ammo – a tradition of innovation that has allowed them to maintain a competitive advantage for nearly a century. 

Among Horn’s many achievements was being a prime mover behind the 4-H Conservation program in 1934, making Federal the first company to sponsor camps. Since 1979, the company has sponsored the 4-H Shooting Sports Program and partners with 4-H to offer safe shooting and hunting classes, as well as wildlife management. 

The Federal Ammunition founder’s contributions to conservation did not end there. Federal Cartridge, the predecessor of Federal Ammunition, was a key player in lobbying the United States Congress to adopt the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. Among other provisions, the Act created a self-imposed tax on ammunition manufacturers, which has raised – and continues to raise – billions of dollars to help protect America’s wildlife and countryside. 

The Dramatic Expansion of Federal Ammo

Expanding dramatically in the 50s and 60s, Federal began producing centerfire ammunition for riflesand pistols in 1963. They continued to manufacture their high-quality shotgun shells and brought wins for competitive shooters, creating lifelong customers. Charles Horn retired in 1977, and turned management of the company over to his son William – who continued to grow the company with unrelenting marketing efforts, introducing the Premium line of ammunition for rifles and shotguns, and eventually selling in 1985 to a collection of private investors who sold to Alliant Techsystems

Federal Ammunition still operates a plant in Anoka, Minnesota, where they employ nearly 1,000 people and produce the entire Federal line of ammunition for rifles, pistols, shotguns and rimfire weapons. They continue to make the popular Hydra-Shok pistol ammo here, as well as rifle ammunition topped with Sierra bullets. The Federal brand is an ongoing innovator, introducing its new Guard Dog ammo for handguns, V-shock ammo for rifles, and Black Cloud shells for shotgun. The American Eagle Syntech, a revolutionary, polymer-coated round introduced in 2015, extends barrel life by significantly reducing metal-on-metal contact. Federal will undoubtedly continue to produce their high-quality ammunition for many years to come. 

Federal Ammunition Stock Developments

Color-coded shells are an industry standard, even though some ammunition manufacturers have deviated from this practice. Everyone who has taken a hunter’s education course has learned this by rote, over and over again. What many don’t know is that Federal began this practice in 1960, another example of how this company has been a pioneer in the world of ammo manufacturing. 

Likewise, many turkey hunters take turkey-driven shotshells for granted. Federal was the first ammunition company to offer a shell specifically for this kind of hunting. Until 1992, there was no shotgun shell specifically designed for turkey shoots. Their current turkey-specific shotshell is the 3rd Degree Shotshell. 

Federal Ammunition Stock Continues to Expand

One might think that not much has changed in ammunition manufacturing in the 100 years since Federal began, but nothing could be further from the truth. Federal is never content to rest upon past achievements, always innovating its various brands and lines. A great example of this is their primary use of recycled lead, making them one of the greenest ammunition manufacturing enterprises in existence. In late 2017, Federal announced that they would be releasing a new, high-performance .22-caliber cartridge for AR-15s. 

This spirit of innovation and commitment to quality have made Federal an award-winning manufacturer of ammunition. 

  • Vital-Shok Trophy Bonded Tip ammunition won the Game & Fish Readers’ Choice award in both 2013 and 2015. 
  • The Personal Defense HST rounds earned the coveted Golden Bullseye Award for 2015 Ammunition Product of the Year from the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Shooting Illustrated
  • Vital-Shok Buckshot received the 2016 Reader’s Choice Award from Predator Xtreme.

While Federal has always manufactured within their single Minnesota plant, they’ve expanded the size of this facility by orders of magnitude. What originally took up a relatively scant 9,600 square feet (manufacturing only shotgun shells) is now over 500,000 square feet, sitting on 175 acres, and making ammunition for every variety of firearm: shotgun, rimfire, muzzle loaders and handguns. In fact, the plant is so large that it straddles Anoka and its neighboring town Coon Rapids. 

Federal’s ties with the Anoka community are deep. The city hall of Anoka is even shaped a little like a pistol, which is no accident – Federal bankrolled the construction of the building in 1954. The building is still the political center of this small Minneapolis suburb. 

Federal Law Enforcement Ammo

In March 2018, Federal received a Department of Homeland Security contract, allowing Federal to produce 180 million rounds of .40 caliber Tactical HST duty ammunition for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other DHS and federal agencies over the next five years. This continues a partnership Federal has enjoyed with military and federal law enforcement ammo dating back several decades. 

Federal Ammunition is a brand with roots as deep as those of other iconic American manufacturers like General MotorsHarley-Davidson or Levi’s. Whatever your ammunition needs might be – whether it’s target shooting, hunting or self defense – Federal is always there with an innovative answer.

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