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Preview – Visit – RUAG Ammotec

Photos Courtesy RUAG

European Ammo Has Been Notable by its Absence in the Past Few Years, but it’s About to Hit These Shores Once Again. We Take a Look at How it’s Made.

With the near-insatiable demand for ammunition in the USA, companies that had once abandoned the market are now looking at the lower 48 again. Europe is home to some of the world’s premium ammo brands, many of which are owned by the Swiss conglomerate RUAG Ammotec, and we got a heads-up that its products are about to hit these shores. We’re all familiar with the quality levels that can be expected of domestic suppliers, and indeed some of the Russian manufacturers, but is this Swiss stuff any good? Figuring there was only one way to find out, we hopped a plane across the Atlantic to go check out its facilities.

RUAG owns several brands, including RWS, GECO, Swiss P, Rottweil, and Norma, and has been investing heavily in new plants in both Switzerland and just over the border in Germany. Touching down in Nuremburg, we headed to the neighboring town of Fürth to visit the RWS factory, which produces about 100 different cartridges, ranging from 4.6x30mm to .404 rimless.

RUAG CasingsRUAG Bullets

RAF Bomber Command completely flattened Nuremburg during WWII, but missed the ammo plant next door, so when G.I.s rolled through the gates they took over an intact facility. Just how this intelligence failure occurred is open to speculation, but one theory is that the factory address never appeared on any brochures, but the sales office in Nuremburg did — so it got hammered.

Lead Toothpaste, Anyone?
There is a reason the Germans are known for their engineering and the Swiss have a reputation for precision craftsmanship. Touring the spotless facility with the plant director Herr Dowidat, we were shown the level of integration and control possible on the 250-acre site. The only component not produced on site is powder, but the company owns a stake in a large propellant factory in Belgium, so it exercises control over that, too.

Bullet cores are produced from lead wire, which is made by squeezing lead bars through a die, like toothpaste from a tube. The hydraulic ram needed to force solid metal through a small hole is about as beefy as you’d expect. Coils of lead wire are then chopped up into slugs, before being formed into bullet shapes in another press — each press is about the size of a delivery truck and runs for three shifts per day, cranking out an endless stream of cores which are then inserted into their waiting copper jackets.

Both cartridge cases and bullet jackets are formed in a similar process. A roll of either copper or brass sheet is first stamped to produce a cup. The size and thickness of the cup depends on the caliber — bigger rounds need more material. The cup is then punched through a succession of carbide dies until it reaches the form we all know and love, before being trimmed to length and, in the case of a jacket, filled with a lead core and swaged to its final shape.

RUAG Brass

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