NASGW Member Perspective – By Sixty Five Year Old Brand, Hornady

By Jason Hornady, VP, Sales and Marketing

Hornady Match Ammunition
Hornady Match Ammunition

Naperville, IL –-( InSight was fortunate to have Jason Hornady, VP of Sales and Marketing give us his perspective on the industry and interesting information about his family-owned business.

InSIGHT: Hornady has had a long tradition in the industry having started out with just employees in 1949. Tell us a little about your company (founders, number of employees, territory covered, product lines and mix, etc.)

Hornady: Interestingly enough my grandfather started in 1947 with Vernon Speer of Speer bullet fame. The partnership soured as many do. So in 1949, he was on his own program in a rented garage in downtown Grand Island. He moved to Grand Island to help train security guards at the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant how to shoot.

Our Company focus hasn’t changed. It all revolves around shooting and hunting, which includes reloading. Our business is bullets. Our ammunition and reloading tool business makes the consumption of bullets easier. We believe that a bullet makes the cartridge. Without a good bullet, the whole system is marginal.

Since starting in ’49, our business has expanded several times. Hornady employs 200 plus professionals, not including our sales representatives and we do business in every country that is so inclined to allow its citizens to enjoy this hobby.

Hornady was one of the original companies at the S.H.O.T. show. My grandfather was killed with two co-workers on his way to the show in January 1981. A little known fact: had my mother not have just had a kidney transplant in late 1980, my father probably would have been on the plane with my Grandfather.

As far as the rest of the question, we focus on three categories: bullets, ammunition, and reloading tools. We try to focus on features not price. Products we are really known for are XTP, Vmax, Interlock, and Flextip bullets. All of which we offer as components and ammunition products. Our tool line focuses on the Lock and Load system of quick and convenient changeover.

InSight: Your Company has a very diverse product line? Have you seen any trends in purchasing specific products, pricing, etc.?

Hornady: We have had a great run and fortunately all our categories are currently experiencing strong sales. When I started working for the company in 2006 a large number of retailers and distributors were exiting the reloading tool category and some were even exiting the component category. Since that time there has been a major reversal. Reloading as a whole is strong and seeing some of the greatest interest it has had in decades. The rapid run-up in ammunition prices coupled with the slower economy has made it a more attractive hobby than it has been in years. The slow economy eliminated one of the biggest barriers to entry in the reloading business, i.e., time. If a person is working 60 hour weeks they are not likely to involve themselves in a time-consuming hobby. Reloading is a great hobby for the shooting enthusiast, offering them the chance to save money, enjoy the shooting aspect while not at the range, and get away from their spouse. The recent interest in gun ownership has added to this interest.

Self Defense is also a huge trend right now but that is not new news.

InSight: In the last few months the Association office had received calls from dealers looking for ammo. Why the shortage and how long will it last?

Hornady: Well, that is an interesting statement and question. I believe there is more ammunition being made today than ever before. Some of the numbers we hear are staggeringly large. That doesn’t really happen to be our segment of the market. That said the interest from the shooting public is also at the highest it has been in my career since I started in 1993. The demand and supply curve doesn’t seem to be intersecting at a point that keeps everyone happy. I am certain that no one wants to ship more ammunition than the producers themselves. The fine line where ammunition is just short of demand works better than demand being shorter than supply because ammunition can stack up really quick. The situation can be frustrating for all involved. Shipping more than you ever have and still getting chewed out on a daily basis for “not shipping” is as frustrating as not having the merchandise.

The how long will it last question is one that none of us has the answer to. I personally feel that demand will be brisk through the first quarter of 2013. Then depending on the policies of whoever is elected president, it will slow some. Unless there is some radical legislation, I feel like we might have found the new normal for some time. We have introduced a new crowd of shooters in the last couple of years. No one knows how big that number is right now. Regardless, sooner or later we are all going to find out how long “it” lasted.

InSight: How competitive do you feel is the shooting sports market today?

Hornady: It is more competitive than ever. There is more information than ever. Every day I see something about companies I have never heard of in some segment of the market that could involve our company. The pressure to maintain a flow of merchandise, as well as information, is huge. The ability to contact the various channels is bigger. There are a lot of messages from a lot of companies that overlap creating competition for information that we have never seen before. Throw that on top of the regular price and delivery pressure we all face, and you will end up with a lot of gray hair. Someone can always beat your price and delivery.

InSight: What do you believe are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing your company?

Hornady: We are a very lean ship. So the percentage of people who can make a decision is very high compared to others. This makes us very nimble in some ways. In other ways it is sometimes hard for us to cover everything we want to, be it customers, shows, events, etc.

We don’t know any different way so we are going to continue doing what we have been and that seems to be working well. In the grand scheme of things, we are a pretty small player in the market so the biggest challenge is to not get stomped on by all the big guys. I guess we are going to try and take the opportunity to “not screw up!”

InSight: How does your company make use of the internet and technology?

Hornady: Every way we can, which is easy to say. We, probably like all companies, struggle with the return on investment here. So we watch it closely and listen closely to what everyone is doing to try and figure out what does and doesn’t work. There have been plenty that doesn’t work and wish we could do over. Certainly, we are doing a lot with our websites. We Facebook, Twitter, and all kinds of social media in that arena. One of the issues is all these activities consume more time and someone has to be able to manage them. I am fairly certain a year from now there will be other things on the list that none of us have even heard of.

InSight: Hornady is one of the most active companies in participation in various shooting sports events and sponsors a number of their own competitions including their recent “Zombies in the Heartland / Pandemic 2012. How helpful do you feel these events are to your company and the industry as a whole?

Hornady: We really aren’t sure how helpful they are as a direct impact on the business sales-wise. As a company that thrives on shooters and the shooting industry, it is a great way for us to give back to the shooting public. To top that off, it is an absolute blast. We are doing it because it is fun. When something is that fun and gives back to the industry and customer base, it is an easy decision for us to make. Plus everyone in the office wants bragging rights so we might be a little competitive internally when it comes to shooting.

I would encourage everyone to go try either a 3-gun or a practical handgun shoot. You don’t have to be good to have a great time. It is fun to go and try and heckle your friends while they are doing it as well.

You will go back. There are lots of opportunities. Even just watching is fun. We just want to up the exposure to the sport. For the record, the Pandemic in the heartland had over 300 shooters. 80% of them were first-timers!

InSight: Markets are changing dramatically as well the potential and existing buyers. Put on your crystal ball “hat” and tell us where you see this industry 5 years from now?

Hornady: Holy Moley, I am not that smart!

I certainly hope that the current interest in firearms and shooting is maintained. I believe that there will be issues /conflicts in foreign countries for the next 10 years that require some sort of armed forces. Whether they are U.S. forces or not, the conflicts will require ammunition capacity that will most likely come from the U.S.

Depending on the elections this fall we may be facing a situation not dissimilar to the second term of our last democratic President which means our industry needs to be prepared to defend and support ourselves politically.

I also believe that self-defense and the right of self-defense will continue to be a strong part of our businesses.

InSight: In general, how can NASGW help your company and manufacturers?

Hornady: Keep doing what you are doing. We are a huge fan of the NASGW and especially the NASGW Expo. As a lean organization, it is the only place we can see that group of customers in a short period of time and actually get work done.

InSight: From your company’s perspective, what qualities (attributes) make for a superior distributor for your product line?

Hornady: We like the distributors who support the full line and understand our strengths and weaknesses and so that we both take advantage. We offer several things the other guys don’t. For that matter, the other guys have things we don’t. Nothing is more frustrating than running into a situation where someone doesn’t understand what we do or overlooks our brand because something was cheaper. Brand / Vendor loyalty is big deal to us. Having a good relationship is also a big deal. Our customers are our friends. It is easy to have discussions when you know the other side is interested in mutual benefits.

InSight: Complete the sentence: “If I could change one thing in this industry, it would be…”

Hornady: Hunter/firearm safety would be a mandatory class in all schools. That would be a great start to debunking the myth that firearms, shooting, and hunting are bad things. It would also remind America how much fun shooting can be and how much of our history and culture involves shooting.

Thanks Jason. Jason Hornady can be reached at: [email protected]

About National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers

Goods Wholesalers is a trade association representing the leading wholesale distributors in the hunting, fishing and shooting sports industry. Membership in NASGW also includes manufacturers, representatives and media of sporting goods products and services. The Association promotes and supports the common interest of the sporting goods industry and encourages the highest standards of merchandising practices. Visit:

National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers