After we got the venison boned out and under dry ice, Vine took me to his favorite range in Grand Island, Nebraska. It was a bit of a drive, but the trip proved to be worth it.
First he took me by the Hornady plant. This was nothing short of a treat.
After we signed their guest book, a nice gentleman named Paul came out, and took us on a tour of the plant. We got to see how the lead came in in huge ingots, was cast into 180 lb cylinders of pure lead, 3% lead, and 5% lead, and then moved to the extruding machine. This extruding machine was amazing: it pressed the cylinders up into a forcing cone, pushing out lead wire of the proper diameter, which was then rolled onto large spools. I was most impressed to find out that this was done with cold lead! The force of the hydraulic press seemed incredible. We got to watch as tapes of brass (mostly copper) film were pulled off of spools that looked remarkably like movie reels, to have coins stamped out of them, and other machines took the coins and stamped them into brass cups. We saw other machines punch out those cups into longer cups, then shove the proper diameter of lead wire into them before sizing the bullet down to the wire, putting in the cannelure, sizing down the jacket to the proper ogive, inserting synthetic ballistic tips, crimping it, and kicking it out. Paul handed us each a .338 bullet and a 150g .308 bullet, literally hot off the press.
Then we got to go down to The Tunnel. I had seen pictures of this so many times, not the least of which in the front of my Hornady Rifle Handloading books. We saw testing done at 100 yards with test barrels, and looked at the target at 200 yards. The techs down there would load up some rounds, and test some of the bullets of each loading every 100,000 rounds, to test the accuracy. Doesn't sound like very often, until you realize that they're punching out 2 million bullets a day.
They have a very, VERY nice vault full of specimens of guns to test fire out of, too.
In the tunnel, I looked at the test rifles, and noticed that one of the test barrel had a piezo-electric pressure sensor wire leading out of the lab to the computer outside. But on the shelf above it, standing by as backup, was the Old Way: a copper crushing setup. This was the method used for over a hundred years to check pressure before pressure sensors were created; they literally allow the pressure to crush a cylinder of copper, and measure the length of the post-fired cylinder against the length of it pre-fired.
After the tour, we went back up to the front lobby, and talked with our guide. It seems that the Hornady family wants shooters among its staff. They guys running the presses, the gals packing the boxes, and the ladies at the front reception area all are shooters. Betty, the friendly mature lady who rang me up for some factory reject bullets* that I bought on my way out, is apparently quite the competitor in the shooting sports.
As we were about to leave, VP Jason Hornady saw us, and asked if we preferred red or green. I said red, and Vine said green. He presented us with some very nice hats with the Hornady logo on them, in those respective colors.
These people know a little something about building customer loyalty. Leaving the plant with my swag in hand, I kind of wished that I had shot my deer with the Hornady 250g .35 Whelen loads that I had for my Springfield, rather than the Noslers with my .243.
On to the range.
*About those "Factory Rejects." I gather that they are basically just cosmetically-deficient, but they sold them. Paul assured me that I would like them. I got 100 of their all-copper GMX .308 150g bullets, and 200 of their 220g RNSP .308. The price reduction was so awesome, I can't really say it here. But now I have to figure out what in the hell I'm going to load all those 220g thirty bullets into. Suggestions? We have the normal thirties.