The Secret Life of an Ammunition Company:
Your next deer might be the result of 20 years of research
Back in 1898, a young German hunter and inventor by the name of Wilhelm Brenneke, fed up with the inferior ammunition available at the time, created the modern shotgun slug. It turned hunting on its head, as finally, there was an inexpensive, accurate, universally adaptable, and devastatingly effective projectile available for the legions of hunters who relied upon their shotguns to put venison on the table.
Young Wilhelm was not exempt from what we today call “research and development.” Indeed, his first test blew his shotgun to pieces. Fortunately, he had the foresight to fire it via a long cord attached to the trigger.
Since then, the company he founded, has produced countless millions of shotgun slugs, and Wilhelm’s invention has been modified many times over. One might think that just about every improvement that could be made to a product over a century old has been done. According to Dr. Peter Mank, Wilhelm’s great-grandson and current director of Brenneke, that is far from the case.
“R&D consumes huge amounts of our time and investment,” Mank said. “While it is almost impossible to improve upon the unique Brenneke ribbed design, we are constantly testing new materials and new technologies, not only to improve the hunter’s success in the field, but to stay a step ahead of the rapidly changing political and environmental concerns we hunters are facing.”
One prime example has been Brenneke’s leadership in creating effective lead-free projectiles, an area to which they have devoted huge resources long before it became popular. “Europe is moving rapidly toward all lead-free projectiles,” Mank explained, “and the U.S. will, as well. We wanted to be proactive, not reactive.”
The success of Brenneke’s new lead-free 12-gauge TKO shotgun sabot, made of food-safe tin, is a result of research beginning in the 1990s. “As an alternative to lead, we looked at tungsten, bismuth, copper, uranium, even gold,” Mank said. “They were all either ballistically unsuitable, highly toxic, or far too expensive. We found that tin had excellent ballistic characteristics, but being harder than lead, it could not be used as a full-size 12-gauge slug without causing damage to shotgun barrels and chokes. The solution was to encase a tin projectile having the proven Brenneke design into a sabot (a plastic sleeve). This resulted in an extremely powerful, accurate and non-toxic load. It sounds simple. But it took us 20 years of trial, engineering and testing before we were satisfied.”
Brenneke has reacted to changing times in other areas, too. “Law enforcement professionals were looking for a projectile that provided vastly greater stopping power than a handgun, that would transfer all its energy to the target without excessive penetration that could endanger bystanders in buildings and close urban environments,” Mank said. “We created the Tactical Home Defense slug in 12 and 20 gauge, which meets those requirements perfectly. It has become extremely popular for home protection, especially since a shotgun is generally safer and more reliable than a handgun in such situations.
“Not long after that, we heard from law enforcement agencies who need a projectile at the opposite extreme—one that would address terrorism threats that often come in vehicles. After a great deal of metallurgical research and testing, we developed the Special Forces Maximum Barrier Penetration Magnum 12-gauge slug; extremely hard and incredibly powerful. It will penetrate windshields, wheel rims, tires, even engine blocks—something a rifle bullet generally cannot do.”
There is little glamour behind the scenes in an ammunition company. R&D usually involves many more failures than successes, and perfecting a new projectile can take literally a lifetime.
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“It has to be done,” Dr. Mank said. “We’re proud of how Brenneke has been able to stay at the forefront of projectile design and research after 116 years. Trouble is, it doesn’t leave much time for us to go hunting.”
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Original Source: SportsmansLifestyle.com