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About Corbin Swaging Production Speed

Production Speed

Production speed depends on how many strokes of the press are needed to make a given kind of bullet.

Each stroke of the press is a movement up and down, usually about twice the bullet length to allow for loading. If your bullet is one of these kinds, it only takes one stroke:

  • Lead semi-wadcutter
  • Semi-wadcutter with Base guard or gas check
  • Airgun pellet (hollow base, SWC style nose)
  • Shotgun slug (Foster-style hollow base)
  • Lead paper patch (flat, cup, or hollow base)

A press stroke in a hand press requires these elements:

  1. Pick up a core, roll it between thumb and forefinger with a drop of lube, and drop into die.
  2. Run the press ram up, hold for a few milliseconds, and run it down to eject.
  3. Pick up the finished part and set it aside.

...and repeat until you have enough bullets made.

The time is something you can estimate for yourself, with a hand press, just by pantomining the movements. We usually figure on around 5 seconds for the entire cycle, once you are familiar with the process.

Power Presses

With a Hydro-Press, the ram travel speed is adjustable to a maximum of 3 inches per second. The dwell time is precisely adjustable with a millisecond-level timer to hold pressure for exact amounts of time. The ram travel itself is adjustable from almost zero inches to the full six inch stroke limit.

These three factors let you adjust production rate for the particular operation.

  1. Ram travel speed (inches/second)
  2. Ram stroke (inches)
  3. Ram dwell time (top and/or bottom)

The time for a cycle or stroke is a combination of (a) how long a bullet you are making, and thus how long a stroke you set up times the rate of travel, and (b) the dwell time plus your own reaction time to load and remove the bullet.

Thus, you can probably figure on about 5-6 seconds for a single stroke bullet as defined above. This translates to around 10 a minute, or 600 an hour, if the operator can keep it up long enough. Practically speaking, we've found that 400 an hour is a more reasonable expectation per operator and press. Multiply by number of operators and presses to get more production.

A typical jacketed rifle or pistol bullet uses 3 strokes (core swage, core seat, and point form -- see Three Die Set for details). Thus, if you multiply the 6 seconds per stroke time 3 for a bullet, that means 18 seconds. That would mean 60/18 = 3.3 bullets a minute, or about 198 an hour. Some bullets may require four, five, or even six press strokes. These are the more complex designs with special features which make them far more desirable and therefore let them sell for much higher prices than the simple bullets.

Click for Material Cost Estimations page.

The More Important Question...

Far more important than asking how many bullets per hour would be, how much income per hour?

Would you rather make 10,000 bullets an hour, or 100 dollars an hour? Which question makes more sense to a business?

What if it could be proven that, in nearly every case, high volume at low margin is NOT as profitable as low volume at high margin? And, that there is a more steady, but smaller, market for the latter? And that being smaller, it is not of great interest to the major competitors you would have in mass bullet making? That the mass producers are more likely to SEND clients to you, than take them, and that they may even BUY some specialty designs from you?

Would you be willing to consider the possibility, if around 450 firms over the past three decades had made a good income from it, some growing to virtually mass production level over time?

Corbin does NOT make high volume, mass market equipment. We did once. Never again. There is too much benefit and opportunity for our clients in the custom field. Many mass producers used our equipment to get started. Many still use it for special runs, prototypes, market tests, proof of concept, etc. Few true mass producers (over 1,000 bullets an hour) use our equipment for their actual production work. They buy multi-million dollar equipment and have their own die-makers on staff to keep it going.

The entire field of custom bullets is based on NOT competing directly with the high volume, mass producers. It is based on making bullets which are, as the name states, custom built for individual markets, groups, or even individual people. The advantages of a custom bullet making business, based on Corbin equipment, are many and specific.

With Corbin's custom bullet swaging presses, you can...

  1. quickly and cheaply change styles, calibers, and products (compared to mass producers)

  2. make exactly what an individual wants for weight of bullet at little or no cost to you

  3. get equipment that is very well matched in investment cost to the market size and return

  4. get equipment that is a small fraction of the cost of high volume production machinery

  5. get started almost immediately on receipt of equipment, without lengthy training or setup

  6. begin making a positive return on your investment much more quickly than with mass production systems

  7. invest a small amount and grow, not millions just to try it as with mass production

  8. continue to use the original equipment even if you decide to expand to high volume later

  9. scale up and down easily by adding additional equipment and changing your labor force to match market conditions

  10. produce a quantity that perfectly matches the custom market demand, at a higher profit than mass production allows

  11. make bullets more complex to build than any mass producer wishes to market

  12. Make bullets for niche markets with intense loyalty from your customers with no fear of mass competition

What you CANNOT do is make millions of bullets a year more cheaply than well-established mass producers with decades of marketing experience, associations, and long-developed channels of distribution and instant name recognition.

Why would you even want to try that, when a much safer, well proven, and more affordable business model is waiting?

Before going into any business, ask yourself "What is the worst that could happen, and how would it affect me?"

In custom bullet making, the risk to you is minimal: even if you never sold a bullet, by the time you had the equipment and product ready to sell, you could very likely sell the package as a "business opportunity" at a far higher price than what the equipment cost. At the worst case, you would be able to sell the equipment fairly easily to another potential bullet maker, especially since new equipment usually takes some time to build and deliver (it is in very high demand, and has been for over three decades). One person can start and run a successful custom bullet business in a corner of their garage...not only CAN do it, but hundreds HAVE done it!

There is a portion of the list published in the World Directory of Custom Bullet Makers, for those who are not so busy they decline any additional publicity (some are retired and operating the business on a semi-private basis for a handful of steady buyers).

In mass production bullet making, the risk to you is quite high since the entry price is far beyond what the average retiree or small business could afford to take off your hands. Most people do not have from 1.5 to 5 million dollars for equipment, a big enough building and proper electrical power for it, much less the people to keep it running.

Several times in the past decades, there have been cycles of fear about what might happen when a new Federal government administration came to power. Shooters and reloaders have embraced panic, rushed out and purchased guns, ammunition, and supplies in far greater quantity than they normally would, draining the supply channels and straining manufacturing capacity. The manufacturers ramp up, following the surge in buying, but it takes time. Shortages appear, and rumors abound about why. Usually the facts are simply that panic buying has drained the supply line and manufacturers are still ramping up to meet demand, but with caution as they also realize it probably will be over as soon as every shooter has his lifetime supply of primers, powder, all the guns he can afford to buy and a couple more.

During the year or two that this cycle is running, enterprising potential bullet makers want to invest in high volume equipment to fill the void. There are several problems with doing this (in spite of the fact that Corbin sells a lot of equipment as a result):

  1. The shortages will usually be over before equipment could be built and delivered.

  2. The panic will be largely quelled as soon as shooters look at their over-stuffed shelves and begin to realize they have more than enough.

  3. People who over-bought will come to their senses and start to unload some of their hoard little by little, probably just before Christmas or in January, when the bills come due.

  4. This will staunch the demand from commercial suppliers while individuals sell for less than they paid during the high price period.

  5. The mass producers, who can and will make enough to fill any latent demand, will have to lower prices to attract residual buyers.

  6. The lower prices will make it very hard for a new mass producer to make a profit and pay for their equipment investment.

  7. Many new would-be high volume producers will go out of business, and sell their equipment.

  8. A secondary cycle of would-be mass producers will capitalize on this fire sale, but will still face the same formidable competition from well-established bullet makers in the mass market.

  9. Eventually a few new mass producers will be modestly successful, while the vast majority back away from this field. Prices will be back to whatever the metals and transportation market permits, whatever inflation dictates, based on the efficiency of the best producers (which will usually be the ones who have always been best at it, some for over 150 years).

In addition to the transient nature of the panic markets, there is another huge factor in favor of doing what has always worked for the custom bullet maker in good times and bad: the cost of mass production machinery, for true high volume work, will be from 1.5 to 5 million dollars initial investment.

There are very few suppliers of such equipment, most of it made in Europe. The equipment would be fabricated and flown over, along with setup technicians. The bullet maker would need to hire his own team of operator/diemakers to keep it all running. The total cost for getting started in the "millions of bullets a year" is astronomical compared to getting started in the custom bullet field. And yes, the immediate demand is there for cheap, mass produced bullets, and will continue to be there for as long as sport and self defense shooting is still legal. But it will be filled by the firms who have always filled it, once the cycle has run its course.

On the other hand, the market for specialty bullets of all kinds will also be there, with a much lower entry price, a much lower on-going risk, an intense loyalty from the far smaller number of clients who are willing to pay a vastly greater price per bullet. Reaching these people will be easier because the narrow focus of custom bullet markets points to a laser-like focus on specific advertising channels and methods.

Mass production means mass marketing, which in turn means massive amounts of advertising to reach all the broad categories of shooters and potential buyers. With mostly just price to entice them, the margins will be too thin for such broad sales efforts to be profitable. With custom bullets, the promotion may mostly be free or limited to PR efforts, since any highly specialized bullet will also be newsworthy in the firearms press, meaning it is cheap to promote.

But rather than re-write the entire book "Turning Ideas Into Income" here, or the entire summary of the market pros and cons given in the Marketing Information Package, I will refer you to those publications for further information. See www.Swage.com for free downloadable info, or www.SwageDies.com for materials on disk and in books.

In short, the profits are higher with lower production, simply because the product is more profitable if it is focused on a more narrow but intensely interested shooter. Would you rather sell 100,000 bullets for a profit of .05 each, or would you rather make 10,000 bullets for a profit of .50 each? Same math result, but a HUGE difference in packaging and other expenses, time, machinery investment, and risk. Bullets which sell for $1.50 each will still be in demand next year, or ten years hence. Bullets which sell for .20 each will be up and down every year, depending on the state of panic and the capacity of the mass producers. Selling on features is a lower cost investment than selling on price...once you have the full understanding of your market and how to reach it.
To determine the right tools for making your bullet, follow the step-by-step question and solution information on How to Build a Kit or read the information about which dies are used for various styles of bullets on What Do I Need? page. For prices and to order on-line, see Secure Web Store.

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About Corbin Core Swage Dies