A Passion For Quality 100 Percent Made In America
By Roy Huntington
It’s like looking at a gold treasure chest when you see tens of thousands of shiny brass cases being worked on.
Here, one of the techs starts the loading process by assuring cases are perfect. Sensors and human eyeballs
look at every single one.
In the late 1980’s I transitioned from revolvers to semi-autos on my police agency. We had a fairly limited palate of handgun designs we could carry and I broke from the main stream by electing to carry a then “SiGARMS” P225, a single stack 9mm. The majority had chosen double-stack autos, mostly from SIG and the issue S&W models, but I found the P225 fit my medium-sized hand better, so I shot it better. I blundered my way into being the top gun by the end of that training, and it helped me to cement the impression SIG designs were reliable, sound and accurate. It also left some of my peers wondering how a guy with a 9-shot beat out their 16-shot “high-cap” guns. Hint: hit the target.
During the training, I noticed the “gun-guys” all seemed to carry SIGs. These were the officers I always seemed to see at the range shooting up their monthly allotment of practice ammo, often even buying more at the “Revolver Club” who had an office at the range. The “SIG” cops always had well-maintained gear, spent their own money on evidence kits, cameras, training, holsters and such and seemed to be organized and sorted out. In retrospect, it reminds me of the SIG company today.
As time passed — and I continued to carry that P225 — I noticed the SWAT team went to SIGs, and I expanded my own line-up by adding a P220 (.45 ACP) and a P230 (.380). When I retired in 1998, that same P225 still rode in my duty holster. My wife Suzi inherited it and carried it during her last years on the PD too. I still have it and shoot it now and again. I’ve always had a soft spot for the brand, so after getting to know the company and the people behind it after joining Handgunner, I not only remained impressed, but was pleased to see them expand their product line-ups to include electro-optics, long-guns, suppressors, airguns and now — ammo.
Like the Mercedes brand, SIG has always had the mystic of being backed by that mysterious “Teutonic” engineering thing. It still applies today — even though the guns, ammo and some other products are all made right here in the USA. That quality isn’t exactly mysterious, it comes from hard work, committing the money for research and development, careful manufacturing — and hiring the best people.
SIG’s HT Premium Grade hunting ammo is just that, a no holds barred premium line. Note the 100 percent copper bullet.
It’s available in an increasing line-up of rifle calibers.
The Varmint & Predator Tip load in .223 is Roy’s favorite for his Savage bolt action precision rifle…
delivering reliable .35” to .45” groups at 100 when he wears his “good” glasses.
Each loaded round is hand fit into a “sizing” block to assure overall length and other critical measurements
are spot-on. This is their premium V-Crown .44 Magnum.
Building The Brand
I’ve been doing quite a bit of shooting of SIG’s new “Elite Performance Ammunition” during gun tests and have found it accurate, consistent and beautifully made. As they’ve expanded their load line-up, I’ve referred to my notes and found the numbers continue to be consistent through the product “lot numbers” — even from the early days.
Since the beginning, SIG ammo has been manufactured by SIG, in their own plant, with production initially done in March, 2014 in Kentucky. After much searching, SIG found a new location, offering plenty of room to expand, in Jacksonville, AR, moving ammo production there in early 2017. SIG started with a clean slate and sent a team literally around the world buying top quality loading equipment (often inventing their own too). Their commitment to distinction shows in the final products.
When I was invited to visit SIG’s new ammo plant in Jacksonville, I was honestly looking forward to seeing exactly what the secret to this surprising success really was. Once I met the team, saw the employees in action and got a first-hand look at the honest passion for no-compromise excellence, it became clear once again there was no magic — just that hard work and dedication thing. Funny how that works.
Roy was amazed at the general sense of enthusiasm and pride among the employees at the new plant. He saw careful work
done by people who obviously knew what they were doing. And, grins like this were routine!
Here pistol bullets are organized, inspected and loaded into special plates to begin the loading cycle.
Eyes never leave the process.
Some Surprising History
I always think the back-story is as interesting as what’s going on today in any company, especially if they have long
legs in the industry. Indeed, there are few other companies with longer legs than SIG SAUER.
In 1751 J.P. Sauer & Sohn GmbH was founded and is the oldest firearms manufacturer still active in Germany. In 1853, Schewizerische Industrie Gesellschaft (SIG) was established as a Swiss wagon factory. A few years later, a contract from the Swiss government had them building 30,000 muzzle loading rifles, which got them into the gun side of the business. Fast forward to 1975, and JP Sauer & Sohn collaborated with SIG, becoming SIG SAUER, to develop a line of handguns.
In 1985, SIG opened its first American location in Tysons Corner, VA under the name SiGARMS and had moved to a larger location in Virginia by 1987 where they imported and assembled the P220, P230, P225, P228 and P226 (about when I bought my first SIG). In 1990, SiGARMS established manufacturing facilities in Exeter, NH and began production of the P229 here in the US.
In 2000 SiGARMS was purchased by private parties and JP Sauer & Sohn, Blaser, Mauser Jagdwaffen GmbH and Swiss Arms were all added to the parent company. The SiGARMS name was changed to SIG SAUER, aligning the company name with the brand name. SIG’s current president and CEO, Ron Cohen, was hired in 2005, already having accumulated years in the gun industry. Under Ron’s leadership, the company promptly stormed the world market. In 2014, SIG SAUER invested over $18M and built a new corporate HQ at Pease International Tradeport in Newington, NH. This reach for the future continues with the addition of the modern ammo plant.
Billing themselves as “The Complete Systems Provider,” SIG has branched out into other product lines like electro-optics, airguns, silencers, training — and now ammo — for good reasons. According to SIG representatives, the reason is to better serve the LE and military customers they have all over the world who often want to go to a single vendor for many of their equipment needs. This spills over into the consumer market too, and we all benefit. This diversification helps SIG SAUER customers keep brand loyalty across a wide range of product lines. If you’re shooting a SIG handgun or long gun, you can be assured SIG ammo, optics and accessories will be a perfect match.
Quick, you tell me, is this a hospital operating room or an ammo plant? The degree of cleanliness and organization
Roy saw was something he’d never experienced in touring an ammo plant before.
What it’s all about, getting premium ammo out the door to you! You’re looking at 26,000 rounds of 180 Gr. 10mm
FMJ “Practice” ammo. Be still our beating hearts!
The box to look for, the Elite Performance V-Crown loadings in a wide-cross section of handgun calibers.
The bullets are SIG’s exclusive design.
70,000 Square Feet
With that much room on 43 acres, the ammo plant can afford to devote space to technology, research, testing, warehousing — and even employee comfort. A happy team is a good team and from what I saw, the people who actually lay their hands on and build the Elite Performance ammo know and enjoy what they’re doing and have the support of the parent company 100 percent.
But just what about all this is different? We’ve covered other ammo makers, and while some rank right at the top too, I’ll admit there are some using 100-year-old equipment and frankly, don’t always seem to devote the attention to quality control or new technology they might. It’s a thought I have before I recommend ammo to a friend. I always think: “Who takes the most care? Who devotes people to quality control, chases new technology, tests constantly and has a no-compromise attitude?” We’d never cover — or recommend — any sub-par maker, but it’s always a delight to see a maker who keeps raising that already high bar most strive to reach. SIG is one of those.
The plant I visited looked, truthfully, more like a hospital than a manufacturing facility. There were clean floors, shiny machines, neatly dressed employees scurrying about and a sense of purpose, direction and expectation of quality was obvious. I was greeted by smiles on staffer’s faces as they loaded cases into jigs, checked bullets, packed boxes, measured products using precision tooling and gauges — and I was offered a ready explanation to any questions I had, most-often by the employee actually doing the job I asked about.
I saw labs, handloading rooms where loads were developed, range facilities and even a dedicated lab to make ballistic gel. SIG does so much “live” ammo testing they buy and use more ballistic gel mix than any other manufacturer in the country. Daily tests help to establish a level of consistent quality control which I was surprised to see in a “big” ammo maker. SIG spends a lot of money simply testing and checking what they’re doing.
The in-house ballistic lab is in constant use. Here we participated in a barrier shoot through angled glass and
into a gel block.
Each gel block is mixed by the lab staff (SIG buys more gel mix than any other business in the US!), calibrated,
shot, then the “wound” channel is stained for photos. This is 9mm 124-gr. V-Crown JHP. Penetration was always to spec
and very consistent during the testing we saw.
Some of the steps in creating a brass rifle cartridge case, all done in-house by SIG craftsmen.
SIG’s “V-Crown” bullet line — a proprietary design — has what they term a “stacked hollow point” which is essentially a hollowpoint within a hollowpoint. Patented “skiving” tooling marks the lead and jacket on top and a cannelure keeps the jacket on the bullet as it penetrates glass. Each bullet for each caliber is designed specifically to perform best for the caliber in question. So each design is honed to meet the needs of the 9mm, .45, .380, etc.
SIG also supplies training ammo (SIG FMJ) which shoots to the same POI and “runs” the same as their “carry” ammo, the V-Crown. Train more affordably, but without compromising quality or reliability. I always hated training with sub-par ammo, making you fight stoppages, dirty guns, split cases and worse. This idea of supplying matching ammo is popular today and makes perfect sense.
The V-Crown JHP is available in .380, .38 Spl., 9mm, .357 SIG, .357 Mag., .38 Super+P, .40 S&W, 10mm, .44 Mag., .44 Spec., .45 ACP and .45 Colt. The FMJ loads are available in every caliber except .44 Mag., .44 Spec. and .45 Colt.
Many of the loading machines used are either custom made or heavily modified by the SIG techs. Here cases are
being annealed, checked, then checked again, both by eye and with various automated measuring methods.
Actual guns of all sorts are used for function, accuracy and reliability testing.
SIG’s rifle ammo comes in many flavors too. The Match Grade Open Tip Match (OTM) is available in .223, .308, .300 Win. Mag., 300BLK Subsonic and Supersonic and 6.5 Creedmoor. There are other loads and calibers pending and SIG expects to flesh out this line over time. The bullet is the Sierra MatchKing, paired with a temperature-stable propellant and from my own modest testing in .223 and .308 delivers very consistent velocities. I think the premium primers they use likely contribute to this stable performance.
For hunting, the SIG HT line-up in .223, .308, .300 Win. Mag. and .300 BLK Supersonic features an all-copper bullet, consistent expansion and has that same very consistent velocity — and accuracy.
A handy load is their Subsonic .300 BLK V-Crown load. It’s engineered to allow loading a 30-round magazine with 30 rounds, unlike most loads which limit the capacity to 13 rounds in order to get reliable feeding. The yellow-tipped SIG V-Crown seems to have maximum weight retention as shown in gel shooting. It’s ideal for suppressor use too! Keep an eye out because the production load is due out soon.
SIG’s Varmint & Predator (V&P) ammo in .223, .22-250 and .243 (coming soon) also features a yellow-tipped bullet (copper jacketed), and delivers honest match-grade accuracy in a hunting load. The light-for-caliber bullets mean higher velocities and corresponding flatter trajectories. This is my favorite bolt gun .223 ammo these days and has accounted for three coyotes on my property using a Savage .223 precision rifle. Can you say .35″ to .45″ at 100 yards?
I’d recommend going to SIG’s website if you want specific info about velocities and bullet weights, as there’s simply not enough room here to list it all. Suffice to say in my own informal testing I checked chronograph numbers and found them to be very consistent and close to mirroring the velocities on the box labels. I’ve personally fired every load here other than the .300 BLK V-Crown, .300 Win. Mag and the .300 Supersonic, and came away impressed by all of them. The ammo looks great, runs fine and standard deviation in the single digits has not been uncommon in many loads. Amazing, if you ask me.
Quality control checks means a tech inspects loaded rounds from each batch. Those measurements of OAL, neck,
concentricity, etc. are in thousandths.
Tom Taylor, SIG’s Chief Marketing Officer & Executive Vice President, Commercial Sales (and an old friend), smiled when I asked him what’s “Down the road” for the SIG ammo division. “Too much to cover with the time we have left today!” he said, laughing. I saw vacant areas at the plant obviously being prepared for the installation of equipment, and each time I asked what the room was reserved for, Tom or a staffer would usually just grin and say something like, “Oh, we have big plans for that space.” Big secrets if you ask me!
The mysterious unopened crates of tooling and equipment, pallets of raw materials and the comments about “… leaving on a trip to approve some new equipment we had made” assured me we need to keep an eye on the future at SIG’s ammo division.
For more info: https://americanhandgunner.com/company/sig-sauer-inc/; Ph: (603) 610-3000.