A story of how the contagious shooting bug infected an accountant, taking him on the business ride of his life, only to discover his passion is his mission.
For Andy Steinel, a midwest-born and bred boy, life was on a common path. With a BA in Accounting and an MBA in Business Administration tucked under his arm, Andy started a career he had been working toward for years. He soon added a CPA to pad his resume even further. Success is never easy, but for someone with slightly obsessive tendencies, coupled with a perfectionist’s drive, Andy was soon climbing the old corporate ladder from auditor to accounting manager to controller. Yes, professional life was good for Andy, but it was also a bit repetitive at times, and frankly, boring.
What started as an exercise in generating some excitement between all those data-filled days, started to infiltrate his daily routine. Andy had stepped into the world of firearms and discovered the thrill his past-times were missing. But like any new hobby, gearing up can be expensive, so Andy could be found patrolling the hallways of local gun shows. Having fully admitted to his guns and ammo addiction, he started to load his own ammunition for cost-saving measures. This new opportunity also gave him the chance to play mad scientist and develop the best possible loads for his rifles and revolvers (physics was by far his favorite subject in high school).
His obsession took over his nights after work and his weekends. Andy researched, tested, developed, and once completed to his satisfaction, started to develop loads for new calibers that were hard to find or overly expensive, to begin with. But all those years of accounting were not wasted: he ran numerous versions of costing models on various calibers to determine if there was even a possibility that he could market select calibers to his fellow enthusiasts.
With the same drive that initiated his success in the financial world, Andy leapt into the ammunition business- securing a business license, FFL, and insurance in order to spend his weekends at local gun shows. Initially, though, Andy sold the most common calibers at bargain prices in order to introduce a large number of customers to the new Brand.
As start-ups go, Andy’s new company, XCaliber Ammunition, began unremarkably. “The first year was trying. I didn’t have a clue as to how big the market was for any of the specialty calibers I wanted to eventually offer. I couldn’t possibly leave my job to dedicate myself to a full-time startup business. As a result, I made the product in my basement at night and on weekends- when there wasn’t a local gun show. My wife was a saint for putting up with the operation, particularly once it grew, and right up until it was time to move into a facility.”
Within a year, Andy had developed a better market understanding and not only had customers but many repeat customers. Soon, his customers were requesting particular calibers, most often bigger or hard-to-find calibers. The gun show route gave Andy an opportunity to identify perceived opportunities within the market and this lead to his first big break. A show in Canton, Ohio wouldn’t even be able to pay for his table, but a contact, intrigued with his new 458 SOCOM load would eventually become his first major distributor of XCaliber’s 458 SOCOM, and, in addition, provide Andy with more invaluable contacts within the larger corporate ammunition world. Andy’s theory that a certain portfolio of MILSurp, big bore, and hard-to-find calibers could drive profitable growth over the long term was becoming a reality.
As XCaliber Ammunition began setting up tables at larger, out-of-state gun shows, Andy ran into a problem: although, he thought his company name unique enough within the firearms industry, so, apparently, did other ammo loaders and other small businesses. After a customer confused his product with another brand, Andy realized that in order to keep growing his brand, now was the time to make a significant and daring change.
By February of 2018, XCaliber had fostered a loyal customer base of over 1,000 customers looking specifically for his hard-to-find, big bore, and MILSurp ammo. The XCaliber website had begun to show signs of wear, lacking a professional online store and an engaging presence to entice new customers to try their premium ammunition. With the double incentive of addressing the brand confusion and an outdated website, Andy and his team moved to change the company name and present a brand new face to a growing public eager for specialty ammo. They worked with Garrison Everest, a marketing company, to simultaneously develop a new website and introduce the new Brand name of Steinel Ammunition Company. Andy summed up the transition, “it went as well as can be expected. We maintained URL redirects and have kept the old logo on the site alongside the new one. We also include a small mailer in our shipments explaining the name change. Occasionally, we’ll still have to explain the change, but have received nothing but positive comments.”
A critical element in any business plan is to identify your key differentiators within the market. Andy started down the path of unique calibers and Steinel continues to produce new “old” rounds for vintage firearms owners longing to take dad’s or granddad’s old rifle or revolver out to the range. Being receptive to their customer base is what keeps the Steinel team forging ahead. Social media, such as their Instagram and Facebook pages, have proved invaluable when it comes to understanding what their customers are looking for. Besides using social media as a marketing tool, Steinel’s relationship with some of their larger gun shops also provides invaluable feedback. “GunTubers” have also provided Steinel with inspiration for calibers that have gone under the radar for too long.
“Forgotten Weapons and the American Heroes Channel are two great resources for gathering information on potential new calibers,” Andy added. “The former is great for learning about the detailed history of weapons and calibers and the latter is great for seeing the guns in action and learning about their performance, warts and all!”
Depending upon the caliber, it can take several months to go from concept through testing to a new round ready for the market. Once a decision is made, Steinel Ammo needs to secure a test gun or two, develop the load and even send out samples to some of their Instagram MILSurp contacts.
Not all new calibers come through the customer request pipeline. A couple of recent examples demonstrate how flexible Steinel Ammunition can be. Steinel Ammunition partnered with Big Horn Armory, a big-bore firearms manufacturer, to produce their 500 Auto Max for their AR500 platform. Working with Steinel Ammunition on a new caliber kept the cost of high-quality ammo for a new caliber reasonable. “The benefit for Big Horn Armory is that they can offer what is arguably the greatest short-range rifle on the market, knowing that their customers can source reliable, high-performance, reasonably-priced ammunition,” Andy said.
Another example of partnering with Steinel Ammo is their ability to provide other ammo manufacturers or firearms manufacturers with OEM capabilities. “We are a flexible outfit and can equip our presses with virtually any caliber, particularly those which might not have enough volume to justify a larger company’s regular attention or tooling costs. The arrangements which seem to offer the most value to our larger manufacturing customers are those which leverage their economies of scale: they purchase the components and have them sent directly to our facility for loading.”
Steinel’s success in a crowded field of ammunition producers is due in part to a hold-fast mission to produce only the highest quality ammunition that is consistent, shot after shot, and keeping prices affordable. Steinel also responds quickly to current ammunition trends. “We are seeing continued growth in popularity of straight-walled cartridges such as 45/70as a result of select state hunting laws. More and more customers are realizing that it can be loaded to shoulder-kissing pressures and still take whitetail with ease,” Andy commented. “Or it can be loaded with our monolith, solid brass bullets for incredible penetrating capabilities, without breaking the bank. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy shooting a torpedo from a lever-action gun? In a world of smartphones and selfies, some things never change. That being said, the 450 Bushmaster is also a great option for fans of the AR 15.”
Another growing interest is in their solid copper hollow points (SCHP). These rounds are lead-free but perform unlike anything for hunting and self-defense. The SCHP rounds don’t fragment, explode or vaporize; they just work, by penetrating and expanding just as they should – mission accomplished. Steinel Ammo has been using the Maker SCHP and Andy says he is impressed with every test- both in the field and in ballistic gelatin.
Looking ahead to 2020, Andy Steinel and the Steinel Ammunition team are already gearing up for some potential new calibers, including a 300 Blackout using a Maker subsonic SCHP and potentially a 7.5 French, 30-40 Krag, and 9mm Largo, to name a few. With his company increasing production capabilities and researching new rounds to market, it’s a wonder that Andy ever gets out to enjoy some recreational shooting on his own.
For more information on Steinel Ammunition Co., visit www.steinelammo.com
Steinel Ammunition 458 SOCOM is available in a 300 gr. JHP, 250 gr. Maker SCHP, 325 gr. Brass Monolithic, 325 gr. Hornady FTX Flex Tip
Steinel Ammunition 500 Auto Max 350 gr. JHP developed with Big Horn Armory for their AR 500 rifle.
About Steinel Ammunition Co.
Steinel Ammunition Co. is a premium manufacturer of self-defense, hunting, and target ammunition. While other manufacturers may have a specific product line designated as “match” or “premium,” at Steinel—premium ammunition is all we do.
When you use Steinel pistol or rifle ammo, you can be sure that countless hours of research and testing have gone into every round. Each recipe, component, and assembly are designed to provide you with optimal performance.
Our passion for precision, repeatability, accuracy, and reliability drives our pursuit of perfection. Let our attention to every technical detail provide you with the ammunition you and your gun deserve.
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