Last week I had the good fortune to tour the BLACKHAWK! manufacturing facility just outside of Bozeman, Montana. This isn’t just an assembly or packaging facility, it’s a soup-to-nuts, raw materials-to-finished product plant. Polymer beads come in one end, and really nifty gun parts and accessories come out the other.
Rather than blather on about how neat the BLACKHAWK! factory is, let’s take a photo tour:
|Everything starts with design. Here, an engineer works on a new stock prototype. Sorry folks, I had to blur the computer screens as the details are top secret! The design stations were equipped with advanced CAD-CAM software allowing a design to be “operated” virtually before the first prototype is built. Most of the engineers also had tool kits on their desks to allow work on physical prototypes during the design process.|
|All polymer manufacturing starts with raw materials—small beads of various types and colors of plastic material. It feels like a heavier version of that mysterious stuff inside of bean bag chairs.|
|Inside the plant is a farm of storage tanks for the polymer beads. Here, part-time tour guide and full-time Production Supervisor Tim Finlayson explains the process to American Handgunner Editor Suzi Huntington.|
|The exterior storage tanks for raw materials dwarf those located indoors. That’s a lot of holsters folks!|
|This facility houses one of the largest polymer molding operations anywhere. Note the piping from above that continuously delivers polymer raw material to the molding machines. These operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week!|
|Here’s just one of the molding machine stations. Raw material pellets are delivered via the bin located in the upper-right, melted, and pressed into custom molds to create the desired part. Some molds produce a single item while others produce dozens per cycle.|
|Here, polymer pellets enter a molding machine in preparation for a serious meltdown.|
|This molding machine is currently set up to product cartridge separators for use in 20-round .223 ammunition boxes. The robotic arm and panel shown here remove “batches” of newly-molded separators and place them on the conveyor for cooling before inspection and packaging.|
|While we were on the tour, this conveyor never stopped. These cartridge separators are shipped to ammunition producers continuously.|
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