Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

NEIGHBORS >> Remington: Working around the clock for 35 years

Leader staff writer

hile celebrating its 35th year in Lonoke County, Remington Arms produced close to a billion rounds of centerfire and shotgun shell ammunition and another billion rounds of rimfire ammunition in 2005.

“A billion is a huge number when you consider there’s a thousand people working here 24 hours a day,” said Vince Scarlata, spokes-man for Remington Arms.

Despite the volatile nature of working around gunpowder, the plant has an excellent safety record.

Remington employees recently completed two million work hours without a work-related, loss-time injury.
Remington Arms, founded by Eliphalet Remington II of Ilion Gulch, N.Y., in 1816, purchased 1,126 acres of land in Lonoke County to build the ammunition plant in 1968 and in 1970 started producing ammunition.

The plant is about seven miles west of the city limits of Lonoke and is bordered by I-40 to the north, by Bayou Meto to the south and west and to the east by Hwy. 15 North.

Only about 300 acres are actually in use by the plant. The remainder of the property is habitat for a variety of animals as part of the company’s wildlife program.

The most distinguishing feature of the Remington Arms plant is the 13-story “shot tower,” essential in the production of lead shot. At the top of the tower, lead ingots, weighing 125 pounds each, are melted and poured through a sieve where the liquid lead falls, forming perfectly round balls of shot. The shot falls into a pool of water to cool and then is dried and sorted into bins at the base of the tower where the noise of the shot pouring into the bins sounds like a never-ending hailstorm. In contrast, each grain of steel shot has to be shaped by machines.

The company has its own in-house machine shop to fix the hundreds of specialized machines throughout the plant that make the ammunition, box it and pack it on pallets for shipping.

Remington makes plastic shotgun shell casings, the metal caps on the end of the shells as well as brass casings for bullets. In all, the company produces about 100 different types of ammunition from .22 bullets to the most expensive bullet the company produces, the Premiere A-Frame Safari ammunition for big game hunting such as bear and cougar. A 20-round box of the Premiere Safari ammunition retails for about $80.

Remington faces the same challenges as the rest of the ammunition industry, according to Scar-lata. The cost of commodities used, such as copper, brass and steel, has been steadily rising while the market is being flooded with ammunition exported from Europe.

“There seems to be a shortage of community college degrees in machinists and computer aided manufacturing right now,” Scar-lata said.
“As we upgrade the equipment, we need people with more and more skills.”