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Randy Brooks Interview

Hunting Illustrated – April/May Issue 2005

Corporate Interview:
Barnes Bullets

By: Travis Osmond

Randy C. Brooks – President/Owner Barnes Bullets

Randy, will you tell us a little bit about how you and your wife Coni became so involved in the bullet business?

Barnes is the oldest bullet component manufacturer in the United States. Back in the early 1970′s, Coni and I were living in Grand Junction, Colorado milking cows full-time at a dairy while running a little gun trading business on the side. While there, I got to know Fred Barnes who was the originator of Barnes Bullets and had since sold the company. I hung around him a little bit and got to know more about the bullet business. Coni and I moved to New Mexico where I built saddles and got into team roping quite a bit. We eventually moved back to Colorado and found that the Barnes Bullet Company was for sale. In 1974, Coni and I bought the company which was then located in Montrose, Colorado and relocated it to American Fork, Utah. We paid $35,000 for the company which, looking back, was about $25,000 too much. At that time, the business had digressed to a two-man hobby shop. It went from having 125 employees during the 1950′s to having two retired gentlemen running it as a hobby when we bought it. Our gross sales our first year were only $12,000.

How did you turn Barnes Bullets into the business it is today?

Well, I guess I’m just not smart enough to know when I’m down. We just kept plugging along. Coni has been a great help because she is such a taskmaster. We got our first employee in 1975. We were living at that time in the top of a 580 square foot home with the business in the basement. In 1976, we built a 1000 square foot shop out back. In 1983, we built another 4000 square foot shop and in 1996, we decided to move to our present location in American Fork, Utah which is a 40,000 square foot facility. Presently, we are looking to relocate a little further south of here to a 100,000 square foot facility.

Did you know a lot about bullets and ammunition before you bought the company?

In Grand Junction, I had a custom reloading business on the side while I was milking cows and did quite a bit of gun trading. I’ve always been interested in hunting bullets and their performance because I’m a hunter. But, to say that I had any kind of background that would support anything like what we are doing here would be a little far-reaching. I look back at those days and I realize that I didn’t have a core knowledge of basic business or the bullet industry which are vital to run a business these days. I just think that God was smiling on us or something because we really didn’t have the knowledge to do what we are doing today. Coni and I are hard workers and we get things done. We have also surrounded ourselves with some tremendous people.

With all the bullet manufacturers that are out there right now, what makes Barnes different from the others?

The really cool thing that we have over everybody else is that we are deep enough in our aerospace tool room, that we are able to make some really cool products. What I am always excited about is that I’ve still got that fire in my belly that makes me want to be the best and to make the best products available. The other bullet manufacturers out there are largely driven by their book-keepers. Here, we are driven with emotion. Our business might be better off sometimes if I did run it with a pencil but if we see an improvement needed, we go ahead and make it. This mentality has kept us out in front of everybody else. Many of the top bullet manufacturers have not had a significant change in bullet design in over 40 years. We have significant changes almost every year. We have a lead-free product here that not only plugs a hole for the environmental issues we have to deal with, but also performs on game better then the lead-core counterparts. Everyone else is still working with lead cores and we are way beyond that. Here at Barnes, we are always thinking of new things while everyone else is playing catch-up to us. We see people knocking off our muzzleloader bullets and our other products all the time. However, by the time they get us knocked off, we are already to another level. We are innovators where other companies are not. We are in the middle of forming a strategic alliance with Federal Cartridge Company. We will be partners with the Federal Cartridge Company, not only in their premium ammunition and shotgun slugs, but in their military ammunition. We are really excited with what is happening around here and proud of what we are doing.

Can you tell us about some of the first products you were working on when you started and bring us up to date with some of the new products you are offering now?

I got a two week crash course from the people we bought the company from. I really felt that I had this thing dumped in my lap and boy, it was a mess. At the time, Barnes made pretty good bullets. They were heavily jacketed and were well known for their penetrating value. I did, however, see that there were many improvements that needed to be made. I immediately designed a solid that would not bend or come apart. In 1979, I came up with a solid bullet that didn’t have any lead in it. In 1984, I started thinking of an expanding bullet that didn’t contain any lead, and that is how I came up with our X-bullet. In 1986, I came up with the prototype which is well-patented. The X-bullet we make today far exceeds the performance level of the bullet we made in the 80′s.

We had a significant discovery a few years back. We came up with a coating that is similar to the Moly coating on the market today but that does not cause the fouling that the Moly does. We went to the auto racing industry which deals with internal heat and speed and got some great ideas from those guys. From that, we developed our own coating which no one has been able to knock off. Our coating does not layer like Moly does; even if you don’t clean your barrel. We got a 200 foot-per-second increase with less pressure.

We came up with our new Triple-Shock X-bullet by cutting some annular grooves in the bullet. There is no fouling, you get the same advantages as with a coated bullet and the real advantage of this bullet is that it is bench rest accurate. We currently have several people competing in several tournaments with our new Barnes Triple-Shock bullets. If we can win a major bench-rest competition with a hunting bullet, it will be awesome! We just keep trying to make our products better.

What type of hunter/shooter do you cater too?

We cater mostly to the whitetail deer hunter. The reason for this is that there are more whitetail deer taken every year than any other big game species in the United States. Now, do we cater to the mule deer and elk hunters?…Absolutely!! When we first bought the company, Barnes was known for its African game, heavy-penetrating bullets. I knew I had to create a bullet that the average hunter could use and that worked well for whitetail deer. So I guess to answer your question, we really cater to everybody that hunts any animal, world-wide, period. We cover every niche. There isn’t one game animal that you couldn’t shoot a Barnes bullet at and take-out cleanly and efficiently.

What is your dream hunt?

I have been very fortunate to have been able to hunt everything that I’ve ever wanted to. My favorite hunts are for cow elephant and the big bears. Coni and I usually go together and we use our .500 Nitro or my .505. Now, even though I like that exotic and dangerous game hunting, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate and love to hunt mule deer and elk. I’ve got these species right here in my back yard and it doesn’t get any better than that.

This article first appeared in the April/May 2005 H unting Illustrated magazine, and is used here with permission.