There are good and bad points to any kind of business. The good points for a custom bullet business include these:
- Relatively low investment of from about $800 to $10,000 make the risk fairly low, and return on investment very high, on the order of 500% annually.
- The equipment is compact and can be run from a corner of the den or garage: overhead is quite small. With the marketing plan outlined in the Market Information Pack (MIP), you should be able to hold advertising and promotional costs to less than $150 per month, and generate sales on the order of $20-45,000 annually from the home. You need a business phone, a fax machine, a business bank account, and a post office box. A computer and Corbin bullet engineering software will be very useful. E-mail is of course quite handy, as is a web page showing your products. Corbin will be happy to link any client and list you in our World Directory and on the Custom Bullet Makers page
- The equipment is extremely versatile: the same press that makes bullets can reload ammo, make lead wire, form jackets from strip or tubing, and make products such as coins and medals that have nothing to do with bullets. We have even set up some of our clients to produce fishing tackle and accordian buttons!
- If you follow our advice and specialize in a unique custom bullet that sells for a fairly high price ($1.50 average per bullet) then you will develop a small but extremely loyal clientelle, with whom dealing will be highly enjoyable and low stress.
- You can start small and expand at your own pace, using re-invested profits once you get back your seed money investment. There is no franchise or association fee, no blue sky: you get solid value hardware (and maybe software and books, too).
- The process is safe, easy, and can be done at home (should be, in fact) so you can get to know your family again. They can be part of this mail-order style business easily
- The operation is almost invisible: if you don't want the neighbors to know what is going on, they don't have to. You can do all your business with a fax, over the net, a phone (separate one from your personal line is advised), and a post office box. You don't need to publish your physical location: the PO Box will be a source of daily income, as will the fax and phone if you are there to answer it. If not, stress mail-in, e-mail, and fax orders over telephone orders in your promotions.
- This sort of business is perfect for someone who like shooting sports and will be retiring or is retired already. Ideally you would start it and keep it running on "idle" with a few hundred dollars a week income until you are ready to go into "semi-retirement" and work maybe 3-4 days a week at it.
- If you buy guns and go on hunting or target match trips anyway, the business gives you a perfectly legal way to expense a lot of those after-tax costs, and let Uncle Sam help you pay for them! You have to do R&D work, and you have to test your products: no one should argue that such costs are not a reasonable and normal part of your business.
- There are thousands of possible combinations of caliber, style, weight, and design, and we have files full of ideas no one has yet put on the market: don't worry about it getting saturated for a few decades yet! Most people who don't look any deeper than the surface will think (A) you can't compete with the big factories (actually, you don't even try to), (B) you can't sell bullets cheaply enough (one of our successful clients advertises the most expensive in the world and darn well worth it -- that is the correct approach), or (C) if it worked, everyone would be doing it (and for thinking that, they ignore the hundreds of successful businesses who are doing it).
You need to obtain a Federal Firearms License, Class 6, "Manufacturer of Ammunition or Components of Ammunition". This is the same form as a regular gun dealer license, except that you check off the Class 6 box. The cost at this writing is still only $10 per year, with a 3 year term (so it costs you $30 for 3 years). To get the FFL, log onto the BAFT website and find out where to send for the form at the field office nearest to you or from headquarters. The BATF website is listed in website links.
You do not need a business location, if you are not open to walk-in sales. But you do need a physical location for your business records and license. If you have a shop or garage, and this is your "location", then the BAFT field agents need to have access to this area during the business hours that you list on your license application, and on those days you plan to be open (which you state on the license app). Make sure there is an outside door giving access to your shop or work area, and keep your records right there. What records? Just general business info, same as you need for the IRS or your state tax agency. Sales, inventory purchase invoices.
There is a lot of misinformation and unfounded fear surrounding the license. Some people think the BAFT can just storm in at any time without a warrant and demand to see your records. No. Wrong. They probably couldn't care less about your records in the first place, because people who manufacture bullets to sell and do not load ammo or sell guns are just about the last people they care about. There's little or nothing to trace. But they do have the right to inspect your records, during the normal hours and days of operation that you put on your license. If you work part time, that could be Saturdays from noon to four in the afternoon. Whatever you say on the license application is your business hours for the term of the license. That is when the agent can visit and ask to see information. All the talk about warrants and searches has to do with criminal cases, not ordinary business! For heaven's sake! It would be funny if it wasn't such a wide-spread misconception.
Part of the misinformation is, I believe, a deliberate effort to stir up fear in order to shake money out of donors to pro-firearms causes. There are plenty of other reasons to support pro-2nd ammendment lobbies, but some of the organizations get a little too tempted to play the fear card. Yes, abuses have happened. But in almost every case, there was a seemingly justifiable reason behind the actions. Some guy is seen tossing hand grenades around, bragging about his para-military connections, or participating in what looks like para-military activities, and he draws attention to himself. If this unfortunate person happens to have an FFL, then it becomes more of an issue.
The ordinary citizen could, in a string of co-incidental innocent actions, appear to be fitting a dangerous pattern, and could, and probably has, attracted improper attention as a result of it. But by and large, this isn't the case. There is usually a person with a few screws loose at the heart of these examples of fine upstanding citizens being bulldozed by an aggressive gun-hating agency. Most of the agents I know are not gun haters. Some are shooters. I have fired many a round with federal agents, spoken for years with BAFT field agents, and most of them are pretty nice folks with no axes to grind. Could there be a few who would like to be jack-booted thugs if they could? Probably. So could your local florist! Only the florist is more likely to dress up in camo and give it a try, since so few people are keeping tabs on him compared to the agent!
With bullets, there is no requirement for a record of clients and sales to them, no excise tax on the bullets (as opposed to loaded ammunition). In reality, you will probably never see any agent from any agency in regard to this business, unless you conduct a business in a location where your local use laws prohibit it. In fact, before you can get an FFL, you have to be cleared with local law enforcement, which means you probably need a business license if you are in the city. However, the number of bullet makers who do business outside of cities and have no business license (and don't need one) is probably far greater than those who do.
If you are a conspiracy theorist and believe that having any sort of license from a government entity is a license to be invaded by jack-booted thugs, then don't even think about starting a bullet business. It isn't worth not having the license, which is cheap, easy to get for non-felons, only requires a standard FBI fingerprint search at your local sheriff or police headquarters, and the assurance of your local law enforcement authority that there is no law prohibiting you from operating this kind of business at the location you put on the application.
Anyone who owns property, drives a car, has utility connections, has been in the military or school system, votes, or in general enjoys the normal life of even a moderately successful American, is already known or easily can be found by any government agency with the need and the right to do so. Why worry about a little thing like the FFL? You are already in the database, pal! If the mysterous men in black have not got you yet, odds are pretty good they aren't going to! And if they do, not a whole lot you can do about it at this point anyway...might as well sell some bullets!
If you are an unknown hermit with no prior contact with civilization, it isn't likely you will find many clients anyway. Please bear in mind that while abuses of power happen, there is usually a major provocation to trigger them, and the aftermath of bad publicity means it is a long time before such a thing happens again. The average good fellow minding his own business or trying to start one is not usually the subject of a Waco-like fiasco. These guys were nuts! Are you nuts? I thought not. Then quit worrying about it.
Other points you need to consider:
- There is a limited market for each specialty bullet, typically peaking at 50,000 to 150,000 bullets per year regardless of the oddity (the more odd it is, the fewer people want it but the more they pay for it). This means that while you can probably sell all you can make of about three calibers, regardless of their uniqueness, you'd be foolish to plan on incomes higher than about $60,000 net per year from the business. There are some some clients who have done far more, such as Glaser Safety Slugs, Trophy Bonded Bullets, Swift Bullet Co., and Cor-Bon Bullets. They show that large incomes can be built in this field, but we caution you not to count upon it. In any venture, consider the worst possible case and then decide if you could survive it.
- The person who wants to build a large factory or hire many workers will find the concept of custom bullets does not support it. You may find that the bottom line - profit - is higher with lower production in the custom bullet field! Your worst problem will be making bullets fast enough to fill all the orders. But it isn't usually wise to spend the money for faster equipment, because the step up is huge, on the order of 1000 times the cost of Corbin's top of the line, manually-fed machines, and the custom market normally would not support such a high overhead without destroying the wonderful returns on investment and the high profitability. There is no easy upgrade from the low volume high profit kind of business to the high volume, low margin mass market. It is a huge jump most people do not find worth taking.
- The only cost-effective way to build your exposure in the market is by free publicity and a modest amount of paid advertising. The publicity is available using methods outlined in Corbin's books and papers on marketing custom bullets. But it takes time. You can spend 18 months before seeing results because the writers, editors, publishers, catalog houses, and others you need to utilize are under no obligation to write about your business: they do it as they see the news value, and your news value goes up as you stick with it and keep sending those press releases and pictures. Someone with little patience has no chance.
- You need to know something about handloading and shooting. You don't need to be an expert in everything, but you do need to learn about one small corner of the field and "own" it with a special projectile built to handle some particular sport, defense situation, caliber, or style of firearm better than anything else a handloader could buy. That part is easy: we will offer you many options if you have none in mind. But if you know nothing about handloading, you should not try this business.
- It seldom works out to have one person with money and no knowledge of shooting, and another with knowledge depending on the funds of the benefactor, although we see this all the time. The best partnerships are within a family, husband and wife or father and son. These usually do work very well from what we've observed over the past 22 years. The business brings people closer, but only if both work side by side on it. One person providing nothing but the funds, and the other providing nothing but the labor and some ideas, usually results in someone getting upset sooner or later, and the business falling apart before it has a chance to take off. If both people have equal investments, or both work equally hard (side by side, where each can assist the other in daily decisions and jobs), then a partnership has a chance. If you believe in yourself, it is always better to borrow the money than to take in a partner just to get financing. If you don't have enough committment to yourself or the idea, then you are asking someone else to take more risk than you are willing to do -- a prescription for eventual disaster. If you want to know more about organizing a bullet business, from non-disclosure agreements to partnerships to patents and trademarks, you can get the Book "Turning Ideas Into Income", cat.no. TIII for a very small cost, and it will steer you in the right direction to avoid common pitfalls!
The M.I.P. contains (among other things) two booklets that have proven very useful not only to our clients but to others in completely different fields who have read them and used them to help develop home-based businesses. One booklet outlines a seven step plan to developing the groundwork for a business and getting free publicity (which still costs you a little for printing, mailing, and your time, but pays thousandfold in the sales that can result from mentions in the trade press), and the other booklet details the differences between bullet casting and bullet swaging businesses, explains the volume/profit curves of these two fields, and shows why in most cases lower volume sales results in higher percentage of profit in this unusual market. Download MIP Spreadsheet info in PDF format.
An additional item that will bring you a huge advantage over those who have come before in this field is the "World Directory of Custom Bullet Makers", a marketing study with resources for over 200 copper and lead suppliers, listings of the custom bullets makers and their locations, phone numbers, product calibers, and business names, information on testing and specifying bullets that you can use in your own literature to help your clients help you deliver what they want without mistakes, a section on the making of bullet jackets by four methods, and other valuable information that the original founders of nearly any bullet company would have traded their favorite hunting dog and best rifle for, if it had existed when they first tried to build their businesses. Order Cat.No. WD-1, $24.50 (print version) or WD-1E, $9.50 (e-Book on CD-ROM).
Send for literature from the bullet makers who attract your interest, and see what they are doing. You can train yourself very quickly by paying attention to what other successful people have done. That's something they didn't have, so you start with a tremendous advantage. Plus, most of them did not have the benefit of information derived from decades of experience with hundreds of other bullet firms and thousands of successful product developments that Corbin offers to you, free, as a client.