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Special intelligence: ammunition for strong sales.

As everyone in this business surely knows by now, Federal ammunition got a new look this year, one that imparts a family identity to what had been disparate-looking packaging.

You'll recall how Federal's standard-line metallic ammo -- what I always called "the red-box stuff" -- was designated "Hi-Power." When the Premium line came aboard a decade or so ago, though it was packaged quite elegantly, there was no visual identity linking the two lines except for the Federal logo on a diagonal stripe.

This year Federal has gone uptown with some slick new packaging. What used to be the Hi-Power -- the red-box stuff -- is now called "Classic" and the premium stays "Premium." The art work on both boxes is the same except that the Premium is gold with a blue stripe while the Classic is silver with the blue stripe.

Now you don't have to have an MBA to know that packaging is extremely important at the retail level; it can actually make or break a product. Truth be told, however, an appealing package makes more impact with impulse items like ear plugs or targets than it does big purchases or staples.

The problem is, most dealers don't use ammo as an impulse item -- they keep it hidden behind the counter. This means that customers only think about it when they need it, like gasoline, and then they don't shop around for brand. Price, maybe, but not brand.

That fact is a constant source of frustration for the ammo makers and much of their time is spent figuring out how to turn the consumer on.

Competition in the Market

We all know how competitive the Big Three ammunition manufacturers are. Seems whatever one does, the other two immediately follow ... or counter with a move of their own. If the consumers' choice of ammo brand ever is done on impulse -- and I think it often is -- Federal may now have at least a cosmetic leg up on the competition ... for now.

Again, as competitive as the ammo business is, it's going to be interesting to see if Remington or Winchester/Olin counters with similar moves of their own. After all, Winchester's Supreme line with its elegant black box is very distinctive, but visually it's far-removed from the white-box, regular-line ammo.

Remington, on the other hand, has the packaging of their new Extended Range line looking very similar to their green-box shells. It's the stuff advertising and marketing courses are made of!

More Than A Package

Packaging, of course, is but a small aspect of the whole picture. With ammunition there are more substantive things that matter and Federal has come up with some innovative loadings which deserve attention.

I've always maintained that the best way for an ammo manufacturer to have his product stand out from the competition is to offer unique loadings. Sure, to be competitive, a manufacturer needs to have the standards -- a 130- and a 150-grain .270, a 150- and 180-grain .30-06, etc., but in addition, there's room among the standard bullet weights for a little creativity, and that's just what Federal has done with four varmint loads in .223, .22-250, .243, .25-06.

Where 55 grains has always been the more-or-less standard payload in a .223, Federal has come up with a 40-grain hollow point loading that zips out at 3,650 fps. (3,240 fps is the standard for the 55-grain load.)

For the .22-250 the 55-grain bullet has also been the perennial standard, and Federal's new Premium load pushes the same 40-grain slug at an even 4,000 fps.

Instead of the usual 80-grain weight for varmint loads in the .243, the new Premium offering sends a 60-grain pill out at 3,600 fps, and in .25-06 a 90-grain projectile at 3,440 fps.

All four of these new Premium offerings give your varmint-hunting customers a genuine and significant alternative to the standard loadings -- a real plus when the standards don't perform well in a given gun.

Entering A New Market

Federal has also shown some aggressiveness in entering a couple of areas heretofore dominated by Norma. This year the 6.5x55 Swedish and the 7x64 Brenneke have been added to the Premium line. Both of these two excellent cartridges have been among the most popular in Europe -- the 6.5x55 ever since its introduction in 1894, and the 7x64 since 1917.

You could say that the 6.5x55 is the .30-06 of Scandinavia, and the same for the 7x64, along with the 7x57, in the rest of Europe.

Federal has chosen to top both of these new offerings with Nosler Partition bullets -- a 140-grain for the 6.5x55, and a 160-grain for the 7x64. Because most 6.5s out there are based on the original '94 and '96 Mausers, industry standards for factory ammunition is kept around the 45,000 psi level.

The 7x64 however, is loaded to the same pressure levels as most modern, high-intensity cartridges. This explains why Federal lists the velocity for the 140-grain 6.5x55 at 2,850 fps, which is the same as that shown for the heavier 160-grain 7x64.

For non-handloaders, both these new Premium loading from Federal would be excellent choices for any game appropriate for the respective calibers and should also help breathe some new life into what have always been two superb cartridges.

Yet another interesting addition to the Premium line is a match loading for all three service cartridges: a 168-grain Sierra Matchking hollow point boat-tail for the .308 and .30-06, and a 69-grain Matchking for the .223. Federal claims specially drawn match quality brass, benchrest primers, and select powder lots are combined under the supervision of special assembly teams to produce what they believe to be some of the most consistent, accurate factory ammunition available anywhere.
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Title Annotation:Federal Cartridge Co.'s new products
Author:Sundra, Jon R.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:"What should I buy to go with my gun?" (firearm accessories) (Lethal Force)
Next Article:Where the action is: the double-action-only pistol round-up.

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