GULFPORT, Mississippi — A new international venture based in Gulfport will begin producing ammunition early next year using high-end components from European suppliers. The quality of the components is what will set the Atlantic Marksmen brand ammunition apart, the owners say.
Olivier Scherlofsky and Ricky Bishop plan to sell ammunition to gun shops, sporting goods stores, police departments and others starting early next year.
They’re getting into the market at a time when manufacturers can’t keep up with the unprecedented demand for ammunition.
“We will start at half a million rounds a month and go up,” said Scherlofsky, who is head of the Trade League Mississippi Central Europe Inc. He has 15 years experience in an Austrian military security unit and is guest lecturer at a U.S. special ops school.
Bishop, whose Specialty Machine in Gulfport builds equipment for chemical plants and refineries, said the new company will be able to provide ammunition “at a fair price and the high quality you are not able to get every day.”
He said, “This is where the European and American connection is. We are buying European first class components and assembling them in Mississippi.”
The partners have rented the site of a former steel facility and will soon put up a building where the ammunition will be manufactured and stored. “It will start out fairly small,” Bishop said, and grow as production increases.
Machines will do everything involved in the ammunition loading. The operation will have eight to 10 employees working a single 8-hour shift when production begins in January. “It will take us a little while to grow into full capacity we want to be. We expect it will be fairly fast paced growth,” Bishop said.
Scherlofsky said the Finish brand Lapua, manufactured in Finland and Germany, will be their flagship brand.
“There is no other foreign ammunition brand that holds more important accuracy world records for rifle shooting than Lapua,” he said. “We will also set up a flagship store in Gulfport, especially for Lapua. There is no other brand that fits better to our positioning as a hub for elite European ammo than Lapua.”
Bishop said four components are used to make a round of ammunition. They include brass casings, powder and the bullet itself, which is a lead projectile. The fourth is the primer on the back end of the casing which the gun hammer strikes to ignite the powder.
The TLMCE has already received the Federal firearms license for firearms and ammo importers. A manufacturing license is in the works. The facility will start out loading 9mm rounds for pistols.
Scherlofsky said the 9mm is the most common pistol caliber in the world, favored in Europe but only recently getting more popular in the U.S.
“That’s going to be our primary focus initially,” said Bishop. “That seems to be the round of ammunition that is most difficult getting a decent supply of.”
Scherlofsky said the shortage makes it difficult for smaller police departments to get ammunition supplies. “They have to wait up to six months to get ammunition,” he said. “It becomes critical for training.”
Olivier went to a gun show in New Orleans recently and was approached by a representative of the Louisiana prison system about the ammunition’s availability. That’s a market he hadn’t considered until then.
Scherlofsky’s connection with the Mississippi Coast is through his wife, Dr. Kimberly Cox Scherlofsky, who is from Ocean Springs. They met while she was in Austria working on a doctorate. He wanted to get into the ammunition business and asked Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes if he knew anyone who could help him with the manufacturing process. Scherlofsky said Hewes then introduced him to Bishop.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Firearms and Ammunition industry report for 2012 called industry growth in the last two years “unprecedented” and estimated economic impact from sporting arms and ammunition to be $14 billion.
In an online letter to its customers in April, Federal Premium Ammunition said, “The unprecedented demand for commercial ammunition has exceeded the industry ability to service the marketplace in the near term and has resulted in industry wide shortages at most retail outlets.”
Bishop blames hoarding for some shortages. “People who never have bought 20 boxes in their life are buying 100 rounds of ammunition. Everybody is afraid the government is going to do something.”