Please give me an overview of what your company does and where you are located.
Berger Bullets is a manufacturer of precision rifle bullets for Varmint, Target, Hunting and Tactical applications. We specialize in making bullets as consistently as is possible. Our process is much slower and our cost and prices are higher but the difference in performance is very real. We are well known for making not only precision bullets but also bullets that are shaped in a way that is the most efficient in the wind within their class. The last time I checked no other bullet brand makes a bullet that has a higher BC than ours in a given class (with the exception of the 270 cal). We are also the producer of the J4 jacket which is the only jacket to be proven to be consistently under .0003 concentricity in every lot. We use these jackets exclusively and resell them to anyone who wants to buy them (except the other major brands) so everyone can see that our .0003 tolerance is not marketing hype but it true in every single lot we make.
How long have you been in business, how did you get started, and who are some of the key members of your operation?
Walt Berger started making bullets for himself and a few friends in 1955. Back then the jackets were very inconsistent so he and a few friends went in together to buy a small jewelerís lathe. They used this lathe to turn jackets to .0003 or less variation in wall thickness. You can imagine how long it took him to make bullets back then. Once the J4 jacket was introduced and proven genuine he stopped turning jackets and started using J4 exclusively. Bergerís reputation grew but the operation was pretty much the same until 1989. After Walt lost his first wife Mary, his second wife Eunice pushed him to turn his hobby into a genuine business. She managed to get him to agree and they built a small air conditioned shed in the back yard. The next year I started working for Walt doing odd jobs and learning to make bullets. Over the next 10 years we grew the business from that shed into a large shop with 30 full time employees. Walt wanted Berger to continue to grow so he decided to sell the business to the company that made the J4 jackets. After a 2-3 year stretch of rough road we managed to sort things out again and get Berger going down the path Walt intended. About a year ago, Waltís grandson David Hamilton rejoined Berger (he was the Production Manager prior to the sale). He is a key part of our organization and the reason why the bullets we are making today are so good.
Can you describe and give me a brief history of some of your hot products or services?
YouTube - ‪The Berger VLD - Best Long Range Hunting Bullet‬‏
The one thing that you can say is a direct result of our efforts alone is the popularity of the VLD bullets. Many people were involved in launching this bullet. The first VLD was the 6mm 105 gr VLD designed by Bill Davis to shoot in a wildcat case made by Dr. Lou Palmisano and Ferris Pinndell. These men were asked to produce a case/bullet combination that will generate a better trajectory than the 308 Win using the 168 gr SMK. The US 300 meter shooting team determined that their shooters were losing points due to recoil fatigue. Dr. Lou and Ferris came up with a 2 inch long PPC case and Bill created the 105 gr VLD design. They went to Walt Berger and asked him to make it. This bullet requires a special twist that was not readily available in barrels at the time. Even though it was not a commercially viable product (no large market to sell to) Walt understood the vision and agreed to make the bullet. They were hugely successful in that this combinationís trajectory performance far surpassed the 308 and the recoil was significantly reduced. Today there are few if any long range competition and more recently long range hunters who hasnít shot hundreds to thousands of VLD bullets.
What are some of your company's future goals?
Our primary goals is to be recognized by the entire rifle shooting community as being the true gold standard for precise and consistent rifle bullets. Even if they donít use them because they believe they donít need them or are too expensive we want everyone to be aware of us and acknowledge that Berger is the most consistent and precise rifle bullet made in the world. The best cars are very well known even if many people donít drive them. They still know who makes the best and that is what we want. The tough part is connecting with all the shooters in the world. We are still a small company compared to the others major brands and our resources keep us from advertising in every magazine and in every corner of the world but were working on it. Weíre already doing the part where we make the most consistent bullets. It is just a matter of time before everyone knows it also.
What new products or services can we look forward to from your company in the future?
Frankly, for now we are mostly focused on increasing our capacity, finishing our loading manual and getting better at communicating with our distribution network and those who shoot our bullets. We have several projects in the plans but these are taking a back seat for now. So much so that I hesitate to discuss them. We donít need to get something hyped up that might not see the light of day for a while. Or maybe I should say that we donít want to do that anymore (refer to: Loading Manual, 338 cal, Hybrids).
What is your opinion of the future of the long-range hunting and shooting industry?
Thatís an easy one. As far as rifle shooting is concerned long range hunting and shooting is the future of the industry and the future looks bright. Slowly but surely people are starting to understand what is possible as components (all components) get better and advances are made. Long range shooting is unique in the way that as it becomes easier (better stuff to do it with) it at the same time becomes more challenging. Todayís top quality hunting rifles (for example) are capable of Ĺ MOA out to 1,000 yards. This was not readily available not all that long ago. We certainly arenít stopping and the advances in quality and better performance are happening somewhat more lately and more frequently. Is a regularly available ľ MOA rifle at 1,500 yards possible in my lifetime? I believe it is. How many folks would like to shoot that rifle? My bet is more than shoot long range today as long range shooting becomes more mainstream. Itís just that much fun to do.
Tell me about your personal hunting style, location, species, etc.
I am fortunate in the sense that hunting (or at least testing hunting bullets) is part of my job. In that role I am required to shoot various different animals at various different distances. I have the added good fortune of being a part of a hunt we did in New Zealand. I wouldnít say that I have a particular hunting style preference other than I like long range hunting but as far as location New Zealand tops the list. You have everything from cull animals (hog, goats, possums) to trophy red stag of amazing size (if you got enough in the wallet). Hunting in New Zealand is allowed 24/7 365 days a year. With no predators or even snakes you donít have to worry about coming across something nasty. Iíve enjoyed every hunt Iíve been on but New Zealand tops the list so far.
Tell me about your long range shooting experience.
For roughly 20 years Iíve shot short range bench rest. Bench Rest is extremely challenging because you donít have any room for mistakes. If you put one shot ľ minute in the wrong direction you went from the top of the sheet to the bottom. Iíve enjoyed bench rest but have more frustrating memories than celebrations. About 5 years ago I went to the F-Class Nationals in Sacramento. I didnít compete but I had a chance to shoot an F-Class gun at 1,000 yards. That was fun. I was immediately hooked. Since then Iíve built an F-Class rifle and want to compete more than I do. My longest shot hunting so far was an antelope at 625 yards in Gillette, Wyoming. It felt different in some ways than the F-Class shooting but was as fun and exciting.
What non-hunting and shooting hobbies or activities do you participate in?
Iím a family man with two young daughters who are involved in sports, music and their remarkably active social lives. If Iím not working Iím doing something with my family that most of the time is someone elseís activity. I guess you could say my hobbies other than shooting are taxi cab driver and cheer leader. Fortunately, my wife is more active in this particular hobby than I am so I have a chance to take a break and watch a football game. I thoroughly enjoy the NFL and a lockout will result in much unhappiness for me.
How long have you been an active member of LongRangeHunting.com and how have you found LRH to be beneficial to you personally or to your business?
Frankly, I donít recall how long we have been active on LRH but it has been for several years. It has been one of the most successful experience weíve had with this type of website. I attribute this completely to those who run this site. Len and his staff (which must number in the hundreds for as much as they get done) are doing a fantastic job making the site interesting, informative and alive with constantly occurring programs, updates and news about long range hunting. It is clear that Len has a genuine passion for what he is doing and when you combine passion with capability nothing can stop you from being successful.
What hunts or other trips are on your bucket list?
Iíve heard a lot of good things about South Africa and am interested in hunting some exotic game. At the same time I thoroughly enjoyed a wild hog hunt we did in WV so I look forward to more opportunities to hunt wild hogs. Iím not sure why but I am just pissed as hell at those bastards and want to do my part in ridding the world of them. Iím not as mad at the other game for some reason.
Tell me about your family
I had the good fortune of finding my wife while she was younger and willing to hook up with someone below her status. She has been kind enough to stick with me through the years and we have happily grown our family to include two daughters who were lucky enough to get their good looks from their mother. Meeting my wife also led me to my passion of making bullets as she is Walt Bergerís granddaughter. When she and I were in high school, Iíd help Walt run the benchrest matches at Ben Avery Shooting Range in Phoenix, AZ. He asked me if Iíd help him move some boxes around his small shop that he recently built in his back yard. I said ďsureĒ and the rest is history.