SIC 3483

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing ammunition, not elsewhere classified, or in loading and assembling ammunition of more than 30 millimeters (or more than 1.18 inches), including component parts. This industry also includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing bombs, mines, torpedoes, grenades, depth charges, chemical warfare projectiles, and their component parts. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing small arms are classified in SIC 3482: Small Arms Ammunition; those manufacturing explosives are classified in SIC 2892: Explosives; and those manufacturing military pyrotechnics are classified in SIC 2899: Chemicals and Chemical Preparations, Not Elsewhere Classified.

NAICS Code(s)

332993 (Ammunition (except Small Arms) Manufacturing)

Industry Snapshot

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 53 establishments operated in this category in the late 1990s. Industry-wide employment totaled 7,324 workers receiving a payroll of more than $323 million in 2000. Of these employees, 3,811 worked in production, putting in almost 6.7 million hours to earn wages of almost $107.4 million. Overall shipments for the industry were valued at $1.12 billion in 2000.

Background and Development

Gunpowder was first employed to project missiles early in the fourteenth century, when large dart-like objects were propelled through the air during medieval battles. Darts were soon replaced by more reliable, rounded projectiles that were fired from cannon-type devices. Napoleon III released one of the first written works about artillery that included large ammunition in 1338, entitled Etudes Sur … l'artillerie. Stone shot was replaced by iron shot in the mid-1300s, because iron allowed greater penetration of stone walls. Soon thereafter, shells were invented that could be filled with gunpowder, fired from cannons, and made to explode. Rounded metal balls and shells remained the principal types of large ammunition from the fifteenth through the nineteenth century.

The large ammunition industry in the United States arose as a result of both internal and external military conflicts, particularly the Civil War and both World Wars. Development of the rifled artillery barrel and smokeless gunpowder in the nineteenth century lead to the proliferation of elongated bullets and shells. This ammunition type dominated production throughout most of the twentieth century.

Although production of some large ammunition types peaked during World War II, the manufacture of other types of projectiles and explosives proliferated between 1950 and the late 1980s. Nuclear bombs and guided missiles, particularly, contributed to industry growth throughout the Cold War. By 1988, the industry employed about 26,000 workers and was producing a record $4.3 billion in shipments per year. During the Reagan presidency alone, the ammunition industry had grown from just $1.8 billion in shipments and about 16,000 workers.

The end of the Cold War in the late 1980s, punctuated by the demise of the Soviet Union, pummeled the large ammunition industry. As defense purchases plunged, sales dropped to $3.1 billion in 1990 and continued to plummet in 1991 and 1992. Likewise, industry employment crashed to about 14,500. Adding to employee woes were moderate increases in manufacturing productivity—the result of more than $600 million in capital investments by producers in the early and mid-1980s.

About 45 percent of U.S. large ammunition industry output in the early 1990s was bombs. An additional 40 percent of production included miscellaneous bullets and other projectiles, casings, and components. Rockets made up the remaining 30 percent of shipments. Nearly 80 percent of all sales in 1991 were sold under U.S. government contract, mostly to the armed services. Another 15 percent of industry output was exported, and about 5 percent was consumed by various manufacturing sectors. Examples of manufacturing uses include demolition and mining.

The industry declined precipitously in the mid-1990s, in part because of the end of the Cold War and anticipation of military spending cuts. While the industry had employed 415,000 people in 1987, that number had dropped to 234,000 by 1992, and to only 12,000 in 1995—a decrease of almost 75 percent, according to the 1995 Census of Manufactures. Those goods shipped in 1995 were valued at $2.034 billion, which was a slight increase over the 1994 figure of $2.008 billion, but still well below the $3.100 billion reported in the 1992 Census of Manufactures.

Current Conditions

Entering the late 1990s, large ammunition manufacturers expected continued cuts in U.S. defense expenditures by the Clinton administration. Employment in every position in the industry was forecast to fall by 25 to 50 percent. For example, jobs for assemblers and fabricators, which accounted for a leading 14 percent of all workers, were expected to fall by 51 percent between 1990 and 2005. Even white-collar jobs were forecast to decline by more than 40 percent during that period. Companies were counting on export growth to partially offset domestic declines.

Between 1997 and 2000, total industry employment did decline from 9,281 workers to 7,324 workers, and the number of production employees dropped from 4,872 to 3,811. The value of industry shipments fell from $1.47 billion in 1997 to $1.12 billion in 2000.

Industry Leaders

St. Louis-based McDonell Aircraft Co. led the ammunitions industry with almost $8.2 billion in 1996 sales, according to the most recent records available on Infotrac databases. Olin Corp. of Norwalk, Connecticut was a distant second, with 1998 sales of more than $1.4 billion; closely following Olin, however, was Duchossois Industries Inc. of Elmhurst, Illinois, with 1998 sales of almost $1.3 billion. Alliant Techsystems Inc. of Hopkins, Minnesota, which generated almost $1.1 billion in sales for its fiscal year ended March 31, 1999, made news in late 1997 when it returned 1,200 acres of Native American property in the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Great Sioux Nation. Blount Industries rounded out the top five industry leaders with 1999 sales of $832 million.

Further Reading

"Alliant Techsystems Returns Black Hills Tract to Sioux Tribe." Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News , 25 December 1997.

1995 Census of Manufactures. Washington: Office of the Census, 1997.

United States Census Bureau. 1997 Economic Census—Manufacturing. Available at (2/12/00).

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

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