James W. Bequette’s new book, The Gunpowder People, takes an in-depth look at Hodgdon Powder Company’s impressive 70-year history. The book progresses with each chapter encompassing a decade, starting with the company’s humble beginnings in 1947, just after World War II, when Bruce Hodgdon was discharged from the U.S. Navy and saw an incredible business opportunity in the market of commercial propellants. Bruce embarked on what would arguably become the greatest business venture in the history of the commercial reloading market, purchasing an initial 50,000 pounds of government-surplus powder and storing it in old railroad boxcars. A few months later, Bruce opened shop, placing an ad for his product in the January 1948 issue of American Rifleman. From there, the business boomed.
Bruce’s sons, J.B. and Bob Hodgdon, who worked with their father to establish and progress the company when they were in school, took ownership in 1976. The Gunpowder People tells how Hodgdon has continued to flourish under the brothers’ leadership. For example, some of the company’s most successful powders were created with J.B. and Bob at the helm, such as Clays shotgun powder and the top-selling powder in America, Varget smokeless rifle powder.
The book includes other milestones in Hodgdon’s history, such as: the company’s development of commercially manufactured powder rather than its use of excess military powder starting in 1960; the purchase of competitor IMR in 2003; licensing the Winchester name two years later; and incorporating the lone blackpowder producer on the continent of North America, Goex, into the Hodgdon brand in 2009. Other company firsts detailed in the book include Hodgdon’s creation of the muzzleloading pellet in 1996 and the company’s publication of an annual reloading manual. The profound impact of Hodgdon’s products over its 70-year history is irrefutable, and Bequette captures every high and low through pictures, anecdotes and candid interviews alike.