Hardware: Swift High Grade

posted on June 23, 2016

Think of Swift as the Intel or the Briggs & Stratton of the ammunition business, maker of a specialized product incorporated into a more complex product marketed under a more prominent brand name. Like the other two, Swift so excelled at its specialty that it has become well known and highly regarded in its own right. Until last year’s introduction of the Break-Away solid, the Kansas firm’s output consisted of just two bullet lines, the A-Frame and the Scirocco II. The former holds serious market share among dangerous-game hunters worldwide, while the latter is a rare bonded boattail that’s as tough on large game as it is aerodynamic and accurate. Because of demand from savvy hunters, top ammo brands like Remington, Federal, Weatherby, Norma, Lapua and others have offered Swift bullet loadings at one time or another.

However corporate alliances can be fleeting, and Swift bullet fans never knew when their pet factory loads might be discontinued. That’s about to end.

“Too often in the past, customers have experienced difficulties finding ammunition with our bullets,” said Swift CEO Bill Hober. “And so we’re introducing Swift High Grade, 33 calibers with 47 different loadings ranging from .223 Rem. to .500 Nitro Express. There will be three different categories—medium-to-big game, dangerous game and heavy revolver—covering virtually every big-game and predator-hunting application.”

Entering the loaded-ammo business is a huge undertaking for a small company that has always chosen core competence over diversification. Major investment has been required for new tooling and materials, and the factory was getting a makeover when I visited there last December.

“It’s important for your readers to know,” said Hober, “that Swift High Grade is actually manufactured by Swift Cartridge Company at our facility in Kansas, not outsourced to another producer. We actually make it ourselves. Like our bullets, this loaded ammunition—the first ever from Swift—is virtually handmade and hand-inspected. We’re confident it will be the most reliable hunting ammo on the market. Most loadings will be available from retailers and online sellers in August.”

Not exactly a young man, Hober brings incredible energy to his second career. It’s been 22 years since the lifelong, much-traveled hunter acquired Swift after retirement from a long stint with PepsiCo. A marketing pro, he now wears many hats. With help from son, Tony, he steps in as production engineer, product developer, finance officer, building superintendent, salesman and more. Between shuttling me to deer stands, Bill was constantly busy juggling brass shipments, inspecting product fresh from the presses and stressing over minute details of packaging design. If anyone can pull this off—and success will be measured only by how closely High Grade ammo matches the perfection of Swift bullets—it’s Hober. The man has been a winner all this life, and I’m confident this venture will succeed as well.

Recently I received early-production samples in three rifle calibers; reserving five rounds from each box for measuring velocities, I used the rest for shooting groups. Instead of evaluating accuracy with dedicated test rifles, I fired the High Grade loads in actual hunting rifles paired with the scopes they’ve worn for years. My results are presented below. Low standard deviations in muzzle velocities indicated consistency in the components and assembly, and the accuracy was quite good for controlled-expansion bullets. Based on this first look, I’ll be happy hunting with Swift High Grade anytime, anywhere.


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