The History of Starline Brass: An Innovative Idea
Starline has become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of handgun brass. Starline’s innovative thinking, unique manufacturing processes, vast mechanical and industry knowledge, and endless attention-to-detail have been the key ingredients to their success. Starline’s history is truly one of humble beginnings. It is a story about how two friends turned an innovative idea into a very successful business.
The idea of Starline Brass was developed in the mid 1970’s in Santa Fe Springs, California. Robert Hayden had recently been hired as General Manager of Sierra Bullets. Frank Snow, previous owner of Sierra Bullets, and Hayden became very close friends over the transitional time of transferring management responsibilities. Discussing business at a ballgame one evening, Hayden and Snow decided they should do something together. That night they decided to go into the case business. After only a few weeks of lunch-time discussions, they had a business plan.
Hayden and Snow began acquiring military surplus equipment. They didn’t really have anywhere to put it so they rented a Quonset hut in Covina, California. They brought a third gentleman into the business, Paul Knepp. Knepp had been a tool and die maker for Sierra Bullets. The business plan was fairly simple. Snow would work on the machines as he was a master at repurposing machines to perform a desired function. Knepp was going to make all the tools. Hayden was going to take care of all the sales and promotions. Starline Brass incorporated in 1976 under the ownership of Hayden, Snow, and Knepp.
The first case Starline manufactured was the .38 Special. Soon to follow were the 45 ACP and the 10mm. In the beginning, Starline only produced custom headstamps for companies like Remington, Winchester, and Federal. They also produced custom headstamps for Midway Arms, a gun and gun component distributer in Columbia, MO. Business really took off after Federal received a large contract from the FBI for 10mm brass. Starline started cranking out 750,000 cases per month just to meet the needs of the contract. According to Mr. Hayden, that’s when the business really started rolling and making money.
Mr. Hayden realized that for Starline to continue to grow, they were going to have to find a niche in the marketplace. Competing with larger companies on common cartridges was difficult because the larger companies produced so much brass at one time. Mr. Hayden realized there was a void in the market and that there was an unmet demand for many uncommon cartridge cases. To differentiate themselves and meet demand, Starline decided they would make as many different types of cartridge cases as they possibly could.
Starline’s new business strategy would not have worked for just any business. Producing over 75 different cartridge cases required special skill, equipment knowledge, and detailed planning. Starline gained an advantage over competitors by being able to convert machines and processes quickly to meet the different requirements associated with producing so many types of different cartridge cases.
Starline created their own headstamp in the early 80’s and started selling their brass factory direct. There was such a demand for their brass at that time, Starline could sell everything they made. Today, several expansions later, Starline is still challenged with meeting the continuous growing demand. Starline was born from a great idea and continues to grow through innovative thinking and a focus on superior quality.
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