Black Hills Ammo Going Strong

With 30-plus years of success in government, consumer markets, ‘customers know they can count on our ammunition.’

PHOTOS BY BLACK HILLS AMMUNITION

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl share a love of shooting, hunting and all things gun. Boy and girl take this enthusiasm and run with it, helping to launch – and eventually run – a successful ammunition company. Not your typical love story, that’s for sure. But that’s what makes Jeff and Kristi Hoffman’s story so great. We’ll let Jeff Hoffman take it from here …

Black Hills’ HoneyBadger line of fluted solid copper projectile ammunition, available in .45 ACP and 9mm among others, is very popular.
I GREW UP hunting, shooting and reloading. My father and grandfather taught me to shoot and I fell in love with it. I had my first rifle at around age 7, and my first pistol at 12. I spent my youth toting a Winchester Model 74 .22 rifle all over the area around Fort Pierre, South Dakota, as I grew up. My grandfather had a carton of .22 shells on his gun cabinet. His rule was I could have as much as I wanted, but I needed to leave 75 cents for every 50-round box of CCI Mini-Mags I took, so that he could buy a new box when that one ran dry. The system worked well.

In high school I met Kristi. Now my expenses were ammo, plus gas for my pickup truck to pick her up at her dad’s farm. I didn’t have much money, so a common date was to show up with a full carton of .22s so we could shoot prairie dogs on her family farm. We later went to the same college. She studied accounting and I studied criminal justice. After college I was hired by the Rapid City Police Department. We moved here and in 1980 we were married.

Despite making the princely sum of $4.67 per hour, plus working a second job, in addition to wages from Kristi’s full-time job, things were pretty tight financially. I was on the department’s pistol team and was buying a case of ammo every paycheck from the department rangemaster, who reloaded ammunition as a way for him to help make ends meet. I was his best customer, buying reloads for $60 to $70 per case of 1,000 rounds. One day he asked if I thought he could make a living making ammunition full- time. I said no. He didn’t listen and started Black Hills Shooter’s Supply. He hired me immediately to help load ammunition. That was my third job, in addition to being a cop and working hotel security, all at the same time. As I loaded ammunition on a Dillon 1000, one of the three loaders the company owned, I realized I had been wrong. There was a considerable market for ammunition. I would ship the ammunition each night and no matter how much we loaded, it always went out just as fast. Kristi would come down in the evenings after working at her full-time job and load the primer tubes to start the next day’s production at Black Hills Shooter’s Supply, while I prepared ammunition to ship. She also saw the potential.

The 5.56mm 77-grain Sierra MatchKing is the commercial version of the MK262 that Black Hills produces for the government
THE COMPANY WAS growing and as is common with new companies, it needed additional cash. Tom, the owner, offered to let us buy a share of the company. I dismissed the thought, as I loved being a cop, and really didn’t have the confidence to jump into business. Kristi nudged a little, saying, “I wish you’d consider Tom’s offer.” I explained I knew nothing about business. She said, “You know a lot about guns, reloading and ammunition, and I know business. We need to do something because what we are doing now is not working.” She was right. Our weekly budget for food was $20. We ate a lot of macaroni and peanut butter. We ate beef only because her dad and mom had a farm and would bring us beef when they would butcher. I agreed to think about the business offer. After much contemplation, we decided to give it a try. We went to every bank in town, trying to get a loan. We needed $12,000 to buy in. We were so green that we did not really grasp the concept of collateral. We just knew it was a good idea and that we were good for it and the bank should loan us the money. We were politely shown the door with each attempt. Nobody would loan the money. I then asked my dad if he would loan us the money. He said no. He wouldn’t loan us the money, but he would co-sign for us. That was an even better deal because then we would have a bank loan to establish credit.

My dad at that time was a trucker. For collateral, he put up his truck. He mortgaged his truck so we could follow a crazy idea that we “knew” would work. The banker thought it was nuts, I could read it on him, but he had good collateral, the title to my dad’s truck. That was a great motivator for us. I had read that the Vikings would sometimes burn their ships when invading a country so that all their men knew there was no turning back. That was that moment for us, when we burned our ships. We could not fail. Failure would mean the banker got the truck. There were many times in the years after that that we should have failed but didn’t because we were too committed, too stubborn, and probably mostly because God looked down and saw that despite our weaknesses and mistakes, we were really trying, and gave us a hand at the moments when we really needed it.

Kristi and I left Black Hills Shooter’s Supply in 1988 and started Black Hills Ammunition Inc. In 1996, we won our first military contract, making ammunition for the Army Marksmanship Unit. Other military contracts followed and by 1999, we had marksmanship unit contracts for the Navy and Marines. In 1999, the Navy asked us to do development for operational ammunition. That became the very successful MK262. After that we developed quite a few other specialty rounds for the military. Development and production of military ammunition has grown to be our primary market, and we are proud to support our country’s warriors in defending our country and way of life.

The 77-grain MK262 produced for the Navy.
WE SPECIALIZE IN accuracy, quality and good service. We realized early on that trying to sell the cheapest ammunition was a tough way to make a living. There is always someone cheaper because they have a manufacturing advantage, or because they are on their way out of business and maybe don’t know it yet. Our market is folks who want or need the best, at a fair price. That is probably why we have been so successful with the military. They might buy on bid, but they have high standards. Lives depend on their choices. They are looking for the best value, which generally is not the same thing as the lowest price. Our 5.56 77-grain is the commercial version of the MK262 we produce for the government. Same performance, in a commercial box. It has been very popular. We sell probably more types of .223 and 5.56mm ammunition than anyone else. Similarly, our .308 match ammunition is very popular and 6.5 Creedmoor is really selling well. Our HoneyBadger line of fluted solid copper projectile ammunition is very popular. It provides performance equal or superior to the best hollow points but with better uniformity of performance and better barrier capability.

Our customers know they can count on our ammunition. We take great pain to make our ammo the best it can be. We are an “assembly” plant; that is, we do not make any of our own component parts. That means we are free to buy the best components from all sources and combine them into great ammunition. The best powders, cases, primers and projectiles. We have many industry friends who supply us great components. Despite some of them being “competitors” because they may also make ammunition, they are proud to be a part of our success. We take the best components, develop great loads with them, assemble them with care, and hand-inspect every round we produce. We ship dealer-direct; minimum order is one case. We pay all freight to 48 states and we guarantee customer satisfaction. At Black Hills Ammunition, we are big enough to make some of the best ammunition available anywhere, yet small enough to care about every customer. NS

Editor’s note: For more information, visit black-hills.com. Also look out for about Black Hills Ammunition in our e-newsletter and on nwsportsmanmag.com. You can sign up for our e-newsletter on our website.

Chris Sajnog – Neural Zen Training

[su_heading size=”25″ margin=”0″]Chris Sajnog – Neural Zen Training[/su_heading]

Exclusive interview by John Oliver • Photographs provided by Chris Sajnog


[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”4″]W[/su_dropcap]hen the opportunity presented itself to interview one of the lead Navy SEAL firearms instructors who is also an internationally known law enforcement and military trainer, we jumped at the chance. Meet Chris Sajnog, former Navy SEAL sniper instructor, author and founder of Center Mass Group. Sajnog not only has over 20 years of expertise with one of the most elite military teams in the world, he is willing to share his skills and insight with everyone willing and open to learning them. Our own John Oliver spent some time with Sajnog and here is what he had to say:

American Shooting Journal Hello, Chris. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us about your background, where are you from and how you became a Navy SEAL?

Chris Sajnog I was born and raised in Wisconsin and grew up there with one brother. I didn’t get along with my parents and ended up leaving home early, by request. I worked full time because I had to pay for a place to live, and then I  joined the Navy when I was 19. At that time, I didn’t even know what a SEAL was, and learned about them later. Initially, I was a Navy diver and did diving medicine, or undersea and hyperbaric medicine (UHB), and often supported the SEALs in that role. After working with them for a few years I decided that what they did was pretty cool, so I went to SEAL training. I had already been with the Navy for four years before I joined.

Chris Sajnog Navy SEAL
Retired Navy SEAL Chris Sajnog is an international professional firearms and tactics trainer and has written two books: How to shoot like a Navy SEAL and Navy SEAL Shooting.

ASJ You’ve written a few books, and your first one was titled How To Shoot Like A Navy SEAL. What compelled you to write a book?

CS I truly love teaching other people. I used to run the sniper course and our marksmanship training for our SEAL qualification course, so I’d been teaching quite a lot and I wanted to continue. When I got out of the Navy, I started writing articles and in 2011 founded a training company called Center Mass Group. I received really good responses and a friend suggested that I transition one of my blogs that focused on marksmanship, and turn it into a book. With a little editing, expanding and adding extra chapters I was able to create the first book. This one covers the fundamentals of combat marksmanship, and boils down to being able to shoot under stress. That book did really well and was the number one shooting book on Amazon.com for a really long time.

ASJ It sounds like you haven’t stopped since your Navy days. Tell us a little about the courses you teach at Center Mass Group.

CS I’m actually getting away from running physical courses, although I still teach the military and law enforcement, and have started teaching online. The way I run training is very different than anyone else I’ve ever seen because I really focus on what I call “the new rules of marksmanship.” It’s a way of training where, to me, it’s more important how you train than what you’re training or how many rounds you shoot. Often, I’ll have a student shoot one round and if it’s not perfect, then I correct them immediately. I think every time you make a mistake you’re building neural pathways in your brain to recreate that movement again. It kills me to see people simply shooting to get better when it just doesn’t work that way. That’s one of the reasons I’m getting away from hands-on training, and moving to an online format where I present the information and teach people how to train on their own. It’s hard to run a course and have people shoot one round at a time. Nobody wants to pay to do that. I can offer a much less expensive way to learn by giving them the information online and the students conduct the repetitions on their own.

PHOTO 3bASJ Do you have a family? Are you married?

CS I have been married to my lovely wife Laura for 12 years, and we have two boys, Caden and Owen, who are nine and 11 years old. They’re smarter and more talented than I am already. Their mom’s a teacher, so they get their smarts from her, and their dad’s a SEAL. They’re both at the top of their sports teams, so that’s awesome.

ASJ From what I have read you are a strong believer of dry-fire practice. Why do you feel this is such an important component?

CS Definitely! Going back to building neural pathways, every time you do something, whether it’s right or wrong, you are building these pathways so that your body can do that movement faster and better the next time. Any time a gun goes bang, that’s a stressor. It may be a small stressor, but it’s the one thing that increases how ingrained those neural connections become. If you can first train perfectly without stress, you build up these neural pathways and insulate them with myelination (process of forming a myelin sheath around a nerve to allow nerve impulses to move more quickly), and that protects you from the chemical stimulus you’re going to get from stress. So when those hormones come rushing into your brain, that neural pathway is protected and you’ll be able to do it perfectly.

PHOTO 3aASJ Your level of detail and scientific breakdown is impressive. Many instructors simply do not operate or consider these concepts. Aside from this, what would you say sets you apart from all of the other shooting instructors out there.

CS I think a big thing is I don’t teach people what they want to be taught. I teach them what I know is correct, and I don’t try to entertain them when I teach. Obviously I try to make it fun, but I don’t look for people who want to learn how to do a front flip and shoot like they did in The Matrix – I just won’t do it. When I teach a course, I don’t actually shoot at all. I can teach faster by standing and watching every move that somebody makes and correcting them instantly. I can’t do that when I have people behind me while I’m shooting. For me it does no good to show people I can shoot; hopefully, people will understand that I’m probably a decent shot from being a SEAL sniper for quite a few years. As I mentioned earlier, concentrating on how you train is very important. I focus on mental training, and teach meditation and visualization. As a SEAL, we were literally alotted unlimited ammo and were paid to shoot at the range.

When I retired I started teaching civilians and law enforcement the way I used to teach SEALs, and it just wasn’t working. Students would say, “I don’t have the time to go to the range every day,” or “I don’t have the money to buy all the ammo I need to shoot.” Even law enforcement units didn’t have the money to do that. I needed to come up with a way to teach people at the same level, but faster and cheaper.

I was also experiencing the same thing myself because now I had a wife, children, soccer games, trips to the grocery store, just like everyone else. I started looking outside of the shooting community to see how to best train people.

I knew that if I could teach people in general, I could make it specific to firearms training. So that’s what I did. I looked at how did the greats get to where they are, how they practiced, how they learned and stayed on the top, and how they did it so quickly. I used those concepts while researching neuro sciences, how the brain actually works and how we learn physical skills and implemented them. I put these all together in a training method I call the new rules of marksmanship. Things like mental training and, most importantly, knowing why you are training are exemplified. If you just want to be good at shooting, you may not wake up in the morning and work on dry firing, but if you’re training to protect your family, you’re probably more likely to put in the time.

Rather than telling students to look at their front sights, I teach things such as how to focus, how to look at the front sight and how the eyes function. I give students specific techniques to work on for each separate aspect. Also, teaching students how to dry fire and to plan their training using a GPS analogy is part of my curriculum. “G” is for gathering information, understanding where your skill levels are, and where you want them to be. For example, if you don’t know where you are or where you want to go, you can drive all day long and never get anywhere. “P” is for planning. Just as a GPS will show your route, you need to plan out those steps. The last one is “S,” and the one most people fail: Start!

Students will often have the information they need but starting is the hardest part. This is why part of my training is simply motivating people to actually do the training.

Chris Sajnog Training Police
Chris Sajnog provides training to law enforcement such as the Escondido, Calif., Police Department’s SWAT team.

ASJ Once your new book is out, what’s next for you? Do you have anything on the horizon?

CS Well, my wife will quickly tell you that I have too many projects going on. I’m building a membership site where people can sign up and they get video training using my new rules of marksmanship. This is where I teach people how to shoot and train, and how to do it at home while learning faster and easier. Of course a big part of it is safety. I will also offer full webinars throughout the course.

ASJ That’s interesting. So you won’t just be running video training, but people will be able to interact with you via the live course?

CS Yes, the course is going to be run for a month, so once a week people will get a module of information, which includes videos, outlines and quick-start guides. They will have some time to digest the information, practice it and then ask questions during the once-a-week webinar. I have other courses that I am still working on; one of them is an audio course called Mental Marksmanship, and it focuses on mindset, meditation and visualization. How to use your mind most effectively when shooting. A TV show is also on the way, but that is a still a few months out.

Chris Sajnog
Chris Sajnog is a strong proponent of properly building neural pathways. Every time you do something, whether it’s right or wrong, you are building pathways so your body can do those movements faster and better the next time.

ASJ Will the TV show be based around you and your teaching method?

CS Yes, it is, but it is also quite unique. I don’t want to divulge too much, but I would describe it as action instruction. I can promise you that it is not me standing on screen explaining “This is how you hold a gun.”

ASJ What are your favorite guns for different uses?

CS My favorite handgun is the Sig Sauer P226. To me, this handgun set the gold standard by which all other combat handguns are measured. I’ve fired so many rounds from this gun it would be impossible to count, yet I can hardly remember a single malfunction. In and out of water, sand and mud – pull it out of its holster and it’s going to fire. You can find plenty of higher end pistols on the market today, but you’ll never find one with the combat-proven track record of the P226.

For close-quarter combat, the HK MP5n. This 9mm submachine gun was what I learned CQC (close quarter combat) and maritime boarding operations called VBSS (visit, board, search and seizure) with. The “n” stands for Navy since it was developed for our use, and is an extremely effective weapon for short, quick engagements. It has virtually zero recoil due to its unique delayed-blowback bolt system, firing from the closed-bolt position. Fun to shoot and fun to transition to your pistol by whipping it over your shoulder like a guitar in an old-school music video.

For sniper operations, the .300 Winchester Magnum (M91A2). I’ve used and taught every type of long-range weapon out there. Yes, there are some that can shoot farther, but this is the most versatile of the bunch, and can reach out and touch someone over 1,000 yards with a flat trajectory past 100. If I could only have one sniper rifle, this would be the one I would choose.

Chris Sajnog
Filming at Triple Horse Productions in Georgia, Sajnog demonstrates shooting multiple targets with a Glock 35.

ASJ Everyone has a favorite fallback carry weapon – what’s yours?

CS Glock 26.

ASJ Do you prefer a specific brand or type of ammunition, and why?

CS Black Hills – I’ve shot it more than any other brand and it goes bang when I need it to.

ASJ Favorite holsters and slings?

CS zZz Custom Works Holsters. If you want to get the same results as everyone else, get a holster like they have; otherwise, get custom holsters and mag pouches from zZz Custom Works. You can have a holster built to your exact specification for the same cost as one off the shelf.

I also like the Magpul MS3 Sling. It’s comfortable and switches between single and two-point sling.

Chris SajnogASJ What would you say is your must-have furniture?

CS Talon Grips, no question.

ASJ What do you do to relax? What are your hobbies?

CS I like to work out and stay active six days a week. I do crossfit-type workouts or high-intensity training. Family is very important to me. I enjoy hanging out with the boys playing baseball or soccer, and I just bought an awesome ping-pong table that they don’t know about yet, especially my wife. She definitely does not know about it! I like learning new things and am interested in acupuncture so that helps me relax, but I also meditate each day, and have a little area set aside for that.

ASJ Thank you so much for your time, Chris, it’s been a pleasure.

CS You too, John, anytime! ASJ

5341 CS_Navy SEAL Shooting_Cover_06.inddEditor’s note: If you want to know more about Chris Sajnog, you can visit him at chrissajnog.com. If you are interested in his latest book, check out Navy SEAL Shooting at Amazon.com.