Hodgdon Acquires RCBS

What It Means For Handloading Segment

(From left) Steve Kehrwald (Hodgdon CEO), James Nevers (RCBS senior director of operations) and Ryan
Bevins (Hodgdon CFO) address RCBS employees at the RCBS facility in Oroville, Calif., on the day Hodgdon’s
acquisition of RCBS was announced.

Two iconic brands with decades of shared history are now under one umbrella: May 2, 2024, Hodgdon Powder Company announced the acquisition of RCBS Reloading from Revelyst (a segment of Vista Outdoor).

“For years, our friends have referred to the Hodgdon family and company as ‘The Gunpowder People’ and this acquisition further demonstrates our dedication to the handloader,” said J.B. Hodgdon, co-owner with his late brother Bob, of the Hodgdon Powder Company. “Our dad Bruce partnered with Fred Huntington from RCBS to conduct Reloading Roadshow events in the 1950s and 1960s. I believe they both are looking down today, proud to have our two great brands together in 2024.”

Steve Kehrwald, Hodgdon Powder Company president and CEO, highlighted how this acquisition will expand available data for reloaders.

“[It’s] a perfect complement to our portfolio of smokeless powder brands for our handloading customers,” he said “With our world-class ballistics labs, we look forward to providing even more load data to our new RCBS customers.”

Impact Of Acquisition

To glean more insights into this acquisition’s impact in the handloading segment, I interviewed Aaron Oelger, Hodgdon Powder Company’s VP of marketing, less than a week after it was announced.

Oelger outlined how the acquisition ultimately benefits both brands.

“It’s a natural fit for both RCBS and for Hodgdon. We know our customers are loading powders on RCBS presses, dies and tools because we talk to our customers on a regular basis,” he said. “Conversely, we know customers on the RCBS side are using our brands on their presses. It’s a win for both of our brands from a consumer perspective.”

The decades’ long relationship between the two brands is certainly a plus, but Oelger addressed what will be an important question for end users: “What’s in it for us?”
“It’s good news for consumers. Being a family-owned brand — compared to other ownership structures in the industry — it allows us to think about the business over the long term; we’re in it for the long haul,” he shared.

As part of its long-term approach to business, Oelger stated Hodgdon plans to invest in product development — as well as increasing RCBS’ inventory position on key SKUs.

“We’re coming off of four years of high sales volume. Things have slowed this year, but we’re still seeing outages in certain products on the RCBS side — which shouldn’t happen,” Oelger contends. “Products like the .308 dies, .30-06 dies, Rock Chucker Press and ChargeMaster dispenser should always be available. We’re going to invest in the inventory. When the consumers and retail/wholesale customers want it, those products will be available.”

Oelger also shared what this acquisition means to its retailer, wholesaler and buy group customers.

“If we want our industry customers to invest in us, there’s a tendency for them to wonder, ‘am I getting the best deal?’ I can promise this is one of the things we’ll do: we don’t undercut customers at the end of the quarter just to make a number and we don’t give out special deals to one customer over another,” he said.

According to Oelger, this approach to business will generate trust from buyers.

“Going forward, our retail, wholesale and buy group customers will know they’re receiving our best deal for their channel of trade,” he said. “So, they can feel more comfortable in investing in that inventory because they know we’re not going to come in behind them next month and undercut what the inventory value is going to be.”

RCBS Staying Put

It’s no secret California is a less-than-ideal state for businesses operating in our industry. However, the Hodgdon team has made it clear it has no plans to uproot RCBS from its long-time home in Oroville — where it has been located since being founded by Huntington in 1943.

According to Oelger, the City of Oroville has the same ideals as rural America (“where a handshake still means something”), and the RCBS facility remains in fantastic condition.

“We’d be hard-pressed to replicate this environment and culture anywhere else in America,” he said. “So given all that, as we went through due diligence, we decided to keep running in Oroville. It’s too good of a setup right now, and things work too well, to really consider anything else.”

In fact, Hodgdon has plans to further invest in RCBS’ facility.

“Not only are we maintaining our operations in Oroville, we’ll be investing more into Oroville and the people who are there,” Oelger shared.

Short-Term & Long-Term Aims

With this acquisition, Hodgdon has more than doubled its employee count — growing from 65 to 151 employees. In the coming weeks, Oelger says the emphasis will be on integration — combining Hodgdon and RCBS’ internal systems, as well as company cultures, into one unit.

“The good news is our company cultures are similar. We’re handloaders and shooters. Because we’re similar it will be a nice fit,” Oelger said.

From there, Oelger says Hodgdon is taking a long-term approach to growing the RCBS brand, just as did following its 2020 acquisition of Ramshot and Accurate smokeless powder brands and the Blackhorn 209 muzzleloader brand from Western Powders.
And, there’s the potential of further additions to expand Hodgdon’s footprint in the industry.

“From a strategic perspective, we identified the types of companies we’re looking to acquire several years ago,” Oelger shared. “The first company on that list was Western Powders and the second was RCBS. There are others out there we’d like to explore. But right now, the integration efforts with RCBS come first.”

When asked for the “bottom line” on what a rejuvenated RCBS brand will mean for the handloading segment, Oelger didn’t hesitate.

“Bottom line, this is good news for the industry. An American family with a strong track record of success bought into the RCBS story — they’re investing in the story of the brand and the people. Products will still be made in the USA and jobs won’t be exported,” he said. “As shooters, hunters and reloaders, it’s a win for our employees and RCBS. It’s also a big win for consumers, as we begin delivering on new products and the availability of products out there.”

For more info: hodgdonpowderco.com, rcbs.com.