History of RCBS 

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For 80 years, RCBS has been a leading provider of reloading equipment. From die and shell holders to bullet casting, to case processing, RCBS manufactures everything a reloading enthusiast needs to keep their ammunition stocked.  

In celebration of the company’s 80th anniversary this year, we’re going to take a look at RCBS’s remarkable history, from its humble beginnings swaging .22 rimfire cartridges to becoming the leading manufacturer of reloading equipment. 

Varmint Hunting and Bullet Swaging 

The story of RCBS begins in the year 1943, in Oroville, California, with Fred T. Huntington. Huntington was a prolific hunter but had a hard time finding high-quality bullets suitable for hunting varmints, particularly .22 rimfire cartridges.  

Remember, by 1943 World War 2 was in full swing, and every factory available had to produce ammunition for the war effort. In total, U.S. factories produced an estimated 41.4 billion rounds during the war. However, this colossal demand left civilian shooters with what little was left over.  

Huntington, however, discovered a solution. When he read about using a die to swage .22 rimfire cartridges to form jackets for bullets, he started making his own dies in one of the backrooms of his father’s laundromat.  

Huntington’s dies became popular enough among other hunters and shooters that by 1948 he relocated to a small shop, and then a larger building in 1954. By 1958, RCBS had expanded its operations to encompass a 7,500-square-foot factory, one that now covers 50,000 square feet.  

While RCBS has outgrown the laundromat, it remains located in Oroville, California, staying close to its roots as a reloading equipment manufacturer. 

Why the name RCBS? 

The name RCBS can be somewhat confusing for those trying to figure out what it stands for.  

In truth, the name is a reference to Huntington’s original .22 swage dies. Those dies were meant to make jacketed bullets for shooting rock chucks, also known as yellow-bellied marmots, a species of small mammals found in the western United States.  

Huntington named his product the Rock Chuck Bullet Swage, or RCBS. RCBS would later become the company’s name, in recognition of the creation that started it all.  

Other Innovations 

Huntington didn’t stop with just bullet swaging dies. One of his greatest innovations was the very first removable shell holder for reloading presses. Up until his creation, shell holders were built into the ram of the reloading press. This meant that if you wanted to switch out the shell holder to reload a different caliber, the entire ram had to be switched— a slow, complicated process. 

Huntington’s invention made it far easier for a reloader with different calibers of ammunition to quickly resupply, without having to take apart their press every time they wanted to switch.  

Acquisitions and Growth 

In July of 1976, RCBS was acquired by Omark Industries and became part of its Sporting Equipment Division. Later, in 1985, Omark was purchased by Blount, Inc, a tools producer focused on construction and manufacturing.  

In 2001, Alliant Techsystems, an aerospace, defense, and sporting goods company purchased RCBS, only to later create a separate division known as Vista Outdoor for its sporting goods.  

Even today, RCBS remains close to its roots by remaining in Oroville, California, and the Huntington Sportsman’s Store, run by Fred’s son, Fred Jr., remains right next door to RCBS’s factory.  
Through it all, RCBS has remained committed to its customers as the leading manufacturer of ammunition reloading equipment. High-quality die and shell holders, presses, and case processing kits are just some of the high-quality products the company offers. RCBS has even expanded into items like bullet molds, for shooters that want to try their hand at crafting their own bullets from scratch.  

Where to Purchase RCBS Equipment 

Powder Valley is America’s #1 supplier for reloading supplies, from gunpowder to casings, to reloading presses. We offer a full range of RCBS equipment, including presses, shell holders, decapping pins, and die sets. Start shopping or contact us today for more information.