Making bullets is part of the family business for the Schultzes. Today Gina Schultz runs the custom bullet business started by her father, a gunsmith and bulletsmith in South Africa. Zinta Aistars reports on bullets designed to order.
Gina Schultz was 7 years old when her father first placed a firearm in her hands. Schultz is the daughter of Gerard Schultz, owner of a gun shop in South Africa that he had opened for business in 1977, two years before her birth. Her father trained her and her sister carefully on how to shoot.
Handling firearms, Schultz says, "is second nature to me."
In 2012, shortly after moving to the United States from South Africa, Schultz opened a United States-based business to mirror the original one started by her father in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
GS Custom Bullets
is located at 69301 M-62 in Edwardsburg. Schultz’s father oversees the technical side of the bullets he designed and patented, and her mother oversees the store’s administrative side at the South Africa location.
"We’ve been shipping to United States for years (since 2000)," says Schultz. "It became difficult to import the bullets in bulk in terms of licensing, so I thought, why not just manufacture here?"
Schultz knows her bullets. Among her favorite memories are the hunting trips she went on with her father from age 13, and by age 16, the .220 Swift rifle she sighted on a blesbuck, a type of antelope with a white blaze across its face, found in South Africa. Schultz was 300 yards from her target.
"My father helped me get closer," she says. "It was a flat, open field, and we couldn't get close enough. The average shot is at about 200 yards; this was the longest shot I’d ever taken at 300, but I knew what my rifle could do. The shot hit the blesbuck in the middle of the chest and exited at the tail, with no meat damage, so we didn't loose any of the meat. It was very exciting."
It’s an excitement Schultz wants all her customers to experience--just as her father did.
"When my father opened his gun shop, he repaired handguns and rifles," Schultz says. "He also arranged hunting trips. He saw in the field that bullets were not performing as they should. The hunter would do everything right, but the bullet would fail."
Watching accurately fired bullets miss their target again and again, Gerard Schultz worked on designing a better bullet. Between 1993 and 1995, his daughter says, he tested one design after another. The HP, hollow point, bullet was his first design. Next came the HV, high velocity, bullet in 1997 and the FN, flat nosed hunting bullet. His SP, or spitzer bullet in 2004. He was granted his first patent for the drive band design in 1997.
"More accurate, more consistent, most reliable," is the GS Custom Bullets motto. What makes the bullets that way, Schultz says, are several changes made in the new drive band design.
"The bullets have drive bands. The barrel of a rifle has grooves. When the GS Custom bullet travels through the barrel, the drive bands seal in the grooves of the barrel and only the drive bands need to be engraved. That causes much less pressure and increases speed, getting the bullet to the target quicker. The faster speed decreases bullet drop and wind drift, giving you a more accurate shot to the target, whether hunting or target shooting. As a bullet travels through the rifle’s barrel, the barrel has grooves inside it, cut to a certain twist rate, and that causes a bullet to spin and stay stable in flight. It’s important to match the bullet with the twist rate of your rifle. That ensures good terminal ballistics rather than the traditional method of choosing a bullet by weight. Each bullet is measured, weighed and visually inspected for consistency."
Because the bullets are manufactured according to published barrel specifications, the barrel lasts three to four times longer, says Schultz. The bullets eliminate gas blow-by, when gas gets by the bullet upon firing and causes throat erosion of the gun barrel. GS Custom Bullets extend the life of the barrel by eliminating gas blow-by.
"Yet another difference is in the copper we use," says Schultz. "Few companies use solid copper. Most use copper pellets that are molded or punched into bullets, then random quality control is done. But when copper is handled that way, it gets brittle and can shatter when fired. So some companies anneal their bullets which makes the copper soft, which fouls up the barrel. Many bullets have thin copper jackets around lead that break apart when fired. We specify a higher grade copper that doesn’t harden, but retains its qualities during manufacturing."
GS Custom Bullets, Schultz explains, makes bullets one at a time. Each one is inspected individually. If making smaller bullets that particular day, 2,000 are produced per day, but if larger, around 1,000 per day. Three CNC (computer numerical control) machines cut the bullets under the watchful eyes of six employees, including three bullet smiths, two quality controllers, and Schultz, the owner.
"We run three shifts, six days a week, 24 hours," says Schultz. "We’ve actually scaled back now while we work at marketing, getting our name out there and do an online campaign. I’d say 99.9 percent of our business is done online, since we don’t really have a walk-in shop, although anyone can stop by."
Schultz owns 80 percent of the United States branch, and an investor owns 20 percent. "I’m looking for an additional investor now to take us to the next level."
For now, Schultz has hung up her own hunting rifle. Running the business takes up too much of her time for that pleasure, she says, and it has been about six years since she’s spent quality time on the range or hunting. Dedication and commitment to her business, however, keep her focused on her target.
At GS Custom Bullets, Schultz says, "We want to improve the success of a customer’s hunt. Our company is the only one that provides complete technical and load data for each bullet. Because we make them individually, you can expect consistent performance. Every gun barrel has a specific twist, each one different according to the caliber, and we can help you figure out which bullets will work best for you."
Zinta Aistars is creative director for Z Word, LLC, and correspondent for WMUK 102.1 FM Arts and More program. She lives on a farm in Hopkins.
Photos by Susan Andress