Richard "Dick" Speer (1915-1994) possessed a remarkable talent for things mechanical. He was a machinist at Boeing Aircraft's Seattle plant when he realized that his brother Vernon's success in the component bullet business (Speer Bullets) meant there was money to be made in reloading.
There were a number of proprietary rifle cartridge designs (like the Weatherby and Newton) that were not supported by the "big" ammo companies. Dick Speer decided to make cases to service this small but active market. He left Seattle and joined Vernon in Lewiston, Idaho. In a small room at the Speer Bullets plant, he began production of these special cases using an impact extrusion process.
After two name changes, Speer and his partner Arvid Nelson settled on the name Cascade Cartridges, Inc., or CCI.
Although Speer's case-making process was sound, the quality of the raw material was not. In the years after WWII, most stocks of cartridge brass had been depleted for the war effort. Faced with an untenable situation, Speer turned to a different path. Component primers for reloaders were in short supply. Some war surplus primers were showing up but the supply and choice was limited. Speer decided to get into the component primer business.
Speer intended to build primers for hobby reloaders, however, CCI's first shipment was to fulfill a military contract using the chlorate FA-70 formula. He then turned to non-corrosive, non-mercuric formulas for sporting cartridges. Reloaders now had a steady supply of rifle and pistol primers that was unheard of previously.
To handle the new business, Speer bought a 17-acre chicken "ranch" next to the Lewiston Gun Club just a mile south of brother Vernon's bullet works. The farmhouse doubled as an office and warehouse, and production began in a renovated chicken coop. He quickly erected modern labs and manufacturing buildings, gaining him room to expand the product line. When the gun club moved, Speer bought the adjoining property for future expansion. The CCI plant still occupies that property today.
|1951 –||CCI established|
|1951 –||Dick Speer hired Dr. Victor Jasaitis to develop new processes and chemicals needed for primer manufacturing. Dr. Jasaitis was a refugee scientist from Lithuania who specialized in explosive chemistry.|
|1957 –||CCI added shotshells to the line.|
|1959 –||Began making industrial power loads for powder-actuated fastener systems.|
|1962 –||Expanded into rimfire ammunition with Mini-Mag (CCI's most popular rimfire product).|
|1967 –||Oregon firm, Omark Industries, bought CCI from Dick Speer. Omark Industries seeked an in-house source of loads for the powder-actuated tools they manufactured. Seeing the profitability of sporting ammo and components, they wisely elected to let CCI continue to grow in this area. New products such as Stinger, the world's first hypervelocity 22 Long Rifle ammo, rolled out of the CCI facility.|
|1986 –||CCI's development engineers set out on a comprehensive primer improvement program to meet the requirements of progressive loading equipment that was starting to dominate the reloading market.|
|1989 –||The three-year program wrapped up with the introduction of all-new primers. Features included: smooth feeding through automated equipment, reduced residue in non-magnum primers, improved primer seating, and better sensitivity that included a larger "sweet spot" for firearms that produced off-center firing pin strikes.|
|1990 –||CCI perfected the first hypervelocity 22 Magnum Rimfire cartridge.|
|1991 –||CCI opened a new, state-of-the-art primer manufacturing facility to insure that we could supply all our customers' needs.|
|1993-94 –||During the so-called "primer shortage," CCI was the only US primer manufacture to continuously ship primers to commercial account, largely due to the increased capacity afforded by this new facility. CCI is also a major supplier of military cannon primers.|
|Today –||We've continued to add new rimfire products like Mini-Mag™ Silhouette, Segmented Hollow Point, and Velocitor™, the fastest 40-grain .22 Long Rifle load on the market.|