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Vernon Speer(1901-1978) was a man driven by his inventive nature.
A native of Iowa, Vernon served in the US Navy during World War I, stimulating his interest in aviation. At age 21, he designed and built an aircraft engine. To prove its worth, he installed it in a biplane and took it aloft. Following the war, he worked as a tool foreman for the John Deere Company. When World War II broke out, he became chief ground instructor at a Lincoln, Nebraska flying school. It was during this time he became interested in bullet making. He was briefly in the bullet business with Joyce Hornady, founder of Hornady Bullets.
In 1944, Vernon looked for a new location, one that offered good transportation, mild weather and, of course, access to great hunting. He selected Lewiston, Idaho, on the Washington-Idaho border. He rented space in the basement of a small corner grocery store and built equipment to convert fired 22 rimfire cases into .224" bullet jackets. The war effort meant that gilding metal, the preferred material for bullet jackets, was all going into government ammo plants. Reprocessing rimfire cases was Vernon's clever solution to a knotty problem. That solution put him in the bullet business for good.
Speer BulletsŪ soon outgrew the grocery store and Vernon invested in property on Snake River Avenue, just yards from the famous Snake River. The new plant, combined with the renewed availability of gilding metal, allowed Vernon to expand his bullet line to just about every caliber a reloader could want. He continued to innovate, developing Hot-Cor bullets and the first mass-produced jacketed handgun bullets for reloaders.
Speer Bullet CompanyVernon's interests extended well beyond the bullet business. He became an accomplished bush pilot, no mean feat considering the many primitive back-country airstrips in Idaho. He was a student of geology and a competent hydraulic engineer. He even designed and built several small hydro-electric plants to power remote ranches in Idaho.
August 19th, 2013
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