Herr Florian Schwartz, General Manager of H&N, Talks to Hard Air Magazine.
Florian Schwartz is the General Manager of Haendler & Natermann Sport GmbH, better known to most of us as H&N. As one of the world’s largest makers of airgun pellets, H&N produces a huge range of high quality pellets. These are sold under the H&N brand, of course, and the Excite brand for plinkling.
But H&N also manufactures pellets which are sold under many other brands. This means that you may be using H&N pellets without even knowing it!
Herr Schwartz was born in Munich, Germany, and has run H&N for 8 years. As an engineer who previously has worked for such iconic companies as BMW and Porsche, he has a great dedication to quality products. Of course he brings this enthusiasm and experience to every pellet that H&N manufactures.
Hard Air Magazine Publisher Stephen Archer met-up with Herr Schwartz at the 2017 Pyramyd Air Cup in Ohio. Here’s how our discussion went…
Hard Air Magazine: Do you shoot airguns? What is your favorite type of shooting?
Florian Schwartz: I am member of my hometown shooting club “HSG München” (founded way back in the 13th century!). Unfortunately, the job doesn’t allow me to shoot regularly. But, when I have the chance to shoot, my favorite is Field Target shooting.
Hard Air Magazine: When did you start shooting and who taught you to shoot?
Florian Schwartz: My Dad is a passionate hunter and he introduced me to all kind of shooting. Air gun shooting was the start and gave me good lessons. I shot a plenty of sparrows in our garden when I was young!
Hard Air Magazine: I know that H&N has a long history. How did it start in the pellet-making business?
Florian Schwartz: H&N was founded in 1825. The air gun business was started in the 1950s in a time when other shooting sports were forbidden in Germany. H&N grew with the increasing demand for high quality pellets, first in Germany but shortly after in the whole world. Our oldest continuous business relationship dates back as far as 1966!
Hard Air Magazine: How do you find the ideas for new pellet designs?
Florian Schwartz: Usually it is more the question how to stop our team from coming up with new ideas! Our aim is always to focus on the shooter’s needs. What does he or she expect? What can be solved better? For this reason we are in close contact to many shooters around the world to share ideas. That’s one of the reasons that I’m at the Pyramyd Air Cup today!
Hard Air Magazine: Can you tell us something about how H&N designs and develops pellets?
Florian Schwartz: Every idea is discussed among the Management Team which includes the basic core competencies in our company: R&D, Quality, Production and Sales/Marketing. If an idea is approved then our R&D manager starts with 3D-drawings and calculates weight, center of gravity and drag, etc. Additionally, a concept for the tooling needs to be developed. Finally, the dies are made in our own tool shop, samples produced and tested on our electronic test ranges, and the results evaluated. This could take several iterations as results are not always 100% predictable…
Hard Air Magazine: How long does it take to develop a new pellet design from first concept to manufacturing?
Florian Schwartz: The time can range from anywhere between 8 weeks and 2 years, depending on the complexity of the project.
Hard Air Magazine: What are more difficult to manufacture, large caliber pellets, or small?
Florian Schwartz: Actually, .177 due to its small size and everything beyond .25 due to machine power needs. That makes .22 caliber the sweet spot for manufacturing!
Hard Air Magazine: Can you describe the biggest challenges to be overcome in pellet manufacturing?
Florian Schwartz: To produce constant quality over the huge number of pellets that we manufacture every year and to so many different designs! By the way we offer the largest variety of different airgun pellets worldwide.
Hard Air Magazine: What are the special challenges in designing and manufacturing alloy pellets?
Florian Schwartz: Our lead-free pellets are made either from tin, zinc or zinc/plastic. Zinc is quite hard and therefore difficult to press into shape. The biggest challenge is the weight: All suitable lead-free materials are lighter than lead. Consequently, the pellets are faster, too fast for the common twist rates of air gun barrels. The resulting over-stabilization of the pellet has a negative effect on its accuracy. It’s really difficult to design and manufacture alloy pellets that are accurate in air rifle barrels that are designed to use lead pellets.
Hard Air Magazine: H&N has an excellent reputation for product quality. Can you tell us something about how H&N obtains such incredible consistency in its products?
Florian Schwartz: It’s a combination of three factors. First of all our motivated and highly skilled team. Second our machines and equipment. We invest in new machines and state of the art equipment on a high rate continuously. Third our processes. Our quality testing organization put everything to the test and is constantly checking our output. This results in consistency we know serious airgun shooters need.
Hard Air Magazine: Do different regions/countries of the world have different preferences in pellets?
Florian Schwartz: Due to different national gun laws, the preferences are quite different in the world. In Europe, especially Germany, the classic .177 caliber Wadcutter for 10m target shooting is the most popular type. The US-shooters, being hunting orientated, prefer either the Baracuda domed-head pellet or the Baracuda Hunter Extreme hollow point pellet. And the larger calibers above .22 are becoming ever more popular.
Hard Air Magazine: Do you see big bore airgun pellets as an area of opportunity for H&N?
Florian Schwartz: Definitely! We have the demand to produce air gun pellets for every purpose and for every caliber. The challenge is that there are no standards for the calibers of big bore barrels and we might need to come up with 2 or 3 head sizes for each caliber. That makes it challenging for dealers to keep so many products in stock.
Hard Air Magazine: What do you see in the future for airgun pellets?
Florian Schwartz: Due to the technical developments on the one hand and legal restriction for firearms on the other the global market for air guns will continue to grow. I believe that the requirements regarding precision and, in case of hunting pellets, terminal performance for air gun pellets will grow even faster.
Hard Air Magazine: Florian, thank you very much, it’s been great to talk to you! Thanks also for traveling here to meet U.S. shooters and talking to Hard Air Magazine. I look forward to seeing you again at the IWA Show in Germany in 2018!