Norma erected its first factory in Åmotfors by 1911 and moved out of the two-room building originally acquired in 1902. In 1914, Norma started loading 6.5x55 mm Swedish ammunition using once-fired military brass. But not enough military brass was available to meet demand, so in 1917 Norma began making its own. Norma ammunition soon became world-class and was used to set two Olympic records in the ’20s and ’30s. During this period, the company had also begun to manufacture hunting ammunition.
World War II brought with it a demand from the Swedish government that Norma be put on a war footing. The factory grew from 150 to more than 600 employees, but Norma had to surrender its secret bullet-making process. During the war, Norma primarily made small arms ammunition but focused on hunting and target ammunition after the military contracts disappeared.
Nine years after the war ended, Roy Weatherby came to Norma with some radically designed cartridges and the company assisted Weatherby with his cartridge development; to this day Norma loads Weatherby ammunition. American gunwriter Phil Sharpe also came to Norma for brass cases and ammunition for his 7 mm wildcat cartridge—the 7x61 Sharpe & Hart.
In 1959 came the .358 Norma Mag., capable of pushing a 250-grain bullet to 2,800 fps. In 1960, Norma released the .308 Norma Mag., which caught on due to its external ballistics being slightly better than those of the .30-’06 Sprg. Around the same time Norma began offering two hunting bullets; the Silverblixt (Silverflash) and the Alaska. The Silverblixt was a dual-core bullet with a hardened lead rear core to help with weight retention and penetration, and a softer lead front core to aid with expansion and tissue destruction. The Alaska bullet had a homogenous lead core and a generous soft-point. Both had gilding metal (95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc) jackets.
Norma also began loading Nosler bullets and, during the early days of the .223 Armalite (which would later become the .223 Rem.), the company developed loads and provided ammunition. Cartridge cases and ammunition for classic British cartridges by Kynoch and the IMI Company were also manufactured by Norma.
In 1965, Norma was sold, then was sold again 10 years later with the Enger family giving up its interest in the company. Norma was sold yet again after four years, and the name changed to FFV-Norma AB. During this period, Norma also became engaged in the Bren Ten project with a U.S. company; Dornaus and Dixon. As much interest as this pistol generated, it was not robust enough to handle the 10 mm cartridge and faded from grace, even with the support of Col. Jeff Cooper preaching its virtues.
The 1990s saw the emergence of the modern day Norma. Dynamit Nobel purchased Norma, and imports to the United States were handled by the Dynamit Nobel sales company of RWS, Inc. Shortly afterward, Norma engineers developed the 6 mm PPC cartridge and a new 6.5 mm match bullet called the VLD (Very Low Drag), the latter with the help of the late American Rifleman Ballistics Editor William C. Davis, Jr. Norma also introduced the 6 mm Norma Bench Rest cartridge and, in 1995, began production of bonded bullets. The maker also switched from the copper crusher pressure measuring system to the more modern and precise Piezo-electric method. And, in 1999, Norma legitimized the popular 6.5 mm-.284 cartridge, which was based on the .284 Win., now known as the 6.5 mm-.284 Norma.
In 2002, Norma and RWS were acquired by RUAG of Thun, Switzerland. Norma currently manufactures cartridge brass for many companies and offers a wide selection of hunting and target ammunition for more than 50 cartridges. Norma continues to develop new cartridges too; it has its new .300 and .338 Magnums and recently helped Blaser develop four new cartridges. Norma’s line of hunting bullets continues to expand.
While overseas for a moose hunt in late 2011, I visited the Swedish factory. In addition to observing the manufacture of cartridge brass and bullets, I spent time with the very knowledgeable Christer Larsson, a Norma ballistics engineer, and Don Heath, who is a former African professional hunter and currently in charge of research and development.
Being somewhat of a bullet geek, that’s where my curiosity dug deepest, but I was also amazed at the process by which cartridge cases were manufactured. Actually, it was not so much the manufacture of the cases that intrigued me, it was the level of quality control exerted over this process. Samples from each batch are pulled and tested with high-tech equipment to ensure that the dimensions and hardness meet Norma’s specifications, or those of their clients. Then, every piece of brass is inspected visually as it rolls by human eyes. It’s because of this stringent dedication to quality that Norma brass has such a good reputation, and it is why so many other manufacturers turn to Norma for brass.
For me, Norma has always represented quality; and during my early days of experimenting with firearms, Norma was known as “the source” for ammunition when working with European cartridges. Norma still offers ammunition for many of the cartridges that manufacturers here in the States ignore such as the 5.6x52 mm R, 6.5 Carcano, 6.5 Japanese Arisaka, 6XC, 7.5x55 mm Swiss, 7x57 mm R, 9.3x57 mm, and the list goes on.
For the more contemporary hunter or shooter, Norma offers a line of ammunition full of all the usual suspects, including .222 Rem., .223 Rem., .22-.250 Rem., .243 Win., .270 Win., 270 WSM, .280 Rem., .308 Win., .300 WSM, and even some not so popular cartridges such as .35 Whelen, .404 Jeffery, .416 Taylor and .505 Gibbs.