SSK Firearms: A Pioneer In Cartridge & Arms Design

posted on August 20, 2022
SSK Industries

SSK Industries was founded by J.D. Jones—recognized as one of the industry’s foremost when it comes to creating innovative wildcat cartridges and cutting-edge firearm designs—in 1977. He brought a wealth of knowledge to the business, having learned to cast bullets and reload from a local gunsmith, later working with Lee Jurras in the early 1960s in the development of Super Vel Ammunition, the industry’s earliest entry into the high-performance handgun cartridges market. 

His business, at first, centered around handgun hunting. Jones was passionate about the pursuit since he was 13, and by 1969, he was already improving the performance and accuracy of the T/C Contenders he preferred to take afield. It didn’t take long before the company had an enviable reputation for creating highly accurate barrels for the rifle-cartridge-chambered handguns, and those created for his wildcat cartridges were the most popular.

A few of the cartridges he’s pioneered include the 6.5 mm JDJ, 6.5 JDJ #2, .309 JDJ and .375 JDJ, among others. None, however, were as much of a Goliath as his .950 JDJ that fired a 3,600-grain bullet. Muzzle velocity was 2,200 f.p.s., which translates to a shoulder-thumping 36,683 ft.-lbs. of energy as it left an 85-lb. rifle.

The endeavor was more of an experiment rather than an effort to produce dozens of the guns. Despite that fact, he still had to be granted a “sporting use” exception from ATF to build them. Only three were made, and the company stopped producing ammunition for the intrepid trio of owners in 2014.

Arguably, the company’s most important development began in the 1990s, when Jones launched research that led to his .300 Whisper. It runs in properly chambered AR-15s, uses standard 5.56 NATO magazines and, when using a suppressor with subsonic loads, lives up to its name.

“Since its inception, the .300 Whisper has been effectively used for hunting, target and silhouette shooting, animal damage control and law enforcement, as well as more clandestine operations most of us will never hear about,” Aaron Carter wrote for American Rifleman. “Knowing military and law enforcement professionals’ affinity for .30-cal. bullets and that ballistically superior projectiles better maintain velocity for increased downrange energy, flatter trajectory and less wind deflection, Jones designed the new cartridge around Sierra's then-available 250-grain MatchKing, the most advanced long-range bullet of the time.” A nearly identical version of the cartridge was later accepted by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute for standardization under the .300 Blackout name.

Lehigh Defense acquired SSK industries in 2019 and, with the help and guidance of Jones, rebranded it SSK Firearms. The company’s accessories and barrels are manufactured in Wintersville, Ohio, while gunsmithing work takes place in Quakertown, Penn.—where corporate headquarters is also located.

In early 2022, Bill Wilson, of Wilson Combat fame, announced he had acquired the bullet and ammunition manufacturing arm—and name—of Lehigh Defense. SSK Firearms is once again fully focused on the guns that helped J.D. Jones build the company’s reputation for products that perform at the firing line and in the hunting fields.


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