SHREVEPORT, La. – No sooner had he made his last cast on the Potomac River and trucked home to Shreveport, La., then Bassmaster Elite Series pro Randy Allen had neatly stowed his boat, rods and tackle and replaced them with the tools of his other passion: protective earmuffs, shooting glasses and a .300 Winchester Magnum.
“This is really where I’m the most comfortable,” Allen jokes as he loads the .300 Magnum and sends three shots down-range into the dead center of the bullseye.
Like many Elite Series anglers, Allen lists hunting as a hobby. But Allen is not simply comfortable with a hunting rifle in his hand: He’s a savvy businessman who’s banking on the hunting and shooting industries as a major part of his offseason portfolio.
The Louisiana native – who is one of a small handful of anglers to qualify for and fish the Elites two different times (in 2008 and again in 2015) – has been the owner of an exotic hunting ranch in the Texas Hill Country near Lake Amistad (Rio Diablo Ranch) since 2008, and he recently acquired part ownership in Choice Ammunition, a custom-ammunition manufacturer based in Montana.
“I’ve been hunting since I was an 8-year-old carrying around a Red Ryder BB gun, plinking at birds,” Allen says. “It’s been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. I happened upon this opportunity to get involved in Choice Ammunition and saw it as a chance to work in an industry that I have a lot of love for and interest in.”
The brainchild of longtime Safari Club International regional director Jon Wemple, Choice Ammunition is one of a miniscule handful of American ammunition manufacturers who specialize in large-volume hand-loading of rifle and pistol rounds for hunting, shooting sports and law enforcement. The company’s 6,000-square-foot production facility in the Bitterroot Valley in Victor, Mont., is manned by a team of ballisticians and load technicians who meticulously hand-craft every one of the rounds that leave the building and make their way into the hands of Choice customers.
And there are a lot of them: Choice builds bullets for over 265 different rifle and pistol calibers, from a .204 rifle round for varmint hunters to a .416 Rigby favored by safari hunters pursuing massive, thick-skinned game like Cape buffalo and rhinos.
“It’s all that and everything in between,” Wemple says of Choice’s lineup, rattling off a list of pistol loads from .380 Hornady XTP for self-defense to .45 long Colt for cowboy action shooting. “It may sound like a bold statement, but our goal is to produce the most reliable, accurate round of ammunition available in the marketplace, for all calibers. We’re a 100-percent hand-load facility that operates on 100 percent proprietary formulas. Every one of our bullets is case gauged and hand-inspected before packaging, and we do 500 percent more test-fishing than the industry standard.”
The translation of all that, to Allen: The quality control of Choice’s bullets is astronomically higher than in any other ammunition-manufacturing process, which means dependability and consistency in the field.
“If you’ve hunted and shot enough, you’ve probably had a round misfire in a critical situation or had a bullet get lodged in the barrel,” he says. “When that happens, you truly understand the meaning of ‘The world comes to a screeching halt.’ This almost never happens on the range – it’s always in the field, when you’re 100 miles away from a gunsmith. It’s the most frustrating thing imaginable for a hunter, and it’s the biggest reason why I’m excited about the Choice product.”