Business

Emmett ammo maker’s Drone Munitions draw attention

Casey Betzold, founder of Snake River Shooting Products in Emmett, said he doesn’t expect customers of his company’s line of Drone Munitions to actually shoot down drones.

Nevertheless, the first run of 96 cases of shotgun shells has nearly sold out less than two weeks after release, Betzold told the Idaho Statesman. Snake River Shooting Products, which has four employees, plans to ramp up its second run to 500 cases that will be available in some ammo stores as well as online.

Sales received a bump from coverage by national outlets, including the Washington Post and high-traffic blogs such as the Drudge Report, Betzold said.

The idea for the product came from the website Luckygunner.com, currently the only store carrying the ammo, Betzold said. In 2013, the site posted a prank article about anti-drone rounds as an April Fool’s joke. Positive customer feedback spurred Luckygunner employees and Betzold to discuss making a real product.

“They said if it was real, they could have sold lots and lots of it,” Betzold said. “And now they’ve almost sold out the first batch from us.”

Boxes of Drone Munitions play up the threat presented by small, quad-copter drones, with pictures of drones and the words, “Down drones!,” “The invasion of privacy!,” and “Prepare for the drone apocalypse!”

The 3-inch-long shells contain steel pellets that Betzold says are basically high-end goose shot that Luckygunner.com sells for $22 per box. They were released in concert with a “controlled aerial target” being produced by a partner company that will soon hit the market, Betzold said.

Drone Munitions are sent with disclaimers saying shooting down drones is illegal except in cases of self defense. “We expect the rounds will almost never be used to shoot down drones, unless things get really bad,” he said.

Betzold, a former Air Force captain who lives near Coeur d’Alene, started the company in 2012. Sales have grown “into the millions,” he said.

Betzold said he’s a fan of small drones and knows people who use them for practical and safe purposes, including photography for advertising and marketing. The Drone Munitions marketing has brought attention to debates about drone privacy issues and comes amid increased reports of drones flying around airports and wildfires endangering aircraft, Betzold said.

“The marketing is a bold attempt, some as a jest-based attention getter, to bring awareness to something very serious,” he said.

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