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Partnering with FN Herstal for effective technology transfer

Over their lifetimes, small arms in the hands of armed forces typically fire thousands of rounds of live ammunition. This adds up to considerable expense, as well as a risk of foreign dependence, which makes establishing ammunition production facilities a good option for many countries. FN Herstal, renowned for producing both weapons and ammunition, is an exemplar of a company able to transfer the requisite technology for ammunition production.

When the Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre – today known as FN Herstal – was established in 1889, it agreed to produce 150,000 Mauser rifles plus 30 million cartridges. Although the company had no experience in pyrotechnic production, it made the crucial and correct decision that it could effectively manufacture ammunition as well as rifles.

This first step ensured valuable expertise was gained. Since that successful twin birth of small arms and ammunition more than a century ago, each of these families in FN Herstal’s lineage has grown exponentially over the years.

Beyond that, FN Herstal has helped other countries establish similar ammunition capabilities through transfer of technology projects. Sometimes this involves setting up manufacturing facilities from scratch, or it may entail helping them expand or modernise existing ammunition plants.

“In manufacturing, technology transfer is the process
by which one organisation can help another build skills and knowledge,
as well as introduce new technologies, for the purpose of indigenous production
of goods that benefit local economic growth and reduce foreign dependency.”

What form does such help take? Depending on a client’s needs, FN Herstal can transfer technology and supplies. For instance, it can select and supply equipment, provide personnel training, and offer support in early stages of production. Other forms of assistance include guidance in sourcing raw materials, offering practical expertise in production management, and maintaining quality control.

FN Herstal is currently in charge of the most important project of the last 10-15 years, consisting of four lines covering most of the NATO calibres, including 12.7.

A fine legacy

As a producer of ammunition in popular calibres like 9x19mm, 5.56x45mm, 5.7x28mm, 7.62x51mm and 12.7x 99mm – as well as widely fielded NATO weapons like the FN® MAG or FN MINIMI®  – the company is uniquely placed to ensure perfect compatibility between firearms and ammunition.

Learn more about our ammunition products here.

FN Herstal’s own ammunition production is centred in Belgium and is split between Herstal – close to Liège – for metal components such as cartridge cases and projectiles, and Zutendaal for pyrotechnical elements, including primers and specific projectiles.

In fact, FN Herstal holds the distinction of contributing to the design of the 7.62x51mm NATO projectile, and it was designated as the designer of the 5.56x45mm NATO projectile (SS109 ball and L110 tracer rounds). Furthermore, it produced the reference batch of 12.7x99mm NATO cartridges as well as the recently approved NATO 5.7x28mm calibre, which is used on submachine guns and pistols. Notably, FN Herstal was the first company in the world to receive NATO qualification for its 5.56mm ammunition production lines.

Supported by its own ballistics and materials resistance laboratories, such achievements in these popular Western calibres underscore the manufacturer’s remarkable reputation in the realm of ammunition.

It goes without saying that it is not easy to produce millions of cartridges to identical standards, but this is absolutely necessary to ensure quality. Rounds cannot be “fixed” if there is an imperfection, so they must be made exactly right the first time. Projectiles must not only meet NATO STANAG specifications regarding aspects like accuracy, dimensions and weight, but also the even more demanding, self-imposed quality standards of FN Herstal.

To achieve this, any self-respecting production line requires state-of-the-art equipment, raw materials that comply with specifications, rigorous application of production processes, and strict quality control over every stage of the production cycle.

Well-packaged and collaborative tech transfer

FN Herstal is the world’s only small arms company able to provide full turnkey packages for setting up ammunition production facilities. While the company defines the specific characteristics of the ammunition manufacturing machines, it has no ownership of machine makers. This degree of separation means it is free to choose the best machining solution for each customer and takes full responsibility of the integration.

If the goal was only to install machines, then the relationship would falter. That is why FN Herstal pursues a collaborative policy to ensure full proficiency on the customer’s part. If required, it can help with facility design such as layouts of equipment and storage areas, or to meet safety requirements.

FN Herstal can recommend suppliers of propellant powders, as it has long-term partners. It can install automatic visual control machines with cameras able to examine up to 250 rounds per minute, searching for defects like scratches, mouth shape, primer or primer varnish presence, and concentricity between ball and case.

Also on offer is dedicated information technology software covering production, maintenance and logistics management, as well as statistical process control software for quality control records and analysis. All of this helps reduce scrappage rates and save the customer money. Such tracking systems also help the client with stock management of raw materials, consumables, spare parts and production tools.

As part of its technology transfer packages, the company provides timely support with an interdisciplinary team from its European base, as well as an on-site support team. Full training is available from FN Herstal, machine manufacturers, and Technifutur, Belgium’s largest training centre located just 15km from FN.


FN Herstal ammunition has achieved a hard-won reputation with both Belgian and foreign customers as being reliable and of high quality. Its century-plus experience in the ammunition field causes it to stand out as an ideal partner for anyone planning to create an ammunition production facility from scratch, or who wishes to expand, adapt, and upgrade an existing plant.

Any questions or advice? Get in touch with our team of experts