On October 10, 2010 (that’s right, 10/10/10), a pioneer crossed the summit between this world and the next. If you’re a firearms and reloading enthusiast, you probably knew his name. If you are a hunter, you should.
John Nosler, 97, was a hunter, engineer, innovator, and pioneer in the field of bullet-making—he was a self-made man. Like any self-made man who has been successful, he understood the importance of relationships—no one has ever become successful being a loner.
Nosler’s personal telephone book over the years included some of the other vanguards of the firearms industries, some of them very well-known because of their writing, like Elmer Keith, Jack O’Connor and Chub Eastman (he wrote the memoir’s foreword), some remembered through their own mark in the bullet and reloading industry: Fred Huntington, founder of RCBS; Hornady founder Joyce Hornady; and Speer Bullets founder Vernon Speer, to name a few.
This was a history not only of cartridge and rifle component making, but the story of America pulling itself out of dire economic straits and moving through what many might call the heyday of American might and wherewithal.
At the open of the book, the reader is introduced to John Nosler as a child in Southern California. It’s a wonderful vignette to how most of America was very much rural, and that surburban was a term to come about after the major industrial push into cities after World War II, with the resulting need for workers to not completely lose that connection to the wilds.
In the second chapter we learn about Nosler’s love of all things mechanical, often roadsters and rifles. This natural interest in machines led to his employment at the Ford Motor Company. Through Ford, John Nosler arrived in Reedsport, Oregon: not the place to try selling autos during the Great Depression, much less immediately after an influx of labor unions and a major layoff at the local lumber yard.
A job change and start of a trucking company quickly ensued. The center of Shakespeare Theater on the West Coast, an idyllic western town that drew my own grandmother to live with her aunt immediately after the loss of her parents in a murder-suicide in Chicago in 1914; Ashland, Oregon also, later drew the Nosler family and would become the initial headquarters of the Nosler Partition Bullet Company in 1948.
What were few opportunities in Southern California for deer hunting were replaced with a plethora of deer, elk and black bear in Oregon. A love for shooting was supported well at the Ashland Gun Club, an environment supportive of healthy understandings of firearms and shooting.
Nosler moved its headquarters to Bend in 1958, incorporating in 1960 into what we recognize with distinction as Nosler Bullets, Inc. Bend was very smart in offering incentive to Nosler, which would be a very beneficial venture for Nosler and the local populace.
To think that the famous Nosler Partition Jacket Bullet that has led to the improved kill ratios on big-game around the world came about as the result of John Nosler’s almost losing a moose on one of his earlier hunts in British Columbia, a time when a hunting trip up to Canada could be as challenging as a safari in Africa during its peak in the late 1920s and early 1930s, of which Ruark and Hemingway wrote.
Banking on his own intellectual resourcefulness that led him to a number of successes at Ford, and his own trucking company, in positions that most people now couldn’t apply for without a university degree, Nosler designed his Partition and created the company that has brought about so many innovations in bullet design over the last sixty-two years.
John Nosler: Going Ballistic – The Life and Adventures of John Nosler, a memoir that came about through many hours of Gary Lewis’s recorded interviews with John Nosler in 2003, goes into much more depth than could ever be captured of a man’s life in a magazine article, even the designing of the bullets that have become the crowning glories of the company, such as the Nosler Partition that started it all, the Zipedo, a bullet offering I didn’t even know about until I read the book, the Ballistic Tip, which I shot my first blacktail with near California’s Lake Almanor in the mid-1980s, and the bullet that has quickly become one of my favorites, if not my favorite, the Nosler Accubond, marrying the best qualities of Nosler’s offerings: the accuracy of the Ballistic Tip, and the penetration and energy delivery to the animal’s vitals of the Nosler Partition.
Nosler seems to have been part of many firsts of my life. Just last Saturday, I used the Accubond to shoot my first California mule deer in Modoc County. The shot wasn’t ideal (only offered a view of the buck’s rear, with the deer looking back over its shoulder, ready to take off straight away from me at 200 yards), but with my Model 70 Super Grade solid on shooting sticks, I took the shot, confident that if I didn’t hit the spine with my ½ MOA rifle, by using the base of the tail as a target, the bullet would still do its job.
When we got to the buck that expired within 10 yards of where it had been hit, I was delighted at how the .270 caliber 130 gr. Accubond bullet had done what it was supposed to: deliver high shock and deep penetration. It was a tricky shot and one that could have really made a mess. As it was, by the time I butchered the buck after four days aging in my garage, I not only had a completely undamaged liver that I had collected the evening of the shot, but had lost only a little bit of meat on the right inside of the buck’s ham, an inch from the base of the tail, to bloodshot where the Accubond entered. NOTE: I’d never have attempted such a shot without confidence in my shooting ability based on years of practice, or using a bullet I wasn’t sure would so efficiently retain its weight, mushrooming in a timely manner to deliver such lethality so far into the chest.
I’ve been impressed and continue to be impressed by the offerings John Nosler envisioned and I’m sure we’ll continue to see more as the next generations carry the Nosler flag—a legacy I’m delighted and honored to have had a peek into through the well-written, entertaining and informative John Nosler: Going Ballistic – The Life and Adventures of John Nosler.