Explosion Lake City Army Ammunition Plant Leaves One Dead

On April 11th, the Lake City Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri suffered another explosion, killing one worker and injuring 4 more employees. This explosion took place in the part of the complex that mixes chemicals for primers. The plant was recently award a large military contract worth $92 million for 5.56mm and 7.62mm rifle ammunition.

“Making ammunition is dangerous work, and our employees risk their lives to protect our men and women in uniform,” Lt. Col. Eric Dennis, the officer in command of the Lake City facility, stated. He continued, “This is a sacrifice they make to support our country, and I am humbled by the ultimate sacrifice this employee made today.”

The plant is owned by the U.S. government, and has been operated by ATK since 2000. Olin (Winchester Ammunition) and Remington have operated the facility under contract in the past.


This is not the first explosion at this plant. In March 2001, an explosion injured 6 workers in the area where cartridges are made. The plant has been fined by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for safety issues in 2008, 2011 and 2012.
ATK was fined $5,600 in 2011, for “serious” issues with highly hazardous chemicals when 2,800 workers were exposed. OSHA graded this situation as a “gravity 10” rating, the highest level the agency gives in their rating system.

Previously, In August 1981, a worker suffered severe burns and later died when 175 pounds of the igniter mix exploded. Later in 1984, another explosion started a fire in a storage building, though no injuries were reported. Then in December 1990, another worker died when the primer mixture exploded.
The plant is located on nearly 4,000 acres and also operates NATO’s test center. It has over 400 buildings, 9 warehouses and 700,000 square feet of storage. Lake City employs 28 people, 27 of whom are civilians. The plan has the capacity to make 1.4 billion rounds annually. You can distinguish Lake City produced ammunition by their “LC” headstamp.

Have you shot Lake City ammunition before? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

29 Comments On This Article

  1. ‘Serious”, ‘gravity 10’ rated issue exposing 2800 workers to ‘highly hazardous chemicals’, resulted in a fine of only 5600$. Pathetic on the part of OSHA and our fed govt who contracts deep pocket corporations to run this facility.

    • I’m confused by this. Whose 2800 workers were exposed? The article says they employ 28. What happened to the other 2772 between then and now?

  2. ATK is the parent company of Federal, makers of the best ammo available. I use only Federal ammo in all of my weapons.

    • The US Air Force used to buy the cheapest ammo they could find, back in 1986-1990, when we used .22 adapters for M16 training. That ammo was the crappiest rounds imaginable, and they were Federal. I guess Federal has made some progress, since then. I do like their hollow point handgun ammo.

      • We used to qualify every other year in the 70’s, the 80’s turned to cheaper and the m-16’s were filthy when broke down to clean. The 90’s lowered itself to .22 then laser crap, after 1998 no more bi-annual qualification. I Guess the enemy won’t overrun a camp or pfd

  3. I have shot Lake City ammunition in the past and it has always been top quality. Federal currently runs the plant. Federal is my preferred brand of ammunition to buy.

  4. I fired thousands of LC rounds from 30/06 through 308 and 5.56 and 45 ACP. The quality has always been there, regardless of which company was responsible for running the plant. If ATK is having trouble maintaining the expected safety levels then perhaps it is time for the management to change again. Making ammunition, especially artillery and other ‘large caliber’ types, cannot be made 100% safe but failing multiple OSHA inspections is very disappointing and worrisome. I expect this current accident and the litigation relating to it will be used by the media to further embarrass the industry, the administration, shooting in general and the military.

  5. I Ave shot Lake City and have reloaded the brass , I have never found brass from them to be unreloadable Federal is old too!

    • The military rounds Lake City produces are crimped and need to be swaged to be able to reload them again. After that they are great reloadable brass. It’s a great way to know they truly are once fired if you have to swage them to put new primers in.

  6. Federal Ammo has tendency to jam in my AMT Auto-mag 22 mag. The only Ammo that is consistent is Winchester ball powered ammo. Never jams nor misfires.

  7. Primer material is, by definition, explosive. It is amazing that there are so few such incidents.

    If you can get to Delaware, visit the old DuPont Powder Works. It is fascinating.

    • Yeah I was kind of wondering about the efficiency of that scenario myself. Wouldn’t mind having some of that 4000 acres. It’s not like 28 people can use all that. :p. But hey, that’s government for you…

  8. I have used Lake City nothing but the best. As well it should be when our man and women in uniform have there life on the line for you and I. My deepest respect for the employees at Lake city.

  9. I used to help oversee the security contract for Lake City and the security of the ammo once it was completed. The plant was first class back then. Super people producing a super product. And I have shot thousands of their rounds, and I did not or do not now get free samples. And the 400 buildings —- to answer Aardvark, the vast majority are storage for either the finished or raw products.

  10. Aardvark – I wondered about that number of employees, also. There is, obviously, something not included in the article.

    Having worked, a time or two, for an M&O contractor (Management & Operating) on a government facility, it would not be unheard of for an organization like ATK to have a relatively small number of ‘direct employees’ – like 28 – as managers over large parts of the operation, with hundreds (if not thousands) of subcontractor employees doing the actual production work. That would seem more logical, to me, than to presume that such a sprawling, active, productive complex could really be staffed with such a small number of employees.

  11. I live about 50 miles from lake city and have many friends that work there. Maybe they meant that 28 people work for the lake city installation but ATK employs around 4000 people there. There are people that have worked there for many years and never meet each other employees that have too been there for many years. The place is huge.

  12. I was active duty Army for over 20 years. I assume there had to be a large amount of LC mixed into the thousands of rounds I fired in those years, if not all of it. For some reason, I can clearly recall the fact that I never, in all those years, ever had any FTFs due directly to ammunition failure. Now that’s impressive quality control for whoever was making it.

  13. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the person who died, and I wish a speedy recovery to those that were injured. Thanks to all of the fine folks at Lake City.

  14. “Shot LC before?” Considered the standard by which all other issued ‘match ammo’ was judged for service rifle competition in 7.62 and ’06.
    There was a period when Olin operated Lake City after Remington that the M118 match ammo was not good. Federal LC M852 Match (loaded w/Sierra 168MK) rivaled ‘commercial’ Federal GM 308. M118LR w/Sierra 175MK is the standard for 500m/600yd competition w/.30 cals. Have used both M118 and M852 to earn Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge using M14/M1A’s.

  15. Lake City ammo is the “Gold Standard” for me. I have fired thousands of rounds of LC 7.62 NATO and 30-06 (match and ball ammo) without a single misfire. I fired National High Power matches in the 1970’s and 1980’s and saw a lot of LC ammo used without a single misfire. I have a small quantity of LC 62 national match (30-06) ammo and fired a few rounds a couple of years ago and no misfires. I fired several cans of LC 67 and LC 76 30-06 ball ammo in the last few years and never a misfire.