High Speed, High Class: The History Of Weatherby

High Speed, High Class: The History Of Weatherby

A look at the history of Weatherby and its uncompromising commitment to ballistic innovation, top-notch manufacturing and the American dream.

Roy Weatherby started his company’s namesake in 1945. Now, three generations of Weatherby leadership later, there are no signs of Roy’s vision slowing down—just like the cartridges he designed more than 75 years ago.

Much has been written about the gregarious Roy E. Weatherby, and how one of the most prolific and innovative firearms manufacturers of all time began. Fans and competitors alike know well the story of how Roy started his sporting goods company right after World War II, building one rifle at a time. Some may even know that Roy’s inspiration for his need for ballistic speed was a less-than-stellar Utah hunting experience he had early (1942) in his career. He wanted a better cartridge for the hunter to be successful—and the game hunted to suffer less.

So, Roy tinkered. He innovated. He pushed successful cartridges well beyond their comfort zones, and when his wildcat cartridges needed a stronger firearm, he built one with the Mark V action in 1958. As Roy’s customer base increased, so did their want and need for firearms. In 1967, Roy added shotguns to his arsenal. In 1970, he added the Vanguard line of rifles to cater to Weatherby fans who wanted his firearms in non-Weatherby cartridges.

Weatherby’s outgrew its space, and, in 1951, relocated to Firestone Boulevard just around the corner from the original store. It housed the store, gun shops, offices and even a 100-yard underground rifle range. Sportsmen and women came from far and near to visit Weatherby’s. (Photo credits: Weatherby).

What About Today?

Philosophically, not much has changed since 1945, because the Weatherby family has mastered remaining the same while being different.

“As I look at Weatherby today, there are three main things that set us apart,” said Adam Weatherby. “One: ballistic superiority. Two: quality craftsmanship. And, three: brand prestige. These three things have largely got us to where we are today.”

And it appears that a thirst for velocity, ballistic innovation and firearm craftsmanship are hereditary. First observed in Roy in 1945, the Weatherby way was evident in his son, Ed, when he took over in 1983, and again in his grandson, Adam, who took the helm of Weatherby in 2017.

“My grandfather started Weatherby Inc. in 1945 as a result of his passion for ballistic superiority and ultra-high velocity,” Adam said. “His drive to deliver quality craftsmanship and superior service created a multi-generational firearm and ammunition business that I get the pleasure of running today.

Roy Edward Weatherby founded Weatherby, Inc., in 1945.

“My father taught me the ethics of shooting and hunting from a young age, and I’m very grateful for that,” Adam continued. “I have had the opportunity to share many hunts and experiences with some incredible folks in the industry over the years. Since I was brought up in the family business, I could rely on industry professionals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting along the way. Honestly, Bruce Pettet (CEO, Leupold) has been one of those guys for me. Having been a CEO for the last couple of decades, he provides me with insight and advice from an outside perspective that has been very influential.”

Still, there’s another layer to Adam that few may know, which has helped evolve Adam and the Sheridan, Wyoming, company into what they are today.

“Many people may not know this, but I left the family business for several years as I worked in full-time Christian ministry,” Adam said. “I would not go back and trade those years for anything. As I spent that time focusing on peoples’ lives and the things that matter the most, it helped prepare me to lead the business I now find myself in. I truly have a passion for firearms and the outdoors, but that doesn’t compare to the importance of caring for people and seeing them pursue what is most important.”

While Roy Weatherby’s cartridge development was driven by speed first and foremost, in the 6.5 RPM Adam Weatherby sought to maximize speed while staying in the smaller, lighter six-lug Mark V action. The result was the fastest 6.5 that could be made to fit, allowing for a hunting rifle weighing just 4.9 pounds.

Lofty Goals Of Excellence

What exactly should today’s Weatherby customer expect under Adam’s leadership?

“When a customer chooses a Weatherby, they’re getting a firearm from a multi-generational, family owned U.S. business that has provided a premium product for decades,” Adam said. “That heritage and history is combined with a drive for innovation, delivering a unique, premium product line within the shooting and hunting space.”

Looking forward, Adam focuses on what he wants the Weatherby brand to be to ensure the brand lives on generations from now.

“I hope that Weatherby will always be a premium brand in the outdoor space,” said Adam. “The risks involved with relocating the business a few years ago were taken on to ensure the brand’s ability to thrive as we look toward the future.”

One of Adam Weatherby’s innovations is the Mark V Backcountry 2.0 Ti. Weighing 4.7 pounds, and 4.9 pounds in magnum chamberings, this is the lightest in the Backcountry 2.0 family.

While well-built firearms and super-fast cartridges are synonymous with all of the Weatherby’s, what may stand out as Adam’s pivotal business triumph wasn’t a ballistic decision—but a geographic one.

“My grandfather and father were able to lay a foundation for a world-renowned firearm and ammunition brand,” Adam continued. “I now have the incredible privilege of building on that foundation. Our move to Wyoming in 2019 has helped propel us into the future as we pursue not only innovation, but also vertical integration in what I would consider the most gun-friendly and business-friendly state in the country. We have grown and established an incredible team in Sheridan, Wyoming, that not only love what they do but have the unique opportunity of living at the feet of the Bighorn Mountains.”

In 2019, Weatherby officially moved from Paso Robles, California, to Sheridan, Wyoming, creating more than 70 jobs.

Adam’s Weatherby isn’t without its unique challenges, however. The ongoing COVID-19 troubles spared no one—even the firearms industry.

“Whereas some companies are highly affected by the boom/bust of political spikes, those market fluctuations affect our brand less because our product line differs from many of those companies,” Adam said. “Without a doubt, the largest external influence this past year has been the supply chain challenges we have faced.”

Pandemics aside, Adam and Weatherby have continued to navigate the firearms manufacturing community differently than many. Adam said an example of a different direction for Weatherby is their decision to continue providing a premium product regarding their rifle offerings.

“During the past decade, there was a race to the bottom to provide the rifles at an incredibly low price,” Adam said. “Although some of our competitors were able to do this and increase volumes successfully, it was a strategic decision for us to not go below a certain price point. We used that opportunity to ‘feature up’ our products to add more value. In the end, it has worked very well for our brand.”

Adam Weatherby with the first animal ever taken with his new cartridge, the 6.5 RPM.

What does the future hold for the firearms community and, more specifically, Weatherby?

“As for the firearms industry, I wish I knew,” Adam said. “These past couple years have been some crazy ones, and the answer to this question takes some excellent crystal ball reading skills. As for Weatherby, we will continue to take advantage of our recent brand momentum and look toward the future with innovation and new product launches, while paying attention to the quality and service that our company was founded upon. I sure would love to think that Weatherby’s best years are still to come.”

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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