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WATCH: Couple manufactures ammunition on their North Dakota farm

CAYUGA, N.D.--According to Charissa Rubey, farming can be a little bit like a nasty drug habit. "It's something so expensive and you can't quit, so you need to do something else to support your nasty little habit," Rubey jokes. The native of Sout...

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CAYUGA, N.D.-According to Charissa Rubey, farming can be a little bit like a nasty drug habit.

"It's something so expensive and you can't quit, so you need to do something else to support your nasty little habit," Rubey jokes.

The native of Southern California has been farming since 1994 when she moved here with her husband, Dave Rubey, to take over his family's farm.

They launched their business, Dakota Micro, in 2001. The company manufactures Ag Cams and a variety of other surveillance systems.

While Dakota Micro has become quite successful over the years, the Rubeys recently decided it would be wise to invest in something independent of the ag industry.

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"I saw ag starting to go down. When the land rental bubble started, you could see the writing on the wall," Rubey said. "Land around here should be maybe $2,500 an acre and it was going for $7,000. We knew that wasn't sustainable, so we started talking about where we could diversify."

These 9mm Projectiles will be used to make ammunition at Dakota Munitions, Inc. in Cayuga, N.D.David Samson / The Forum

They discussed making everything from "solar panels to lollipops," but settled on ammunition.

 

They had talked about producing ammunition a few years back, but decided against it because securing the necessary machinery and product was nearly impossible. Now that the market has cooled a bit, they decided now was the time.

In October, they launched Dakota Munitions. The couple owns the business with three of their most-valued Dakota Micro employees - Jennifer Trittin, Shawn Schafer and Randy Schneider.

Ag Cam

Dave Rubey came up with the idea for the Ag Cam after undergoing surgery for a herniated disk. The neck brace he was forced to wear made it nearly impossible to see while driving the combine. When he couldn't find a camera system that would help, he set out to build one himself.

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Charissa Rubey shows off the different types of primer caps at Dakota Munitions, Inc. in Cayuga, N.D.David Samson / The Forum

The Rubeys found it so helpful that they asked their local implement dealer if he thought he could sell them. He said absolutely, as long as they were priced under $1,000.

 

Charissa Rubey said they lost money that first year because they bought all of the components retail.

Today, they build a majority of the parts in a manufacturing facility they built onto Dave Rubey's childhood home. The ammo is produced there as well.

Why ammo?

Charissa Rubey said adding ammunition was relatively easy.

"We have all of our processes in place for manufacturing. It doesn't matter if you're manufacturing a widget or a lollipop, it's the same," she said.

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Charissa Rubey talks about the business of manufacturing ammunition at Dakota Munitions, Inc. in Cayuga, N.D.David Samson / The

They decided to produce ammunition because about 60 percent is made outside the U.S., primarily in the Eastern Bloc like Russia and the Ukraine. Rubey said she believes there is a strong market for ammunition built here.

 

Mike Muhonen, manager of the Outdoorsman in Fargo, tested the ammo out himself before deciding to carry it at the store.

"I tested it and I sent it out with some customers to test before I bought into it, and everyone seemed to be really pleased," he said.

Muhonen said it's a high-quality product that he expects will be fairly popular.

Charissa Rubey explains how an ammuntion load machine works at Dakota Munitions, Inc. in Cayuga, N.D.David Samson / The Forum

Dakota Munitions started out producing pistol ammunition and plans to add rifle ammo in the fall.

 

One caliber they don't plan to produce, at least not in the near future, is the .22 even though media outlets have reported a shortage.

One reason is that the .22 has a rimfire, which requires a machine with a price tag of about $1.2 million. Charissa Rubey said another reason is that they're really "not worth it."

"The .223 rounds that are so popular, it uses the same projectile and machinery that goes into making the .22. Companies can make 50 cents a round making .223 or 8 cents a round doing a .22," she said. "That's why .22s are hard to find. They're not worth it."

She said Dakota Munitions doesn't want to be known for producing the cheapest ammo either. They take pride in quality.

These 9mm Projectiles will be used to make ammunition at Dakota Munitions, Inc. in Cayuga, N.D.David Samson / The Forum

"We don't do cheap. We don't even know how to do cheap around here," she said. "We make quality electronics and the idea of making cheap ammunition, we couldn't even wrap our heads around it."

 

Charissa Rubey said they have not been in business long enough to say for certain how the gun-control debate will affect business, but one thing she's not worried about is the election.

"If Hillary is elected, she's anti-gun and bullet sales will go up," she said. "If it's Trump and he puts tariffs on imports, domestic bullet sales are going to go up. Either way, you have a win."

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA
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