Business hopes to outlast virus


By Alesha Capone

A family business that has been manufacturing ammunition in Melbourne’s west for around 40 years is hopeful that it will survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Ballantine Ammunition was founded by Mark Ballantine, an electrical engineer with Siemens, who went onto to work at Eley Ammunition, a division of ICI in Deer Park.

When ICI split their ammunition and chemical divisions, it formed another division to continue ammunition manufacturing under the Eley Ammunition title.

When Eley was discontinued, Mr Ballantine purchased the lead shot and clay target manufacturing section and obtained three Vacini cartridge-loading machines from Italy.

He leased a site in Deer Park, producing 12 gauge ammunition and targets, and later moved to an industrial area of Laverton North.

Mark’s son Tim, a keen clay target shooter, became chief executive of the company after his father passed away.

Company manager John Sawczak said the business, which sells to every state in Australia, was hoping to outlast the coronavirus pandemic. The business has five employees.

“With a bit of luck, this might push on,” Mr Sawczak said.

“We might have to shut-up soon, because we’re going to run out of components that we import from Italy and France, where we get most of our parts from.

“We should be able to continue manufacturing until June, but we might be lucky – we don’t know.”

Mr Sawczak said that being a wholesaler meant that Ballantine Ammunition had not been greatly affected by the state government’s decision to restrict the sale of firearms and ammunition.

Earlier this month, the state government announced a temporary ban on additional access to firearms and ammunition for recreation and sporting shooters.

Mr Sawczak said many shooting and recreational stores have been forced to shut down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re all in the same boat anyway, all the shops have closed,” he said.