This video gives you a peek inside one of three production lines at the Champion Target factory in Richmond, Ind. Two of them run all day, every day. One gets two days a week off. Thirty-six people run those three lines, which crank out 100 million targets a year, which works out to about 274,000 targets a day. Most of those are sold to the recreational market through big box stores. These are the clays you buy at Wal-Mart when you take your hand trap out for some informal shooting.
Champion began in 1974 as a division of Federal Cartridge Company. The plant was located in Richmond because it was close to supplies of petroleum pitch and limestone. The machines that make the targets were built locally and are still in use today. The main ingredients of clay targets, pitch and limestone, are stored in large silos at the plant. The pitch and limestone are weighed to make the correct composition (the targets have to be strong enough to survive being thrown from machines, yet fragile enough to break if they are hit by three or so pellets). The mixture is heated to 400 degrees then it goes into rotating compression molds that forms the targets.
The targets come out of the mold onto conveyors that spin them as they are painted. Any targets that break on the line are put back into the mix and molded again. The targets cool and harden as they move down the line where they are eventually boxed and warehoused, and eventually, sold to us, who break them.