South of the Border: The Aguila Ammunition Story

AguilaAG-(7)-Lead-FMexico’s largest ammunition manufacturer, Aguila Ammunition, offers a wide selection of loads and some of the most innovative products available today.

Just south of the urban center of Mexico City, Mexico, lays Cuernavaca, the capital of the state of Morales. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in Central America, Aztec rulers made their home in Cuernavaca during the warm summer months, and the region is home to some of the most valuable and important artifacts of Aztec history in all of Mexico. Today, the city, with its towering cathedral, aquifers, abundant gardens and tropical climate is still a favorite vacation spot for residents of Mexico City seeking to escape the cramped metropolis.

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Aguila’s FMJ .223 loads are inexpensive, and accuracy is good. This group was fired from 100 yards using a Rock River Arms IRS Carbine and Trijicon MRO red dot optic.

Cuernavaca is also home to Mexico’s largest ammunition company, Aguila. And, as the brand has expanded into the U.S. market and started appearing more and more frequently on store shelves, there are a growing number of American shooters who are becoming fans of the brand. There is a general belief, though, that Aguila is a new company, and that’s not true. In fact, Aguila began producing ammunition in the 1960s in Cuernavaca, taking over operations at what had once been the Remington facility in town. When Remington pulled up stakes and moved out of Cuernavaca they left behind the goods needed to produce ammo, and that’s where Aquila stepped in. Today the brand has upgraded their facilities to utilize modern equipment and currently employs 1,200 people in the Cuernavaca facility.

One of the items that remained after Remington’s departure was a shot tower, and under Aguila’s supervision, production of shot resumed in Cuernavaca. Shot towers function by heating lead into a molten state and dropping the liquid lead through a copper sieve high in the tower. Surface tension causes the lead to form into a sphere, and the lead falls into a water bath at the bottom of the tower and cools. Sieves with holes of varying diameters produce different sized shot, and after the shot is cooled, it is checked for dimension and roundness. If a pellet is out-of-round or incorrectly sized, the lead can be re-melted and reformed. There are few operational shot towers in existence in the world, and the Aguila tower is the only one in Mexico.

With a shot tower in place it’s little surprise that Aguila makes so much shotshell ammunition, and in fact, the company produces the bulk of the sporting, upland and big game shotgun ammunition in Mexico. But a growing number of American shooters, impressed with the price and quality of Aguila’s new competition and upland loads, have become converts to the brand. Aguila offers field loads in .410, 20, 16 and 12 gauge, and they also offer buckshot loads. For 16-gauge lovers, and there are a lot of them out there, Aguila has offered a means by which shooters could obtain hunting ammunition at a reasonable cost. The company also offers 12-gauge competition loads for trap, skeet and sporting clays as well.

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Left: Aguila offers a wide selection of competition and field loads, and the brand offers one of the widest selections of 16-gauge ammo. Right: The high velocity short .22 from Aguila is another great option for hunting vermin or small game. It produces far less noise than a standard .22.

Rimfire and Centerfire Offerings
It’s quite possible that your first experience with Aguila ammunition came during the recent drought of rimfire ammunition. When .22 cartridges became hard to find, shooters started looking for new options, and Aguila was perfectly poised to give shooters what they needed. In fact, Aguila is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of rimfire ammo and a good portion of that rimfire fodder makes its way into the United States. Cheap, affordable and surprisingly accurate rimfire ammo made Aguila a lot of friends north of the Rio Grande, and it seems those shooters have repaid the company by remaining loyal customers after the worst of the rimfire shortage had passed.

The aforementioned upgrades to the Cuernavaca facility have helped improve Aguila’s reputation among serious competition shooters, too. Modern Aguila rimfire ammo is clean burning and extremely uniform, and in accuracy tests with both handguns and rifles, I found that the company’s Match ammunition lived up to its billing, producing tight groups and very consistent velocities. But one of the hallmarks of the brand is its variety; Aguila offers inexpensive target loads, high-velocity .22 shorts and nickel-plated .22 loads for the smoothest operation and .22 hollow point loads perfect for pest control.

Aguila compliments its rimfire loads with an ever-expanding line of centerfire pistol and rifle cartridges. On the rifle side, the list is still fairly short—there’s a .30 carbine load and .223 and 7.62×51 offerings. The handgun lineup is much larger, though, with 27 different loads in everything from .25 Auto up to .45 Colt. There’s defensive ammunition, but there’s also a lineup of affordable target ammunition. And since most shooters fire several times as many target rounds as defensive loads each year, it’s nice to have another company offering affordable factory options.

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A box of 20 Minishells doesn’t look like your average box of 12 gauge shells, but they are handy and convenient and fit easily in a pack.

Aguila Exclusive Products
There are a lot of ammunition manufacturers, but Aguila offers two products that set them apart from all of the competition. A few years ago, the company decided to do something radical to traditional shotgun shell design. Instead of playing with shot size, wad design, coatings and so forth, Aguila took the bold step of giving its shotgun shell a frontal lobotomy, whacking a full inch off the standard 2¾-inch shell. The result was a one-of-a-kind product known as the Minishell.

As you might imagine, shooters and gun writers took note. The Minishell was viewed alternatively as a gimmick or the most innovative product to hit the shotshell market in decades. But the Minishell did prove to have its place, and it has become Aguila’s flagship product. But is it functional?

Certainly. One of the primary drawbacks of shotguns is that recoil can be difficult to manage, especially for new shooters. The Minishell changed all of that thanks to its 1¾-inch length, 1¾-dram equivalent powder load and 5/8 ounce shot charge. These loads function in double guns just fine and produce far less recoil and muzzle blast than even the lightest 12-gauge target loads. The advantage? You can have low-recoil practice that is perfect for new and experienced shooters without having to switch to a smaller gauge gun. Additionally, the Minishell buckshot and slug loads offer defensive rounds that produce far less recoil and muzzle blast than typical 12-gauge loads.

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Left to right: Aguila’s Minishell stoked with lead shot, the Colibri powderless .22 cartridge, and the Minishell slug.

Another of Aguila’s most innovative products is the Colibri, the world’s only powderless .22 load. The Colibri looks much like a standard .22 LR round, but it has a smaller, lead 20-grain bullet. Inside, the Colibri lacks gunpowder, which means that the bullet is propelled strictly by the primer itself. It was primarily designed to operate in .22 revolvers, and the primary function is pest control. The Colibri produces very little noise, no recoil and packs enough power to kill rats and other vermin at close range. It’s also a quiet, recoiless training round for those who are new to shooting.

Once a relatively unknown brand to American shooters, Aguila is gaining a strong presence in the U.S. thanks to its low-cost, reliable ammunition and innovative products like the Colibri and Minishell. As ammunition costs rise and availability becomes limited, Aguila will serve a more important role for domestic shooters. Whether you’re looking for low-cost practice ammo, defensive loads or pest control rounds, Aguila has something for you.


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2 thoughts on “South of the Border: The Aguila Ammunition Story

  1. Nick Bruns

    I bought some of their hyper velocity 45 ACP+P 117 grain hard-cast lead hollow points at advertised something like 1600 FPS and some Colibri .22’s at a gun show about 10 years ago. The Colibris are super cool, no recoil, quiet like a pellet gun, and yes, only use them in a short pistol barrel (won’t cycle semi-autos). In a rifle, you risk the projectile getting stuck. It’s a hair over 500 fps from a pistol. I’d like to see more of their ammo here.

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