Ballistics company owner zeros in on national honor
Bryan Litz wins 2019 Hathcock Award for his contribution to ballistics on the national level.
A West Michigan business owner who is pioneering technology to step up recreational and military shooters’ performances was recognized for his contribution to ballistics on the national level.
Bryan Litz, founder of Applied Ballistics LLC in Cedar Springs, recently received the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2019 Carlos Hathcock Award.
The Hathcock Award is presented to recognize an individual who, in the eyes of the Small Arms Committee Executive Board, has made significant contributions in operational employment and tactics of small arms weapons systems, which have impacted the readiness and capabilities of the U.S. military or law enforcement.
Throughout his life, Litz has won several competitive shooting awards, but the Hathcock Award, named after U.S. Marine Sniper Carlos Hathcock, designates a special credibility in the firearms community.
“Everybody in the industry agrees on one person that should win the award this year, so to me, that’s the most impact about it — getting the recognition from your peers,” Litz said.
Litz’s contributions to the U.S. military include numerous publications to help snipers understand complex external ballistic problems, moving the sniping community away from the old G1 drag model to the more modern G7 standard, and embedding the Applied Ballistics solver software into Kestrel weather meters, Garmin navigators and other devices in widespread use by snipers across U.S. Department of Defense and NATO allies.
“A weather meter is a perfect thing to embed ballistics into because ballistics is heavily reliant on atmospherics, temperature, pressure humidity,” Litz said.
The Garmin wrist-wearable GPS also can be used to mark targets and gauge their distance, Litz said.
These and other progressions in ballistics allow shooters to make more consistent hits at long distances.
“In the old days, you pretty much had a normal day scope, and if conditions of light and wind and everything were just right, you could make impact at 600 or 800 yards,” Litz said. “But these days, with thermal imaging and all the sensory equipment we have, you’re still making impacts at 600 or 800 yards, but you can do it in the pitch black and driving rain now.”
Litz landed in Cedar Springs because of proximity to his wife’s family. Originally from Pennsylvania, Litz studied at Penn State University for aerospace engineering.
Being an avid hunter and target shooter since childhood, Litz was gunning for work in the firearms industry, but at the time, nobody was hiring, and he didn’t yet have the reputation he has now.
Instead, the avenue he took through the aerospace industry landed him a job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Greene County, Ohio, where he ran modeling and simulations for anti-aircraft weapons.
“Basically, when our pilots want to know from how far away the bad guys’ missiles can shoot them down, those are the kinds of analysis I did when I worked there,” Litz said.
After establishing his career and gaining more money and time, Litz got back into competitive shooting and gained a reputation for himself as a proficient shooter.
His reputation further grew on the internet through discussion boards. With his background in aerospace engineering, he could teach anybody, even novice shooters with daytime jobs as plumbers.
Litz started writing articles and eventually published his first book in 2009, which was the genesis of Applied Ballistics, he said.
“I had to create a corporate entity to process the sales of that book and handle the taxes and everything,” Litz said.
By that time, Litz had built enough of a name for himself that bullet companies were seeking to hire him. After leaving the benefits of his government job, he went to work for Berger Bullets in 2006.
Litz still works for Berger as the ballistician designing and testing bullets, but since starting with that company, Applied Ballistics has grown into a much larger entity.
His work mostly was geared toward recreational shooters, but he had military personnel interested, as well. Around 2010, Applied started integrating ballistics software into weather meters and other devices geared toward the military.
A couple of years ago, Applied Ballistics landed its first government contract for the Extreme Sniper Strike Operations program. The U.S. Government funded Applied Ballistics to do R&D on ballistic modeling and prediction.
Phase one of the program was to develop more accurate science, and phase two involved Applied building more highly capable weapon systems.
In addition to its headquarters in Cedar Springs, Applied Ballistics has a laboratory in Newaygo, with two technicians who do continuous live-fire testing and a weapons division in Beaverton.
The company also has a partner company in Ohio named nVisti, through which it does all of its software development.
Litz is a frequent speaker at DoD forums and conducts ballistic seminars across the country for both military and civilian attendees.
Litz received the Hathcock Award on June 4, at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2019 Armament Systems Forum in Fredericksburg, Virginia.