Ask A Bulletsmith – If you could hunt anything, anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you hunt? ?

We asked a few handy Sierra Bullets bulletsmiths: “If you could hunt anything, anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you hunt?” Check out their answers below.  We would love to hear from you too, please share your response in the comments below.

Ballistic Technician Carroll Pilant answered “Back to Africa for kudu and eland.”

Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz answered “African Cape Buffalo with my longtime friend Lloyd in Zimbabwee.”

Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin answered “Canadian Moose”

Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks answered “What? I can’t make a list! My next hunt that I dream about would be to go to Canada for a very large black bear.”

Ballistic Technician Paul Box answered “Alaska – Dall Sheep”

Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd answered “Free Range African plains game”

VP – Sales & Marketing Matt Reams answered “Probably a leopard.  Africa is cool to see and that is a pretty scary/dangerous hunt that would be very thrilling.”

Production Toolsetter Brad Vansell answered “Anything in Africa, or Australia.”

Process Engineer David Palm answered “Elk anywhere in the Rockies.”

Ballistician Gary Prisendorf answered Doves in Argentina.”

Acting Production Manager Chris Hatfield answered Anything in Australia would be cool.”

Maintenance & Machine Shop Lead Craig Westermier answered “Dall Sheep in Alaska.”

Plant Engineer Darren Leskiw answered “I’ve been hunting one time near Douglas, WY and it was beautiful country.  I’d love to go back and spend more time there and tag another antelope.”

Production Resource Manager Dan Mahnken answered “Africa and the African lion. More exciting that way it’s a 50/50 chance for both of us.”

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How Far is That Groundhog?

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box

Many of you may remember the “strip” that my groundhog hunting buddy Jack and myself used to hunt so much. Just to refresh your memory, the strip was a three mile long gravel road that connected two paved highways. It wound its way thru a small river bottom and was groundhog paradise.

One individual summer Jack and myself took dozens and dozens of groundhogs from this area. A good thing about it, was the fact that when we took some chucks from the area, more would move back in to fill the vacant places we created.

This trip thru that area produced a little surprise for us. We took three chucks in the second field that we stopped at, then headed on down to check other fields. Rounding a slow curve in the road, we came to the largest field the strip had to offer. This field was huge and it had a back section to it that you could see from the road.

Jack stopped the truck because he thought he saw something in that back section. “It looks like three groundhogs chasing each other and playing,” Jack said. I already had my .243 on a sandbag and was looking thru the scope.

“It’s not three groundhogs, it’s two groundhogs and a red fox trying to make supper out of either one of those two groundhogs.” I said. Jack asked if I was going to try a shot and I told him of course.

“How far is that groundhog?” Jack asked.

“Well, if he was any farther, I’d need an out of state license!!” I joked.

“You have an idea how to hold?” Jack asked.

“Not a clue, I’ll just put the first shot out there and go from there.” I said.

Actually, I had guessed the distance at close to 750 yds., so I put one of the two chucks in the very bottom of my field of view and touched one off. That shot landed about 30 yds. short of that groundhog. Jack asked if I was going to try another shot? I told him, “I can’t. I’m out of my field of view!!”

That was the first time we’d ever had that happen!

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I Should Have Stayed Home……..

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks

It was to be a late-season antler-less deer hunt. It was in mid-December, and quite cold. I was planning on hunting quite close to home until I got the phone call.

Picking up the receiver the conversation went something like this -

Me: “Hello”

Tom: “Hey, how is it going? You wanna go huntin’?”

Me: You know I’m always ready to go hunting. What are ya thinking?”

Tom: Rusty and I had planned on taking the camper and going up north to see if we could get a deer or two.”

Me: I don’t know, when are you going?”

Tom: We are going to leave in about an hour. You want me to pick you up in town? We’ve already got our stuff packed. Grab your gun and some clothes and let’s hit the road.”

First of all, this wasn’t shaping up real well. I’m not packed and need to do a few chores before I just take off.

Me: It will take me at least an hour and a half to get ready.”

Tom: WE are on our way to town now. Hurry it up. What kind of groceries do you want?

Me: Whatever.”

Tom: See ya!” Click……………..

This can only get better, right?

We drive for about 4.5 hours and discover the area we are planning to hunt has been hit with a snow storm that we hadn’t had at home. It was drifting and getting colder. We stopped and got a bite to eat and then proceeded to the camp spot and set up the camper.

The next morning at an hour before daylight we were up getting down some coffee.  It was about 4 degrees. Tom and Rusty were talking about where they wanted to hunt and I was trying to figure out where I was at, and where I should have stayed…AT HOME!!

We had towed a small SUV to have a vehicle to get around. We all piled in and headed to the timbered draw we were going to hunt. Once we get there and all pile out, Tom dropped his rifle. He immediately dug it out of the snow and tried to get it cleaned off. He claimed he was ready to go. About an hour later, Tom was froze out and was ready to get warmed up. We stepped out of the draw and several deer bust out ahead of us. Tom immediately fired at one and we could tell it was hit, but kept going, going, going……  This was about 8:30 in the morning. After many hours of tracking and chasing, Rusty and I finally caught up to the deer and finish the deed. The only problem now was it was getting dark and we were about a mile and three quarters from the road. I knew I should have stayed home. When we finally got the deer out and all the gear loaded, Tom said,”Fellows, I couldn’t have done it without ya.” I look at Rusty, who looked at me. Rusty said, “Let’s go home.

Home, where I belong!

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Keep the Muzzle Pointed in a Safe Direction (Part 2)

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin

As it turns out, there is one more story to tell, and this one didn’t have a happy ending.

A boy about the age of 10 years went hunting with his father and took a double barrel 12 gauge as they normally did. On this day, if I remember the story correctly, they were walking the fence row for rabbits and come to a spot they could cross. The father leaned the firearm up against the fence as they both crossed. Because of the boy’s eagerness, he was the first through the fence and had walked a few steps ahead. Back in this time frame, double barreled shotguns had exposed hammers and one of those hammers just happened to snag a wire as it passed over. As the gun was pulled, the hammer slipped off the wire and came down on a loaded chamber causing it to fire. At point blank distance, the shot was one solid mass moving out of the barrel and went into the father’s side, killing him.

The gentleman’s name was James M. Durrill and he passed away on November 12, 1905 at the age of 52. He was my Great Great Grandfather, Grandfather to my late Grandmother, Ruby (Durrill) Mahin. This story was told to me by my Great Uncle, Kenneth Durrill, so I thought it fitting to add it here. The shotgun has had several lifetimes of use and as far as I know, they still have it as a family heirloom.

Till next time, tell the ones you love the most that you do while you can.


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Prairie Dog Hunting in North Dakota with Sierra Bullets

Written by Adam Scepaniak, C.M.O. – The Guns and Gear Store

Our Gear

Our Gear

It’s that time of year where lots of men and women point their vehicles westward and try to push the limits of their rifles on prairie dogs. I was a part of this group of people just a few days ago while in northwestern North Dakota. For this trip, I turned to some Sierra® 52 Grain HPBT Matchking (#1410) and 53 Grain HP Matchking (#1400) bullets. I would be shooting two different Remington® Model 700 rifles with a 1:12” twist rate: a Varmint Synthetic Stainless Fluted II and a Varmint Laminate Stainless. I believed the Sierra® bullets would be perfect for my twist rate, the varying targets from 50 out to possibly 400+ yards, and with Hodgdon®’s Benchmark powder I could achieve 3,000 FPS with maximum reloads per bottle.

For much of the reloading for this trip I consulted three different load data sources: Sierra® Rifle and Handgun Reloading Data Manual 5th Edition, Lyman® Reloading Handbook 49th Edition, and the Hodgdon® “Reloading Data Center” from their website. I took the manufacturer of the bullets I would be using (Sierra®), the manufacturer of the powder (Hodgdon®), and a third reliable source (Lyman®) that wouldn’t show bias because they produce no components, only tools. With their information, I reloaded my brass with 23.7 – 23.8 grains of Benchmark which would push my MatchKings just faster than 3,000 FPS and allow me to get around 295 reloads per pound of powder. I set my reloads to an O.A.L. of 2.20” to err on the safe side (Hodgdon® advocated 2.20” while Lyman® and Sierra® advised 2.25” would suffice).

I knew the Sierra® MatchKings would shoot superbly accurate with my rifles so that was a no-brainer. I chose Hodgdon® Benchmark powder because I wanted to achieve 3,000 FPS with the MatchKings so they wouldn’t be so bullied by the sometimes heavy winds of North Dakota. Also, the Benchmark powder would allow me 3,000 FPS at the lowest cost of powder volume without sacrificing accuracy. In fact, Lyman® suggested Benchmark as the most accurate powder tested for the Sierra® MatchKing 52 Grain HPBT  bullets as well. It was really important to me to get lots of reloads per pound of powder aside from accuracy and speed because as any seasoned prairie-dogger knows you’re going to be shooting a lot; which we definitely did!

070514 Prairie Cactus

Prairie Cactus

Once my hunting party and I arrived out in the “Little Missouri National Grassland” of North Dakota we immediately began scouting for prime prairie dog towns. There is a certain amount of strategy involved in choosing a prairie dog town to set up and shoot at for several reasons though. For one, you should try to always stay “above” the prairie dogs. Small objects like rocks, cactuses, and prairie vegetation can easily obstruct your view if you’re shooting prone on a level plane. We encountered this in the first small prairie dog town we stopped and shot at. The prairie dog town was very visible while walking and standing, but once we laid down with our rifles on bi-pods the two foot prairie grass became a severe obstruction. We shortly moved on because the small town became quick-studies to our shooting.

1st Prairie Dog Town

1st Prairie Dog Town

The second prairie dog town we hunted was at the base of a small ridge with a dried, cattle creek at the bottom. This area offered better shooting opportunities because we were above most of the prairie dog holes, and if we were not above them, a deep ravine separated us from the prairie dogs removing any obstructions from our rifle scopes which was our previous problem. This area had its own disadvantage though because of some other wildlife present. There were approximately fifty head of cattle in our close vicinity grazing, which was to no surprise because many ranchers utilize the National Grassland for grazing. We had to wait for the cattle to leave our area as to not have an incidental hit due to a rare ricochet.  As the sun passed over the horizon we decided to return to this spot the next morning, but would change our shooting position to increase our advantage.

3rd Prairie Dog Town Full Scene

3rd Prairie Dog Town Full Scene

3rd Prairie Dog Town Full Scene

3rd Prairie Dog Town Zoomed

3rd Prairie Dog Down Fully Zoomed

3rd Prairie Dog Town Fully Zoomed

When we returned the next day, we positioned ourselves atop the ridge and shot down on the same prairie dog town with greater visibility and no cattle in sight. A new element became our nemesis from this vantage point though, which I prepared for with the reloading of my Sierra® bullets. If we shot down now into the valley from our ridge we battled swirling winds which affected our accuracy; sometimes negligibly and sometimes significantly. I purposefully chose a powder and bullet combination to ensure 3,000 FPS so we would be affected less by the wind. Any shots into the valley (300 yards or less) were slightly pushed to the right, but with perfect consistency. The MatchKing 52 Grain HPBT bullets were hitting 4” to the right and I could easily compensate with my reticle and continue to make hits. If any shots were attempted to the opposite ridge or hill side (300 yards or greater) the MatchKing bullets flew true unaffected by the elements.

3rd Prairie Dog Town Overlook

3rd Prairie Dog Town Overlook

My previous varminting best was a 275 yard shot near Mobridge, South Dakota on a separate prairie dog hunting trip. With more experience and better reloading, I was able to make a solid hit on a prairie dog just over 400 yards which made me ecstatic! For a central Minnesota, shotgun-raised guy, I was pretty happy that my bullet selection and hand-loading ability produced a 125 yard improvement.

My shooting partner for the trip was none other than my wonderful girlfriend and marksman Jess. While my shots danced further and further out, as I tested the abilities of my rifle, reloads, and own shooting ability, she was content to shoot (and rarely miss) anything under 300 yards. She shared my reloads for this hunting trip and neither one of us had a single failure-to-feed, malfunction, or outlier in accuracy.


Once we cleaned and cased our rifles for the journey home we had shot a little over 200 rounds of my Sierra® reloads. This was a lot less than previous prairie dog trips I have been a part of, but our hit percentage was substantially higher as well. Traveling into a new area meant a lot more scouting and experimentation for us as a group. In future trips or hunts of your own, it can be very beneficial to schedule an extra day just for scouting as to not take away from potential hunting time. Also, be sure to invest in your ammunition. As a store manager for one of my family’s two gun stores I see all too often people spend an exponential amount of money on firearms, food, lodging, and other gear, but will skimp or buy ammunition just to get by. In the grand scheme of things, your ammunition is likely your smallest investment in any hunting trip, and when success or failure of that trip is on the line, it boils down to you… your firearm… and the bullet coming out of it. So either buy better quality, loaded ammunition for your next hunt or ensure your future success by reloading yourself. If you reload your ammunition like I did, always remember: good bullets come in green boxes.

If you enjoyed Adam’s post, check out the Guns and Gear blog at:

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Keep the Muzzle Pointed in a Safe Direction

Written by Sierra Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin

The next rule to live by is to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction until it is time to discharge the firearm. A safe direction could be defined as ‘If the firearm was to discharge, it wouldn’t strike or deflect to strike another person’ but you could expand that to include property or animals. When I carry my 45, it is in a Condition 1 meaning that there is a live round in the chamber and the thumb safety is engaged. I make sure the thumb and grip safety work before I put a magazine in every time I put it in my holster. That doesn’t mean it won’t break someday because it is still just a mechanical device, but thankfully, it hasn’t yet and I can identify a problem before I load it. Every move I make is planned from sitting to standing to running and I know exactly where that muzzle is pointed even when holstered. If the safeties ever fail and that round does go off without my intention, the only thing I want hurt is my ego.

There are stories that I’ve heard from hunters and shooters alike that will raise the hair on your head, even if you’re bald! One story was from a third party at a shooting range; he watched a shooter following her friend with the muzzle of her firearm as he replaced her target. His question was what could she have been thinking as she aimed it at her friend? Needless to say, he left immediately wanting no part of an accident waiting to happen. Was it his place to say something or did he do the right thing? We’ll never know because we were not there. To be honest, I have become intolerant to this type of behavior and to approach this situation requires a great deal of tact so the two must balance. If they don’t, fights break out and that is bad news on a gun range.

One of the Techs here had something similar happen to him in the hunting fields. As his deer season was all but over and trapping season was coming on strong, Paul could hear a truck coming so he stopped trapping by a tree to rest a while. Another hunter stopped his truck on the other side of the creek and stepped out looking his direction. Apparently not able to see him well enough, he reached into his truck and grabbed his rifle to get a better look at Paul through the scope. Not knowing his intention, Paul dove behind a brush pile to avoid getting shot by a potential road hunter. He may think it is completely unintentional, but someday that road hunter may lose his life because he’ll point his firearm at the wrong person, and they’ll shoot first and ask questions later. What a tragic day that will be because no one comes out a winner from that kind of outcome.

So far we’ve talked about three of the four rules to live by and next time we’ll talk about identifying a target and knowing what lies beyond it. Till then, stay safe and have fun shooting.

After publishing this article Philip recalled another story to share.  Click here to read the additional story.

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2014 Briley West Coast Steel Championship Event Report

We recently received the following from the 2014 Briley West Coast Steel Championship organizers: 100_9789
The Piru, California dust has now settled on the 2014 Briley West Coast Steel Championships, and what an absolutely stellar event it was! It exceeded all of our expectations and was the best edition to date.

100_9875Thank you so very much for your Platinum Level support of the event and sponsorship of the Super Senior Division.

100_9880We hosted over 350 entries (including 40 ladies and 22 juniors), who traveled from 11 states and 4 foreign countries. Fathers with their sons & daughters, mothers & daughters and entire families came out to compete and contribute to the safe, fun, family oriented atmosphere the Briley West Coast Steel Championship has become known for. One of our competitors wrote about this in the feature story of the June 30th edition of the Shooting Wire:

100_9877Over $121,000 in prizes, generously provided by 86 sponsoring companies, were awarded by random drawing to each and every competitor. Everyone had a great time, left with a full stomach, some pretty nice prizes, and most importantly, a big smile and fond memories.

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