Lessons Learned #1

Written by Sierra Bullets Product Development Manager Mark Walker

Marks_Reloading_BenchA wise man said, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” One thing that I have learned over the last year and a half while shooting F-Class matches is that no matter how much you plan and prepare, there will always be problems you must overcome during a match. How you are able to handle these problems is what separates the good shooters from the great ones.

When I first started traveling to and attending multiple day matches, I would always pre-load enough ammunition for the entire match using the load that happened to be performing in the gun at the time. While this plan worked extremely well for the most part, there were more than a couple of matches where the load just wasn’t working due to unforeseen environmental conditions or mechanical issues with the rifle. Since a 1000 yard F-Class X-ring is only five inches in diameter, having a rifle that is not shooting its absolute best is not an option. This made for some VERY long matches.

A friend of mine, Bret Solomon, saw I was struggling at one of these matches and suggested that I should change the load for the next day. I told him I had pre-loaded all my ammunition and that I was stuck using what I had brought with me. The concept of loading my ammunition while at a match had never really crossed my mind. The thought of hauling all of that extra gear and spending the evening loading for the next day seemed a bit daunting. As we visited, the advantages of being able to make load adjustments while at the match became very evident. Had I took the time to bring the extra gear, I could have made the load adjustment and the rest of the match wouldn’t have been such a struggle. After returning home, I purchased the necessary equipment and I have been loading at matches ever since. The flexibility it provides has proven to be invaluable on more than one occasion.

While loading at the match may not be for everyone, I believe that it is an invaluable tool in making sure your rifle is shooting its absolute best. It also gives you the ability to overcome many problems that would normally cause a shooter to pack up and go home. And spending all the time and money to travel to a match and not be competitive is definitely not an option.

Posted in Competitive Shooting | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Long Throats and Accuracy

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box

This is a question that we get on a daily bases on our 800 line. Will my rifle give good accuracy if it has a long throat?

Today long throats are very common in a factory rifle compared to thirty years ago. Most questions we get concerning this is that the shooter will have a new rife throated long enough that they can’t seat a bullet close enough to the rifling and still maintain any bearing surface in the case neck.

First of all, most rifles have two sweet spots on its’ seating depth. One will be up close somewhere like .010″ to .020″ off the rifling. The second sweet spot can be .050″ to as much as .080″ off. Today a lot of shooters only look for the “up close” location and never even consider the far back approach. I’ve got one 22-250 that shoots its’ best .070″ off the rifling.

If you have just bought a new rifle and it has a long throat, don’t be afraid to try the “far back” approach on your seating depth. Many shooters are surprised to find their new rifle will shoot its’ tightest groups with a lot of bullet jump.

There’s also another thing to consider on a long throated rifle as well. Many of these will have a throat that is wide in diameter. It might run .005″ to .008″ wider than bullet diameter. If your rifle has a wide diameter throat, it might very well shoot a flat base bullet with far better accuracy. I’ve seen rifles like this that was giving 1.5″ accuracy at 100 yds. with boat tail bullets start turning in groups in the three quarters of an inch range but just simply switching to a flat base bullet.

So if your new rifle has a long throat, remember to try a flat base bullet and also deeper seating. You might be surprised at the results.

Posted in Reloading | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Truman Lake Managed Deer Hunt for the Disabled

Written by Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant

Each year for the last several years, I have had the opportunity to help at the sight-in day for the Truman Lake Managed Deer Hunt for the Disabled. This is a joint effort between the Masonic Lodge #653 in Warsaw, Mo., U.S. Corp of Engineers, and many volunteers. This year the sight-in was November 7th, at the Golden Valley Shooting Range near Clinton, Mo. with the hunt the 8th and 9th.

The hunt takes place in the Shawnee Bend and Berry Bend Park areas on Truman Lake. The hunt is limited to persons with non-ambulatory or semi-ambulatory disabilities.  Special blinds are made where the hunters are able to get into them with their wheelchairs.  The Missouri Department of Conservation has authorized the handicap hunters to take 3 deer, of which, only one can be an antlered buck. The number of hunters is limited to 22, but there is always a hunter or two that can’t make it at the last minute, or can only hunt one day, so there are always some alternates on hand to fill available spots.


Joey Gard of Warrensburg, MO

Many of the hunters return year after year, such as Joey Gard, from Warrensburg, MO. This year, Joey had a Tikka rifle that he had custom stocked by Wenig Gunstocks in Lincoln, Mo. Due to Joey’s handicap, he needed a stock that was specially fitted to him. Although Joey didn’t get a deer this year, he is getting closer each year. It always impresses me the enthusiasm all the hunters have.


Eric Statler of Warrensburg, MO

Eric Statler, also from Warrensburg, was also one of the hunters. I helped Eric with the sight-in and I was impressed with his shooting. Though Eric doesn’t have use of his arms, he operates the wheelchair with a sort of joy stick that he moves with his chin or side of his face. By moving the wheelchair left or right and tilting it forward or back is how he aims it. The scope has a screen about the size of a cell phone mounted on top where you can see the cross hairs in the scope. A tube which I believe he blew thru allowed him to fire the rifle. I was very impressed on how he could position the wheelchair, aim the rifle, fire and call his shots. He took a nice 130 pound doe with a double lung shot and only traveled 10 yards after the shot.  **Eric’s nephew Zachary (Zac) Walton worked in our range last year before he left to join the Marines.

Over the two day hunt, 19 deer were harvested making several happy hunters some great eating.


Eric Statler with Doe

I would like to thank all the many volunteers who make this hunt a success. If you know of a handicap hunter interested in applying for this hunt in 2015, contact information is listed below. You do not have to be a Missouri resident to apply for it either.

Contact: Natural Resource Specialist Rusty Callister at 660-438-7317  Ext. 3802
Mailing Address:
U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers
Harry S. Truman Project Office
Attn: Rusty Callister
15968 Truman Road
Warsaw, Missouri 65355-9603

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Reloading: A Hobby For the Rest of Your Life

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf

For as long as I can remember I have been around reloading. I have tons of childhood memories of my father reloading and shooting. I remember how he would let me help him load his ammunition, by letting me clean primer pockets or wipe the sizing lube off of his cases. I really thought I was doing something. Well, I guess I was, I was spending quality time with my father doing something that would become a great hobby and eventually land me a great job, working for a great company, Sierra Bullets.

20141109_140229I remember watching my father sizing cases on his Herters press, dropping his powder charges with a Belding and Mull powder measure and weighing powder charges with his Texan scales. Heck, I can even remember when he would buy powder at a local pawn shop, and they would weigh it out and put it in a paper sack. He would save his empty powder cans, wrap them with masking tape and write what the powder was on them with a black magic marker.

When I was in Junior High, I got my first shotgun, a 20 gauge Mossberg 500 and within a couple of weeks my father came home with a 20 gauge Lee Load All and a pound of Blue Dot. He gave me a crash course on how to use it, and got me up and running with a couple of safe loads. I put a lot of shells through that old 20 gauge.

From that day forward I was hooked, if I got a new gun, I was loading ammunition for it. I don’t buy factory ammunition unless I just want to shoot it up so I can get some once fired brass. I reload everything that I shoot, except for rim fire stuff, and if I could figure out how to do that safely, I would probably load that too.

Through the years I have learned to appreciate things like once fired military 30-06 cases that can be converted to obscure cases and I know the value of a five gallon bucket of lead wheel weights that will be melted down and cast into bullets.

I remember finding 19 once fired Norma 7.7×58 Arisaka cases laying on the ground at a public shooting range, and it was like Christmas came early. I must have looked for that 20th case for about thirty minutes, but I never did find it.

I can’t thank my father enough for getting me started in reloading, he gave me a great hobby, many wonderful memories and taught me the skills that gave me a career doing something that I love.

If you are a reloader, teach someone. You may just give them a hobby for the rest of their life and who knows, you could help them find an enjoyable career, doing something that they love.

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2014 Texas Aoudad and Javelina Hunt

Carroll PIlant with Aoudad

Carroll PIlant with Aoudad

Written by Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant
                                                                                                                                                                                 Aoudad, also known as Barbary sheep has been a passion of mine for the last few years. I saw my first wild Aoudad back in 1973 or 1974 while I was working on the U Ranch. The U Ranch was part of the West Texas Division of the King Ranch (Kingsville, Texas) in Balmorhea, Texas. The ranch headquarters sets at the base of the Barrilla Mountains which is a lot of rugged territory. We were checking water troughs on Beard Mountain when we saw this magnificent ram on the cliff above us. That was what started it off.  Aoudad had been stocked in some of the high fence areas for hunting purposes along with many other species of exotic (mostly African game animals), such as Nilgi, Ibex, Blackbuck. Many escaped from the game ranches and thrived in the arid Texas and New Mexico country that is very similar to the areas they originated from. Texas classes them as exotic or non-game animals and they can be hunted year round. For $48 you can purchase a 5 day nonresident special hunting permit good for all the exotics.

Two years ago, a good friend of mine in Fort Stockton, Texas made arrangements for me to hunt in the Glass Mountains on a nearly 400 square mile ranch. I harvested my first Aoudad and that really whetted my desire to take a larger one. My wife went with me and enjoyed it so much, along with the beautiful rugged scenery, she was ready to hunt one also. The next fall, another friend of mine made arrangements with a couple of friends of his for my wife and I to hunt Aoudad on a couple of different ranches. I took a larger ram this time, but my wife just couldn’t quite get in a position to take a ram. She did have a beautiful blonde ewe come by but she opted to not take her. She was ready to return the following year (2014) to try again. In the summer of this year, she fell and broke an arm and tore up some muscles and required surgery with a lot of rehab. I was already planning on a return trip but she didn’t think she was healed enough that she would be able to shoot.

My son, Hunter Pilant at Starline Brass, had already volunteered to go with me if his mom couldn’t go. I was looking forward to a trip with him because it seems like the last few years we hadn’t been able to hunt much together other that just locally. That would give us a little father / son time together. We were both busy and it put us scrambling at the last minute trying to get ammo loaded, rifles zeroed, food bought and the vehicle packed. The rifle I chose to take was my Remington 700 in 7mm Mag. with the #1940 175 grain SBT bullet. Hunter was using a Savage in .300 RSAUM with the #2160 180 grain SBT. Aoudad are tough animals and can soak up a lot of lead, so you need to use a tough bullet.

I took the day off on the day we were planning on leaving to finish packing the vehicle and other last minute stuff. Hunter worked and intentions were for him to come home, shower and hit the road. We hit the road, got about 5 miles down the road and he remembered he had forgotten to get any cash from his wife and there was something I had forgotten also. Since we only live about 200 yards apart, it made it simple. We got on the road that time at 6 PM. Driving all night, we were in Fort Stockton early the next morning, stopping at Wal-Mart to buy our  licenses. We ate a bite of lunch where we ran into a friend of mine who was eating there also and visited with him a few minutes and then headed out to where we were staying at in Fort Davis.

We were lucky the first day hunting in that we had Aoudad right off the bat. We watched about 20 with 3 rams feed across right under a cliff at about 1200 yards. A plan was made on how to approach them. About an hour of driving thru really rough terrain finally put us in an area where we could come in from above. Guesstimating at where they were below us, Hunter went several hundred yards to my left and I just worked my way to the edge of the ledge above the cliff. The terrain was so rough and rocky that I didn’t want to travel any farther than I had to on my replacement knee.

A quick plan was devised. Hunter would slip up to the edge of the cliff and hopefully they would be feeding below him. When he shot, we hoped they would come past me heading to the higher elevation. We were watching Hunter as he slipped up to the edge and I kept checking to my right, when I noticed a ram come over a ridge and start working his way down into a canyon out of my sight. I was afraid to shoot because it would spook the group Hunter was looking for. Since I had already taken animals the last 2 years, I wanted Hunter to get a chance. The ram I was watching disappeared into the canyon.  I waited for him to come out but was afraid he had went down it rather than coming back up on my side. All of a sudden, he popped up over a point out in front of me at about 200 yards.  I kept trying to get my friends attention to tell him we had a ram below us. When I looked back, he was gone. Finally he appeared over the edge again but I could barely see him thru the top of a dead cedar. He was at a point where he could go 4 or 5 steps in either direction and I would never see him again. I got my rifle ready and decided to wait until I just had to shoot, hoping that Hunter would find the main group and get a shot. Hunter spotted a ram and  shot. The ram I was watching whirled and started to run back the way he had came. I had a foot wide gap in the cedar that I could shoot thru and at the shot, I heard the bullet thump and he disappeared over the edge. I had forgotten my camera, so I went back to the truck to get it.

Hunter Pilant with Auodad

Hunter Pilant with Auodad

Aoudad caught in brush.

Aoudad caught in brush.

My friend went down to check on the Aoudad. He had been watching him in the binoculars and said at the shot, he went down but out of sight. Luckily, his horns hung up on a dead bush and kept him from falling over the cliff. Hunter and my other friend worked their way back over to us. Hunter had taken a really good ram at about 350 yards but he was below the cliff and was easier to get to from the bottom side. After photos of mine, my friend caped him out and my other friend carried him back up the mountain side to the truck. Another long rough drive put us at the bottom where we went as far as we could in a vehicle and then had to climb the rest of the way up. Pictures were taken, but it was dark enough a flash had to be used. My ram was about the same size (28 inches) as the one I had taken the year before. Hunters ram was heavy horned and about 30 inches in length. It was totally dark by the time they got Hunters ram caped and off the mountain. I came back right after the photos, so I could see to walk in the steep rocky mountain side.

Next morning, we went to another ranch and the plan was to look for feral hogs and javelina. An unusually wet year had made the grass grow taller and more lush than in most years. Both the hogs and javelina had food and water about anyplace they wanted to go, so they weren’t concentrated near food or water sources. The taller grasses made them harder to see also. After an uneventful hunt, we went to the range on the ranch to do some long range shooting and plinking. It was a fun afternoon of just shooting and visiting.

Carroll Pilant with javelina

Carroll Pilant with javelina

The following day found us on another ranch. Once again, the feral hogs were evading us but toward dark, we did get an opportunity to each take a javelina. Hunter used his bow and after a good shot, his javelina ran only a few feet. Hunter then went to a different place to watch for feral hogs while I stayed hoping to see another javelina. My chance came and I took it with my STI 2011 pistol in 40 S&W using our 180 grain JHP #8460 bullet. It made a short run of only a few feet and was down. We were both happy to have had a successful hunt and with some great friends who went way beyond the call of friendship to make it all successful. The plans were to go to yet another friends ranch to hunt for more hogs but we were running out of time and needing to get the Aoudad back to the taxidermist. We just met our friend in Fort Stockton and visited with him an hour or so and then headed on the long overnight drive back to Missouri.

After a call to Ben Hagans Taxidermy Studio in Buffalo, Mo., we had arranged to meet him his shop at 7:30 AM. Ben had mounted my Aoudad from last year and I was pleased with his work.  He is going to mount both Aoudad for us. We got to Ben’s a little earlier than we expected. When Ben arrived, we picked out the forms we wanted. It was breakfast time and we were both hungry, so we stopped in Buffalo, which is about 70 miles from home, and ate. I had driven the 1,000 miles straight thru going down and driven all the way back. Hunter walked out of the restaurant and crawled into the drivers seat and said, “I have it from here.”  About 5 miles down the road he said, “I can’t hardly stay awake.” Even though I will probably have to do all the driving next year, we are already making plans on returning. I still need a bigger Aoudad.

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Rethinking Your Zero

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz

It’s fall and time to get ready for opening day, the first shot or the overall experience.
Several years ago I was preparing for my first out of state hunting trip with my friend Lloyd in Montana and I asked him what kind of shots I might have.  We came to the conclusion that they would be pretty long, maybe in excess of 300 yards.  So I zeroed my 7×57 Ruger M77 for 300 yards here at home, did some practicing and ultimately arrived in Montana ready willing and able for that big Mulie.  It didn’t take long for my opportunity to come.  Late the first morning a nice 5×5 came strolling out of the cedars and I promptly shot over him at about 150 yards.  It should have been an easy shot but my zero was way too long with entirely too much mid-range rise.  We came back to town for lunch and promptly went to the local range where I changed my zero to 2 inches high at a hundred which put me pretty much dead on at 200.

By mid-morning the next day my first ever Mule Deer was on the ground.  We had sneaked into a small basin and spooked a nice buck with three does that were bedded in the thick cedars.  As they made their way around the rim of the basin I had the angle on them so I hurried across the bottom of the basin and cut them off on the other side.  As they came by above me they crossed an opening and stopped.  That’s all I needed, one shot and done.  So how far was the shot after all that you ask, about 80 yards on a steep uphill angle.   The 7mm 140 grain SBT GameKing (#1912) entered low in the brisket and we found it in the offside shoulder.  He never took a step.

Over the years I have found that a solid 200 yard zero is more than adequate for 90 percent of all my needs and the majority of the cartridges I shoot.  But I have to admit that there are times when a 264 Win Mag, STW, one of the big 300s or other flatter trajectory cartridges can use a more generous zero if you will be hunting out in flat country or other  terrain requiring very long shots.  My little 7×57 and its modest velocities was way too high at mid-range with a 300 yard zero.  As a result I missed.  Plus, I have decided it is much easier to hold over for a leisurely longer shot than it is to hold under on a rushed close shot.

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Deer Season 2014

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks

Once this is posted on the blog, many of you will have already hunted a bow season or muzzle-loading season. Many youth seasons will be going on or just taken place. IT IS DEER SEASON!! The deer hunters National Holiday. Vacation time for many and a rite of passage for many youngsters. This is what most of us hunters have looked forward to all year.

I used to work for a farmer who could just not understand anyone wanting to take off work to deer hunt. He just was not interested. If you were successful, he sure liked the ideal of summer sausage or jerky. But he thought the “hunting” was a waste of time.

My Dad started me deer hunting very young. I didn’t carry a firearm, but I went hunting with him. He could climb about any tree that he came to, and when he found where he wanted to be, he would shinny up the tree and relax on a limb. He never considered building a stand. This usually meant that I would set on the ground at the base of a tree nearby. I don’t imagine he ever had to worry too much about dragging a deer out, because I was twisting and turning watching squirrels and whatever else that had caught my attention. But he took me and we shared many a memorable hour in the woods. As Dad got older and health issues prevented, he hunted less and less. He would always talk and listen to the story. He always wanted to see what you brought home. But the desire to go and the effort involved had just became too much. He is a great Dad.

I in turn had started my daughter hunting very early. She has always been my companion, or, in other words “my buddy.” She has always looked forward to our hunts and even more so as life got involved and she has missed a season or two due to college or work. She still tells me that she plans to be home to hunt each fall. I can’t wait to hear her car door slam and her feet come up the steps to the porch. Because I will know that we are going hunting. When she was much younger, more than once I had to wake her up as a deer approached so that she could fill her tag. I have always let her take the first shot, and a few times it has cost me the bigger deer. We are always reminding each other of some happening that took place on one of our hunts. At her High School Graduation, she was giving her Salutatorian speech and she told about what the deer hunts with Dad had meant to her and had taught her. Don’t think this Pop wasn’t proud!

If you hunt with a buddy or by yourself. Whether it be a large crew or just a few, remember that the best part is if everyone is being safe and the memories. Take the pictures and enjoy the hunt. If you are successful, send us a note (we love pictures) and share your story.

Now…….. where did I put those thermal socks after deer season last year?

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