A Closer Look at The 220 Swift

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box

220 Swift Sierra BulletsThis cartridge was introduced by Winchester in 1935 in their model 54 rifle. A year later, it was added as a standard cartridge in the model 70. What might not be common knowledge to some reloaders is that the prototype for the Swift was developed in 1934-35 by Grosvenor Wotkyns by necking down the 250 Savage case, but in the end, Winchester chose the 6mm Lee Navy case for the foundation for this cartridge.

This cartridge was far ahead of its time and for that reason it received a lot of bad press. We’ve all read the horror stories thru the years. Many of those stories were just simply repeated from previous articles even the wording was just slightly different. So how bad was the Swift? Let’s take a deeper look.

Some of the early Swifts had soft barrel steel and some of the rare ones even had barrels that were .223 in bore size. This stemmed from the fact that the .22 Hornets prior to the end of World War II were .223 in bore size and some of these barrels were chambered in the Swift. It was rumored that the Swift peaked in pressure far too quick. I’ll bet they did with a turkey extra full choke barrel.

Burn rates of powders were limited at that time as well, so the Swift was limited in its true ability due to that. It was almost like building a funny car for drag racing when only kerosene was available.

One of the longest lasting black eyes was that it shot barrels out so fast. If you get the barrel branding iron hot and fail to clean it often this can happen. Common sense will go a long ways here. Keep the barrel as cool as you can and properly clean it every fifteen rounds or less will go a long way to improving accuracy life of a Swift.

So what is the real truth about this cartridge? I’m glad you ask. I’ve been shooting the .220 Swift for over 43 years now. It is one of the best varmint cartridges I’ve ever owned. It is not hard to load for, it doesn’t suddenly peak in pressure and it isn’t the barrel burner that you’ve heard. Hodgdon powders once reported a Remington 40-X with over 3,000 rounds of full power loads averaged .344” for five, 5-shot groups. My findings have been the same. It isn’t as hard on barrels as it has been made out to be.

I’ve also read that down loading it slightly will help in barrel life. This is true, but if you buy a thoroughbred you want him to run. Barrels are threaded on the end for a reason. If you have enough fun to shoot out a Swift barrel, just rebarrel it.

The bottom line is enjoy the .220 Swift for what it was meant to be. The popularity of the Swift has slipped in the last twenty years and few factory rifles are now available in this caliber. There is no reason for this and I know the Swift will always have a strong and loyal following.

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Throwback Thursday: Bullet Testimonials from the 1970s

From Dennis Clark of Cambridge, OH

The nation’s economy is a mess and money is tight. I want the most for my money so when I buy bullets, I buy Sierra; I have never fired a better bullet and I’ve fired them all!


From Robert Cayley of Atlanta, GA

…While on safari in South Africa recently, I was using a custom 308 Norma rifle and shot approximately thirty animals using this bullet which performed superbly. Most of the kills were almost instantaneous. I found the expansion and penetration to be excellent. Amongst the animals shot were a magnificent Greater Kudu, Sable, Wildebeest, Eland, Impala, Zebra, etc. The Eland which was shot approximately 125 yds. weighed between 1500 and 1700 lbs. I have nothing but the utmost praise for this product.


In October 1970, Mary Louise DeVito of Williamsport, PA used the Sierra 168 gr MatchKing bullet #1930 in a heavy benchrest rifle to break the 1000 yard benchrest record. Her record group was 7 11/16 inches. Her rifle built by Howard Wolfe, was on a FN400 benchrest action with a 30 inch Hart stainless steel barrel 1 1/4 inches in diameter with a 1 in 9 inch twist.

Her ammunition, loaded by her husband, was as follows:

300 Weatherby case necked down to 7mm
Primer 215 Federal
Powder 87 grs. of H570
Bullet Sierra 7mm 168 gr. MatchKing #1930
Velocity 3254 feet per second
Loaded overall length of round 3.725 inches


From Original Pa. 1000 Yd. Benchrest Club. Inc. Secretary, Mary Louise DeVito:

NEW WORLD RECORD SET AT THE ORIGINAL PENNSYLVANIA 1000 YD. BENCHREST CLUB, INC.

On Sunday, Sept. 22, 1974, Kenneth A. Keefer, Jr., from New Columbia, Pa. shot a 6.125″ group at 1000 yards to set a new world record. He also had a perfect score of 100 in a 7″ 10 ring. This record was fired with ten (10) consecutive unspotted shots. Mr. Keefer was competing in the first match of the day.

It was a very calm, cloudy day and conditions were excellent in the first half of the shoot, then the wind picked up in the afternoon. Mr. Keefer was shooting a 7mm 300 Remington Action. Barrel was a Titus with a 1-9 twist. He used Sierra Bullets, 168 gr. MatchKing H.P. #1930 Powder was 87 1/2 grains of H570. 215 Federal primers. His gun was chambered by Howard Wolfe, Mifflinburg, Pa.

Ken has been shooting in competition for 2 years at the 1000 Yard Range in Cascade Township, in the mountains of Pennsylvania.


From Mel of Cupertino, CA

I knew that your .224 53 grain H.P. benchrest bullet #1410 was good, but not this good. These two groups were fired with my heavy varmint rifle, with a Siebert/Lyman 30 scope. The caliber is a .222 Remington and as you can see, both groups are different powders.

Mel Groups
Until now, I’ve used “Brand X” 52 grain benchrest bullet in competition, but these two groups are going to make me change to your bullets.


From South Creek Rod & Gun Club New Jersey, July 6, 1975

New record —.2980 group. John Fournier set a new 200 yd. aggregate I.B.S. Sporter Record using Sierra’s new 6mm 70 grain benchrest bullet #1505 fired in the new 6mm
Pindell-Palm cartridge.


From Ronald J. Coppola of Orlando, FL

…Shooting 40 rounds in 5 shot groups proved the superior quality and consistency of your fine products. These amazing results gave me the confidence needed to make that one shot kill on long range shots on trophy deer.


From David DeVooght, Oregon, MO

David DeVooghtIn my 15 yrs. of shooting Sierra bullets, I have found that there is no equal. In 1968, I sent you a group shot at 200 yds. with open sights with my .308 using your 168 gr. Sierra International bullets #2200. It measured 9/16 in., center to center. You used it as an advertisement. Since that time at the St. Joseph Rifle and Pistol Club I managed to shoot this 5 shot group, again with iron sights at 200 yds. with my 308 using 40 grains 4895, 168 gr. Sierra International bullets #2200, Winchester brass and Remington primers. It measures 7/16 in. I know that some may disbelieve a group of this type, but it was witnessed and the proof is in the doing on the range. I thank you again for your fine quality and workmanship. You may again use this group in your advertising if you wish. I repeat, “I think you make the finest bullet there is.”

P.S. This group is being filed as world’s record for open sights at 200 yds.


From David W. Eickholt of Millington, TN

…It’s not often I write a letter, let alone to tell someone how good a job they’ve done but I think credit should go where it’s deserved.

One day I was in a farmer’s field shooting at some plastic jugs that I had filled with water for targets. I like to shoot at water-filled jugs because when hit, the expanding bullet causes a spectacular explosion.

While I was shooting, (oddly enough) a groundhog strolled 75 yds. beyond my already 150 yd. target. The groundhog must have been deaf because he acted like he didn’t have a care in the world. It took about 1/2 a second to get him in my sights and squeeze off a shot. The ground-hog was dead on impact. I would like to congratulate you on the fine job you’ve done in your work and I fully encourage you to keep it up.

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Explosive Expansion from New Sierra Varminter Bullet

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks

Sierra Varminter 2124 BulletWe get a good number of calls and emails concerning the 300 AAC Blackout cartridge. The questions run from target shooting to self defense to varmint shooting to deer and hog hunting to ………..? One of the more common themes tends to be for a good choice of hunting bullets. We had recently developed a bullet that we had hoped would be a good performer out of the Blackout. This bullet was introduced late in the year for 2015. The 135 gr. HP Varminter #2124 was intended to be a bullet that would produce good accuracy and dependable expansion at lower velocity levels. We feel that the bullet has met the criteria with performance to spare. The accuracy has been very good from the reports and our testing. The bullet has not been out long enough to harvest much feedback on game performance. So, we wanted to provide the shooting public a visual reference to the bullets ability and  quality. In the following photos, you can see what the Varminter bullet did in blocks of ballistic gelatin.

50 Yards Ballistic Gel
In the photo above, we have the results of the bullet leaving the muzzle of the rifle at 2070 fps, impacting the gelatin block at a distance of 50 yards. The load we used was a max load of 17.9 grains of Winchester 296 with the bullet seated at 2.000″ even. The penetration was 12.5″, producing a wound channel that started within 1 inch and extended into the block about 9.5″ deep. The widest point of the channel was just shy of 6″ wide. This would certainly be excellent on deer sized game. The retained weight came in at 66% with a remaining weight of 89.2 grains. When one considers that gelatin is similar to shooting into solid muscle, this is very good performance.

100 yard Varminter Ballistic GelIn the photo above, we see the bullet running at the velocity of 2092 fps with the gelatin block placed at 100 yards. Here the wound channel began showing expansion at 1.5″ and extending to approximately 8″ with the widest point being around 5.5″ wide. Slightly smaller than the wound channel seen in the gel block shot at 50 yards, but still very sufficient for deer and hogs. The complete penetration was just slightly over 14″ deep. We had put 2 fourteen inch blocks end-to-end to be sure that we caught the bullets in the gelatin. The bullet was resting right between the two gel blocks. The retained weight was 113.9 grains or 84%.  The load we used was a max load of 17.9 grains of Winchester 296 with the bullet seated at 2.000″ even.

As mentioned in the announcement on the #2124 .308″ 135 HP Varminter, we do not recommend velocities above 3200 fps for this bullet. At the upper velocity levels the 135 Varminter will live up to its Varminter name and give very rapid expansion. But at velocity levels around 2500- 2600 and less, this would work well as a reduced-recoil loads bullet for other 30 caliber cartridges including the 308 Win., 300 Savage, 30 BR, and would be a very good choice for use in single-shot or bolt action .30-30’s. In the Blackouts on an AR platform, the bullet has had no feeding issues.

I expect to hear quite a bit about this bullet come fall hunting season. This will be its first year to hunt, but the bullet has been very impressive already.

I am certain that we have A WINNER!

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Beginning to Reload #3

This will be the third issue of reloading 101 and we’ll go through everything needed to set up dies for a straight wall cartridge. I have two cartridges I’ll refer to in this section but the techniques can transfer over to many other cartridges. There is a lot to discuss, so let’s get started.

Phil 1Straight wall cartridges can be referred to by two different types depending on how they headspace. Cartridges that headspace on the rim and usually put into revolvers use a roll crimp, like the 45 Colt. Others that are typically used in pistols for self-defense, like the 45 ACP, use a taper crimp because it headspaces from the case mouth. Both types can have the same sizing technique but have a different crimp style that you may be able to see in the photo. These are dummy cartridges (no powder or primer) that I use to set up the seating dies and I’ll explain them later.

Phil 4To start with, there are several different dies that you can choose from depending on your price range. Some are fragile and can crack if used improperly but others are tough enough they will last your entire life and not show any noticeable wear. At least one manufacturer has three different sizing dies for straight wall cases; a standard steel, a titanium carbide, and a dual ring carbide. The standard steel can be screwed down to touch the shell holder with no ill effects but I don’t go down that far with them. The titanium carbide is a lot harder metal and if enough pressure is applied to it from the ram, it will break so keep it up and off the shell holder. The same goes for the dual ring but let’s go through their differences. The standard as well as the carbide size down to only one diameter. By running it all the way down the length of the body, a small diameter is created in the middle after the bullet is installed. This gives the cartridge what looks like a waist if it is small enough so the dual ring was created. The top ring will size down enough to hold the bullet securely but the bottom ring is sized just enough to keep the body of the case looking normal and fit correctly. Personally, a lot of my dies at home are the single ring carbide because I just wanted to eliminate the need for lubrication. In my revolver cartridges, I only size the portion of the neck that holds the bullet anyway. This is only because I’m putting brass back into the original firearm it was shot from and keeping my pressures low enough not to stress anything. In a semi-auto, that luxury isn’t available because reliability makes me size the entire length of the case.

Phil 5Now that the case is sized, the second die will expand the case neck back out to just under bullet diameter. In the photo, you can see the step of the expanding stem that flairs the case mouth open for easy bullet seating. This stem should be positioned to only flair the case mouth enough that a bullet will sit on it without wiggling. Any more than that and the case can be over worked and reduce its lifespan. All straight walled cartridges will need this same procedure.

Phil 3The next step is to seat the bullet. Personally, I crimp the case after I’ve seated the bullet and that is the way I’ll be describing it here. If you don’t have a dummy cartridge already, you’re in for a treat so let’s make one. You’ll need to feel your way into the die by raising the ram all the way up with an empty case in the shell holder. It may touch the inside of the die before the crimp portion is reached so examine the case often. Once you begin to see a crimp being applied to the case, back the die body up and off by at least a half to a full turn. You can now install the seating stem and begin working a bullet down into another case. Once you get the bullet into position, you can now apply the proper crimp. If a dedicated crimp die isn’t available, the seating stem will need to be removed and the die body screwed down until the proper crimp is applied. From now on, the die set up will be a lot easier and this is also a good place to examine the different crimps. The roll crimp is simply that; where it rolls the case mouth into the bullet but it needs a cannelure (a relief area) to put it into. When I put a roll crimp on a cartridge, I’ll put it on as heavy as I can without bulging the case neck below it because I want the powder to burn as well as possible before the bullet has a chance to leave the case. A taper crimp on the other hand needs a lot lighter touch. It is critical that the case mouth catch the part of the chamber designed to hold the case back under spring pressure from the firing pin. I’ll measure what the diameter of the case is around the bullet and make my crimp around 0.002” or so smaller than that at the case mouth. This won’t hurt headspace but still give a little more hold to keep the bullet in place.

Now that a dummy round is made, we can change the die set up technique for future tasks. Before I even screw down the die body, I’ll put the cartridge in the shell holder and raise it all the way up. Then, I’ll screw the die body down with the seating stem removed until I feel it touch the case. The crimp portion of the die is now resting on the case mouth and because I don’t want to crimp just yet, I’ll back it off a half to a full turn and lock the ring down. Just remember to apply pressure to the die from the handle using a spacer of some kind when you do. Now, you can screw the seating stem in until it touches the bullet and that lock ring can be tightened when pressure is applied. All of the bullets can then be seated and after that, I can set up to crimp and the one thing I don’t want to do is move the bullet when I apply it. I’ll usually take the seating stem out of the die body if I’m using a single stage press and don’t have access to a dedicated crimp die. After it is out, I’ll screw the die body down until it is putting on the proper crimp and finish my ammo.

Now, we’re making ammo and hopefully having fun doing it. These are teachable techniques, so if you can, get the kids involved and have them pull the handle for a while. Someday, they may even thank you for it, especially when they are having fun shooting what they have made at the range.

Till next time, have fun and be safe.

Please note: These dummy rounds were made a long time ago when I first started loading for them. You will notice rings around the ogive and this is created by the seating stem having a bur where it touched the bullet. Since then, I have been able to smooth the inside of the stem as you can see in the photo. This will go a long way to making better looking ammunition.

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Sierra Bullets Outlet Store To Be Closed For July 4th and Inventory

closed-for-inventoryPlease note:
The Sierra Bullets Outlet Store will be closed on Monday, July 4 for Independence Day.  The Outlet Store will also be closed on Tuesday, July 5 and Wednesday, July 6 for inventory.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and look forward to seeing you again on Thursday, July 7.

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Tips From Reloading School

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz

As some of you know I teach a 5 day reloading class titled Reloading A-Z at Trinidad State Junior College (TJSC) in conjunction with the NRA Summer Classes held at the TJSC Gunsmithing School in Trinidad, Colorado.

Trinidad Reloading ClassEach year is unique in that the mix of students is different year to year and the experience level is varied also.  The 2016 class was unique for sure in that several students had brand new RCBS reloading kits and another pieced his together featuring Forster equipment while yet another brought a brand new Lee Classic Turret outfit.  We even had a Dillion 650 in class.  In amongst all this new equipment was 5 old timers and their RockChuckers.

The first morning is devoted to basic basics.  Redundant you might say but not if you have but one new reloader in class because as practicing reloaders we sometimes overlook some basic setup operations. And that is brought to the forefront every year it seems.

Something as simple as press placement can be an issue.  Let’s say you are right handed naturally, does that mean you pull the press handle right handed and feed the shell holder left handed or pull the handle left handed and feed the press right handed?  This isn’t a problem if you have a whole 4 or 5 foot bench top available for press placement, you just put it in the middle and there it is. But is it, really? I’m right handed but feed the press left handed and operate the handle right handed.  That means that my empty cases waiting to be resized are on the left and end up on the right after sizing or maybe even further left.  Simple enough but what about bullet seating?  Now the left side is getting a little crowded with processed and primed cases and bullets waiting to be seated while the loaded rounds end up somewhere over there also.  So in actuality you need more counter top on the left than the right. Press location can and should be a prime consideration.  A close examination of how you actually work is helpful but as a newbie with no experience the placement of tools in the beginning is even more important. If you batch load, meaning you perform one operation at a time, your requirements will be different than if you take one case through the entire process going from empty to loaded before going to another case.

Rich's_Reloading_Bench
Another interesting question that comes up in class, “When do you clean your cases?”  Well, normally, you’d think you’d want to do that before you resized the cases to be sure no dust or grit got in the die. Okay, I agree but that means that the primer pockets don’t get touched because the spent primer is still in the pocket and the primer pocket will have to be done separately.  Now, if you are using a dry media type tumbler or vibratory method this might be the best procedure because you don’t have to worry about the flash holes being plugged with errant media but what if you wish to use a ultra-sonic method, stainless pin media or just prefer to clean decapped brass and don’t want to run dirty brass through your full length die there is an issue. It is time to consider a universal decapping die. This die allows you to perform the decapping operation only and is not caliber specific nor does it require lube. It will require a small diameter decapping pin for .060″ flash holes if you are using small flash holes however.

Again we have a space issue. Where in the world do you put all this stuff? But it gets more complicated. I’m lucky enough to have access to all sorts of equipment, some useful and some not so much. I have come up with a procedure that works for me for my competition brass which is generally not real dirty. First I decap with a universal die or tool and fire up the ultra-sonic machine, mine is a Lyman using the proper solution (Lyman or Bore Tech) and cook until clean.  Now there is the drying issue and it has been addressed in many ways. I like shiny so I get as much solution off the cases as I can shake off and throw them in a vibratory tumbler with untreated nut shell media for a couple of hours.  When I take them out they are clean, dry and very shiny.

That’s my story for this month.  See ya on the range. – Rich

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Sierra MatchKing Vs. Sierra Tipped MatchKing

Written by Sierra Bullets Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd

MatchKingVsTippedMatchKingSince we introduced the Tipped MatchKing® (TMK®) line of bullets in 2015, we have had a few questions from customers regarding the two lines of bullets (MK vs TMK). Some shooters are concerned that the tried-and-true MatchKing® bullets will be replaced with the Tipped MatchKing® bullets. For those of you worried, relax, the old standby MatchKings® that you have shot for years are here to stay, and we will happily continue to make them for you.

MKvsTMK2
For those that like to try new products, we are planning on both continuing and expanding the Tipped MatchKing® line. Even where there are two bullets within these two lines that have matching weights (pictured above), 22 caliber 69 and 77 grain, 6mm 95 gr, 30 caliber 125, 155, 168 and 175 grains, we are not going to replace the MatchKings® with the Tipped MatchKing®. We are, however, going to continue to offer both lines of bullets for your use and enjoyment.  Keep an eye out for new additions to our product line!

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