2016 Sierra Cup at The Benchrest Rifle Club of St. Louis

2016 Sierra CupFifty-seven shooters at the Sierra Cup at the Benchrest Rifle Club of St. Louis on chilly Saturday, May 14, 2016.

St Louis Benchrest Sierra CupCongratulations to Sierra’s Mark Walker (far left) on his 3rd place F-Open class finish and Tommy Todd (far right) on his 2nd place F-T/R class finish this weekend at the Sierra Cup Competition at the Benchrest Rifle Club of St. Louis. Stay tuned – they were both shooting experimental Sierra bullets in the final stages of testing. Thanks to all the shooters who came out and braved the chilly temps on Saturday for the Sierra Cup shooting F-Open, FTR, F-Bench and Sling.

1st Place SlingCongratulations to 1st place Sling Class Winner – Jeff Lindblom

1st Place FOpenCongratulations to 1st place F-Open Class Winner – Tony Francik

1st Place FTRCongratulations to 1st place F-T/R Class Winner – Drew Rutherford

1st Place FBenchCongratulations to 1st place F-Bench Class Winner – Neil Greenwell

2016 Sierra Cup TShirt2016 Sierra Cup Match T-Shirts
Mark WalkerMark Walker

Mark Walker2Mark Walker

For more information about the 2016 Sierra Cup please visit – http://bit.ly/1NvIqjG

Upcoming F-Class Matches at Bucksnort Rifle Club in Marshall, MO

Bucksnort Rifle Club is hosting a NRA F-Class Mid-Range Regional May 21-22, 2016 in Marshall, MO. The match will consist of 160 rounds for record over 2 days. All shooting will be fired from the 600 yard line. High power shooters are welcome to attend.

Please visit http://forum.accurateshooter.com/threads/nra-f-class-mid-range-regional-may-21-22-bucksnort-rifle-club-marshall-mo.3897555/ for further details, and registration.

This will be a great tune up match for the State Championship match in July, as the course of fire is identical. If you haven’t shot a match at this club, you owe it to yourself to see what all of the talk is about.

July 9-10 F-Class 600 yard Missouri State Championship

To participate in the 2017 Sierra Cup please email Brett Mitchell at bmitchell448@gmail.com for more information.

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Will They Whistle?

By Sierra Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks

168 gr Bullets and Keychain
For over 50 years Sierra Bullets has offered a souvenir bullet keychain made from a real Sierra bullet to customers.  In fact, vice-President of Sales, Matt Reams, estimates that over the years Sierra Bullets has given away over a million of these bullet keychains!  Nickel-coated bullets that didn’t make the cut as first grade bullets are drilled and then sent to our local Center for Human Services to have a small chain added to each one.  They are given away at numerous tradeshows and shooting matches throughout the year and to each person who tours the Sierra Bullets plant.

Over the years it has been joked about many times at trade shows and around the office, wonder how those bullets would shoot?  Wonder if the hole in them would make them whistle as they go down range?  Wonder if they would even fly straight? We’ve even had a few customers call in to our technical support line and say that they loaded them up and sent them down range.

And while we must remind everyone that WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRYING THIS AT HOME, our curiosity finally got the better of us and we just decided to give it a try and send a few of the keychain bullets downrange in our underground test range.

Step One: Initial Prep Work

The first step was to remove the little chains.  The nickel-plated bullets measured .310″-.311″ in diameter.  With the holes drilled through the boat tail of the bullet, the bullets weighted between 165 and 166 grains.

Bullet Keychains with Chains
Step Two: Loading

Twenty keychain bullets were loaded into .308 Winchester cases.

Loaded Keychain Bullets2
Step Three: Choosing a Rifle

Rifle with Loaded KeychainsThe .308 rifle chosen was one that was no longer used for range testing.  We didn’t want to shoot these bullets in a highly accurate test firearm due to the possibility of barrel damage that might take occur from the hard nickel plating.

Step Four: Here Goes Nothing (At 100 Yards)

Listening carefully so we could see if they whistled on their way down range, we drew a collective breathe in and I pulled the trigger.  So did they whistle?  Disappointingly, through our ear protection, we heard nothing but the deafening sound of the muzzle blast in the concrete encased space of our underground range.

So how did they shoot?  Considering many things including that the bullets were not first grade bullets and that the rifle was beyond its usefulness as a test firearm and not shooting well, we were pretty surprised that they even all stayed on one target.  The first group was fired at 100 yards and resulted in a 10 shot group that measured 5.444″.

1st Group Keychain Bullets
Step Five: Why Not Try 200 Yards?

Next, we wanted to see what would happen if we moved to the 200 yard targets. The bullets now produced a group of 10 shots that was 9.125″.  The group is pictured below outside of the box on the left.  This was even more surprising given the circumstances.

200 yard groups

Step Six: How Do They Compare?

One final thing we wanted to do to pull this all together and give the test some validity.  We pulled out 10 of our 168 gr. HPBT MatchKing® accuracy standards.  These are bullets that have been verified to shoot well and meet Sierra’s required specifications. We used the same load to shoot this group. The result was a 200 yard 10 shot group of 1.506″ pictured in the box on the left above. Wow!! What a difference.

168 gr HPBT MatchKing
So will you be seeing nickle-plated bullets with holes drilled through them on the shelf at a Sierra dealer near you soon?  It doesn’t look like it.  Unfortunately these bullets didn’t hold up to our rigid quality standards and didn’t even make a novelty whistle sound on the way down range.  But hey, at least now when customers ask “Hey have you guys ever tried shooting these things?” we can grin and say, “We sure did!”  Next time you come by our booth at a trade show or if you get a chance to visit in person take your little keychain souvenir and impress your friends with the story about the time Sierra tested sending them downrange.





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Ask A Bulletsmith – How old were you when you started hunting?

Hunting with DadWe asked a few handy Sierra Bullets Bulletsmiths “How old were you when you started hunting?” Check out their answers below and please let us know in the comments how old you were when you started hunting.

Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant“Nine”

Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz “I followed my dad to the duck blind when I was about 8.  I started duck hunting with a full choke M42 Winchester .410 when I was about 10.  I couldn’t even see out of the blind, so I had to wait until the ducks were right on top of me!”

Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin –“It was just a few years after the folks moved to the new place that I was hunting and shooting rabbits with a BB gun. I had to be around 10 or 11 years old at the time. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I took my first whitetail deer, but it has been a feeding frenzy ever since.”

Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks – “I actually got my first rifle at 4 years old and when I was six Dad would let me squirrel hunt in the big patch of timber out behind the house. I followed Dad coon hunting from the time I was five.”

Ballistic Technician Paul Box – “Eight”

Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd – “Seven”

VP – Sales & Marketing Matt Reams – “I am not sure, probably 7-8?  I went along even when I was younger, but not sure when I got to start packing a rifle.  My father and his brother were huge rabbit hunters and we went every weekend and even some weekdays after school.  I never remember not hunting.”

Production Toolsetter Brad Vansell – “Started hunting with my father at the age of 12.”

Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf – “My father took me squirrel hunting at 6 yrs. old and I shot my first squirrel.”

Production Manager Chris Hatfield – Started hunting when I was 13 with my Dad.”

Machine Shop Supervisor Craig Westermier –8 years old.”

Production Resource Manager Dan Mahnken – Started hunting squirrel and rabbit at age 11 or 12. Was hunting deer at 16.”

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Split Neck Cases

Split Case Necks
A very thin split in the neck or mouth of your cases can be tricky to see with the naked eye during case inspection.  Shining a flashlight through your cases in a darkened room can help you see where any light might be going through.  Once you have found cases with  splits in the neck you may be wondering what caused them, how to prevent splits, and what can be done now with the cases.

Split Neck Causes

Each time a case is loaded, the mouth is sized to accept the next bullet. After the bullet is seated, the neck is crimped to hold the new bullet in place. This constant working of the brass will harden it to the point that it can develop splits in the neck area.

Preventing Split Necks

Unfortunately, split case necks are probably the single most common cause for case loss. Cases can be very expensive to replace, so sometimes as they say and ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Splits can be reduced by simply not working the brass any more than absolutely necessary. When loading pistol ammunition or straight walled cartridges, don’t bell the case mouth any more than is needed to get the next bullet started, and don’t apply heavy crimps unless the load actually calls for it.

Annealing case necks can help to prolong case life by softening the neck that has become brittle due to resizing and work hardening. Do some research about the annealing process and you just might be able to extend the life of your cases and prevent some case neck splits.

What Now

It is best to scrap any case when it develops a split in the neck or mouth, regardless of the number of firings. Once the case has split, it cannot be repaired. 

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Seating Concerns with Sierra Tipped MatchKing® (TMK) Bullets

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz

Now that the new Tipped MatchKing® (TMK) bullets are being shipped and shooters are putting them to use I have received several calls regarding marking on the bullets ogive from the seating stem.

3 77 gr Tipped MatchKing Bullets
The cause can be traced to one of several things.

In the 223 and especially with the long 77 grain TMK seated at 2.250” or even 2.260” most loads of Varget® and Reloder® 15 are compressed loads, sometimes heavily compressed.  This puts a great deal of pressure on the bullet through the seating stem.  The result of all this pressure is a mark of varying depth and appearance on the ogive of the bullet.

Some older seating stems might even bear against the tip of the bullet which can make a slight bulge in the jacket just below the junction of the resin tip and the copper jacket in a compressed load.  If this is the case there is not a ready fix other than calling the die manufacturer and requesting a new deeper seating stem.

If the seating stem is of proper depth the culprit most generally is a thin sharp edge on the inside taper of the seating stem.  This is an easy fix that can be accomplished by chucking  a spare 77 grain bullet in your drill, coating it with valve grinding compound or even rubbing compound or in a pinch even tooth paste.*  Remove the seating stem assembly from the seating die.  Turn the drill on and put the seating stem recess over the spinning bullet with the polishing compound to break or smooth the sharp edge that is making the offending mark.  This might take more than one application to get the proper polish depending upon what you use but the more you polish the better the blend of angles which will show up as a brightly polished ring.

Chucking A 77 gr Bullet If the above is a little more than you care to tackle you might try very fine emery cloth twisted to a point that can be inserted into the mouth to the seating stem and rotated to polish the inside to eliminate any sharp edges that might be present.

And last but certainly not least.  Actually, even though we don’t say you need additional data for the TMKs, remember you are dealing with heavily compressed loads in some cases because of the additional bullet length.  Due to the additional length of these new bullets and in the interest of gaining some room in the case you might consider trying a slightly faster extruded powder like BenchMark or the 4895s or an even more dense powder like the spherical H335®, CFE223 or TAC.  The extra room will allow for trouble free bullet seating also.

Good luck and remember we are no further away than your telephone – 1-800-223-8799.

*Wear safety glasses and follow drill manufacturers safety instructions. 

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Why Does Load Data Vary Between Reloading Manuals?

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks

One of the first things new reloaders notice is that load data varies between reloading manuals.  The Sierra Bullets Technicians frequently get inquiries asking us to explain why the load data appears to be inconsistent.

An example of load data variances for two 168 gr. bullets:

308 Winchester Sierra HornadyHere are five reasons why the load data varies:

The Bullet

Basically, the similarities in the .30 caliber 168 grain Match bullets (for example) end with weight and diameter. The bullets likely have dimensional differences such as bearing surface length. Bearing surface has a large effect on pressure and velocity. There are also differences in boat tail, flat base, ogive and over-all lengths, which each help determine the cartridge over-all-length (COAL). With different COAL’s, we can expect changes in pressure and velocity also. In some calibers there are differences in bullet diameter with different bullet manufacturers.

It is also worth noting that bullet manufacturers do not all use the same copper alloy for their jackets. This produces more or less friction that results in load pressures and velocities.  The solid copper bullets also vary quite a bit in comparison to a lead core and copper jacketed bullet.

The Gun

Each gun is unique, even if you are using the same make, model, and caliber.  Special consideration should be used to consider that not all firearm chambers are the same either, creating more variables that need consideration.  There can be drastic differences in the throat length. This controls the amount of “jump” that a bullet experiences when the cartridge is fired.

The Powder

Within normal manufacturing tolerances, you can see some variation in a given powders burn rate between different lots of the same powder. So naturally when two different Manuals are produced, it would be doubtful that the same lots would be tested.

The Cases

New cases are almost always near minimum specs in dimension. A load fired in a new case would likely have slightly more pressure that when fired in a re-sized case. This would certainly be true if we were loading into fire-formed cases that have had minimal re-sizing done. Fired cases that are full length resized most of the time be slightly larger than the new unfired cases. This gives you differences in case capacity. The same powder charge placed within a new case and a full length resized case will produce different pressure levels and probably different velocities.


Temperature can cause pressure increases or decreases. Hot temperatures tend to cause pressures to increase, while cold temperatures will usually do the opposite. Humidity and altitude can impact pressures and velocities likewise.


As you can see, an amazing number of variables effect any load combination. With the differences in the manuals, you’re just seeing firsthand examples of what took place when the data was collected with that particular set of components and firearm.  Think of a reloading manual as a report. In essence, a reloading manual says, “We tried this particular component combination, and these are the results we obtained.”

Remember that you may or may not reach the same maximum load safely.  There is no “one load fits all bullets.”  The minimum load data offers a safe place to start.  The maximum load data listed should always be regarded as a safety guideline and not necessarily a goal!  Your gun should shoot accurately without breaching the maximum load data.  The best advice is: always start low and work your load up!

If you have questions about variances in load data or other reloading questions, please call our ballistic technicians at 1-800-223-8799 or send us an email at sierra@sierrabullets.com.

Posted in Reloading | 3 Comments

Lending a Hand at Range Day

Written by Product Development Manager Mark Walker

Mark Walker Bucksnort
I’ve been a competitive shooter for quite a while and have attended matches around the country. Every single one of these matches had a dedicated group of people who worked hard to make sure everything went smoothly and safely. You see these people at the matches working hard, however, there is another group of people at every range who work just as hard. They are the grounds keepers and volunteers that help keep the range itself in good condition.

Last summer, I became a member of Bucksnort Rifle Range in Marshall, Missouri. The range is a typical high power range with firing lines out to 600 yds. We had the opportunity to shoot the first f-class match held there last fall and everything went down without a hitch. I wondered to myself who took care of all the equipment and the facilities to keep this range running.

Several months later I received the 2016 range schedule and I was excited to see two more f-class matches for this summer. However there were also a couple of “range” days on the calendar. I asked a friend what this meant and he informed me they were the days that club members showed up to work on the range and repair anything that was needing to be fixed. Even though my handiness is somewhat limited, I decided that I would have to make sure that I was there to help out.

The day started early with several large projects that needed to be completed. These ranged from spreading new rock in the pits, repairing a rotting post in the target shed, building new sets of targets, to clearing trees and brush which had started to encroach on the firing lines. They divided all of us into crews so that all of the projects could be worked on simultaneously.

Bucksnorting Brush CleanupI started working with the crew building the new targets and they quickly got a jig created to aid in making sure everything was square. In no time we had all the frames built and we then began to attach the cardboard to the face. About half way through, one of the guys that had been working on the post in the shed had spotted the generator I had brought with me in the back of my truck. He said they sure could use it in the pits so I left the target crew and went down to help with the shed.

Bucksnort Target UnloadingWhen I got to the shed, it became apparent that most of the guys working there were experienced building contractors. These guys knew exactly what needed to be done so I tried to stay out of the way and help where I could. They finished up with the generator relatively quickly so I ran back up to continue helping with the targets.

Bucksnort Target Building
Once I got back, the target crew had already completed attaching the cardboard to the frames and were trying come up with a quick way to paste new targets to them. It appeared that they had this well in hand, so I noticed that they were starting to spread gravel in the parking areas with a front loader. So I grabbed a rake and started to help level out the areas that the front loader couldn’t get to. I have to say that a good man on the front loader is worth their weight in gold. I continued helping with the gravel until I had to leave.

Bucksnort Gravel PitsLooking around the range the next day, the amount of work that had been accomplished was impressive. Everyone’s hard work had definitely paid off and the improvements will help to make this year’s matches even more enjoyable. Most ranges can’t afford to hire this kind of work out, so it takes many volunteers to keep the ranges up and running smoothly for everyone to enjoy.

Next time you see “range day” on the schedule, put the rifle down and grab some tools!

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