By Sierra Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks
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.
Step Two: Loading
Twenty keychain bullets were loaded into .308 Winchester cases.
Step Three: Choosing a Rifle
The .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″.
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.
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.
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.