Ask A Bulletsmith – Is your personal preference hand priming, single-stage reloading priming, or progressive reloading press priming?

We asked a few handy Sierra Bullets Bulletsmiths: “Is your personal preference hand priming, single-stage reloading priming, or progressive reloading press priming?” Check out their answers below.  We would love to hear from you too, please share your response in the comments below.


Hand priming, single-stage reloading priming, and progressive reloading press priming.

Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant answered “Hand priming on match rifle and handgun silhouette ammo. Progressive press priming on bulk ammo for handgun for 3-gun and USPSA matches.”

Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz answered “I hand prime all my match rounds, but utilize the on-board priming systems of my Ponseness-Warren semi-progressive and RCBS progressives.”

Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin answered “Hand priming with the RCBS #09460 bench mount tool. It is easy to fill, easy to use and sensitive enough that I know when the primers hit bottom.”

Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks answered “I love my hand-priming tool. I actually have two of the Lee hand priming tools. I set up one each for large primers and small primers just to prevent changing back and forth.”

Ballistic Technician Paul Box answered “Hand priming”

Robert Treece answered I prefer single-state reloading priming or separate bench tool priming of my cases.  The hand priming units bother my arthritic hands.”

Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd answered “Hand priming”

VP – Sales & Marketing Matt Reams answered “Hand priming for sure.”

Line Toolsetter Brad Vansell answered “Hand priming with an off press RCBS primmer tool.”

Process Engineer David Palm answered “Progressive priming for pistol and 223, hand priming for long range rifle loads.”

Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf answered RCBS automatic priming tool.”

Acting Production Manager Chris Hatfield answered “Single stage reloading priming.”

Maintenance & Machine Shop Lead Craig Westermier answered “Hand priming”

Plant Engineer Darren Leskiw answered “Based on my volume of shooting, progressive all the way.  I do see the advantage of single stage reloading for precision/ consistency.”

Production Resource Manager Dan Mahnken answered “I have an old priming tool that looks like a bottle jack.  I believe it was made by Lachmiller, which I have primed thousands of cases with over the years.”

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Lessons Learned #3

Written by Sierra Bullets Product Development Manager Mark Walker

When I first started shooting competitively, I read all the books I could about how to make my ammunition shoot as accurately as possible. One recommendation was to try and keep all your cases with the same number firings on them to help keep neck tension as consistent as possible. This made sense to me so I decided to only load the amount of ammunition I was going to need for the match that I was attending. That way I would have no extra loaded ammunition left over to have to shoot to keep those cases on the same firing as all of the others.

There was a 600 yard benchrest match at the St. Louis Benchrest Club coming up that I wanted to attend, so I loaded only the ammo I needed and headed up to the match. The first several targets were ok but nothing to write home about, so for the last target I decided to watch a different range flag to see if that would help. If nothing else, maybe I would learn something about the wind and the match wouldn’t be a total waste.

In 600 yard benchrest it is very difficult to see your bullet holes especially if there is a lot of mirage so you don’t really know what kind of group you have shot until you see it scored on the wall. I proceeded to shoot the last target only when the flag told me to and I was down to my last round of the day. The flag showed the condition I wanted and I pulled the trigger. Of course, nothing happened. I sat there and looked at the rifle and wondered what went wrong. I motioned for the range officer and, to be safe, we let the rifle sit for a bit in case of a hang fire. Once enough time had passed, I opened the bolt and inspected the cartridge. Shaking it revealed that there was indeed powder in the case. The firing pin hit on the primer looked good and was identical to all the other cases that were fired earlier. It looked like a perfect round otherwise. Since I was disqualified because I didn’t have five shots on target, I was pretty bummed out.

After the match, I went into the club house to hang out with friends and watch the awards ceremony. As I was visiting, a buddy went over to look at the targets. When he returned he said “Hey Walker, you might want to look at this.” On the wall was the last target I had shot with four shots into less than ¾ inch! Of course, the best chance I had for a great target was ruined by one round that wouldn’t go off.

Upon further investigation once I got home, the culprit was determined to be a primer that did not have any compound in it. Of all the years and thousands of rounds I have fired, that is the only primer with no compound that I have ever seen and of course I had to find it then. I now load at least five to ten extra rounds each match just for such emergencies. While it was a bad experience at the time, it taught me a valuable lesson that has saved me grief many times since then.

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98K Mauser VS. British Enfield #4 MK1

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf

I have always liked the old military bolt action rifles, and about 20 years ago, if I found one in good shape I bought it. These old war horses can sometimes be a gamble, you never really know what you are getting.

Through the years I have traded off or sold many old military rifles that just didn’t shoot as good as I thought they should.

Two of my favorites that seemed to shoot pretty well, ended up being tucked away as safe queens for the last twenty years or so until this spring.

I was getting spring fever and needed a little trigger time and all of my scoped rifles were sighted in and hitting right where I want them. So what is a guy to do?

I dug out my 98K Mauser, it is all original with no import markings and still wearing all of her politically incorrect Waffenampts and even still has the original sling. It is an excellent example of Germany’s WWII battle rifle. I’m sure one of our GI’s must have brought it home as a war souvenir. By the looks of it, I think it was fired very little and only dropped once.

K98 Mauser
I also pulled out my British Enfield #4 MK1, that is in very good shape, I remembered that it shot good twenty years ago and it is a quality example of one of Britain’s battle rifles. Unfortunately it has import markings, but it is still a good looking Enfield.

My goal was to shoot them against each other at 100 yards, and see which one was the better shooter.

So on a warm day in April with only about a 10 MPH wind, I loaded up the old rifles and headed to the shooting range.

After a few sighters with the old Mauser, I quickly realized that my eyes just aren’t what they use to be and I had to move my targets closer to 75 yards, so I could see what I was shooting at.

I had recently loaded 30 rounds of ammo for each rifle for my test, and when my shooting session was complete, I had shot all 60 rounds and had an aching shoulder, from those wonderful steel and brass butt plates.

All groups were fired at 75 yards from a bench using sandbags for my rest.

My load for the 8mm, was a 200 grain Sierra MatchKing® #2415, 41 grains of IMR 4064 and a CCI #200 primer. The best group fired from either rifle belonged to the 98K. My best two groups from the old Mauser were 1.634” and 2.542”.

K98 Mauser Groups
My 303 British load consisted of a 174 grain Sierra MatchKing® #2315, 39.5 grains of IMR 4895 and a CCI #200 primer. My best two groups from the old Enfield were 1.930” and 2.277”.

MK1 Groups
Now I realize that these groups aren’t going to win at Camp Perry, but I was fairly happy with the results.

I honestly think that if these two old veterans had a decent scope on them, they would both be capable of M.O.A. accuracy, at least at 100 yards anyway. But I assure you neither one will ever be altered from their as issued condition. I like them just how they are. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Does this accuracy test really tell me much, not really. Two inch groups at 75 yards isn’t really something to write home about. But I did find it interesting that when I averaged the two groups from the Mauser they averaged 2.088” and the two groups from the Enfield averaged 2.103”, that amounts to only 15 thousandths of an inch difference between the two when it comes to this accuracy test.

So which rifle was the better battle rifle? I’m certain that if you asked an old German soldier and an old British soldier you would get two very different answers.

Disclaimer: Load data represented here may not be safe in your rifle.

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Understanding Twist: Bullet Stabilization

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box

Based on the questions we get on a daily basis on our 800 line, twist is one of the most misunderstood subjects in the gun field. So let’s look deeper into this mystery and get a better understanding of what twist really means.

When you see the term 1-14″ or 1-9″ twist, just exactly what does this mean ? A rifle having a 1-14″ twist means the bullet will rotate one complete revolution every fourteen inches of the barrel. Naturally a 1-9″ turns one time every nine inches that it travels down the barrel. Now, here’s something that some people have trouble with. I’ve had calls from shooters thinking that a 1-14″ twist was faster than a 1-9″ because the number was higher with the 1-14″. The easiest way to remember this is the higher the number, the slower the twist rate is.

Now, the biggest misconception is that if a shooter has a .223 with a 1-8″ twist, his rifle won’t stabilize a 55 gr. bullet or anything lighter. So let’s look at what is required. The longer a bullet is for its’ diameter, the faster the twist has to be to stabilize it. In the case of the .223 with a 1-8″ twist, this was designed to stabilize 80 gr. bullets in this diameter. In truth the opposite is true. A 1-8″ will spin a 55 gr. faster than what is required in order to stabilize that length of bullet. If you have a bullet with good concentricity in its jacket, over spinning it will not hurt its’ accuracy potential.

Think of it like tires on your truck. If you have a new set of tires put on your truck, and they balance them proper at the tire shop, you can drive down a street in town at 35 MPH and they spin perfect. You can get out on the highway and drive 65 MPH and they still spin perfect. A bullet acts the same way.

Once I loaded some 35 gr. HP bullets in a 22-250 Ackley with a 1-8″ twist. After putting three shots down range, the average velocity was 4584 FPS with an RPM level of 412,560. The group measured .750″ at 100 yds. This is a clear example that it is hard to over stabilize a good bullet.

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May 1: Happy National Law Day

Check out these Firearms Laws of yesteryear as published in the November 1936 issue of The American Rifleman.  The table gives the major provisions of all state laws now in force which affect the use and ownership of handguns.  The “Uniform Firearms Act” shown at the head of the table is the model state law which was drafted by the American Bar Association with the aid of the National Rifle Association.  Where the initials U.F.A. appear in the body of the table it means that the provisions for that state are similar to those listed for the Uniform Firearms Act.  (Hint: to view bigger – double click on the images below.)

Digest of State Firearms110 Digest of State Firearms112

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X-Treme Bullets Texas 3 Gun Championship

Written by Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant

I had the pleasure of attending the X-Treme Bullets Texas 3 Gun Championship at the Copperhead Creek Shooting Club near Marble Falls, Texas, April 24 thru the 26th. Sierra Bullets was an associate sponsor, so I had a slot for the match and squadded up with what we call, “The Sierra Squad” plus several other really nice 3 gunners. The “Sierra Squad” is a group of my friends from across the US that I have shot with for many years around the country. We usually wear matching shirts, unless someone forgets to bring that color. We have a variety of personal backgrounds. There is myself, a 23 year employee of Sierra Bullets; a retired police chief from Seminole, Texas; a retired Border Patrol officer from Artesia, NM; a blacksmith from Midland, Texas; another blacksmith from Tuscola, Texas; and a retired police officer from Marion, Illinois and his wife, who is also a retired police officer. She always rides herd over the crew and keeps us in line and plus in the correct shooting order. (She also brings glasses to the restaurants when we go out of evenings so we can all read the menu.) **See a special note we received from a guest on the “Sierra Squad” below.

A little side story on her and glasses.
I was the the USPSA Multi Gun Nationals at the Clark Range in Princeton, La. I was always having to borrow glasses at restaurants, so she brought me a bag full of glasses she had gotten at Dollar General for $1 a pair. She just tossed them into the back of the Sierra Mobile as I was leaving headed back to Missouri. I had been driving an hour or so and all of a sudden I could hear music. I thought the radio was off and I turned it on and off and could still hear music. There was a car about 300 yards in front of me and I thought they must really have their radio blaring. My phone rang and it was her and she was laughing and asked if I had heard music. I said yes, wondering how she knew? She said she had left her phone in the bag with the glasses and that was her ring tone. The glasses it turned out, all had left side ear pieces on them, so I had to deep six them.

The night before the X-Treme Bullets Texas 3 Gun Championship started, there was a Friends of NRA banquet in Marble Falls, and since Sierra had donated bullets to it, I decided to go, since I was there anyway. A friend of mine in Marble Falls wanted me to go.  He bought the bullets Sierra donated. It started to rain late that night after the banquet and up until 8:30 the next morning. The start of the match was postponed a little, but when it stopped raining at 8:30 we started shooting. It was a muddy mess. I actually started wondering if it was really fun anymore and I heard others mention the same thing. We managed to survive the day and we shot in the afternoon the next day, so it had already dried up and we had dust, which is typical of much of Texas. We finished shooting on Sunday and got thru the excellent prize table, but bad weather was brewing.

Texas 3 Gun Match

The first shooting position of 3 in a rifle only stage at the Texas 3 Gun match. You had to be touching the prop and could only shoot targets that were the color of the prop.


The second of the 3 shooting positions.


The 3rd position. If the white target was shot from that position, it was a match DQ.


Vance Schmid shooting the rifle portion of a stage from a rooftop.

As I headed home, I started noticing cars pulled to the side of the road with people out with cameras and binoculars. The farther I went, the more people were pulled over and then there were TV camera crews. I called my wife to see what was going on.  I told her where I was and she said I was in the middle of a tornado alert and that one had been spotted. I kept driving, hoping I would miss it. Then I started meeting the tornado chasers with their lights flashing and flying low. My hope was that they were going to it not running from it. Other than about 10 minutes of hard rain and some strong wind, I made it to Dennison, Texas where I spent the night. I turned on the news and saw where they had baseball size hail, so I was glad I had kept moving. Now if I can just make it to Wyoming in June without getting in a tornado or flood like I have for the last 5 or 6 years. See you all on the range, someplace-somewhere!

**Letter received from Ward Cridland 4/27/2015

To the Sierra Bullet Family,

I would like to comment on my personal experience with Sierra Bullets in a way you might not hear. I just got done shooting the 2015 Extreme Bullets Texas 3 Gun Championship. I was squadded with a group of gentlemen that were wearing the Sierra Bullets green shirts. Most of these gentlemen would be called old I guess, although not by me as I’m 53 years old myself and had trouble keeping up with any of them. One of the gentlemen was Carroll Pilant who I learned is in your employ.

I can’t say enough times that I have never shot with a better bunch of squad mates. Everyone was helpful, courteous, knowledgeable, a great shooter, the list could go on and on. I hope to represent all things good as well as those gentlemen did to me this last weekend.

Now you may say why I am writing this letter? Two reasons one to thank Carroll again for all the help he gave me and for being such a fine companion those three days. Please pass on to Carroll my thanks.

The other reason is really the key here. As I said I’m 53 years old been shooting as much as a boy growing up in upstate NY could. I moved to the Gulf coast in 1985 to work in the oilfield where I remain employed. I have been shooting competitively for about 2 years. I just got a brand new Dillon 650. I will be loading for my rifles and I WILL be loading Sierra Bullets. My thinking is: If a group of shooters as fine as those gentlemen choose your bullets to use I don’t need to look any farther for my rifle bullet needs. I’d say you hit your demographic market with a bull’s eye there!

I know as a company it is a big cost outlay to support the shooting sports and sometimes those costs seem high for your perceived return. In this case your support of those fine gentlemen earned you a customer for life. I just wanted to pass on my experience with your company at the match and help you see the adage win on Sunday sell on Monday holds true in all its variations.

Thank you.

Ward Cridland

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Bruce Piatt’s Crawfish Cup Match Report

Bruce Piatt with Sierra Bullets Banner
On April 21st I traveled to Lake Charles, Louisiana for the Crawfish Cup, a regional NRA Action Pistol event, which is the same as the upcoming National Championship – “The Bianchi Cup“.  This was my first trip to Lake Charles and my first opportunity to practice prior to The Bianchi Cup in many years. The three days of practice were filled with typical Louisiana hot and humid weather, right up until match day when we were hit with torrential rains.  It cleared up by 1:30 – 2pm and we were soon back on schedule.  In the end I was victorious shooting a perfect score of 1920 – 176x.  Past Bianchi Cup Champions Koenig and Angstadt were both present, along with a couple of other contenders, along with a record attendance for the Crawfish Cup.

Bruce Piatt Shirt and Trophy
At the end of the award ceremony, match director George Mowbray approached me and explained that for the past three years, the winner of the Crawfish Cup has gone on to win The Bianchi Cup.  I pondered that thought for a moment and told him with a wink, I would do my best to uphold the tradition.

Hear an interview with Bruce on NRA Radio Cam & Company on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 5:10 p.m EST.

Here is a link to the interview –


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