Double Duty Deer Stands

Written by Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks

Once deer season is over, deer stands are usually a forgotten piece of hunting equipment for the most part. We may have the occasional recollection of a hunting success or possibly a regret of an opportunity missed. But usually until the next fall hunting approaches we don’t think about that stand a whole lot. Now this is certainly not new news by any means, but we can get a lot of good from that piece of equipment by using it for other outdoor pursuits.

One thing that can be a tremendous amount of enjoyment is to photograph wildlife from the stand. It works well and offers the opportunity to view wildlife in a very natural atmosphere.  A couple of other uses actually give you the opportunity to hunt from these stand. Predator calling is a very popular post deer season pursuit. The hunting stand can get you out of the line of sight and also help to evade the sensitive noses of predators. Small game hunting can be very productive from your stands. I have used the ladder stands on our hunting areas to squirrel hunt. It works tremendous. Of course, as always, use caution and be safe when using elevated stands of any kind. More food for thought to provide more opportunities in the off-season. Have fun!

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Upgrading a 35 Remington

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin

Today, I’d like to talk about a 35 Remington cartridge and the possibilities of upgrading the performance level it can produce. Yeah, I know what you’re saying: “Why?” Call it a pet project I want to finish before I die someday. Trust me, when I say there are real possibilities for older cartridges that were limited for one reason or another. Pressure had to be kept at a reasonable rate to save the firearms they were chambered in and in some cases, the shooter too. Firearms made today use much better steel and are shaped to fit better, so why not?

Stock design has come a long way since the turn of the last century and shooters are finding out that heavier recoiling cartridges can be tamed by fitting the stock to them. The 35 Remington isn’t a real heavy recoiling cartridge, but it did feel like it from the firearms it was chambered in. I had a chance to own my choice of a Remington 8 or 81 chambered in this cartridge and at the time, I didn’t have the money for either. If I would have known at the time how either would have gained in value, I could have doubled my money, but they did have a reputation for painful recoil. Later on in life, I purchased a Marlin 336 and loved the way the cartridge performed, but the lever was the Achilles heel for me. Extended shooting sessions turned painful because of it and I gave up the cartridge to work with bolt actions. Ever since then, I’ve been on the prowl for a bolt action chambered in the 35.

Winchester did make a limited number of model 70’s in it, but to find one now is so far out of my price range, I’ll never own one. had one offered at a $7,000 start price and more than likely it is still there. They also had a Remington 600 offered at a $1,400 start price, but there is a lot of difference in the way these two looked. Despite popular opinion, I think the 600 looks fine even though the stocks forearm is way too long. The barrel rib and front sight fin gives it a unique look for sure, but for that price, I can modify a modern Remington Seven for less. With the shape of a model Seven stock, any recoil from this cartridge will be tame; in fact, let’s look at that with numbers.

Sierra’s 200 grain bullet in a lever action to a SAAMI maximum pressure gave 2,050 fps from a maximum charge of 4320 powder. If the gun weighed 6 pounds, recoil measures 13.12ft/s in free recoil velocity and 16.05 ft-lbs for weight in recoil energy. The same charge in a Remington model Seven will feel different because of the stock shape but the numbers will still be the same. So let’s compare this to a 308 Winchester if it was in the same gun that weighed the same 6 pounds (bear with me for the number’s sake). A maximum charge of the same powder with a 150 gr bullet gave us 2,900 fps so the velocity is 16.07 ft/s and the energy is 24.09 ft-lbs. A lot higher, but let’s look at the 200 gr vamped up to where it could be in a modern bolt action in 35. The same powder exceeding the 35,000 CUP limit pushed it to 2,366fps from at least one test. That translates to 15.6ft/s in velocity and 22.7ft-lbs in energy and that is less than the 308Win load! In fact, this intrudes into the 358 Winchester velocity level and doing it using less powder.

Don’t get me wrong, a light weight rifle chambered in a short range cartridge with a 1-4 power scope isn’t for everyone. A 200 gr Round Nose, even at this higher velocity will still give a trajectory that isn’t very flattering compared to pointed tips from other cartridges at distant targets. Be that as it may, it will take animals way out of proportion to what it was intended especially inside of 200 yards. For my style of hunting, it represents an ideal combination; quick to point, deadly accurate, and very uniquely mine. No one gathered around any of my campfires will have one, but they’ll never know what their missing either. Till next time, be safe and have fun shooting.

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Mid-Winter Doldrums – What’s a guy to do?

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz

Here we are deep into the month of February.  Some years we are beginning to moderate weather-wise by mid-February but not so much this year.  We just received about 4 inches of light fluffy snow.  Temperatures are in the single digits and staying below freezing throughout the day.  Definitely not shooting weather in mid-Missouri.

I hauled in my trail cams last weekend, prematurely I might add.  Our January weather was more like late March so I figured I’d grab the cameras before they got flooded or whatever happens to things left outdoors for extended periods of time.  I did notice some new trails and thought about just moving a camera or two but decided against that, unfortunately I might add.  When I got home and checked my SD cards only one was very active but there was a very nice 13 pointer posed in several different positions.  He was a newcomer to my area.  So now I need to reset a couple of cams to cover these new trails.  Who knows what else might be lurking out there.  It would be interesting to see how long the bucks carry their antlers.

?????I have found trail cameras to be an excellent hobby.  Well placed cameras can tell you a great deal about what is going on in your woods that was previously unnoticed.  They are there day and night.  Besides keeping track of your favorite buck odds are there is another buck or two that you haven’t had the opportunity to see.  Maybe even bigger than the one you knew about.  But beware, during the rut some bucks are travelers and you may catch them a couple of times and then they are gone, on to find more girl friends or fewer suitors.  Over the years, if you are lucky, you may get to see some of your recognizable bucks grow from spikes to majestic rulers of their domains.

My friend Carl Smith got me started by showing me some game pictures.  He uses cameras to cover his lease in South Carolina and suggested I start with the Cuddeback cameras and I have not been disappointed.  I much prefer the strobe type flash however.  The low-light to dark pictures are much higher quality and in full color with the flash units.  I think the newer models have better battery life than my 5 year old units but the old units are still in very good condition.  They seem to withstand the weeks outdoors unprotected unscathed and are still very serviceable.

So one afternoon of each weekend from October thru mid to late February is dedicated to at least a couple of hours in the field checking trails and trading out SD cards.  It is a great opportunity be outdoors and get some exercise, sometimes with the dogs and sometimes solo.  It is also a good time to do additional scouting.  Come to think of it maybe I’ll put one out a little later in the spring so I see where those dang morel mushrooms are hiding.

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Happy Groundhog/Woodchuck Day!

So, have you read The Woodchuck Hunter by Paul C. Estey?

The Woodchuck Hunter bookWhy not celebrate Groundhog Day by checking it out?  It’s an oldie dating back to 1936, but still a very fascinating read.

The following is Townsend Whelen’s review of the book from the September 1936 issue of The American Rifleman:

“I have read my friend Paul Etsey’s book with intense interest, for Paul and I have had many fine chuck and deer hunts together.

Paul, besides being the most efficient and experienced chuck hunter that I know, and a most remarkably fine rifle-shot to boot, is a keen lover of nature, and the love of his beautiful country, – its hill and streams, its game and its birds, crops out throughout his interesting little book.  It was a perfect delight to read it.

Paul has studied the habits and traits of woodchucks the year round.  He has lived with them and understands them as no one else does.  His first chapter deals with their life history and habits.  Then he goes on with a most complete and thorough description of the necessary equipment for hunting them; various chuck rifles, telescope sights, etc., etc,  He covers in detail all of the various makes, models, and calibers of rifles, the best types and their fittings, the cartridges, and the best handloads for them.  And he knows his stuff from A to Z because he has owned, used, and experimented with every one of the rifles and cartridges he describes.  Not only does he live in one of the finest chuck countries in the world, but he has a little range and bench rest of his own, and in his home he has full equipment for handloading and all kinds of tinkering and experimental work.  The advice that he gives is sound and up to date [for 1936].

Like a true rifleman, Paul glories in successful shots at long range, and always passes up the easy ones.  He believes in giving the game a chance.  But most of all he loves the surroundings: the green hills, the luscious meadows, the clear gurgling brooks, the apple trees in blossom, the song of the birds mingling with the shrill whistle of the chucks.  His last chapter, “Ramblings Afield,” takes you out with him into his country; makes you see and feel the beauty and quiet and fascination of it all.  That chapter is worthy of ranking with some of the best of Burroughs’ writings.

I hope all riflemen will read this little book.  If they aspire to hunt the woodchuck, or any varmint, they will profit greatly by the information contained; and if they are nature lovers – as they should be – they will be charmed with the descriptions of the chuck meadows and the day spent on quiet New England hillsides.”

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Lessons Learned #2

Written by Sierra Bullets Product Development Manager Mark Walker

Sometimes when you have done something so often, you take for granted that it will work for all equipment. In this case, I had used my cleaning process and equipment for years with no problems however a new barrel on a rifle caused me to rethink how I clean.

Last year, the barrel on my mid-range benchrest rifle decided to give up the ghost. After doing some research and asking fellow shooters, I decided to purchase a barrel that had rifling with “canted” lands. The barrel arrived and after looking it over, everything looked great.

Threading and chambering went very well with the barrel indicating in very straight and cutting very smoothly. After torqueing the barrel to the action, I went about loading some ammunition to break the barrel in with. At the range, the barrel shot as good as any I have ever had. Even with loads that were thrown together with no tuning whatsoever.

During the break in, I would clean the barrel after every five shots or so just because that’s what everyone says to do. The barrel cleaned up extremely well, however I noticed that the first patches down a dirty barrel would cause the cleaning rod to vibrate as I pushed them down the tube. It was something that I had never experienced before so I was a little concerned about what might be causing it.

After looking at the barrel with a bore scope, everything looked clean and no indication of what might have caused the vibration in the rod. I did notice some surface marks in the bore that traveled perpendicular with the bore. Usually when a barrel is lapped, all marks follow the rifling twist so these marks parallel to the bore where another phenomenon that I had never seen before. The mystery was getting deeper.

After another range session where the barrel shot lights out, I brought it home to clean it as before. The first patches down the barrel again caused the strange vibration in the rod. After stopping and thinking about the vibration and the strange marks in the bore, I checked the bearings in cleaning rod handle to make sure it was spinning freely and everything seemed to be in working order. I then decided to mark the cleaning rod to make sure it was actually turning when it went down the barrel.

When the first patch went down the barrel and the rod didn’t even attempt to turn, the light bulb went on. The patches and even the bronze brushes were simply skipping over the tops of the rifling and not following the rifling at all. I tried tighter patches and larger brushes, but the only thing that seemed to fix the problem was pushing them down the bore as slowly as possible while watching the mark on the rod to make sure it was turning. Had I continued to clean as I normally do, I surely would have ruined the barrel!

Once I figured out the problem, the barrel shot great and my cleaning process worked just like every other barrel I have ever owned except for having to go slow with the rod. This just goes to show that even though you may have done something a thousand times before, you should always be aware of what your equipment is telling you.

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Firearm Safety Never Ends

Written by Sierra Bullets Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd

A couple of months ago my brother and I decided to go duck hunting one weekday morning. Firearm deer season in Missouri was in full swing and while we would be hunting on a public area, there would be no conflict as we were hunting on water in a boat with a blind on it and away from where deer usually are.

We had a good hunt and were getting ready to pick up our decoys and head for home.  We were busily doing our normal routine of lowering the boat blind and getting the boat squared away prior to putting decoys in it. While doing this, we were visiting and working away and I heard a bullet come through the trees on the shore and splash in the water right behind us! My brother looked at me and made the comment that “someone must be shooting at a running deer.” He had no more than finished saying this when another bullet came literally between us and hit the water within ten feet of us. At about this time I realized that the “running deer” was most likely a target of some kind without a sufficient backstop that some person was shooting at, and that it was likely that more bullets would be headed our way very soon.

We had our boat anchored and both waded to shore and tried our best to hide behind some cover. I personally can tell you that a six inch diameter willow tree is quite insufficient when you know high velocity bullets are incoming.

There were several more bullets that impacted in the immediate vicinity of our boat. The shooter was quite a distance away based upon the time lag of the bullet versus the sound from the gun muzzle and the size of the “group” that was displayed on the water, but I assure you that those bullets had plenty of velocity to penetrate and cause harm.

This is yet another reminder for those that use firearms to be conscious of safety including one of the commandments of guns safety which is “Be sure of your target and what is behind it.”

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Warning: Reloading Can Be Highly Addictive

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf

Why do we reload our own ammunition? There are many reasons; to save money, to load obsolete ammunition or loading more accurate ammo just to name a few.  I originally started hand loading to save money, but now I reload for all the previously mentioned reasons and many more.

Probably the main reason I reload is because I enjoy it. Reloading is a great hobby and the more effort we put into it the more personal satisfaction we get when we look at the results on our targets. Call me strange, but when I see all of my bullet holes in a tiny little cluster, it’s a bit on the therapeutic side to me.

I started looking around my loading room and started adding up the cost of my equipment, and quickly realized that over the years, I have literally spent thousands of dollars on my hobby. So if you asked me how much money did I save reloading my own ammunition, I would realistically have to say it has probably cost me far more than I ever saved. But the result is, I have got to shoot far more ammunition with much better accuracy and became a smarter, better shooter because of it. Besides it’s my hobby. Some people collect stamps, build model ships or work on old cars. I prefer to load the very best ammunition that I can possibly make in my spare time. And I would love to see those other guys hunt whitetail with their stamp collection.

highly-addictiveAll joking aside, if you want to reload to save money, you can do that no problem. But beware reloading can be highly addictive and it won’t be long till you start seeing the results on your targets. You will find that your hand loads are far more accurate than the factory stuff you have been buying. And then you will be hooked. A few years will go by, you will look around your loading room and you will realize that you have spent a lot of money on the best, most rewarding hobby there is.

And what will look better in your living room, a model ship on your bookcase or that monster buck hanging on your wall?

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