How On Earth Did I Miss That Shot?

Written by Sierra Bullets Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd

Over the years I have been on a hunting trip or possibly even just out shooting and enjoying the outdoors with a fine rifle, and have experienced a flat-out miss when shooting at either a target of opportunity or an animal. Of course, the first thing that crosses my mind is “How on Earth did I miss that shot!?!

I’m notorious for saying after an unbelievable miss “I’d sell you that sight picture!” By which I mean that the crosshairs of the scope or the appearance of the sights were such that I would take the same shot again and again and expect perfect bullet impact and yet the dreaded MISS occurred.

An example of this scenario occurred a few years ago while my wife and I were antelope hunting in the great state of Wyoming. We have some friends that have a ranch up in the mountains and they allow us the privilege of hunting with them occasionally. This particular trip we had a foot of snowfall overnight. They were really excited as they seldom get the chance to hunt antelope in the snow and we were really excited as we seldom get to hunt antelope period.

We spotted a small herd of “goats” and executed a stalk on them and despite having to crawl for about a hundred yards, we got into a shooting position up on a knoll about 150 yards from the herd. I had a doe/fawn tag and after quietly watching the herd for awhile and a whispered discussion as to hopefully picking a doe out that did not have yearlings hanging with her still. A particular antelope was picked out and while the other three peeked over the sagebrush I steadied the gun for a shot on some shooting sticks. I was shooting a recently built 358 Winchester and was shooting Sierra’s 225 gr. Spitzer boattail bullets (#2850).

At the crack of the rifle the last thing I saw in the scope was perfect crosshair alignment and the rifle tracking straight back towards me. I expected excitement and high fives after the shot, instead my buddy said “I can’t believe you missed that doe that far!”  He watched the bullet hit WAY OVER her back. Now I’m not the best shot in the world, but I KNOW when I shoot a good sight picture and execute follow through. Immediately my mind started churning and the best we could come up with was possibly snow in the barrel. Remember the foot of new snow and the crawl to get into shooting position?

Upon returning to work I thought up a test to verify/or crush the theory that snow/water had gotten into the muzzle of my rifle and caused a wild shot. I did not have anything covering the muzzle and as you know a 35 caliber bore diameter is fairly large and could easily have gotten contaminated.

To test my theory, I loaded nine rounds of 308 Winchester ammunition. I utilized the 165 grain SBT bullet (#2145) and enough Accurate 2495 powder to shoot well (approximately 38 grains).* I then utilized a fouled 308 Winchester barreled action in one of our return-to-battery machine rests for the evaluation. This testing was conducted at 200 yards.

I fired three shots and documented the velocity at 2378 fps. I then fired three more shots but before each shot I placed a piece of electricians tape over the muzzle, this would effectively keep any water out of the barrel if placed properly. There was no accuracy or velocity change with the electricians tape in use as you can see.

DSCN1606 DSCN1611

Dipping_Barrel_in_WaterI had my right hand man in all things bullet related, Tony, dip the muzzle of the test rifle into a bucket of water before each of the next three shots.**

Shooting with the last eight inches or so of bore wet reduced the velocity of this load by 47 fps. As you can see from the target results below, you don’t want any water in your barrel if you intend to hit what you’re aiming at. I believe I found the reason that antelope doe escaped my efforts to transform her into table-fare.

2SpreadsLuckily for me, an hour after missing the first doe, I got another chance and made a very good shot on another antelope at approximately double the distance of the first attempt and the bullet hit precisely as intended. I’m betting that the barrel interior was wet the first time and dry on the second attempt. I have often heard the saying “keep your powder dry,” from my experience and this test, one could add “and your barrel!”

*Please note: While this load was safe in the rifle used in this article, it may not be safe in your specific firearm.

**If you think there might be any obstruction in your barrel, unload your gun and check.  Do not fire any firearm with the barrel obstructed in any way.

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Load Tuning Questions

Written by Sierra Bullets New Product Development Manager Mark Walker

When I began shooting F-class several years ago, everyone told me that my gun must hold “waterline” elevation to be competitive. Using a load with very little vertical will give you the full width of the scoring rings to help with wind changes. This is great advice and this is still the way I set my rifles up when possible. However having shot benchrest before switching to F-class, sometimes I wonder if maybe there is a different way.

I have read many articles and books about short range benchrest and how they tune rifles and most of them recommend leaving some vertical in the tune because it makes it less sensitive to wind changes. Up until now I have loaded to make sure that elevation is flat without regard for how much the wind moves the bullet around in flight. While this maximizes the width of the scoring rings, you must still be very diligent in your wind calls or you will lose points. If adding some vertical to the tune (maybe holding ½ MOA vertical instead of ¼ MOA) makes the load less wind sensitive, maybe that is a better way to go. Possibly give up some scoring ring width to make the load less wind sensitive and therefore easier to make wind calls with.

I know a lot of people will say that what works for short range benchrest shooters usually doesn’t apply to long range. However if these guys are noticing less wind drift at 100 yards, why wouldn’t that carry over to 1000 yards? I’m sure there is a ton of data to the contrary to prove this theory wrong but I can’t help but wonder. For my next blog, I plan on testing this theory if I have the range time. If anyone has any thoughts on this idea or how to test it, I would certainly love to hear it. Until next time.

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2015 Briley West Cost Steel Championships

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The Piru, California dust has now settled on the 2015 Briley West Coast Steel Championships, and what an absolutely stellar event it was! It exceeded all expectations and was the best edition to date.

They hosted 396 entries (including 49 ladies and 19 juniors), who traveled from 11 states and 3 foreign countries. Fathers with their sons & daughters, mothers & daughters and entire families came out to compete and contribute to the safe, fun, family oriented atmosphere the Briley West Coast Steel Championships has become known for.

Over $150,000 in prizes, generously provided by 90 sponsoring companies including Sierra Bullets, were awarded by random drawing to each and every competitor. Everyone had a great time, left with a full stomach, some pretty nice prizes, and most importantly, a big smile and fond memories.

Winner of the match was Damien Curtis, who traveled halfway around the world from Australia to earn the crown.

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Shooting the 7.62 x 39

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf

I was talking with a friend the other day about just how ridiculous gun prices have become. He said if we knew back then what we know now, we would be rich. I brought up the SKS rifle, and just how inexpensive they were before the 1994 Bill Clinton assault weapons ban.
I remember the first one I ever saw was at a local gun show. The dealer must have had twenty of them in unfired, unissued condition for a whopping $89.00 each. I had to have one and went home with my new Chinese SKS rifle and 10 boxes of Norinco ammunition that I paid two dollars a box for.

It didn’t take very long before I realized there was a lot of room for improvement when it came to accuracy. The rifle was only capable of six inch groups at 100 yards with the cheap Chinese ammunition. So I started handloading the 7.62×39 cartridge, but the best I could ever do with the SKS was 3 and 4 inch groups at 100 yards.

I eventually bought a Polytech AK clone and a Russian made SKS, but it was pretty much the same thing, poor accuracy. I knew that the rifles weren’t known for accuracy, but I always wondered just how accurate the round could be if it was shot out of a quality bolt action rifle. About 10 years ago, at a local gun shop, I found a CZ 527M bolt action carbine and I really liked the way the little carbine looked and shouldered and I bought it on the spot.

I recently went to my local gun club and brought along my three rifles chambered for the 7.62×39 cartridge, a CZ527M, a Polytech AK clone and my Russian made SKS. I really hadn’t done much load development with them, I only worked up a safe load that seemed to shoot decent and functioned well in the semi-autos.

I shot the three rifles at 100 yards with about a twenty mile per hour cross wind. All of my shots from the three rifles printed just off to the right. I blame that on the wind, but I’m pretty sure at least some of it was shooter induced.

I shot a total of six, five shot groups, two groups from each rifle and kept the best group from each rifle.

As expected the AK clone shot 3.764”, the SKS did a little better at 3.155” and the CZ527M turned in a 1.690” group.

Russian_SKS_TargetPolyTech_TargetCZ 227M TargetI’m confident that with a little load development I can get the little CZ to shoot under an inch and a half at 100 yards. I may even take it deer hunting this fall, it’s plenty accurate enough for hunting and probably 90 percent of all the deer I’ve ever shot were within 100 yards. With a 125 grain Sierra Pro-Hunter® #2305, if I do my part, I am confident the Pro-Hunter® will produce one very dead deer.

Posted in Competitive Shooting, Reloading | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Handgun Shooting Tips

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box

8350_Handgun_PictureFrom time to time I will take calls from shooters on our 800 line asking how they can become a better handgun shooter. These will always be shooters that have just gotten into shooting with a handgun for the first time. After three or four trips to the range, they are getting discouraged.

For most of us shooting a handgun is far more difficult than using a rifle. Holding a handgun with one or two hands is not very steady compared to a long gun. So how can we improve our accuracy with a handgun?

The first thing that any new shooter should consider would be grips. While many new handguns come with a good comfortable grip, they often times can be greatly improved with a set of custom grips that fit your hand better. And with so many after market grips available, it’s an easy matter to find one that fits your hand perfect.

Another thing to look at is the sights. Most of us can get by just fine with the factory sights that come on most handguns today. But for a lot of us, they could use some improvement. Again, we have so many after market sights available that it can be an easy matter to match up a set of custom sights that are far easier for our eyes to see and allow more precise sight alignment. After all, we can’t shoot any better than we can see.

The next thing I want to dwell upon is practice. Almost forty years ago, I decided to get more serious about shooting a handgun. Even though I had been shooting a pistol for several years, I had never gotten very serious about accuracy. I was getting a little discouraged, so one day I asked a good friend for some help. He had been a handgun shooter for many years as well as a former police officer from Chicago. His first words were “How much do you shoot?” I mentioned that I shot a lot. He repeated “How much do you shoot?” I told him that maybe every other weekend I would fire 50-100 rounds Naturally he laughed. John told me to start shooting 500-600 rounds EVERY weekend. Naturally this was mind boggling to me, but I decided to try it. John mentioned that it will come to you with enough practice. Every weekend I was firing 500-600 rounds and I kept this up for several months. John was right, it did come to me. I have more tips that I will share in a later blog article, but for now remember to practice, practice, practice.

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Circa 1979: Sierra Bullets To Aid U.S. Olympic Team

Written for Handloader Magazine July-August issue by Wyatt Keith


1980_OlympicsSierra Bullets has announced a program designed to channel support to the United States Olympic shooters – and to give you a chance to get a special jacket patch, certificate, and gold-plated lapel pin. Participating dealers will soon have “Shoot for 1980” kits on their counters.

Each kit includes a jacket patch, six targets, and the rules for shooting and
entering your targets. You can compete with other shooters of handguns and rifles
by shooting tight groups and sending the authenticated targets to Sierra. A ten-shot
rifle group not more than one inch, center to center, at a hundred yards wins a gold embroidered jacket patch and a gold plated lapel pin. Ten shots within an inch
and a half at twenty-five yards will win the pistol shooter a similar patch and pin. The
two patches and the two pins are slightly different: one design shows a rifle shooter,
the other a handgunner. So you may want to try for both.

Among the rules is the stipulation that you shoot your groups with Sierra bullets.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Of the three dollars you pay for the “Shoot for 1980” kit, the United States
Olympic shooters’ fund will immediately get a dollar. The other two go to the dealer
and to Sierra to cover their expenses in this promotion of Olympic shooting. If your
dealer doesn’t have these kits, keep after him until he gets them. Our shooters need
the help, and I’m sure a lot of shooters will want to get in on this casual competition.

Do you think it’s a snap, shooting a ten shot group small enough to win a Sierra
Olympic patch and pin?

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Do You Have Load Data For…..?

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks

We are often asked on the Tech Line if we have data for every conceivable cartridge, bullet, powder combination imaginable. It is not uncommon to hit a snag when trying to find exact component information. We often have to reference other load data sources and try to determine what would be a safe starting place for a given combination. There are always situations where the data may not exist. This requires some extensive background information questions to be asked in order to get enough information to search out an answer. So bear with us as we try to get you the best information we can find. We sometimes have to step away from the desk and phone to grab a resource publication or reference material.

Then there are the easy ones. We have had numerous questions about the new line of Sierra bullets, namely, the Tipped MatchKings® or TMKs. Each of the six bullets that were initially offered were introduced in a weight and caliber where we have an original MatchKing® bullet of the same weight and caliber. We are asked where to find the new load data for the new bullets. This is when we try and help the loader become more familiar with how to really use load data tables. We start off by explaining that we will be using the same load data table as we do for the original MatchKing®. We need to start at the minimum load because there are some differences in the actual profile of the bullets. Then working up in increments that are relative to the case capacity, we then will find that load which performs well in said firearm.

There is another consideration that needs to be addressed here also – that is the Over-All-Length, or OAL. The new TMK® bullets are longer than the original MatchKings®. If loading to fit a magazine, this forces the bullet to actually be seated deeper into the case. This is another important reason to start at the minimum load. Then by working up incrementally, we can keep our attention on pressure indications, just as we should do with all load work.

Load development is not hard, but it’s not fast either. Remember that safety is the utmost concern. Take your time and work deliberately but carefully. One set of components at a time in an uncluttered environment.  Too many times we have heard someone say,”Load data is reduced, so we always start at the max.” That simply is not true and we want to discourage anyone from making that mistake.

We certainly want to help you with any load development questions you may have. If ever in doubt, call us and ask. Remember, there are no stupid questions @ 1-800-223-8799!

Posted in Reloading | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments