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 | 2 Comments

Lending a Hand at Range Day

Written by Product Development Manager Mark Walker

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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Dad’s Old Guns

Written by Sierra Bullets Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd

I grew up in a household in rural Missouri that participated in hunting. When I was a youngster and too little to go hunting with my dad, uncles, an occasional guest, or my older brothers I still wanted to go. I admired all the guns they used when they went hunting.

In Missouri in the early to mid 1970’s small game was abundant.  Often the group was hunting squirrels and rabbits with 22 rimfires.  If they came across  any quail the shotgun carrying hunters were put to the point in order to have a chance at the birds. Eventually I was allowed to tag along and was even allowed to bring my BB gun along as long as proper safety was observed. As I grew older I was able to carry a rifle or shotgun just like the rest of the group.  Occasionally I borrowed one of Dad’s guns, or an older brother’s, or sometimes an uncle would offer to let me use one of his guns.

When I got old enough, I was given a 22 rifle by my loving parents. After making enough money through part-time jobs I bought myself a shotgun. There were many good times had with these firearms and during these hunts, and I wish I had pictures of all these good times.

Now, about 30 years later, Dad has long since passed away, all of my uncles are gone, and many of those old guns that I remember looking at and wishing I could shoot and hunt with have been scattered to family members or were sold to a stranger and lost forever.

Browning_HiPower_9mm I do however have a couple of Dad’s old guns that are at the top of my list of prized possessions. One of them is a Browning HiPower 9mm that he kept in a dresser drawer, occasionally we would get it out and shoot it a bit. Unfortunately for years everyone thought it was “shot out” because it shot so poorly.  After I started working at Sierra Bullets and became educated in the ways of guns and bullets, I talked Dad into giving that gun a proper cleaning and provided him some loaded ammunition.  With much satisfaction I can say that the old pistol can hold its own in the accuracy department.

Ithaca side by side 12 guageThe other gun I have that was my dad’s is an old (made in 1908) Ithaca side-by-side 12 gauge. For as long as I can remember, this gun had a broken stock (complete with a radiator hose clamp and some grey tape holding it together).  It was actually the first shotgun I ever shot. I was about age nine.  To this day I and can clearly remember the noise, recoil, and Dad catching me as I was stumbling backwards after firing it, but that tin can I was shooting at sure took a beating! This old shotgun was beat up and a cousin of mine had it for many years. He restocked it and inlaid a silver dollar into the stock for some reason. I was able to get this gun a few months ago.

I just HAD to take it hunting one more time before retiring it, so one fine morning I took it to the duck blind with me. The old Ithaca performed quite well and more fond memories were made with it.

It is my hope that you too have both the memories and the guns they were made with. And I hope you have someone that will appreciate them that you can pass both the guns and memories down to in the future.

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Leave It Better Than You Found It

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf

Park Sign Shot
With today’s political atmosphere it seems every time we turn around, someone or some group is attempting to chip away at our hunting rights and our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

We as hunters and shooters need to set a good example so non-hunters and non-shooters see us for what 99.9% of us are, responsible gun owners.

Until about three years ago, I did most of my target shooting at public shooting ranges, where, on occasion, even the strongest pro-gun supporter would see things that would make them frown.  I’ve seen everything from microwaves and TVs to Igloo coolers left discarded at a public shooting range, riddled with bullet holes.

Now it’s obvious that the people that do these things are only a fraction of the shooting public. But to non-shooters/hunters that witness the littered up landscape there is always the possibility that they will assume that gun owners are irresponsible.

For years now, I have had a rule for myself.  Leave the range looking better than I found it.
I always bring a garbage bag with me when I go to the range and pick up what others have left behind. I’ve picked up cans, bottles, wood, glass, cardboard, shot up targets, shotgun hulls, just about anything you can think of, including a stuffed “Barney” the purple dinosaur.

I have to admit, it makes me angry when I see that someone has shot holes in the shooting bench or shot up the posts that hold the target backing. Shooters have to remember that public ranges are provided by the tax payer and if the cost to maintain these facilities becomes too expensive that privilege can be taken away.

Today I mostly shoot at a private gun club, paid for and maintained by the members.  It is usually left in pretty decent shape, but occasionally I still have to pick up some cans, milk jugs or targets that someone has left behind.

If you ever see someone doing damage to one of our shooting facilities or littering up our ranges, I strongly encourage you to report them to the appropriate authorities.  Why let the fraction of one percent mess things up for the rest of us who appreciate having a place to shoot?

I challenge each person that reads this to please help leave a good impression when we go shooting. Let’s all be safe ethical hunters and responsible shooters and leave our shooting ranges looking better than we found them.

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The Foundation To An Accurate Load…..Brass

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box

We all know that it takes many things in the making of an accuracy load. We have to have a good barrel. It has to be fitted to the action proper. A good chambering job. The bedding of the rifle’s action has to be good, on and on, but even the best built rifle will not shoot to its’ potential with bad brass.  Below are some of the steps I recommend to prep new brass.

New Shiny Cases
Weigh the Cases

When I get a new lot of 100 cases, the first thing I do is weigh them. If I’ve never worked with this caliber before I will weigh 20 cases and write the weights down as I go along. Then I add the weights of all 20 up and divide by 20 to get an average. If this is a cartridge in the 22-250 thru the ’06 size, then I use 1.0 gr. above and 1.0 gr. below the average case weight and keep everything in this 2.0 gr. bracket. Cases in the 300 Win Mag size I go 1.4 grs. above and below the average and smaller cases like a .223 I use .7 of a gr. above and below. If you want to use tighter tolerances than this, that is fine, but I’ve found that very well built varmint guns will shoot down in the high .2’s and low .3’s with this method.

Deburr the Flash Hole

The next thing I do is deburr the flash hole. American made brass has a flash hole that has been punched and typically has a burr on the inside. Norma and Lapua have drilled flash holes and usually don’t have any burr or only a very slight one. I still deburr these as well and give them a slight chamfer at the same time. I’ve never been able to prove this, but I’ve always thought this little chamfer would more evenly spread the flash from the primer into the powder column and improve ignition. Besides, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Uniform the Primer Pockets

Next I uniform the primer pockets. Brass that have a punched flash hole will be the worst, but they all will be concave in shape. A uniforming tool will cut them flat on the bottom and allow a primer to be seated perfectly flat giving all the energy from the firing pin to set the primer off rather than final seat it the last .001-.002″.

Measure the Case Necks

Next I measure the case necks and compare the difference between the thick and thin side. What I’m looking for is a difference of .001″ or less. Cases that are between.001 and .002″ are set aside to be neck turned. The more uniform the case necks are, the easier it is for your seating die to seat a bullet in better alignment with the case body.

Brass that has been prepped through these steps will give your rifle the best chance to deliver the accuracy it is capable of.

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