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!

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MOA Cold Turkey 1000 Yard Handgun Match Report

Written by Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant

The MOA Cold Turkey 1000 Yard handgun match is held near Sundance, Wyoming. Richard Mertz of MOA handgun fame came up with the idea of a match where you fired a shot at a 1000 yard target without any sighters. Thus the name Cold Turkey. The person closest to the X ring had the honor of having the first shooting position. I was actually fortunate enough to be the first person to be on target at 1000 that first year. The following year we just started drawing names for shooting positions.  There are now 3 categories: light gun, heavy gun, and hunter. The Hunter class is shot off of 3 sandbags or a bipod. Light and heavy gun use rests. Each gun is shot at 3 ranges – 500, 750, 1000 yards. You shoot a 5 shot group, targets are scored and pasted and you repeat that twice more. The 3 group sizes are totaled up and the top 4 shooters in each relay shoots off for the winner at each distance and division.

Today (Thursday) we just finished up the 500 yard portion in all 3 categories. Friday will be the 750 yard portion and Saturday will be the 1000 yard finale with awards Saturday night. This is the 9th year for this match and I have been privileged to have shot all of them. This year there are shooters here from Washington, Wyoming, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota, Canada and I believe another state or 2. It is really unbelievable some of the group sizes shot here with a handgun and a really challenging match.  I placed 4th today in heavy gun and 3rd in hunter.  Hopefully tomorrow at 750 I will do better.

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Day Two and Three – National Sportsman’s Team Challenge in Marble Falls, Texas

From Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant

Day One Wrap-up

Day one of the National Sportsman’s Team Challenge preliminaries is in the books and tomorrow starts the shotgun portion. Many shooters were plagued with malfunctions, some being mechanical and others brain associated. Even some of the top shooters had problems. I watched Doug Koenig come up one round short of being able to clean combo in 2 man. Bruce Piatt didn’t notice one of his targets didn’t go down in the 2 man handgun. One of Nelson Custom Guns dot went out causing him to have to fire a shot and then smack it to get it to come on so he could shoot the next target. Tomorrow is a new day with different guns and hopes of making up ground for today’s errors.


Team Sierra Bullets: Carroll Pilant, Thomas Rodriguez and Mark Self

Day Two

Well, Day 2 is in the books and the preliminaries are over. We lucked out and made the 3 man team shoot offs. Tomorrow all teams will start with all the steel events and then after everyone is finished we move on to the shotgun stages. Usually each team that made finals is pretty well matched with the other 2 teams in that class. All it takes is a gun to go down to completely change the outcome. One team may be stronger in shotgun than another team but the other team maybe stronger on steel so things can be very close down to the last shot. All we can do is try our best and hope all our equipment works. This time tomorrow it all be over but the crying.

Day Three


Off to a start with breakfast at the place to eat in Marble Falls – Blue Bonnet Cafe.

Day 3 arrived for the shoot-offs. As I went outside to head to breakfast, the wind was blowing and skies were black and it was trying to rain. I received a text from one of my teammates that lives at Round Rock and he said it was pouring on him as he headed to the range. As I came out after breakfast, the rain had quit and the black clouds moved away and it was just overcast and the most comfortable day we had had.

The battle for Sportsman A was under way. Hayes Custom Guns team jumped into the lead right off the bat, so it left the Sierra 3 Man team battling it out with the Off Target Team for second and third place. It was a close race but we barely managed to edge them out. We had some gun problems on 4 different stages, so that didn’t help either. Mark’s shotgun went down on him in the Flurry and Thomas had problems with his rimfire pistol on the Handgun event. Both Mark and I had a shell fail to feed on the Mixed Bag. We have had to shoot off against Off Target in the past and it is always a close race. They are a fun team to shoot against.

Unfortunately this may be the last year for the Sportsman Team Challenge Nationals. It takes about 60 teams for the match to break even and the last 3 or 4 years just hasn’t paid the way.  Not near as many sponsors are stepping up to the plate to help support it as in the past either. This has been a great match that I have shot for many years and have really enjoyed as has anyone that shot it. But without participation  and sponsorship, unfortunately it won’t be able to go on. I would like to give a heart felt thank you to Jason Massey and the entire Massey family for all that they have done for the last several years. They have loved the STC and put their heart and soul into promoting it (plus spent a lot of their own money) . There will still be regionals going on around the country, so I urge you to get a friend or 2 and go try your hand at one. It will be 6 stages of, “Wow, that was fun.” I hope to see you there because this is just too much of a fun match to let die out.

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Day One – National Sportsman’s Team Challenge in Marble Falls, Texas

Bruce Piatt gearing up for the National Sportsmans Team Challenge

Bruce Piatt gearing up for the National Sportsmans Team Challenge

From Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant

The first day of the Sportsman Team Challenge is here   This is the second year it has been held here at the Copperhead Creek Range in Marble Falls, Texas. Many notable shooters are here such as Lones Wigger, Bruce Piatt, Doug Koenig (who just won the Bianchi Cup), J. Michael Plaxco, and Jerry Miculek.

Temperatures are supposed to be in the mid 90s today. Today we shoot all the 3 man teams rifle and pistol events in the morning and 2 man teams in the afternoon. Tomorrow we shoot all the shotgun events trying to qualify for the finals on Sunday.

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Hunting Sambar Deer

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin

A fellow hunter wrote an email and asked a good question, what cartridge should he use on Sambar deer? Actually, his question had a little more depth than that as I found out.

Sambar-DeerSambar deer are a hearty animal that weren’t indigenous to the area but introduced into Victoria, Australia in 1860. They have flourished ever since and from what I’ve read about them, they will eat a wide variety of plants including the endangered species that authorities don’t want disturbed. They usually have three points on each antler and get to a size that can be compared to mule deer up to elk size. This would indicate that a medium diameter bullet from at least a medium velocity cartridge is going to be a good choice.

Regardless of that, he let me know they have a cartridge restriction on their deer hunting. The restriction is a minimum bullet diameter of .277” with a minimum bullet weight of 130 grains from a case with a minimum length of 51mm (2.007”) for hunting them.  Even though it is a fairly common sense rule, I still get hung up on the fact that they had to put it into law. This led him to mention that he lives in what he calls ‘the golden triangle’ and that there are a lot of poachers that will shoot deer at night in populated areas endangering the lives of other people. One example he gave was a large stag shot in a suburban train station car park with a 444 using soft loads so, needless to say, they have a problem over there. Without a doubt, this gets the local authorities itchy to pull over everyone and anyone caught having a firearm together with anything that emits light will be arrested.

He wanted to keep above the minimum guidelines just to make sure he could prove that he has the right equipment if he is ever approached while hunting. He also wanted a cartridge that wouldn’t beat him up with every shot like his big gun does (by the way, the big gun is a 338-378 Weatherby. Ouch!). I mentioned several cartridges that could work well for him, even some more obscure wildcats that should be easy to make if he has a good gunsmith to work with on the firearm. So after careful thought and a lot of emails back and forth he chose the 270WSM. It just barely fell into place above the restriction limit but it should work well for his species of deer and other types of animals if he chooses. It will give a faster velocity because of its wider body compared to other cartridges of the same length and there are plenty of appropriate bullets for this work level. Another selling point was that it is a factory made cartridge in a factory chambered firearm so factory brass and reload data should be easy to find.

This is one of those hunts I may never get to go on in my mortal life, but I can always dream about it till that someday comes. And when I do, I’ll take a light weight hunting rig chambered in this cartridge… maybe a Winchester Featherweight?

Update: With the availability of components and the finding of a good action that needed little to no modifications other than a new barrel, he chose a different cartridge than the 270WSM. In fact, he decided on a wildcat cartridge he called a 308/270. By the way, he lists it just the opposite of the way we do here in the states, we would list it as 270/308Win so he is necking down a 308 Winchester case to use .277” bullets with no other changes. This combination should give him the ability to push a 130 gr bullet to 3,000 fps or so at the muzzle of a 24” barrel. That puts it right on the heels of the 270 Winchester but using less powder to do it. Hopefully, he will keep in contact with me and updated on his successful hunts with it.

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