To Case Prep, Or Not To Case Prep

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf


Around a year ago I bought a Ruger American Predator rifle chambered in .223 Remington, with the goal of turning it into a coyote extermination machine.

While working up a load for it, I went through all my typical brass prep steps, weighing cases, annealing case necks, uniforming primer pockets and deburring flash holes.

I started wondering just how much difference all my brass prep would really matter for a factory rifle at normal hunting ranges.  So I decided to do a little experiment and load up 15 rounds using fully prepped cases and 15 rounds with very minimal brass prep and compare the group sizes at 100 yards.

I weighed out cases until I had 15 within half of a grain of each other, annealed the case necks, uniformed the primer pockets, deburred the flash holes, full length resized, trimmed them to exactly 1.750”, chamfered and deburred the case mouths.

Then I picked out 15 more cases, full length resized them and only checked to be sure that they were shorter than the maximum case length of 1.760”.

I primed all of the cases with CCI #400 small rifle primers, charged them with 24 grains of Alliant Power Pro Varmint and topped them off with a 55 grain Sierra BlitzKing #1455 seated to 2.275” O.A.L.*

So on a beautiful day for February, it reached 60 degrees and very little wind, it was time to burn some powder. From a bench, using sandbags for a rest, I fired 3 five-shot groups with both the prepped and unprepped cases at 100 yards. The results were interesting but not surprising.  The best two groups of the day were indeed from the prepped cases, but then again so was the worst group of the day.

Here is how it broke down:

Prepped cases, Group #1 = .975”, Group #2 = .884”, Group #3 = 1.127” (Average .995”).prepped_cases_55_gr_blitzking_sierra_bullets

Unprepped cases, Group #1 = 1.115”, Group #2 = 1.093”, Group #3 = 1.060” (Average 1.089”).unprepped_cases_55_gr_blitzking_sierra_bullets

My mixed results did show that the fully prepped cases did average .094” better than the unprepped cases, but the largest group fired from the prepped brass was .012” worse than the largest group fired from the unprepped brass.

In all reality, we can read a million different things into the results. I guess the lesson I learned from this little test is whether I prep my cases or not, I should be able to hit a coyote at 100 yards.  I don’t think the coyote will be asking if I prepped my brass or not.

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

Posted in Reloading, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

You Never Know Who’s Watching You Shoot

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box

I’m sure most all of us remember our first experience shooting. It was probably an air gun or a .22 rimfire. Teaching someone new to shoot can be a very rewarding experience. Just remember that what and how you teach will probably stay with them the rest of their life. Naturally the first thing is gun safety.

The best example of this that I can think of is my wife Jo. Now keep in mind that Jo is Philippina and was raised in the Philippines. She had never been around guns in her life. Had never even held a gun before. Plus she had been taught to stay away from them because they was dangerous. To make matters even worse, when she was 15 years old, five men broke into her family’s house. Two of the men held the family at gun point while the others took everything of value they had.

The first time after we were married that I got one of my handguns out, I could see fear in her face. It was time for a talk. I swung the cylinder open and showed her that it wasn’t loaded. We went over total gun safety. I explained many things to her, but didn’t overload her with too much information. Some time later, she wanted to go with me when I was going to do same handgun shooting. I brought along ear protection for her and told her where to stand so that the muzzle blast of my .41 mag wouldn’t bother her. It wasn’t long before she was enjoying watching cans jump from bullet impact.

bgh-rm-270After a few months of watching me, she was taking an interest and one day she ask me if she could shoot my .41. I told her no, this was the wrong caliber for her to learn with. Too heavy of a pistol, too much recoil and too much muzzle blast for anybody to start out on. My Smith and Wesson model 617 4” .22 rimfire would be perfect for her.

Jo’s first shooting session was quite an experience for her. We went back over gun safety again and I let her watch me shoot a few cylinders to see how much muzzle jump it had. With the first few cylinders she shot, I stood behind her and reached around her shoulders putting my hands on her arms. This was more for reassurance that I was there and she didn’t have to be afraid. With that first shot her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. My Smith 617 is a ten shot wheelgun and she went thru this pretty quick. She asked why was it empty so soon? I told her it’s a three letter word…… FUN!!!!!!

The main thing to remember here is that I didn’t try to push her into becoming interested. I let her advance at her own pace.  I only explained so much to her at a time rather than overloading her with too much information at once. Jo has come a very long way. From being a person that was afraid of guns to now loving to shoot. The biggest surprise was watching her shoot. I could tell she was doing things just the way I did. She had been watching me closer than I had realized. She has already showed interest in shooting something larger and even deer hunting.

So the next time you’re out shooting, just remember, somebody might be watching. You never know who you might influence.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Reloading Balancing Act

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin

phil-cooking2A lot of calls that come into the 800 room are made by shooters that are of a retiring age. That isn’t meant to be an insult but just something I’ve picked up on. Most of the time the shooter used to reload back when they were kids and stopped in order to raise a family, pursue a career, or both. Maybe their father or grandfather taught them back in the day and they are looking for an answer to the new whatchamacallit they found on the internet. The point is they are coming back to it because it was fun.

As a father of three, a husband, a brother, a son and son-in-law, and a friend and neighbor, I get pulled in a lot of directions. In all honesty, reloading and shooting has become a stress relief for me even though I work in the shooting industry.

Sometimes, the shooting gets put on hold for other more important things but there will always be another project or repair to accomplish. There are a lot out there that have found a way to balance the work life, the family life, and the play life. I would like to applaud you on your efforts because it is a hard thing to accomplish.

Remember to take time and relieve that stress so do something fun, especially if it is shooting that special handload you just made.

Posted in Reloading | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Varmint Hunting in the Extreme

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks

My fall hunting season had not allowed me to hunt as much as I normally do. There seemed to be little things that had to be done at each turn. The time I did have had been fruitful and I had no complaints about the game I had the opportunity to harvest. But….. having a considerable time away from the phones and computer during the Christmas season, I did have some time to get back out in the woods and fields to hunt and enjoy.

The Missouri Alternative Methods Deer Season started on Christmas Eve and was to run through till January 3rd. Most of that time I was away from work. The first weekend was filled with Christmas. Time spent with family and sharing the meaning of Christmas. The day after Christmas found me with only a small amount of things to prevent me from hunting the morning hours. But, ah, the afternoon was free. So I finally am ready to take my muzzleloader and see if a late season deer can be harvested to put in the freezer.  I have loaded the #8900 .458 300 gr. ProHunter® in my gun for many years and have harvested quite a number of deer with this combination.

Arriving at the deer stand at about 2:45 pm, I settle in to await that “golden hour” when all the activity starts to take place. It has been pretty noisy around the stand with the birds fussing at one another and the squirrels giving me a startle with their “elephant stomping potato chips” romping around the stand. You just knew it was “the big one” making his approach.

Finally the activity seemed to slowly come to a slightly reduced roar, when all of a sudden I saw a flash of movement off to my right. Quickly trying to locate the cause as I am staring through a wall of oak and hedge limbs and brush, just a little further behind my right side, again I see movement. I can detect a critter, but due to the inability to see very good in the cover, I wasn’t sure just what I was looking at. Then, all of a sudden, there is a twitch.

What’s that? A short stubby tail? That can only mean one thing. Bobcat!! Because he is on my right and almost behind me at this point, I don’t have any option but to stand and turn. I carefully attempt to get around so that I can get the scope on the cat. He suddenly stops and looks right up at me through the heavy cover that we are both behind screened by. I start to freeze, but I know this is a “now or never” situation. I continue to move slow and steady and bring the gun to my shoulder. Once I have the gun up, I can see the cat through the heavy cover. I was not sure if the bullet could make it through all the brush and twigs. I settle the crosshairs behind the shoulder and squeeze off the shot. Sticks and bits and pieces of brush explode in front of me, but I saw the bobcat collapse. I quickly reload, but can see that there was no hurry. I had harvested a very large tom bobcat. No deer were seen the rest of the evening. But that was okay. I had just had one of the very limited opportunities to come to a hunter. This trophy will soon be finding a quality spot amongst my other trophies. This was a slightly late, but well appreciated Christmas gift.


Posted in Hunting Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sierra Introduces New MatchKing Bullet

1997-boxSierra Bullets is proud to introduce a new addition to the legendary MatchKing® line.  Shooters around the world will appreciate the accuracy and extreme long range performance of our new 7mm 197 grain HPBT (#1997).  A sleek 27 caliber elongated ogive and a final meplat reducing operation (pointing) provide an increased ballistic coefficient for optimal wind resistance and velocity retention.  To ensure precise bullet to bore alignment, a unique bearing surface to ogive junction uses the same 1.5 degree angle commonly found in many match rifle chamber throats.  This bullet requires a twist rate of 1:7.5” or faster to stabilize.  

1997While they are recognized around the world for record-setting accuracy, MatchKing® and Tipped MatchKing® bullets are not recommended for most hunting applications. Although MatchKing® and Tipped MatchKing® bullets are commonly used for varmint hunting, their design will not provide the same reliable explosive expansion at equivalent velocities on varmints compared to their lightly jacketed Hornet, BlitzKing®, or Varminter counterparts.

The new 7mm 197 grain HPBT bullets will be available in boxes of 500 bullets (#1997C) with a suggested retail of $264.21per box and boxes of 100 bullet (#1997) with a suggested retail of $54.20 per box.

Posted in Competitive Shooting, Reloading | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Sierra Bullets 6.5 Creedmoor Load Data


sierra-bullets-6-5-creedmoor-diagramTest Specifications/

Firearm Used: Universal Receiver
Barrel Length: 24”
Twist: 1-8’’
Case: Hornady
Trim-to Length: 1.910’’
Primer: Winchester WLR


Developed in 2007 by Dennis DeMille and Dave Emary, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a shortened and improved 30 TC cartridge case that was inspired by the .308 Winchester design.  This short action design was created to maximize case capacity and a wide range of loading lengths, while still fitting in standard short action magazines.  With the correct twist barrel, the versatile 6.5 Creedmoor can take advantage of the wide range of bullet weights available in 6.5mm.  Reloaders should keep in mind that the 6.5 Creedmoor works best with medium to medium-slow powders such as H4350, Varget, Win 760, and RE-17.  The light recoil and adaptability of the efficient 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge has already proven itself in high power, precision rifle series and benchrest competitions.  Couple that with respectable barrel life and its intrinsic accuracy potential and you have a recipe for success which should insure its legacy for decades to come.



2-sierra-bullets-6-5-creedmoor-dataINDICATES MAXIMUM LOAD – USE CAUTION


4a-sierra-bullets-6-5-creedmoor-dataINDICATES MAXIMUM LOAD – USE CAUTION







Posted in Reloading | Tagged , , , , , , | 30 Comments

How to Find Your Absolute Best Load

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz

Nearly every day and for sure every week each of us technicians get asked how we work up our own personal loads.  Now I don’t live in a fantasy world so I think it is safe to say we all use a somewhat different method to achieve the same perceived result.  So my method is outlined below.  But I have to warn you, I have been known to throw a load together only to find that it is good enough as is without further testing.

Case in point – I got a new-to-me IBS Heavy Gun and since it was new-to-me, I borrowed some off the shelf RCBS dies from my brother in-law.  The gun came with some Norma brass luckily because it is a caliber I would not have picked on my own.  Since it is a 300 Magnum I wanted to shoot our 210 grain HPBT MatchKing bullet #9240.  I have a good supply of Retumbo on hand so I dreamt up a load and threw it in the first 20 cases I could grab that had been primed with W-W WLRM primers.

That chore completed, I mounted a Burris XTR 8-40X to the integral 20 MOA rail and headed to the farm where I have a 250 yard range.  After I got all the benchrest paraphernalia set up I positioned myself so I could look through the bore of the rifle and proceeded to bore sight it.  The first shot was on paper low and slightly left so I clicked to the hole and fired five more shots.

1st-group-6So far that has been the extent of my load development for that rifle and I think you can see why.

I had another such stroke of good fortune with my primary hunting rifle a Ruger M77R 7×57.  For years I had shot IMR4350 and the Sierra 140 gr SPT ProHunter #1910 but a Montana Mule deer hunt brought with it the prospect of longer than normal shots so a search began for a flatter load.  I chose the streamlined Sierra 140 gr SBT GameKing #1730 for a bullet and VihtaVuori N165 for the powder.   I had some new W-W 7×57 Mauser brass and plenty of WLRs so I checked the manuals, picked a load and assembled three shots.  I used the same COAL as my original ProHunter load.  Over the years that load has produced many 1/2 inch 3 shot groups, just like it did originally.  They don’t all work like that but it is nice to be lucky.

So, when I’m not being lucky how do I really find my loads?

I do have a method besides being lucky and it is as follows:

First things first, select a bullet and a powder. Find the powder charge that works for that bullet. This is easily done with a “Ladder Test”.  You may need to shoot several tests to find the load that suits you.

Next, swap whatever available and appropriate primers you have through the above powder charge to establish a balanced ignition.

Shoot this test in one trip to the range as you want everything to be as similar as possible.  This is best done on the same day and same target so you can get a quick visual comparison of group size and POI.

Then, using that powder charge and primer as established previously, start working the bullet seating depth from magazine length back at least .030″ to .045″ less than max mag length in increments no greater than .010″ to establish the best COAL for this combination.

After firing your tests in .010″ increments there will be a true standout dimension.  To narrow that down even closer, load groups at your previously determined dimension AND .005″ greater AND .005″ less than the previous best dimension to determine the true performance corridor.

The result of all this testing is a stable, well-balanced load that will be consistent day in and day out tailored specifically to your firearm.

Posted in Reloading, Uncategorized | 16 Comments