Sierra Bullets Announces Master Bulletsmith Program

img_6944Left to right – Master Bulletsmith, Jeff Gilbertson; President, Pat Daly; Master Bulletsmiths Dan Hoke, Scott Jenkins, Bryan Brock; Production Manager, Mike Gunter; Production Lead, Brad Vansell; and Vice-President of Operations, Doug Wickham

Through a newly developed program, Sierra Bullets will train Bulletsmiths through an extensive criteria-based program to be Master Bulletsmiths.  Criteria for the Master Bulletsmith designation include a thorough knowledge of all bullet production processes, an exemplary demonstration of all of Sierra Bullets operating procedures, and a reliable, respected leader.

To obtain the Master Bulletsmith designation, each Bulletsmith must be certified to run all Sierra Bullet lines including MatchKing, Tipped MatchKing, BlitzKing, Varminter, GameKing, Pro-Hunter, SportsMaster, Tournament Master, and Sig Sauer V-Crown bullets.  Each Master Bulletsmith must be able to proficiently run a bullet press, draw press, and trimmer.

In addition to masterfully crafting bullets with their own bullet press, each Master Bulletsmith will lead a group of Bulletsmiths, serving as an expert those operators can rely upon for guidance in the complexities of bullet craftsmanship.

Kicking off the Master Bulletsmiths will be initial inductees Bryan Brock, Jeff Gilbertson, Dan Hoke, and Scott Jenkins.  Together these men bring 99 years of knowledge and experience to the art of making bullets.

Rest assured, the next time you head to the range or hunting with your favorite Sierra Bullets, your bullets bear the quality and accuracy overseen by a Master Bulletsmith.

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Going the Distance with 77 gr MatchKing Bullets

Grab some popcorn and check out this video featuring the 77 gr HPBT MatchKing® #9377 bullets from our friends at Gorilla Ammunition.

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Reloading 101: Fireforming Cases

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks

What is fireforming?

Fireforming is the process of creating custom fitting cartridge cases for your specific firearm. Having the “custom” cases can be very beneficial and really isn’t to hard to accomplish. I want to hopefully shed some light on the process as we continue. When we buy shoes and clothes, we like for them to fit “just so”. We all have our own opinion as to what “just so” feels like. Each firearm has a preference for certain things in a load that is being used in that firearm. It may be bullet weight or style; it could certainly be a powder selection and amount. These are just a couple of examples to be found on a rather long list of items that need to be considered during the reloading process.

Fireforming is also one of those items. This involves the controlled forming of the case and also the very controlled re-sizing of the fireformed case. There is also another use for fireforming, and that is called case-forming. This is actually taking one cartridge and alter the case to form another cartridge. Such cartridges as the Ackley’s or Improved come to mind. Then also you have the many varied wildcat cartridges. This process often requires fireforming to be done. But rather than allowing this to get too far from the intended subject, I will to stick to the fireforming subject.

Why do we want to fireform?

Fireforming has two major goals.

1. Extended case life.

Brass case demand is very high right now, and supply is a bit short. So, of course, this causes brass prices to be very high, if and when you can find what you need. Fireforming can be a big help during this situation by helping to insure that your cases last as long as possible. If done properly, you can be guaranteed that case life will by extended by quite a bit. This does not excuse us from careful observation of case and load issues that can and do arise. It does certainly minimize case stretching and case loss due to excessive and repeated stretching.

2. Potential for better accuracy

Note that in the semi-autos (that are extremely popular) and lever action firearms that full length sizing is very much recommended. Due to their inability to chamber cases that are not full length re-sized is very limited.  A custom fitted case can give you a much better opportunity at accuracy due to eliminating some accuracy robbing issues. When you are full length re-sizing, you almost always create problems that can certainly rob you of accuracy performance A fireformed case helps to align the bullet with the center of the bore which is always beneficial when trying to squeeze out the last smidgen of accuracy.

How do you fireform ?

I want to mention that there is certainly more than one way to fireform. I will endeavor to help you understand the concept and explain the more common version of fireforming. I will also mention some other variations that are used too.

The most common way:

With a new case, we will want to seat a primer first off. The next step requires us to determine at what length the bullet (we want to use in the fireforming load) will touch the rifling. (It is best to use a heavier weight bullet for the cartridge and if available a flat base bullet.) Then, select a powder for the cartridge you are working with. The better powders are those that fall in the middle of the burn rate range for the cartridge and bullet weight. Use a mid-range load with the powder and bullet selected. Then seat the bullet to touch the rifling. The bullet touching the rifling causes the cartridge rim to be in contact with the bolt face or receiver, so that the firing pin strike cannot cause the case to be shoved forward. This then allows the case to expand to the chamber dimensions with out the weakening stretch that otherwise would take place. It is always best to use new unfired cases. Cases that have been previously fired, whether it be factory ammo or cases that were loaded and not fireformed first, will almost always have a certain amount of stretch that has occurred. This initial stretching is usually when the most damage occurs.

Sometimes the throat in a particular chamber may be long enough that seating a bullet out to touch the rifling may not be possible. In that situation, hope is not lost, we have other ways of dealing with the scenario. In this situation, we will need to run the neck of the case across a larger expander button. This can be done by getting a larger caliber tapered expander button from the die manufacturer. Some of the die manufacturers offer complete decapping rod assemblies with the tapered expander buttons. Going with one of those a couple of calibers larger will work very well. There are also expander dies made and sold that have interchangeable mandrels that would facilitate this process.also. Making sure to sufficiently lube the inside of the case neck, run just the neck portion over the expander button. This will cause the neck to expand to the larger diameter. We then will want to put the original expander button back on and adjust the die so that we are sizing a small portion of the neck back down to original diameter. We are not sizing the full length of the neck. We want to leave enough of the neck expanded so that it will help hold the case firmly against the bolt face, minimizing the case damaging stretch. But we also need a small portion of the neck holding the bullet too. This requires careful adjustment of the sizing die to get neck expansion/resizing amount just right.

Another scenario for fireforming is the simple necking up or down of an existing cartridge to create another case/cartridge. The following are the steps that I use to create 6.5-06 cases from 270 Win. cases.

1. I first start off with new 270 cases. The chamber of my 6.5-06 will not accept the full length 270 case which measures 2.540″ in length. I will trim the cases back to a length of 2.497″.  I then chamfer and de-burr.


middle-step2. The next step will be to adjust the 6.5-06 sizing die to partially size part of  the length of the case neck. This may require some fine adjustment. You will want to size only a small portion of the neck and then try chambering in your firearm to see if the bolt will close. Do not force the bolt closed. Then keep adjusting the sizing die farther down slowly and trying them in the chamber until you get the bolt to close. This is important, as you want the un-sized portion of the neck to help hold the case back against the bolt face in order to correctly fireform. Once this sizing was done, I checked the length again to be certain that the case would still fit in the chamber. The length had grown to 2.500″ and still was chambering very well. Perfect.

3. Now we are ready to fireform. Pick an appropriate burn rate of powder for the cartridge. Starting just slightly under the mid-point of the powder charge range for the bullet weight you will be using. Load 2 or 3 and fire them in the rifle. If the cases look like the shoulder is formed, and the neck looks filled out, then the charge is sufficient. If not, then increase the powder charge about one-half grain until the case is formed.

img_69734. At this time we are ready to re-size the case. Care must be taken when re-sizing that we do not undo the fireforming. We want to size as much of the case neck as we actually can and still not move the shoulder back any at all I do this by adjusting the sizing down very slowly and watching how far down on the neck it is actually sizing. You can visually see the progression. Go slow and make  small adjustments to reach your goal. You are now ready to start your load development with fire-formed cases.

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Long Live the Sierra Bullets BlitzKing®

Grab some popcorn and prepare to see Sierra Bullets .223 55 gr BlitzKing® #1455 bullets like you’ve never seen them before in this FOG Ammo special feature!

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Proudly Supporting 4-H Shooting Sports

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin

4H LogoWell, 4-H is going to begin a new year again soon and I’m putting a call out to anyone wanting to become a mentor or instructor; it is a worthwhile investment. Sign up is fairly easy, just a few minutes of your time on their website to get registered for the next instructor’s class. Simply click on the state you live in to go to your registration pages and fill in the information asked.

4 H Shoot Sports Team
Our county program associate mentioned this should be done after October 1st to ‘give the techy people time to do maintenance and roll the existing program into the new year’ but that is when the new year officially begins.

4H Shooting SportsThe cost of the three day class is inexpensive (at least it was here in Missouri) but the benefits gained from it is beyond measure. If the thought of putting children’s safety in your hands intimidates you, it would be well worth your while to visit shooting matches and just observe next year. That doesn’t cost anything but your time and energy, but I’ll bet you’ll have a good time just watching the excitement on the kids’ faces when they start improving their scores from match to match. Not just that, but you’ll be able to interact with the current shooting instructors and gain knowledge and techniques that worked for them. Doing what they are doing, they should be approachable and I’m sure they would welcome you to attend. Of course this will also give you an opportunity to practice yourself now that 22 ammo is slowly becoming available again.

Thank You Sierra BulletsIf your interest lies in shotguns or bows and arrows or muzzle loading instead, there is always room for you as well. Just remember, the kid you make time for may just be the next Olympic Gold Medalist.

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Advice on Choosing a Hunting Bullet

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz

Now that it is August it is time to give some thought to where you are going to hunt this fall and what ranges you will encounter not to mention tree stand location, ground blind feasibility, new trails verses old trails, bedding areas and feeding areas and safe havens.  Most of those considerations apply to deer but they can influence other game movements as well.  Sometimes you know the acreage you’re going to hunt but maybe not specifically where in those acres you would like to be.  Obviously the area will change as fall arrives and corn fields which were once great cover areas are reduced to rubble.  Those same fields are now high quality food sources for both deer and turkeys and in some cases bedding areas for big bucks.

Areas that have that close feel this time of year have a tendency to open up visually as the leaves fall and the crops disappear which creates some concerns other than the obvious sight lines.  What looks like close quarters and even closer shots now can get more open and shots longer.  So an area that looks perfect for your Grandpa’s open sighted M94 30-30 Winchester today has morphed into scope sighted longer range territory later in the year.

GameKing vs ProHunter AMNow the real dilemma presents itself.  Which bullet do I use?  Here at Sierra we have two styles of big game hunting bullets GameKings and Pro-Hunters.  The question of “how do I choose which bullet I need?” is a big topic at this time of year.

Well …. Okay, so I’m a little early for some of you.  After all it hasn’t even frosted yet!  I don’t know what I was thinkin’.  Let’s see if we can get a jump on this deer season and have a bullet and a load already chosen for this season.

So just exactly what is the difference between a GameKing and a Pro-Hunter you might ask.  The answer can be as  simple or as complex was you want.

Simply put the GameKing is designed for medium to long range impacts.  While the Pro-Hunter is designed for close to medium range impacts.

The GameKing is a streamlined boat tailed bullet while the Pro-Hunter is a utilitarian flat based design.

While both designs have tapered jackets and usually share the same lead alloy the performance in the field varies.

But there are hollow point GameKings and Spitzer Boat tail GameKings. Why?  Good question.

Here at Sierra we don’t offer gimmicks so the hollow point boat tail GameKings are big game bullets.  They are slightly “tougher” than the Spitzer versions offering more initial penetration before showing maximum upset and the ensuing energy release.  The hollow point also protects the point or meplat of the bullet from deformation in the magazine caused by the recoil of big kicking magnum cartridges. That makes it an ideal choice for the short magazines of the WSMs, RSAUMs and 300 Winchester Magnums in 3.340″ length magazines just to name a few.

Another excellent reason to choose the hollow point GameKing over the Spitzer is if you need a bullet that will function through the magazine but need get close to the lands for accuracy or feeding issues.  The lack of a point allows the hollow point GameKings to be seated farther out than a pointed bullet and still function through the magazine.

2140 165 gr HPBT GameKing

2140 165 gr HPBT GameKing® Bullets

Most of the Sierra hollow point GameKings have skived noses which result in a very distinct + appearance when viewed from the point on view.  This configuration reduces the frontal area of the bullet for increased in-flight efficiency and it also reduces the initial expansion of the bullet by effectively reducing the jacket opening allowing for greater penetration upon impact.  The final form of the hollow point GameKing offers excellent terminal performance while enhancing the ballistic coefficient.  And if all that wasn’t enough the sleek Sierra boat tail offers reloaders precise bullet seating especially when matched with the low angle inside neck chamfer tools from K&M, Lyman and RCBS.

The Spitzer boat tail GameKings excel in down range efficiency.  Their streamlined boat tail shape gives them a major ballistic advantage over other hunting bullet designs for unsurpassed long range efficiency.  The lead tip not only offers aerodynamic streamlining but acts as a wedge, which upon impact will help the bullet expand at the lower impact speeds of longer range.  So, if that soon to be picked corn field offers ranges exceeding 300 to 400 yards a Spitzer boat tail Sierra GameKing bullet might be just what you were looking for.

That brings us to the work horse of the Sierra bullet line, the Pro-Hunter.  This bullet has endured the test of time and is suitable for all practical hunting ranges.  The Sierra Pro-Hunter is a flat based design featuring a tapered jacket and a “jump friendly” ogive so you can seat it where it performs best in your firearm.  Pro-Hunters come in Spitzer and round nose shapes both of which offer uniform expansion and deep penetration by virtue of their abundance of bearing surface, precisely tapered jacket and carefully engineered exposed lead tip.  The graceful shape is pleasing to look at and efficient in use.  Depending upon caliber and weight it is appropriate for ranges at the muzzle to the far side of the 500 yard cornfield for the Spitzer version.

Close-up and personal is where the round nose bullets excel.  Whether you are carrying your favorite 35 Remington or packing your favorite 30 caliber, thick cover or heavy game need not cause consternation.  The Sierra Pro-Hunter round nose is the proper choice.

The long straight bearing surface does little to betray the heavily tapered interior of the jacket which assures deep penetration.  While the generous opening in the jacket exposes enough lead to guarantee the uniform classic mushroom expansion  with deep penetration so necessary for up close and personal encounters.GameKing and ProHunter BulletsGenerally regarded as short range bullets the classic Sierra Pro-Hunter round nose bullet is just short of brilliant in the field.  If started at 2700 feet per second at the muzzle and zeroed at 200 yards the 30 caliber 180 RN Pro-Hunter #2170 will be about 2 inches high at 100 yards and about 10 inches low at 300 yards.  Not bad for a “short range” bullet.  By the same token the 30 caliber 180 Spitzer Pro-Hunter #2150 will be 1.9 inches high at 100 and 8.5 inches low at 300 and the long range 30 caliber 180 grain SBT GameKing #2160 will be 1.8 high at 100 and just 8 inches low at 300.  Realistically, under normal hunting conditions only the very best of riflemen will be able to hold the difference in these widely varying shaped 180 grain 30 caliber bullets.

So  what, exactly is the bottom line to all this?  If your shots are 300 yards or less pick the bullet you like that fits the type of shot you like.  That means that if you need penetration through dense tissue and or bone at short to medium range the Sierra Pro-Hunter bullet is the bullet for you.  But if you like to stretch it a little or need a bullet that reacts a little faster for less dense tissue or smaller game the Sierra GameKing is your bullet.

There now, wasn’t that easy?

Posted in Hunting Stories, Reloading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Does Temperature Affect Point of Impact?

Written by Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd

FClass Ammo in the ShadeA few weeks ago I was attending the Missouri State F-Class Match, this was a two-day event during the summer and temperatures were hot one day and hotter the next. I shot next to a gentleman that was relatively new to the sport.  He was shooting a basically factory rifle and was enjoying himself with the exception that his scores were not as good as he hoped they would be and he was experiencing pressure issues with his ammunition. I noticed that he was having to force the bolt open on a couple of rounds. During a break, I visited with him and offered a couple of suggestions which helped his situation somewhat and he was able to finish the match without major issues.

He was shooting factory ammunition, which is normally loaded to upper levels of allowable pressures. While this ammunition showed no problems during “normal” testing, it was definitely showing issues during a 20 round string of fire in the temperatures we were competing in. My first suggestion was that he keep his ammunition out of the direct sun and shade it as much as possible.  My second suggestion was to not close the bolt on a cartridge until he was ready to fire. He had his ammo in the direct sunlight and was chambering a round while waiting on the target to be pulled and scored which can take from a few seconds to almost a minute sometimes.  This time frame allowed the bullet and powder to absorb chamber temperature and build pressure/velocity above normal conditions. Making my recommended changes lowered the pressures enough for the rifle and cartridge to function normally.

After thinking about this situation, I decided to perform a test in the Sierra Bullets underground range to see what temperature changes will do to a rifle/cartridge combination. I acquired thirty consecutive 30 caliber 175 grain MatchKing bullets #2275 right off one of our bullet assembly presses and loaded them into 308 Winchester ammunition. I utilized an unnamed powder manufacturer’s product that is appropriate for the 308 Winchester cartridge.  This load is not at the maximum for this cartridge, but it gives consistent velocities and accuracy for testing.

I took ten of the cartridges and placed them in a freezer to condition.

Ammunition at 25 degreesFrozen AmmunitionI set ten of them on my loading bench, and since it was cool and cloudy the day I performed this test I utilized a floodlight and stand to simulate ammunition being heated in the sun.

Hot AmmunitionI kept track of the temperatures of the three ammunition samples with a laser non-touch thermometer.

The rifle was fired at room temperature (70 degrees) with all three sets of ammunition.

I fired this test at 200 yards out of a return-to-battery machine rest. The aiming point was a leveled line drawn on a sheet of paper. I fired one group with the scope aimed at the line and then moved the aiming point across the paper from left to right for the subsequent groups.

Please notice that the velocity increased as the temperature of the ammunition did.

The ammunition from the freezer shot at 2451 fps.

Frozen FPS
The room temperature ammunition shot at 2500 fps.

Room Temperature FPSThe heated ammunition shot at 2596 fps.

Hot Cold Ammo Target
The tune window of the particular rifle is fairly wide as is shown by the accuracy of the three pressure/velocity levels and good accuracy was achieved across the board. However,  notice the point of impact shift with the third group? There is enough shift at 200 yards to cause a miss if you were shooting a target or animal at longer ranges. While the pressure and velocities changed this load was far enough from maximum that perceived over pressure issues such as flattened primer, ejector marks on the case head, or sticky extraction did not appear. If you load to maximum and then subject your ammunition to this test your results will probably be magnified in comparison.

Hot Cold Fired Cases2This test showed that pressures, velocities, and point-of-impact can be affected by temperatures of your ammunition at the time of firing. It’s really not a bad idea to test in the conditions that you plan on utilizing the ammo/firearm in if at all possible.  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to also test to see what condition changes do to your particular gun and ammunition combination so that you can make allowances as needed. Any personal testing along these lines should be done with caution as some powder and cartridge combination could become unsafe with relatively small changes in conditions.

Posted in Competitive Shooting, Reloading | Tagged , , , , , , | 56 Comments