As we contemplated ways to celebrate National Day of Awesomeness today, we thought, what is more awesome than making bullets? So we have broken the steps of making bullets at Sierra Bullets into 24 pictures. Enjoy!
Lead arrives at Sierra Bullets in 80 pound billets. Bullet cores are produced using either pure lead or one of four different lead alloys • 6% antimony, 4% tin, 90% lead • 6% antimony, 94% lead • 3% antimony, 97% lead • 1.5% antimony, 98.5% lead.
Cathode grade copper alloy (95% copper, 5% zinc) to make bullet jackets arrives in coiled strips of various widths and thicknesses.
A blanking press stamps out a uniform disc, which is formed into a cup, that will be drawn out to become the outer jacket of the bullet. Pictured is veteran blanking press operator Barry Brock.
Some cups require annealing, which is a process of heating a material and subsequently cooling it to change its properties, such as hardness or durability. Annealing copper makes it softer and less brittle, which allows you to bend it without breaking it. Pictured is the Sierra Bullets annealing oven.
The blackened cups on top have been through the annealing oven, the cups on the bottom have not yet. Cups from the annealing oven are polished to remove the black char and sent to a draw press.
Through a series of drawing processes, cups are drawn out into jackets.
Jackets which have been drawn to the proper wall construction are then trimmed to a length with a tolerance of +/- 0.001.”
Copper bullet jackets are washed, polished, and inspected.
Extreme pressure is used to press lead billets into spooled lead wire, which will become the bullet core. Great care is taken so that the core wire is not stretched.
The spooled lead wire containing an antimony mixture goes into the annealing oven to stabilize the material against further expansion, which might affect uniformity. (Pure lead isn’t stress-relieved.)
The core wire is lightly oiled before going on to the bullet press to be swaged into the core.
The lead core wire and the trimmed jacket meet up at the bullet press.
Lead wire is swaged into a core and inserted into copper jacket and the copper jacket is brought to a point to form the bullet.
As bullets are made, samples are pulled and reviewed by quality control inspectors for visual and dimensional characteristics to assure uniform quality. Pictured is quality control inspector Charlie Beesley.
As necessary, sample bullets are pulled and shot in Sierra’s underground test range. (Note the target retrieval “bicycle” in the lower right hand corner.)
This 10-shot group was fired with .338”-300 grain MatchKings (#9300) from a 338 Lapua test platform at 200 yards. Groups are measured center-to-center of the widest bullet holes. The calipers are zeroed on the bullet and then measured between the two widest two bullet holes of the group.
After the bullets leave the press they receive a final wash and polish before final inspection.
Gloves are worn while hand-inspecting bullets for blemishes, scratches, or defects, which may affect their performance. 100% of bullets go through this final visual inspection for external defects.
Blemished bullets or slightly flawed bullets are rerouted to the Sierra Bullets factory outlet. Learn more about purchasing factory seconds on the Sierra Bullet’s website. Pictured is Rhiannon Valentine.
Bullets are packed in green boxes for consumers and then sorted by part number into bins to fill orders.
Bullets are packaged for bulk customers including commercial reloaders.
Orders are packed to be shipped out by our shipping department.
Freight trucks arrive at the Sierra Bullets shipping docks for loading.
The whole process starts over again to make even more bullets for the millions of shooters throughout the world. Stop by for a tour during our regular business hours and see the whole process for yourself.