Will They Whistle?

By Sierra Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks

168 gr Bullets and Keychain
For over 50 years Sierra Bullets has offered a souvenir bullet keychain made from a real Sierra bullet to customers.  In fact, vice-President of Sales, Matt Reams, estimates that over the years Sierra Bullets has given away over a million of these bullet keychains!  Nickel-coated bullets that didn’t make the cut as first grade bullets are drilled and then sent to our local Center for Human Services to have a small chain added to each one.  They are given away at numerous tradeshows and shooting matches throughout the year and to each person who tours the Sierra Bullets plant.

Over the years it has been joked about many times at trade shows and around the office, wonder how those bullets would shoot?  Wonder if the hole in them would make them whistle as they go down range?  Wonder if they would even fly straight? We’ve even had a few customers call in to our technical support line and say that they loaded them up and sent them down range.

And while we must remind everyone that WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRYING THIS AT HOME, our curiosity finally got the better of us and we just decided to give it a try and send a few of the keychain bullets downrange in our underground test range.

Step One: Initial Prep Work

The first step was to remove the little chains.  The nickel-plated bullets measured .310″-.311″ in diameter.  With the holes drilled through the boat tail of the bullet, the bullets weighted between 165 and 166 grains.

Bullet Keychains with Chains
Step Two: Loading

Twenty keychain bullets were loaded into .308 Winchester cases.

Loaded Keychain Bullets2
Step Three: Choosing a Rifle

Rifle with Loaded KeychainsThe .308 rifle chosen was one that was no longer used for range testing.  We didn’t want to shoot these bullets in a highly accurate test firearm due to the possibility of barrel damage that might take occur from the hard nickel plating.

Step Four: Here Goes Nothing (At 100 Yards)

Listening carefully so we could see if they whistled on their way down range, we drew a collective breathe in and I pulled the trigger.  So did they whistle?  Disappointingly, through our ear protection, we heard nothing but the deafening sound of the muzzle blast in the concrete encased space of our underground range.

So how did they shoot?  Considering many things including that the bullets were not first grade bullets and that the rifle was beyond its usefulness as a test firearm and not shooting well, we were pretty surprised that they even all stayed on one target.  The first group was fired at 100 yards and resulted in a 10 shot group that measured 5.444″.

1st Group Keychain Bullets
Step Five: Why Not Try 200 Yards?

Next, we wanted to see what would happen if we moved to the 200 yard targets. The bullets now produced a group of 10 shots that was 9.125″.  The group is pictured below outside of the box on the left.  This was even more surprising given the circumstances.

200 yard groups

Step Six: How Do They Compare?

One final thing we wanted to do to pull this all together and give the test some validity.  We pulled out 10 of our 168 gr. HPBT MatchKing® accuracy standards.  These are bullets that have been verified to shoot well and meet Sierra’s required specifications. We used the same load to shoot this group. The result was a 200 yard 10 shot group of 1.506″ pictured in the box on the left above. Wow!! What a difference.

168 gr HPBT MatchKing
So will you be seeing nickle-plated bullets with holes drilled through them on the shelf at a Sierra dealer near you soon?  It doesn’t look like it.  Unfortunately these bullets didn’t hold up to our rigid quality standards and didn’t even make a novelty whistle sound on the way down range.  But hey, at least now when customers ask “Hey have you guys ever tried shooting these things?” we can grin and say, “We sure did!”  Next time you come by our booth at a trade show or if you get a chance to visit in person take your little keychain souvenir and impress your friends with the story about the time Sierra tested sending them downrange.





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34 Responses to Will They Whistle?

  1. Pingback: Will They Whistle? — Sierra Bullets | Rifleman III Journal

  2. firstriverbend says:

    What a total hoot of any article!!
    Sounds like a great fun thing to do. 🙂

    Now if you would just sell these key chains, for those unable to attend!?


    • Thanks for reading, glad to hear you enjoyed our little experiment. Sorry but for now the keychains are just a special souvenir for visitors to our plant or trade show booths. Sometimes we send them out to matches that we sponsor so if you shoot a match you might ask if the sponsors got some of them to hand out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • firstriverbend says:

        I know and understand, gotten plenty of swag over the years, but begging sometimes helps!!! 🙂


  3. Dave Desmon says:

    A question regarding bullet stabilization and rifling twist rate: We all know that you need a faster twist to stabilize heavier (slower) bullets – but is there a way to calculate what twist rate you need for a given bullet weight or muzzle velocity?
    ie; Does it just require a known RPM on the bullet? Or an RPM based on the diameter? Is there some way I can say:
    I’m building an “X” caliber rifle, that will have a Muzzle Velocity of “Y”,
    and be able to calculate what rifling twist the barrel will need to stabilize the bullets, and shoot accurately?


    • Dave – yes sir! Our Infinity program has that calculator built into it and we would be happy to do that calculation for you if you want to call (800-223-8799) or email us (sierra@sierrabullets.com) and send you the required twist you need – free of charge of course!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Clark Crowell says:

    How do I get one of these? For my keys, not to load.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. BILL WEST says:

    How could I come by one of these keychains, I shoot the .308 175 gr. HPBT be glad to buy one if possible.



  6. DAVID RUPPEL says:

    Good article enjoyed reading it.
    Looks like there’s an interest in obtaining those key chains. I for one live in the middle of no where and won’t beable to get one from a show or a tour.
    I can hardly get reloading componites without driving 2 hours or buying off the internet. Maybe if there is enough interest in them Sierra might sell them on the Sierra website someday?


  7. Tonny french says:



  8. J.Ed says:

    Just thought you’d like to know that one of your key chain bullets has been a fixture on my key ring for over 40 years. Wouldn’t be my keys without it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Richard says:

    Hi To Everyone at Sierra Just wanted to let you know started loading after I left the navy in1971, shot 18 deer in 18 years with this bullet. The only bullet I will ever shoot. Keep Up the Great WORK. Thanks Rich Kosempel    MM 2

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dennis Baker says:

      i also left the USN in 1971 and started reloading then MANY deer have fallen to a.308 sierra bullet oh yeah still use them


  10. Eugene says:

    Could have simply used an air hose to see if the whistle by directing the air at an angle over the hole, but where’s the fun in that? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ronald Stevens says:

    I used to do things like that when I got bored at work. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thom VerValin says:

    I work 7 days a week so I am unable to attend either trade shows or tour your plant. How could I obtain one of these key chain bullets? I am an avid reloader and shoot competitively against myself. So far my equipment exceeds my ability but your products are utilized in my ongoing quest for improvement. Thank you for taking the time to read my request regardless of the outcome.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. mbrd says:

    nice to see all of those positive replies to your silly test. now here’s a negative one…

    you’re obviously doing it wrong; you need to put reeds into these things so they will emit a muted trumpet sound. certainly that would work!

    line up enough test barrels with different lengths and in different calibers, and you could play the opening notes from “blue in green” (miles davis).



  14. Bill says:

    Question. I am seriously considering the purchase of a Sako TRG 22 target rifle. Sako uses a 1 in 11 bore unlike mont others that use 1 in 10 for 308 cal. Bullets. Can you tell me what the ideal bullet weight would be for a 308 cal. With 1/11 rotation. Many thanks. I have been a Siera user for 40 years.


    • Bill – The ideal bullet weight will vary from rifle to rifle even though they all have the same 1×11″ twist. The ideal bullet really needs to be based on barrel harmonics. The twist rate will give you stability for a range of different bullets. The 1×11 in a 308 will stabilize bullets ranging from 110 up to 200 grain. We now need to determine what style of shooting you are wanting to do and base bullet selection upon that information. Then load development will be necessary to determine what degree of accuracy your rifle will produce. – Duane Siercks, Ballistic Technician

      Liked by 1 person

  15. tonedeaf says:

    For those who want one of these bullet chains from Sierra . . .
    1) Get a bullet
    2) Get a drill
    3) Drill a hole in the bullet
    4) Insert a chain into the hole

    Nickel plate the bullet if required.


  16. William says:

    Tonedeaf, you Sir, are Da Man!!!


  17. Danny East says:

    Got one on my key chain, from the NRA convention in Indianapolis many years ago. Nickel has completely worn off, hole above the boat tail.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. steven Jayne says:

    What a fun article. I wonder if there is a way you could drill or otherwise modify the bullet to provide the desired whistle. Probably too much work to do on every one considering the quantities you produce. You could put the question on the job application of the next engineer job opening you have and see how creative they are. 🙂


  19. Larry says:

    They always whistle when they zip past your head; they were just standing in the wrong spot.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Ralph L. Bowers Jr. says:

    Thanks. I also have always wondered if they would stay on paper at distance. Now I know.
    Make for a good hail marry bullet loading for a Hunter novel with Bob Lee Swager behind the trigger. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Brent Wuerdeman says:

    Can we buy a key chain? If so, how much?


  22. DAVID CHANTREY says:

    Would you do better if fired in a .303 British – .311 diameter bullet?


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