Written by Sierra Bullets Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd
I load and shoot ammunition for a living. In my duties here at Sierra I constantly test bullet accuracy for our production needs. Because of this, I shoot a variety of different calibers and cartridges on a daily basis and a large demand of this shooting is keeping the guns and loads tuned for optimum accuracy. I have a very narrow window of tolerances to maintain in order to provide our customers (you) with the most accurate bullets on the market.
I have learned many tricks and techniques over the years to tuning a load, prepping brass, and cleaning barrels to keep a gun shooting. I often utilize the things I have learned and take them to extreme levels when competing in a shooting event. I also often ignore most of these things (other than safety) and simplify the process if the shooting I will be doing does not warrant.
Recently I went on a prairie dog shoot in Wyoming with some good friends. The targets cooperated as did the weather with the exception of some challenging winds we experienced. We had a great time and make a lot of hits on those small rodents. When loading for the 223 Remington rifles and the TC Contender, I cut a few corners in the ammunition loading process due to both time constraints and accuracy needed. When shooting at a prairie dog a miss is simply that, but when shooting at say the X-ring at 1000 yard competition a poorly placed shot is reflected in both your score for that shot and placing in the match. Because of this, I can afford to miss an occasional shot at a varmint due to ammunition capability without worry but will not allow the same tolerances in my match ammo. For the Wyoming trip I utilized a powder measure and simply dumped the charges into primed cases that had been full-length sized and primed.
I had measured enough for length to know that while there was some variance all were under maximum length. I know there is some variation of the measure I utilized but not significant enough to warrant weighing every charge. When seating the bullets a competition seating die was used and I verified OAL on the occasional cartridge to make sure nothing changed.
The ammo produced shot under one inch at 200 yards in one of the guns I planned on taking on to Wyoming with me. I knew I had loaded ammunition that was quite suitable for the task at hand which was evidenced by the number of hits I was able to make at fairly long range.
Today I am loading ammunition for a completely different scenario. This weekend, I will be competing in the The Missouri State F-Class match. This is a six hundred yard match and some extremely good shooters will be in attendance. A person will not be able to lose very many points or they will not place well in the standings after 160 rounds for record. Because of the need for extreme accuracy I have taken equally extreme measures with the ammunition loading. I anneal the brass for this rifle every two firings. I clean the primer pockets every firing, the cases are checked for length and trimmed to exact length every firing. I am weighing every powder charge to the hundredth of a grain, (yes I am weighing to the kernel of powder). Rather than using a standard seating die and a loading press I am using an inline seating die with an arbor press and a gauge that indicates bullet seating pressure, what minor variation is observed in seating pressure is grouped together instead of mixed.
Every round is verified for OAL with an ogive comparator and any variation is culled. The work put into this ammunition serves two purposes. One is that the consistency gives very low extreme spreads which equals to very little vertical variation of the load and very good accuracy. The second product of all this work is the confidence that if I do my part the gun and ammo will shoot extremely good scores.
My point with this is that you must be able to load ammunition that is equal to your need of accuracy. If you are shooting at water balloons at 200 yards your ammunition doesn’t require weighed charges and frequent case annealing, but if extreme accuracy is required if you take shortcuts with your ammo it will show up on target. If you have questions or want more information on loading for extreme accuracy visit our website or call and visit with our technical department – 800-223-8799.