FAQ

These frequently asked questions have been prepared for information purposes only. The answers presented represent the expert opinions of Sierra Bullet's ballistic technicians and are not intended to be exhaustive. Whilst care has been taken in its preparation, no responsibility is accepted for the completeness or accuracy of the information presented here. Interested parties should not rely solely on this information and should directly contact a ballistic technician should they find the information presented here to be unclear. For more information please call 800-223-8799 or email us at .

General FAQs

Where is Sierra Bullets located?

Sierra Bullets is located at 1400 West Henry Street, Sedalia, MO 65301 (see map)

Are tours offered of the Sierra Bullets facility?

Yes, tours are available Monday - Friday, 8:30 am to 4:40 pm.  (more information)

 
Can I purchase factory seconds?

Yes, you can by visiting our factory outlet located at 1400 West Henry Street.  The factory outlet hours are Monday - Friday 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST.  (more information)

How can I apply for a job at Sierra Bullets?

Please see our employment opportunities.


Handgun FAQs

I've worked up to your maximum load in your manual with a standard primer. Can I switch to a magnum primer?
Not without reducing your load by 5%. Magnum primers give a hotter and longer flame causing the powder to be ignited faster, which in turn may raise pressure. Reduce your load whenever you change or substitute any component.
Can I interchange small pistol primers with small rifle primers?
No. Pistol and rifle primers have different cup hardness and are made to operate at different pressure levels. Switching them around randomly can lead to some serious pressure problems.
Is it necessary to size a new case?
It may not be necessary if the mouths have sufficient tension to hold a bullet well and are not badly dented. However, for trimming, chamfering, turning necks, and flash hole deburring, a round case mouth is needed. A tapered expander in a neck-sizing die is just the tool needed to make the neck perfectly round. In short, anything you can do to make cases more uniform, right from their first firing, is an advantage.
How much taper crimp is enough?
No more than necessary to remove all signs of any belling and to lay the case mouth flat against the bullet. Don't try to make a case hold a bullet more tightly by applying a heavier taper crimp. If you are using a single stage press, you will need to set your die by measuring the dimensions of the finished round's mouth. Measure the case mouth wall thickness with your calipers. Double the wall thickness and add the bullet's diameter. Then subtract .001. This should give you a good starting point. On a progressive press, perhaps the best way to go about setting the taper crimp is to use a case to set your die. Run a case into your resizing die. Moving the case to the crimp station, run the press up to the top of its stroke. Screw the die down until you feel it contact the case mouth, and turn it 1/8 to 1/4 turn deeper. When a cartridge is loaded, this should give it about the right degree of crimp.
How can I change my loads to reduce recoil?
By using the lightest bullet weights shown, or by using the load showing the minimum listed velocity. Using the lightest bullet at the minimum velocity will normally give the least recoil of any combination. This is often a good way to introduce a new shooter to the game. It can also be used by experienced reloaders as well to acclimate them to hard-kicking cartridges like the bigger magnums.
How do I know whether to taper or roll crimp?
As a general rule, roll crimps are recommended for most revolvers, rifles using tubular magazines, and situations that call for an extremely high bullet-pull. Taper crimps are normally best for straight-wall cartridges that headspace on the case mouth, particularly those to be used in an autoloading pistol. The object behind the roll crimp is to firmly grip the bullet, in order to provide better ignition and reduce the possibility of the bullets being "pulled" under recoil. Taper crimping, on the other hand, merely removes the case mouth flaring left by the belling/expanding operation. While this may also increase neck tension, the degree of improvement is relatively slight in comparison to a firm roll crimp.
How deep should my primers be seated?
Seat until the anvil and not the cup has touched the bottom. This is best felt with a good ol' thumb type tool. Still, those times come when it is tough to determine bottom due to the pocket being a bit tight or the primer a little eccentric, even with the most sensitive tool. This is when it is a good time to uniform pocket depth and use a seating tool with a stop that can be accurately set.
How can I match that factory load?
Without knowing what the propellant is and having it available, you can't. Factories often use a propellant that is specially blended, (referred to as a non-canister grade powder) propellant which they usually won't identify. Never try to identify a powder by its appearance! This can be extremely dangerous. Every year we hear tales of shooters who tried to duplicate a factory load by using the same charge weight of a powder they thought they had identified, only to damage their guns or injure themselves. Stick to the loads listed in recognized manuals.
I have some loaded ammo that is pretty badly tarnished. Can I just put it in my tumbler and clean it up?
No. Aside from the possibility of a sharply pointed bullet striking a primer and causing a detonation, the deterrent coating of the powder may be damaged, which speeds the burning rate. Most tumblers would require the ammo to be tumbled for quite some time before it was thoroughly cleaned, possibly long enough to cause some breakdown of the powder or its deterrent coating. The simple answer here is, "No, don't do it."
Why are Spitzer (pointed) bullets listed for use in my 30-30 T/C Contender, but not for my Model 94 Winchester Rifle?
For reasons of safety. Think about the sharply pointed Spitzer nose of one cartridge in a tubular magazine, resting in contact with the primer of the cartridge in front of it in the magazine. Upon firing, the recoil can cause the cartridges in the magazine to indent primer of the cartridge ahead of it and ignite that round. The results of such detonations are catastrophic, frequently resulting in the destruction of the rifle and serious injury to the shooter. Do not use Spitzer bullets in tubular magazines!
How deep should I seat my primers?
The primer anvil should be in contact with the bottom of the pocket for uniform ignition. For safety, be sure primers are seated level with or just slightly below the head of the case. High primers can cause jamming in revolvers, stiff chambering, poor accuracy and misfires in manually operated rifles, and possible slam-fires in semi-automatics (either rifles or pistols).
What is the difference between single shot pistol and rifle bullets?
Jackets of single shot pistol bullets are thinner to allow reliable expansion at lower velocities. All of our bullets are designed and produced for a certain range of velocities, ranges, and operating pressures.
Why can't I shoot all your listed .45 Colt loads in my Colt SAA and replicas?
For one reason, the metal used in the old guns isn't up to the standards of that used in modern firearms. Besides the metallurgy problems, the real factor is simply the design of the guns themselves. While a modern Colt SAA or replica may be made of better steel than their ancestors, they are not nearly as strong as a Ruger Blackhawk or Freedom Arms revolver, despite their physical resemblance. The Colt (and SAA replicas) have relatively small cylinders, compared to the Ruger and Freedom Arms revolvers. This means that there just isn't as much steel surrounding each chamber, resulting in a weaker revolver. The .45 Colt has been an excellent and useful cartridge for well over 120 years without "magnumizing" it. Use the data shown for the respective revolvers, and if you really need .44 Magnum performance, buy a .44 Magnum.
Why don't you make .221" diameter bullets for my 221 Fireball?
Because the .221 Fireball doesn't actually use .221" diameter bullets. The "221" in the cartridge title is merely a name, making it immediately distinguishable from other .22 caliber cartridges. Think about the .218 Bee, the .219 Zipper, the .220 Swift and the .225 Winchester cartridges. The name doesn't have to relate to bullet diameter at all, since .224" diameter bullets are correct for all of these cartridges. Despite its nomenclature, the .221 Fireball requires .224" diameter bullets. Sierra offers a complete line of bullets for this fine little cartridge.
I don't like having a bunch of different powders around. Is there any powder that will work well in both my .270 Winchester rifle and .357 Magnum pistol?
No. Case capacities in these two rifle and pistol cartridges are so drastically different, that any powder which would work well in both, will not be particularly well suited to either. The appropriate powder for a given application is determined by a number of factors. Large capacity rifle cases with relatively small bores (like your 270) are best served by fairly slow-burning powders, such as IMR 4350 and H4831. The .357 is at its best with slow-burning pistol powders such as H110 and W-W 296. While a very slow burning pistol powder such as 2400 may be used in the .270 (and most other rifle cartridges as well), it can only be used with very mild, reduced loads. These pistol powders burn too fast to generate much velocity in the .270 before reaching dangerous pressure levels. Economy is fine, but there really is no shortcut to using the appropriate powders for a given application. Refer to the powder burning rate charts and the reloading data table for a particular cartridge in order to determine which powders are best suited to it.
Why are cartridge OAL's with hollow point and full metal jacket bullets of same weight different?
Different nose profiles may require some adjustment to their over-all-length (OAL) for proper feeding and functioning. The correct OAL for a given bullet will depend more on its configuration and profile than on its weight, and this can be seen quite clearly in the Sierra reloading tables. This is why we include the lengths we used for specific types in developing our data, rather than just listing a SAAMI maximum OAL. Some experimentation may be necessary with your particular firearm to obtain best results.
Why isn't my powder mentioned in your reloading manual?
No comprehensive manual has the space to show every combination. As a result, there will always be some combinations that don't get listed. In assembling our manuals, we try to include those powders which are best suited to the cartridge/bullet combination being tested. Of course, it may also be a case of the powder you have not being suitable to the cartridge you want to load, as well. For example, do you want to use W-W 231 in your 7mm Remington Magnum, because you have several pounds on hand for your .45 ACP? It just isn't a suitable choice. In a situation like this, nobody is going to show loading data for such a combination.
I don't want to waste my time wiping all the sizing lube off my cases after the resizing operation, but I've been told not to tumble loaded ammunition. Won't some lubrication help the cartridge chamber more easily? What happens if it is not removed before shooting?
Upon ignition, the case expands in all directions, with the case walls tightly gripping the chamber. Almost instantly, the case relaxes its grip on the chamber walls as the pressure starts to drop, allowing the case to be extracted. If the cartridge were lubricated, the case wouldn't be able to grip the chamber walls, allowing it to slam back sharply against the bolt face. In extreme examples, this force, called "bolt thrust," can even damage a firearm. For what it's worth, the British used to use lubricated cartridges to proof test a firearm, rather than the so called "blue pill" loads used here in the US. Wipe those cases, and make sure your chamber stays clean and dry!
Why do loads vary from manual to manual?
Good question. First of all, we need to understand that reloading manuals are not carved in stone. Think of a reloading manual as a report, and you'll be in a much better position to understand this. In essence, a reloading manual says, "We tried this particular component combination, and these are the results we obtained." When you duplicate the load shown in a manual, you're using a different rifle (even if it is the same make, model, and caliber), a different lot of powder (even if it is the same brand and type), a different lot of cases (even if they are from the same manufacturer, etc.), a different lot of, well . . . you get the idea. There is an amazing number of variables that effect any load combination. With the difference in the manuals, you're just seeing first hand examples. Again, start low, and work your load up.
Do I have to trim my pistol brass?
Not as a general rule. However, keeping your brass all the same length will keep your crimp uniform. This will help to keep pressure and velocity more in line, and is certainly an aid to improved accuracy.
I go on fishing trips each year in Alaska, and want to carry my .44 Magnum in case of an encounter with a bear. What load do you recommend?
In the 44 magnum, 21.6 grains of WW 296 with the 300 gr. JSP point makes good defense against a bear. This bullet has a strong jacket and 6% antimony core, making it a fine bullet for penetration.
Why do I have excessive muzzle flash?
Some powders are more inclined to give a bright muzzle flash than others. There are some powders that are given a coating of flash deterrent, such as calcium carbonate. Ultimately, the best solution is to try several powders, and see which one gives the least flash in your particular pistol. Muzzle flash can frequently be reduced by trying different primers and a firm crimp. This will go a long way in reducing this problem.
My cases have a split in the mouth. What causes this?
To begin with, it's time to scrap any case when it develops neck splits, regardless of the number of firings it has on it. Each time a case is loaded, the mouth is belled for the next bullet. After the bullet is seated, the neck is crimped to hold the new bullet in place. This constant working of the brass will harden it to the point that it develops splits in this area. This is probably the single most common cause for case loss. It can be reduced by simply working the brass no more than absolutely necessary. Don't bell the case mouth any more than is needed to get the next bullet started, and don't apply heavy crimps unless the load actually calls for it.
I want to use my six inch .357 with 158 grain JHC bullets for deer. Will this bullet expand at the longer handgun ranges?
Yes, assuming of course that your load develops enough velocity at the muzzle. Although this is usually no problem with barrel lengths of six inches or more, just don't expect the same type of performance from a 2 1/2" snubby. If you're dealing with muzzle velocities of 1000 fps or higher, this bullet will give good performance. It has a jacket and core that are designed to expand even at velocities as low 800 fps. Since the remaining velocity at 100 yards will be well above this, expansion will be reliable at any practical handgun range.
Are short barreled pistols less accurate than longer ones?
No. They have a shorter sight radius than longer barrels which, in general, makes them harder to shoot accurately. If we were to mount two Smith and Wesson .38 Special revolvers, a six inch and a two inch, in a machine rest, both would very likely display about the same level of accuracy. However, if you were to try shooting both from a typical unsupported stance, you would probably believe that the longer barrel was more accurate. Its longer sight radius makes it easier to achieve and maintain proper sight alignment.
Is load data interchangeable from my handgun to my rifle?
No. You should stick with the data in your handgun manual while loading your pistols and use your rifle manual when loading the rifles. Pressures will be different between the two with barrel cylinder gap causing many of the loads in handguns to be higher.
Can I interchange data from one manual to another?
No. Each manufacturer uses a firearm that would be different from the other in chamber and barrel specs, making it necessary to stick with the data of one manufacturer all the way.
What advantage is there in using carbide dies?
Carbide dies require no lube because they contain a tungsten or titanium carbide insert. Since this is highly polished, it requires no lube and will eliminate one step in your reloading.
I have some military cases. I got the old primer out with some difficulty and I can't get new primers to seat. Do military cases use different size primers than commercial brass?
Military cases have crimped in primers. The crimp has to be removed before primers can be seated. The crimp can either be cut out or swaged. Several companies offer a variety of ways to remove crimps. They range from a hand held tool, which actually cuts the crimp out, to primer pocket swagers which mount on your press. The swagers actually press the crimp out smooth.
Can I use 10mm bullets in my .40 S and W?
Yes. The 10mm Auto and the .40 S and W use exactly the same bullets.
Does my 9mm Makarov use the same bullets as a regular 9mm Luger? I recently purchased a Makarov, but on attempting to load it, found that my reloading dies weren't sizing the cases down far enough to hold standard 9mm bullets.
No. The 9mm Makarov is actually a 9.22mm. It uses .363" diameter bullets while the more widely known 9mm Luger uses .355" diameter bullets. Sierra produces two (2) bullets specifically for the 9mm Makarov, correctly sized to .363" diameter.
Why are there small copper shavings each time I seat my pistol bullets?
You may not be belling the case mouth quite enough to get the bullet started smoothly. Try belling it slightly more. Another cause could be trying to seat the bullet and crimp in the same stage. Seating and crimping in separate stages will help prevent this.
I have the same barrel length, use the same powder charge and bullet as you do in the manual, but my velocities are different. Why?
It's not unusual for two barrels of the same manufacturer, using the same loads, to vary 100 fps or more. Smoothness of the rifling, inside diameter, or number of rounds previously fired can have a bearing. Cooler temperatures can lower velocities and warmer temperatures can increase them. Even variances between lots of powder can change velocities. There's a lot of variables at work here, so the fact that your velocities are different is hardly surprising.
Why do you recommend to seat the bullet and then crimp in a separate stage?
Most seating dies will also crimp if the die is adjusted lower. Before the bullet is completely seated, the die is trying to crimp, and the crimp is trying to dig into the bullet jacket before it is seated to the correct depth. Crimp dies are inexpensive and you will get a much nicer loaded round by seating first and then crimping in a separate stage, whether it be roll, taper, or full profile crimp.
I've heard you aren't supposed to bottom a carbide sizing die out on a shell holder. Why?
Carbide is an extremely hard, and very brittle metal. This is both an asset, and a liability. The carbide's incredible hardness and polished finish is what allows these dies to function without lubricant. However, the very hardness of the carbide is what makes it so brittle. It's the small carbide ring embedded in the base of the sizing die which actually does the sizing. When pressure is put on it from the shell holder, it can literally shatter the carbide insert. You will need to keep a bit of clearance between the die and shell holder.
My revolver spits particles out from in front of the cylinder. What causes this?
The cylinder is out of time. The chambers aren't in line with the barrel and it shaves particles of the bullet jacket when fired. Send it to the factory or a good gunsmith to be retimed.
My cases extract hard from my revolver even with a mild load. What causes this?
First, clean each chamber thoroughly. It could be erosion or residue from shooting short cases and then switching to longer cases. An example would be shooting 38 specials in a .357 Magnum and then shooting some .357s. The .38 leaves a ring of residue at the case mouth. The .357 case is enough longer that expansion from firing along with the residue under the mouth of the case make extraction hard. After you have cleaned each chamber, check for erosion, tooling marks, or rough spots. They are another cause of hard extraction. If that is the problem, the firearm will need to be sent to the factory or a gunsmith to be polished out.
I have a .357 Magnum revolver. Is it always necessary to use magnum primers in my gun?
No. Just because the gun is chambered for a magnum cartridge doesn't mean that you have to use a magnum primer. Most propellants that are quicker than Accurate Arms # 7 in rifles or Hercules Blue Dot in handguns rarely need a magnum primer. Use the magnum primers when using slower powders, and standard primers with the faster powders.
My fixed sights do not allow me to hit point of aim in elevation. What can I do?
If your handgun is shooting high, either the velocity needs to be increased, the bullet's weight decreased, or both. This will only carry you so far however; it may be necessary to modify the sights.
Do I need to be concerned about the air space between the bullet and powder when using powders like Bullseye?
No, not when using propellants fast burning powders such as Bullseye, 231, or Unique. This is especially true when using larger cases that were originally intended for black powder, like the .44 Special or the .45 Colt. This is just a function of the powder's burning rate and bulk density, and is not an unusual situation.
How many firings can be expected from a case?
Case life will vary from one firing to a point where you realize they are never going to expire. At that time, just give them to a needy shooter so you can treat yourself to a new batch. Brass life will vary with the pressures and degree of movement or stress to which the case is subjected. A .38 Super case that must make a Major power factor may be finished after one firing. Yet a low pressure 45 ACP case may last until the cows come home if not overly crimped or belled too far.
My semi-auto jams now and then, especially with hollow points. What can I do to improve reliability?
A quick trip to a competent pistolsmith will put matters straight. Polishing the feed ramp and adjusting the magazine lips may solve the problem. However, you might discover that varying the cartridge OAL to an allowable maximum is all that is necessary.
Can I use cast bullet loads for jacketed bullets?
No. Load data should be as specific as possible to the bullet used.
How long will my handloads last, if stored in a cool dry place?
When stored in such an environment, cartridges kept in sealed containers will last the best part of a lifetime.
How did you establish your accuracy load?
These are loads that have a proven history of working well in many rifles.
How do I know when my barrel is clean?
Visual inspection of the muzzle under direct light will reveal if there is any copper present. Careful attention to the "feel" transmitted through the cleaning rod and a tight patch will indicate tight spots, which could indicate fouling deposits. Copper dissolving chemicals that yield a colored patch is a good indicator of interior barrel fouling. Of course, any time a patch is pushed through the bore and emerges darkened, there is fouling somewhere. In short, if the patch isn't clean, neither is the bore.
What constitutes a hunting load in your manual?
: Pure accuracy without regard for energy and trajectory is not viable in the game fields. Our hunting loads are a combination of high velocity for flat trajectory and high striking energy with acceptable hunting accuracy.

Rifle FAQs

Pure accuracy without regard for energy and trajectory is not viable in the game fields. Our hunting loads are a combination of high velocity for flat trajectory and high striking energy with acceptable hunting accuracy.
Yes. High pressure will set the cartridge back into the bolt face, causing the brass to flow into the ejector hole and leaving a shiny spot on the case head.
If I seat my bullets deeper, will it raise my pressure?
Seating a bullet deeper will reduce the capacity of the case. Burning the same amount of powder in a slightly smaller space will raise pressure, but not usually enough to be a problem . If we're talking about a really drastic change in seating depth, then the load should be backed down, and worked up again with the new seating depth.
I've worked up to your maximum load in your manual with a standard primer. Can I switch to a magnum primer?
Not without reducing your load by 5%. Magnum primers give a hotter and longer flame which causes the powder to be ignited faster, and in turn may raise pressure. Reduce your load whenever you change or substitute any component.
I worked up a load for my rifle last winter. This summer when I fired this load it locked up my bolt. Why?
Temperature effects the burning rate of powder. This load was apparently near maximum for this rifle at the colder temperatures. As a result, when the same load was fired during the summer with much higher temperatures, the powder was easier to ignite, causing pressures to climb too high. For optimum performance, maximum loads may need to be adjusted slightly for temperature variations, especially if you are shooting in an area in which temperatures vary considerably during the course of a year.
Do I need to weigh each charge?
Not unless you are working at maximum loads for your rifle. Even coarse grain stick powders can be thrown close enough to produce excellent accuracy. A good working habit would be to check every fifth charge on the scales, or any charge that "felt" different when it was thrown. One exception to this might be if you are shooting long-range highpower competition. While very few competitors bother weighing their powder charges for ammunition to be used at the 200 and 300 yard lines, many do weigh charges for loads that will be used at 600 and 1000 yards.
Can I interchange small pistol primers with small rifle primers?
No. Pistol and rifle primers have different cup hardness and are made to operate at different pressure levels. Switching them around randomly can lead to some serious pressure problems.
What is the difference between turning the outside of case necks and reaming the inside?
Outside neck turning is done to match case necks to the tight tolerance of chambers with tight necks. Reaming the inside is a procedure done when necking a larger caliber down to a smaller one. Unless this dimension is reduced by inside neck reaming, this results in a case neck that is too thick to allow the bullet to be released when it is fired, causing pressure to sky rocket.
Why are boat tails better for long range shooting?
Boat tails have a higher ballistic coefficient than flat base designs. This translates to more retained velocity and less wind drift at long ranges. Here's an example; we fire two 180 grain bullets from a .30-06, at a muzzle velocity of 2800 fps. One is a conventional Spitzer, and the other is a Spitzer Boat Tail. When both bullets reach 500 yards, the Spitzer is moving along at 1865 fps, while the Spitzer Boat Tail is still travelling at slightly over 2000 fps. For the hunter, this means more energy, flatter trajectory, and less wind drift.
Will the maximum load that you show in your manual be OK in my rifle?
Probably . . . but perhaps not. Loads that are shown to be below "Maximum" in our test rifles may prove to be too hot in your particular firearm. It is important to understand that maximums vary with several factors, such as temperature, even within the same gun. That load you worked up last fall may be more than a bit rough on your primer pockets when summer rolls around. Ask any prairie dog hunter who has had to shade his gun, put his cartridges on ice, and avoid leaving a loaded round in a hot chamber too long. Now, take into consideration variations in components. This powder may have the same brand and type, but is slightly different in burning rate than the last lot you used. Your cases may vary within the same brand as to both volume and strength. Guns can vary dramatically from one another in internal dimensions. A short throat, a tight bore, and a host of other internal variables may combine to create substantial differences even between two guns of the same make, model and chambering. HEED OUR ADVICE: START LOW AND WORK UP YOUR LOAD CAREFULLY!
Is it necessary to size a new case?
It may not be necessary if the mouths are not badly dented and have sufficient tension to hold a bullet well. However, for trimming, chamfering, turning necks, and flash hole deburring, a round case mouth is needed. A tapered expander in a neck-sizing die is just the tool needed to make the neck perfectly round. In short, anything you can do to make cases more uniform, right from their first firing, is an advantage.
How can I change my loads to reduce recoil?
By using the lightest bullet weights shown, or by using the load showing the minimum listed velocity. Using the lightest bullet at the minimum velocity will normally give the least recoil of any combination. This is often a good way to introduce a new shooter to the game. It can also be used by experienced reloaders as well, to acclimate them to hard-kicking cartridges like the bigger magnums.
How do I know whether to taper or roll crimp?
As a general rule, roll crimps are recommended for most revolvers, rifles using tubular magazines, and situations that call for an extremely high bullet-pull. Taper crimps are normally best for straight-wall cartridges that headspace on the case mouth, particularly those to be used in an autoloading pistol. The object behind the roll crimp is to firmly grip the bullet, in order to provide better ignition and reduce the possibility of the bullets being "pulled" under recoil. Taper crimping, on the other hand, merely removes the case mouth flaring left by the belling/expanding operation. While this may also increase neck tension, the degree of improvement is relatively slight in comparison to a firm roll crimp.
I keep blowing up bullets and causing a lot of meat damage on deer, sometimes needing more shots than should be necessary. What should I do?
Such a situation calls for either lower velocities, less frangible bullets, or both. This may be as simple as changing bullet weights, or altering your load to your hunting situation. Oddly enough, a bullet and load that may not be an ideal choice for a given situation may perform quite well in one gun, and yet may fail under exactly the same circumstances in an otherwise identical gun. We have always maintained that there is no such thing as a "universal" bullet, one equally well suited to all tasks. This is exactly why we produce such an extensive line of bullets in each bore size. Different weights, different nose profiles, and different jacket thicknesses all go into making one particular bullet the best suited to a particular task. Carefully match the bullet to the job at hand, and you will be rewarded with the optimum bullet performance.
Are all hollow point bullets designed for rapid expansion?
Absolutely not. Our hollow-points vary in their jacket thickness, antimony content, distance the lead is away from the mouth, degree that the mouth is open and so forth depending on the use and range for which the bullet is designed. Hollow-point configurations can be found in match bullets that may show no mushrooming through tough controlled expansion big game bullets to the varmint bullets.
How can I match that factory load?
Without knowing what the propellant is and having it available, you can't. Factories often use a propellant that is specially blended, (referred to as a non-canister grade powder) propellant which they usually won't identify. Never try to identify a powder by its appearance! This can be extremely dangerous. Every year we hear tales of shooters who tried to duplicate a factory load by using the same charge weight of a powder they thought they had identified, only to damage their guns or injure themselves. Stick to the loads listed in recognized manuals.
I have some loaded ammo that is pretty badly tarnished. Can I just put it in my tumbler and clean it up?
No. Aside from the possibility of a sharply pointed bullet striking a primer and causing a detonation, the deterrent coating may be altered which speeds the burning rate. Most tumblers would require the ammo to be tumbled for quite some time before it was thoroughly cleaned, possibly long enough to cause some breakdown of the powder or its deterrent coating. The simple answer here is, "No, don't do it."
I have a semi-automatic rifle. I'm having problems with some of my handloads chambering. Someone said I need a small base sizing die. What are they talking about?
A set of dies are usually one of three different types.  They are generally classed as: full length, small base, and neck sizing dies.  Neck sizing dies size only the neck of the case.  These are used for cartridges that are to be fired in the same rifle time after time without having to work the case any more than necessary.  Full length dies size the case back to smaller than fired dimensions, but not all the way back down to its unfired dimensions.  This is the most common die found and usually used on most bolt action rifle ammo.  With their terrific camming power, a cartridge can be easily forced into the chamber even if it is a bit snug.  Semi-autos and pumps do not have this type of camming power, and as a result, require the case to be resized somewhat smaller than what the full length die can do.  This is exactly the type of situation that calls for the small base sizing die.
I have a semi-automatic rifle. I'm having problems with some of my handloads chambering. Someone said I need a small base sizing die. What are they talking about?
A set of dies are usually one of three different types. They are generally classed as; full length, small base, and neck sizing dies. Neck sizing dies size only the neck of a case. These are used for cartridges that are to be fired in the same rifle time after time without having to work the case any more than necessary. Full length dies size the case back to smaller than fired dimensions, but not all the way back down to its unfired dimensions. This is the most common die found and usually used on most bolt action rifle ammo. With their terrific camming power, a cartridge can be easily forced into the chamber even if it is a bit snug. Semi-autos and pumps do not have this type of camming power, and as a result, require the case to be resized somewhat smaller than what the full length die can do. This is exactly the type of situation that calls for the small base sizing die.
I worked up loads for my new rifle early this spring and everything was fine with no pressure signs. We went shooting the other day and my rifle really kicked and we can't get the bolt open. What happened?
This is an occurrence that usually happens when a near maximum load is worked up during cool weather, but when shot during hot weather, is over maximum. As powder heats up in a contained space, it ignites easier and faster, building pressures. Take into consideration the temperatures you will be shooting in and load accordingly. Better yet, work your loads up in those temperatures. Keep ammo shaded if any way possible.
I've heard you get better accuracy when your bullet touches the rifling. I want to do that on my deer rifle. Is there any problem?
Yes, you usually get better accuracy when you barely touch the rifling, but not always. Loads touching the rifling will increase pressures, so they should be worked up from a minimum load. Having said that, it's still not a good idea to touch the rifling in a hunting rifle. You always have the possibility of pulling a bullet when you open the action, causing problems in the field such as a bullet stuck in the barrel and powder spilled in the action.
My reloading manual recommends a charge weight of 55.0 grains of a particular IMR propellent but this much powder won't fit in my case. I took my wife's rolling pin and crushed it into much smaller granules. I then weighed out the same charge and it fits fine. Why hadn't someone thought of this before?
Because when you broke the powder up, you exposed parts of the kernals without a deterrent coating and changed its geometry. This deterrent coating plays a major role in controlling the burning rate of the powder. By altering the powder, you have created an extremely hazardous situation which could result in destroying the rifle and possibly injuring yourself. If you run into a situation in which you are loading a tightly compressed charge (this is perfectly normal with some combinations), you might wish to try using a drop tube to help the powder settle into the case more compactly. What ever you do, keep your wife's rolling pin off the reloading bench, and don't alter that powder!
I have a 30/06 Ackley Improved, but I can't find any loading information for it.
On most improved cartridges, you can start with a mid-range load of the parent cartridge (in this case a 30/06) and start cautiously working your way up. You will probably be able to go from 5 to 7% above the parent cartridge loading.
Why are Spitzer (pointed) bullets listed for use in my 30-30 T/C Contender, but not for my Model 94 Winchester Rifle?
For reasons of safety. Think about the sharply pointed Spitzer nose of one cartridge in a tubular magazine, resting in contact with the primer of the cartridge in front of it in the magazine. Upon firing, the recoil can cause the cartridges in the magazine to indent the primer of the cartridge ahead of it and to ignite that round. The results of such detonations are catastrophic, frequently resulting in the destruction of the rifle and serious injury to the shooter. Do not use Spitzer bullets in tubular magazines!
How deep should I seat my primers?
The primer anvil should be in contact with the bottom of the pocket for uniform ignition. For safety, be sure primers are seated level with or just slightly below the head of the case. High primers can cause jamming in revolvers, stiff chambering, poor accuracy and misfires in manually operated rifles, and possible slam-fires in semi-automatics (either rifles or pistols).
What is the difference between single shot pistol and rifle bullets?
Jackets of single shot pistol bullets are thinner to allow reliable expansion at lower velocities. All of our bullets are designed and produced for a certain range of velocities, ranges, and operating pressures.
I don't like having a bunch of different powders around. Is there any powder that will work well in both my .270 Winchester rifle and .357 Magnum pistol?
No. Case capacities in these two rifle and pistol cartridges are so drastically different, that any powder which might work well in both, will not be particularly well suited to either. The appropriate powder for a given application is determined by a number of factors. Large capacity rifle cases with relatively small bores (like your 270) are best served by fairly slow-burning powders, such as IMR 4350 and H4831. The .357 is at its best with slow-burning pistol powders such as H110 and W-W 296. While a very slow burning pistol powder such as 2400 may be used in the .270 (and most other rifle cartridges as well), it can only be used with very mild, reduced loads. These pistol powders burn too fast to generate much velocity in the .270 before reaching dangerous pressure levels. Economy is fine, but there really is no shortcut to using the appropriate powders for a given application. Refer to the powder burning rate charts and the reloading data table for a particular cartridge in order to determine which powders are best suited to it.
Should I free float my rifle barrel?
In general, most rifles which are properly bedded shoot best when the barrel is free-floated. It is important to understand that barrels vibrate when a shot is fired. Ballisticians refer to these vibrations as a barrel's "harmonics." Anything touching a barrel at the time of firing, such as a warped fore-end, will affect these vibrations. This in turn effects the gun's ability to place its shots consistently. To put it in other words, it effects the gun's accuracy potential. Free floating a barrel is simply an attempt to eliminate a potential source of accuracy troubles. In most factory rifles, free floating will help accuracy, especially if it is done in conjunction with a good bedding job.
In my .270 Winchester, your top load for a 130 grain bullet and H4831 powder fills the case. If I'm compressing the powder slightly when I seat the bullet, can this load be safe?
There are a number of extremely slow-burning powders which will create this same situation. In the case of these bulky powders, frequently pressure is not the limiting factor in developing a load; case capacity is. You run out of room in the case before you've reached maximum pressures, and wind up compressing the charge. In these situations, the compression is perfectly normal and not a cause for concern.
Why isn't my powder mentioned in your reloading manual?
No comprehensive manual has the space to show every combination. As a result, there will always be some combinations that don't get listed. In assembling our manuals, we try to include those powders which are best suited to the cartridge/bullet combination being tested. Of course, it may also be a case of the powder you have not being suitable to the cartridge you want to load, as well. For example, you want to use W-W 231 in your 7mm Remington Magnum, because you have several pounds on hand for your .45 ACP? It just isn't a suitable choice. In a situation like this, nobody is going to show loading data for such a combination.
Is military brass interchangeable with commercial brass?
Military cases such as the 308 Winchester (7.62mm NATO) and .30-06 military brass have thicker case walls, and therefore less internal case capacity. It has been generally recommended that handloaders reduce all load charges by at least one grain when using .30 caliber military cases. In the .223 Remington (5.56mm NATO), the internal capacity of most military brass we have worked with has not measured significantly different from commercial cases. When using military cases, always check the capacity against the last lot of commercial brass you were using to avoid any potential problems, and adjust the load accordingly.
: I don't want to waste my time wiping all the sizing lube off my cases after the resizing operation, but I've been told not to tumble loaded ammunition. Won't some lubrication help the cartridge chamber more easily? What happens if it is not removed before shooting?
Upon ignition, the case expands in all directions, with the case walls tightly gripping the chamber. Almost instantly, the case relaxes its grip on the chamber walls as the pressure starts to drop, allowing the case to be extracted. If the cartridge were lubricated, the case wouldn't be able to grip the chamber walls, allowing it to slam back sharply against the bolt face. In extreme examples, this force, called "bolt thrust," can even damage a firearm. For what it's worth, the British used to use lubricated cartridges to proof test a firearm, rather than the so called "blue pill" loads used here in the US. Wipe those cases, and make sure your chamber stays clean and dry!
Is ballistic coefficient a major consideration for hunting?
It depends. If we're talking about the differences between a Spitzer and a Spitzer Boat Tail, ballistic coefficient can be ignored for ranges of about 250 yards and closer. The differences in trajectory between these two is just too slight to notice in the field, at least at these ranges. As the ranges increase, so does the advantage of the higher ballistic coefficient. This is why long-range shooters are always so concerned about using bullets which have a high ballistic coefficient. The best way to settle this for your situation is to do a quick review of the exterior ballistics tables in the back of the Sierra manuals, and choose your bullets accordingly.
Why do loads vary from manual to manual?
Good question. First of all, we need to understand that reloading manuals are not carved in stone. Think of a reloading manual as a report, and you'll be in a much better position to understand this. In essence, a reloading manual says, "We tried this particular component combination, and these are the results we obtained." When you duplicate the load shown in a manual, you're using a different rifle (even if it is the same make, model, and caliber), a different lot of powder (even if it is the same brand and type), a different lot of cases (even if they are from the same manufacturer, etc.), a different lot of, well . . . you get the idea. There is an amazing number of variables that effect any load combination. With the difference in the manuals, you're just seeing first hand examples. Again, start low, and work your load up.
Can I use a MatchKing bullet for deer hunting? They shoot just great in my rifle, so they should be just super for hunting use, right?
No, it's not recommended. The MatchKing bullets are designed for pinpoint accuracy; with no consideration given to what might happen after impact. If the bullet has arrived on target accurately, its job is done at that point. Hunting bullets must perform in a certain manner after impact. Penetrating ability, expansion characteristics, and even profile must be considered when designing a hunting bullet. Use MatchKings for matches, and game bullets for hunting.
A friend of mine shoots an M1 Garand in HighPower service rifle competition. He says I shouldn't use 4831 powder in my Garand. Why? I told him I didn't believe a load of 4831 powder that is listed in a manual would be unsafe. Who's right?
The problem here is not one of pressure, but of port pressure. Port pressure is the amount of pressure remaining in the barrel of a gas-operated firearm, when the bullet passes by the gas port. The Garand was designed for use with medium burning rate powders 4895 and IMR 4064. Using a slow-burning powder such as 4831, even if the load develops relatively mild chamber pressure, will still give excessively high port pressures. This causes violent cycling of the action and can result in a bent operating rod. Load your Garand with only those medium-burning powders which are compatible with its gas system.
Your catalog lists a .224" diameter 69 grain MatchKing for use in 7"-10" twist barrels. How about my 22-250? Can I use this bullet in my Remington 700 Varmint rifle
A longer, heavier bullet in any diameter needs a faster twist to be properly stabilized. Most factory .22-250s are intended for use with 50 and 55 grain bullets, and come with a 1x14" twist as standard equipment. In fact, with just a few exceptions, most high-velocity .22 center fires have either a 1x12" or 1x14" barrel. For best results, confirm that your twist is 1x10" or faster.
Are flattened primers always an indication of high pressure?
Not necessarily. Follow along for a moment. At the cartridge's ignition, a light load won't always fully expand the case within the chamber. It does, however, develop enough pressure to force the primer out of the pocket and against the bolt face, at least as much as headspace will allow. An instant after the primer has been forced back out of the pocket, the pressure will begin to drive the case backwards towards the bolt face. As the case moves back, it reseats the primer, often flattening it in the process. When the case is extracted and examined, the primer will appear to have been used in an extremely high pressure load. In some instances, primers can be a good indication of pressure. In others, they can be extremely misleading and utterly worthless as pressure indicators.
Is load data interchangeable from my handgun to my rifle?
No. You should stick with the data in your handgun manual while loading your pistols and use your rifle manual when loading the rifles. Pressures will run different between the two, with barrel cylinder gap causing many of the loads in handguns to be higher.
Can I interchange data from one manual to another?
No. Each manufacturer uses a firearm that would be different from the other in chamber and barrel specs, making it necessary to stick with the data of one manufacturer all the way.
I have some military cases. I got the old primer out with some difficulty and I can't get new primers to seat. Do military cases use different size primers than commercial brass?
Military cases have crimped in primers. The crimp has to be removed before primers can be seated. The crimp can either be cut out or swaged. Several companies offer a variety of ways to remove crimps. They range from a hand held tool, which actually cuts the crimp out, to primer pocket swagers which mount on your press. The swagers actually press the crimp out smooth.
I have the same barrel length, use the same powder charge and bullet as you do in the manual, but my velocities are different.
It's not unusual for two barrels of the same manufacturer, using the same loads, to vary 100 fps or more. Smoothness of the rifling, inside diameter, or number of rounds previously fired can have a bearing. Cooler temperatures can lower velocities and warmer temperatures can increase them. Even variances between lots of powder can change velocities. There's a lot of variables at work here, so the fact that your velocities are different is hardly surprising.
My revolver spits particles out from in front of the cylinder.
The cylinder is out of time. The chambers aren't in line with the barrel and it shaves particles of the bullet jacket when fired. Send it to the factory or a good gunsmith to be retimed.
Can I use cast bullet loads for jacketed bullets?
No. Load data should be as specific as possible to the bullet used.
How long will my handloads last, if stored in a cool dry place?
When stored in such an environment, cartridges kept in sealed containers will last the best part of a lifetime
How do I establish the proper OAL for my rifle?
Two factors limit OAL, magazine length and throat length. The heaviest spitzer bullet OAL as shown in your manual for your cartridge will normally reflect the maximum suggested OAL. You should also open the floor plate of your magazine and roll your loaded rounds through to be sure they will clear. Next, assemble a dummy round with the chosen bullet to the exact OAL you tested in the magazine. Chamber it carefully. Note the feel of the bolt handle when closing. Open the bolt and carefully eject the dummy round. Inspect the bullet just above the mouth for any signs of contact. If in doubt, smoke the bullet and repeat the chambering exercise. Copper showing in small smudge points indicate contact.
How much velocity do I gain or lose when comparing my 24" barrel to your 26" test barrel?
Many factors influence the velocity of a given barrel. Normally you can expect a gain or loss of 30 to 50 FPS per inch of barrel difference. A shorter barrel will show a decrease and longer barrels will increase.
How did you establish your accuracy load?
These are loads that have a proven history of working well in many rifles. They generally provide a high level of accuracy in many different barrels, not just our test barrel.
How do I know when my barrel is clean?
Visual inspection of the muzzle under direct light will reveal if there is any copper present. Careful attention to the "feel" transmitted through the cleaning rod and a tight patch will indicate tight spots, which indicate fouling deposits. Copper dissolving chemicals that yield a colored patch is a good indicator of interior barrel fouling. Of course, any time a patch is pushed through the bore and emerges darkened, there is fouling somewhere. In short, if the patch isn't clean, neither is the bore.
What constitutes a hunting load in your manual?
Pure accuracy without regard for energy and trajectory is not viable in the game fields. Our hunting loads are a combination of high velocity for flat trajectory and high striking energy with acceptable hunting accuracy.
I want to use IMR 4350 but can only find Hodgdon and Accurate Arms 4350. Are they interchangeable?
No, not exactly. While they may not be much different, they are different enough that you should reduce your load by five percent. Work up in not more than one grain intervals to your chosen load level. Be alert to excessive pressure indications and you should be able find an acceptable load.


These frequently asked questions have been prepared for information purposes only. The answers presented above represent the expert opinions of Sierra Bullet's ballistic technicians and are not intended to be exhaustive. Whilst care has been taken in its preparation, no responsibility is accepted for the completeness or accuracy of the information presented here. Interested parties should no rely solely on this information and should directly contact a ballistic technician should they find the information presented here to be unclear. For more information please call 888-223-8799 or email us at
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