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July 22nd, 2020

Accuracy Requirements for Prairie Dog Hunting Ammunition

Wyoming varmint hunt prairie dog Sierra Bullets Tommy Todd Reloading accuracy powder measure
Photo by Forum member R. Hardy. View Related Thread.

Summer’s here, so many folks will head to the hinterlands on prairie dog safaris. On a good P-Dog adventure, you may shoot hundreds of rounds over a long weekend. So you’ll need plenty of ammo. With these ammo volume requirements, you probably won’t have time to load to benchrest standards, and you may not have the budget for match-grade bullets. To save time you may throw (rather than weigh) your charges, or even load on a progressive press. This all raises the question of ammo accuracy — how good is “good enough”? A Sierra Bullets expert answers that question here — explaining how to efficiently load ammo for varmint work.

Ammunition Accuracy Requirements 101 — Varmint Ammo

Wyoming varmint hunt prairie dog Sierra Bullets Tommy Todd Reloading accuracy powder measure

This story based on article 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 [harms your] 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.

Wyoming varmint hunt prairie dog Sierra Bullets Tommy Todd Reloading accuracy powder measure

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.

This varmint ammo, with thrown charges, put TEN shots inside ONE inch at 200 yards. That’s half MOA. Good Enough? Absolutely!
Wyoming varmint hunt prairie dog Sierra Bullets Tommy Todd Reloading accuracy powder measure

The ammo produced shot under one inch at 200 yards in one of the guns I planned on taking on to Wyoming with me. [Editor: That was for TEN Shots — see above.] 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.

NOTE: The author, Tommy Todd, explains that, when loading ammo for F-Class matches, he uses more exacting methods. He weighs every charge and seats his bullets carefully with an arbor press. Todd adapts his methodology for his particular application. The lesson here is to load to the level of precision demanded by your discipline. READ Full Story HERE.

Varmint Prairie Dog hunting safari reloading powder measure Tommy Todd

Permalink - Articles, Hunting/Varminting, Reloading No Comments »
July 15th, 2018

How Ammo Temp Affects Pressure, Velocity, and Point of Impact

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold
In this .308 Win test, 70° F ammo shot 96 FPS slower than ammo heated to 130.5° F. And the 130.5° ammo was 145 fps faster than ammo right out of the freezer (at 25.5° F). That’s a huge difference…

EDITOR’s NOTE: The Sierra tester does not reveal the brand of powder tested here. Some powders are much more temp sensitive than others. Accordingly, you cannot extrapolate test results from one propellant to another. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see the actual recorded velocity shift with ammo temperature variations in a .308 Win.

Written by Sierra Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd
This story originally appeared in the Sierra Bullets Blog
A 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 who 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 [heat] and build pressure/velocity above normal conditions. Making my recommended changes lowered the pressures enough for the rifle and cartridge to function normally.

Testing Effects of Ammunition Temperature on Velocity and POI
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.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold

I 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.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold

I kept track of the temperatures of the three ammunition samples with a non-contact laser 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.

NOTE 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 FPS

The heated ammunition shot at 2596 fps.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot cold

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.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot cold

This 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.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
August 24th, 2016

Sierra Test Reveals How Velocity Varies with Ammo Temperature

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold
In this .308 Win test, 70° F ammo shot 96 FPS slower than ammo heated to 130.5° F. And the 130.5° ammo was 145 fps faster than ammo right out of the freezer (at 25.5° F). That’s a huge difference…

EDITOR’s NOTE: The Sierra tester does not reveal the brand of powder tested here. Some powders are much more temp sensitive than others. Accordingly, you cannot extrapolate test results from one propellant to another. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see the actual recorded velocity shift with ammo temperature variations in a .308 Win.

Written by Sierra Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd
This story originally appeared in the Sierra Bullets Blog
A 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 who 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 [heat] and build pressure/velocity above normal conditions. Making my recommended changes lowered the pressures enough for the rifle and cartridge to function normally.

Testing Effects of Ammunition Temperature on Velocity and POI
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.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold

I 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.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold

I kept track of the temperatures of the three ammunition samples with a non-contact laser 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.

NOTE 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 FPS

The heated ammunition shot at 2596 fps.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot cold

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.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot cold

This 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.

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 5 Comments »
June 18th, 2016

Sierra MatchKing (SMK) vs. Sierra Tipped MatchKing (TMK)

Sierra Tipped MatchKing bullet TMK SMK Tommy Todd

by Sierra Bullets Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd

Since Sierra introduced the Tipped MatchKing® (TMK®) line of bullets in 2015, we have had a few questions from customers regarding the two lines of bullets (MK vs TMK). Some shooters are concerned that the tried-and-true MatchKing® bullets will be replaced with the Tipped MatchKing® bullets. For those of you worried, relax, the old standby MatchKings® that you have shot for years are here to stay, and we will happily continue to make them for you.

Sierra Tipped MatchKing bullet TMK SMK Tommy Todd

For those that like to try new products, we are planning on both continuing and expanding the Tipped MatchKing® line. Even where there are two bullets within these two lines that have matching weights (pictured above), 22 caliber 69 and 77 grain, 6mm 95 gr, 30 caliber 125, 155, 168 and 175 grains, we are not going to replace the MatchKings® with the Tipped MatchKing®. We are, however, going to continue to offer both lines of bullets for your use and enjoyment. Keep an eye out for new additions to our product line!

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