Sierra Bullets Review

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When I started reloading over 40 years ago I started with a 30-06 and 180 grain Sierra bullets. My loading equipment consisted of a $7.00 Lee Loader a can of powder, primers and a box of bullets. By coincidence they were 180 grain flat base Sierras for a 30-06 that I had at the time. I wasn't sure that I wanted to reload so I started on the cheap. Anyway they shot fine in spite of my ignorance and a lifelong love affair with reloading started.

Sierra started making bullets in 1947 in a Quonset hut in California. They stayed there until 1990 when they moved to Sedalia Missouri. In the last 60 years their line of bullets has expanded dramatically and continues to do so. They also produce a very helpful manual which a reloader would do well to obtain and read. It has over 1100 pages of information that every reloader needs. There is information for every level of reloaders. To get an idea of what they sell go to www.sierrabullets.com, they also have technical help if you have a reloading question. Sierra bullets have always bragged on their accuracy and for the most part I can verify that claim.


The big green, just a few of the Sierra bullets I use.


Shooting from the bench to establish loads.

One of my favorites for the various 22s that I shoot is the 55 grain boattail soft point. In my 220 Swift they will dance all over a ½' at 100 yards. Out to 400 yards or so they have proven deadly on groundhogs. They also have worked in a 22-250 that I had. A Remington 700 with a bull barrel shot the 243 caliber 85 grain in just about the same hole at 100 yards. It was a good woodchuck round out to 400 yards, plus bucking the wind better then the 22s. It however didn't always open up at long ranges, something I found with some of the 22 match bullets. By the way the manual states some of their bullets are not suitable for hunting, another reason to get and read it. The 87 grain spitzer in a 257 Roberts also proved deadly on various varmints that I tried it on. The pre-64 model 70 loved those bullets.


Page of reloading data from Sierra manual.

Sierra has an extensive line of match bullets which they state are the most accurate around. While I don't shoot matches I have shot some in various rifles and they prove to be very accurate in all instances. If I want to see how accurate a specific rifle can be I generally go to one of their match bullets. I have a good friend who uses the 69 grain match in his 223 and he gets groups that range from ¼ to ½" and it is deadly on woodchucks out past 300 yards. A couple of years ago I was doing a special experiment on making a 30-06 a subsonic round, and I used the Sierra match bullets up to 220 grains for this test. The accuracy was outstanding even at 1000 feet per second. Their match bullets go up to the 338 caliber weighing 250 grains.


30 caliber 220 grain match bullets.


Two types of Sierra 220 grain bullets, left match
and right a bone buster in the woods.

I have been corresponding with and met Carroll Pilant, Media Relations Manager at Sierra and he furnished me with these weights and styles of bullets that he considers the toughest in their extensive line. If you are going to use one of these calibers for hunting, then you might want to look at these bullets. Some of their bullets are a bit on the soft side so you want to make sure the bullet you choose is up to the task to avoid spoiling a hunt. A good example, one of my acquaintances has an 8mm Remington magnum. and planned on going elk hunting with it. He told me that he planned on using the 150 grain which I strongly advised against, as it is too light and fragile. He insisted and as a result he shot and lost a fine trophy. I had tried to talk him into the 200 grain which probably would have done the job, until after the fact, he wasn't listening. He did remark that perhaps the 8mm Magnum wasn't powerful enough, which is nonsense. With the right bullet it will anchor anything in North America and most African game. Here is a list of the tougher bullets made by Sierra and recommended for hunting.

    .257 #1650 120 gr. HPBT
    .264 #1730 140 gr. SBT
    .277 #1835 140 gr. HPBT
    .277 #1840 150 gr. SBT
    .284 #1925 160 gr. HPBT
    .284 #1940 175 gr. SBT
    .308 #2125 180 gr. SPT
    .308 #2165 200 gr. SBT
    .308 #2180 220 gr. RN


165 grain Sierras, deadly on deer in a 308.

Some time ago I had a 7mm Remington magnum that I wanted to try on varmints. Yes I know it is a bit much but I thought it would be interesting. I started with a 115 grain hollow point from another maker. While it was accurate it wouldn't open up even at closer distances. I then went to a 120 grain Sierra which was as accurate and opened up giving clean kills. Even with varmints it is important to me to have humane kills, as it should be with every ethical hunter. I also used these bullets on a couple of deer with good success. While I would not use it as an all around bullet for deer, it performs well at long distances, which I shot those deer. It delivered the accuracy and flat trajectory necessary to hit an animal at 400 yards or so. For normal range deer I would go with a 160 grain to avoid ruining a lot of meat. I have a Winchester model 70 in 300 Win mag that will spray the 180 grain BT all over a ½" group at 100 yards. I have a shooting buddy that has been trying to buy it off me for a long time. Never happen!

I had a 303 British military rifle that loved the 150 grain. At 200 yards with open sights I could put all 5 into a 3" group all day which is pretty impressive for an old military rifle and my shooting. A deer wouldn't have a prayer with this load. The 175 spitzer has produced excellent accuracy in the 303 and the 7.65 Mauser. The 7.7 Jap also likes it. I have found that the military guns shoot well with good ammo and bores. Some of my best groups have been shot with a 30-06 Springfield and 180 grain Sierras. If I do my part I can look for a ¾" group at 100 yards. The 8 X 57 Mauser also does well with the 150 and 175 grain spitzers in the accuracy department.


The 311 180 grain, great in the 303 British, 7.7 Jap and the 7.65 Mauser.


Sierra 150 grain flat points for 30-30, 303 Savage and 30 Remington.


375 diameter Sierra bullets, 200 & 300 grain.


220 grain 30 caliber round nose.

The nice thing about most normal calibers is they don't require premium bullets for most applications. They can get by with the regular cup and jacket type of bullets for most of the hunting. The magnums to work best require a tougher jacket and sometimes multiple cores. While they work, they are not necessary for most applications using a non magnum such as a 308 or 7mm 08. They are less expensive also. One thing I do if I need a premium bullet, I sight in and practice with the regulars and tweak the sights with the premiums. Always do your final sighting in with the exact bullet and load that you intend to use. Magnums put more stress on a bullet by higher velocities and hitting something harder which may cause the bullet to come unglued. Such behavior can cause excessive meat loss and wounded animals. That is especially true inside of 200 yards. That's why if you choose a Sierra bullet for hunting, make sure that it is the right bullet for the job at hand. Gilt edge accuracy isn't always the most important feature that a bullet can deliver.

Sierra makes handgun bullets as well, and one of my favorites is the 300 grain flat nose in the 454 Casull. I shot it at 25 and 100 yards and it gives excellent accuracy and should be effective on most four legged critters. I am pushing it at over 1700 FPS so it isn't a pleasant target load. I have shot various Sierra bullets in my handguns and found them to be accurate and I can't ever remember any feeding problems due to bullet design. One of my favorites is the 180 grain 357 Tournament Master. It's very accurate in a variety of 35 caliber weapons that I have shot it in. As a back door compliment I swage it down to 352 to use in a 351 Winchester Self Loading rifle. It is easy to swage and feeds perfectly. I have obtained good accuracy with it keeping in mind that the 351 is not a tack driver.


Sierra 357 180 grain Tournament Master made into a 351 bullet.

My Ruger Vaquero likes the 240 grain hollow point with a good load of 2400. For woods hunting deer it would make an excellent round at 12-1400 FPS. It also works in my LAR Grizzly 45 Win Mag. For target loads I use cast bullets as there is no need to shoot the more expensive variety for paper punching. A 170 grain in the 41 magnum makes a nice round and I can swage it to 400 diameter for a neat 38-40 round. In a modern handgun or rifle the 38-40 can perform in an impressive manner with these bullets.


Ruger Vaquero & Sierra 240 grain bullets, a deadly combo on deer.

The good and bad of Sierra bullets: First of all their bullets are quality items and are consistent in their dimensions. If I have an unknown rifle and want an accurate load I will probably choose a Sierra bullet to start out. I have shot many Sierra bullets out of a lot of guns and almost without exception they are accurate. As always there are a couple of exceptions but that isn't a reflection of the bullets but the weapon's choice. They have a good selection of styles and weights in many but not all calibers. The prices range in the area of their competitors, which is a good thing. Some of their custom bullets are more expensive which is to be expected as in all brands. The more steps you need to make a bullet, the more expensive it will be. They are widely available making it convenient for a handloader to pick up a box or two of them. The boxes are sturdy which can be an important consideration in shipping. I have had boxes break and bullets were all over the place but they weren't Sierra boxes. There are many good bullets on the market besides the Sierra brand, so they have to keep on their toes to keep up with the competition.

As for the down side some of them are too soft for serious hunting and the reloader should be selective in choosing a bullet style or weight. The same can be said for other brands as well. They don't have a 416 diameter bullet of any style as far as I know. The only 45 caliber rifle bullet is a 300 grain HP which would be ok for deer at moderate velocities but would not be suitable for serious hunting. There are no full metal jacketed bullets in the larger calibers. There are no 475 diameter bullets for the T-Rex handguns. I know that it is a limited market for those, but with all the people going to Africa it might be an area to look into, and maybe they are. A comment rather then a criticism is they don't have anything for inline muzzleloaders. With their ability to make accurate bullets this is an area that they might be overlooking.

The competition is stiff out there and every day it seems someone is bringing out a new bullet design. It would be a full time job keeping up with them and Sierra is no exception. They are coming out with new products all the time and it is a good idea to check out their website on a monthly basis to see what's new. In fact I found that they have a few bullet jackets for sale which surprised me. I make and design some of my own bullets so that may be an area that would interest me. Years ago the big three offered jackets but were dropped for the most part for lack of interest I suppose. However upon browsing the Sierra website I found that they do still offer a few jackets in case you want to make your own. Honesty will compel me to state that it probably isn't worth your while given the quality of the finished product, and the cost of bullet making equipment unless you are an experimenter like myself and just want to make your own.


Sierra bullet jackets for 30 caliber.


Homemade bullets made from Sierra jackets, 30 caliber.

For more information about Sierra bullets, visit www.sierrabullets.com.


Bob Shell has been around guns all of his life and enjoys handloading and hunting especially with obsolete guns. Life member of the NRA & NAHC, he also belongs to POMA & OWAA which are outdoor writer associations. Bob has written for various publications, as well as two books and is working on a third. He has an ammo business specializing in hard to find ammo www.obsoleteammo.com.

Comments

arrowflipper's picture

great article

What a great article on Sierra bullets and the art of reloading.  I got into reloading in the early 70's and did so for economic reasons.  It was cheaper to reload than buy ready made bullets.  I loved to shoot and this was the way to do more of it economically.

At that time, I could buy all the components and load a box of shells for just a very few bucks.  I did a lot of shooting in those days.  But I wasn't the brightest reloader in the world.  I didn't have a mentor to give me the finer points of reloading or warm me against myself.  I tended to believe that the faster I could make that little pill go, the better off I was.  I loaded some pretty stupid stuff back then.  And I used a lot of Sierra bullets to do it with.  But not knowing much of what I was doing, I tended to buy bullets by the ones that were on sale rather than the ones that best suited my guns.

Then I started to learn more about reloading and realized I could actually match the bullet and load to my rifle.  Then it became a game to see what kind of group I could get with my reloads.  Reloads became a much better cartridge to shoot than over-the-counter cartridges. 

As time went on and manufacturing became more sophisticated, you could buy a box of cartridges that were as good as what most guys could reload.  Even the premium bullets became available in loaded cartridges.  And the cost of components continued to rise.

Today, I still do all my own loading, but I do it for different reasons.  Oh yes, it's still a lot cheaper to reload, and I still strive for perfection, but there's another aspect that has now crept in.  I LOVE to sit in my reloading room, drink a cup of coffee, listen to a little music and reload a few shells at a time, just spending time by myself and my cartridges.  I take pride in what I do and enjoy doing it.  Every animal I've killed over the past thirty years has gone down to a cartridge that I have put together myself.  And I still use Sierras some of the time. 

I have to admit that I haven't been faithful to just one brand of bullets. There are a lot of really high quality bullets on the market and I like to try them all.  Thanks for a well written article.

CVC's picture

Since beginning to handload

Since beginning to handload about four or five years ago, I've tried a variety of bullets, but I always returned to Sierra.  Just seems that they shoot best in my rifles and they are the only bullet besides those in factory loads that I've used to take game.  I've taken coyotes, pronghorn antelope, whitetail deer and most recently a mountain goat with the Sierra game kings.  All have been one shot kills and in all cases there was no tracking needed.  they all died where I shot them.  I say this says a lot about the bullet.

They are not the most fancy bullet on the block, but they deliver consistent accuracy at the range and stopping power in the field so I'll stick with them

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