When I started seriously hunting several years ago, I was already a fan of Sierra’s target bullets in 6.5mm, .308 and .312, using them across a range of disciplines with some success, so much that I was able to walk away with the NSW Rifle Asssociation Service Rifle Queens Prize two years running. In the lead-up to that I set the SSAA Military Service Discipline Rapidfire B National Record with an open-sighted Mauser shooting 120gn Match King seconds (did I mention I am a bit stingy?). That record still stands eight years on – equalled a few times since but never bettered, and I believe that the others used Sierras also. To garner that sort of success, a lot of elements need to come together and not least of these is good handloaded ammunition. Sierra has been an integral part of that success all the way through for me.
Moving onto that serious hunting, I restocked that 6.5 Mauser to sporting configuration, mounted a 4-power Pecar and settled on Sierra 120gn Pro Hunters as my bullet of choice for fallow and other medium game. The combination got me some nice kills at 80 to 300 metres in all sorts of situations, but then a bargain custom .270 Mauser came my way and I started a love affair with what I came to appreciate as a fine long-range cartridge. Nick’s advice was to seat a 130gn Game King on 55gn of AR 2209 and with that load I pulled off some spectacular kills, tramping around the hills of Mudgee with my stalwart mate and hunting mentor, Alex Juris.
Fallow deer aren’t that hard to kill, but the situations you can find yourself in chasing them can make it a difficult job to get a shot at them. This was certainly true of my first trophy fallow. The sun was almost set when Tony spied a nice buck two kilometres down a long ridge, thrashing a small bush. We ran down that ridge as the light faded and set up, only to have to up-stakes and follow him again to a rough position on the side of a creek bank, where I took the shot, hitting him in the heart - the muzzle flash blinding me in the scope. He ran twenty metres and piled up and we completed the knife work in the dark. My first nice trophy was on the deck thanks to hard work, heaving lungs and a 130gn Sierra.
Billy goats are a different proposition to fallow. They are really tough and, if you don’t shut them down with good placement and a good bullet, they can trot away from you like they are not hit. I have shot and killed billies with five centrefire chamberings, .303 British, .308 Win, .270, .223 and .30-06. In all cases, I was using Sierra Game King or Pro Hunter bullets. With the .223 I have kept my ranges to 200m or less and the 55gn Game King has been surprisingly effective in walloping sizeable goats. They seem to be shifted an inch or two off their footing when hit in the shoulder, returning a loud, uniform “whop” and the resultant demise of that goat.
In the .270, I have taken billies from quite close out to 489 yards laser ranged and it seems that the further out you go, within reason, the more emphatic the kills. I belted one memorable billy at 200 yards from the slung prone position and Alex, watching through his binos, said, “I don’t think you hit him”, to which I replied, “Oh... I think I did” and then Alex reported , “Nope, he’s down” some ten seconds later. Trudging across the gullies we reached a very dead billy, with a substantial cup-sized exit wound out his far shoulder and a spray of gore on the bushes behind where he stood. We were impressed to say the least with that performance. Later that same day, I was able to take a nice small eating nanny with a lovely skin with a precisely placed 120m shot that did minimal meat damage, such is the accuracy of the 130 Game King. Being a smaller animal, the bullet also held together well to drive through rather than splatter.
On another trip to that “Billies and Blisters” block, we came upon a mob on a far hill face across a broad deep gully. Handing my .270 to Michael Pizzata, I ranged the goats at an average of 450 yards, told Mick where to hold and he neatly dispatched a solid black and grey billy with a single shot to the mid-chest. For his troubles, Mick who is used to a heavier Blaser .270, sustained a neat Weatherby eyebrow, flowing with claret. He had a few choice words but was pleased nonetheless to crack his longest kill on any game to date with the “Little Hercules” and the 130gn Game King load, which out of the 21 inch barrel is doing around 3050fps.
The .30-06 takes a step-up in pure killing power, in my experience, when compared with the .270 over normal hunting ranges. The increased bullet weight and diameter appears to me to knock tough billies over more instantaneously with similar shot placement. I currently have two .30-06s, a MarlinXL-7 and a Sauer 202 Classic Synthetic. I’d had a lot of fun with the Marlin using a 180gn Game King load which was a pussycat to shoot, thanks to the excellent recoil mitigation of the Marlin’s stock. While a little bit overgunned for fallow and goats, who didn’t seem thumb their noses at my attention, the load was nice and accurate and the ranges at which I was using it at the time did not highlight any potential shortcomings in trajectory.
On a brief sojourn to new Zealand’s South Island I brought the XL-7 and twenty of those 180 grain handloads and shot a nice big old red stag at 50 metres offhand and he collapsed with the bullet entering his front shoulder and exiting back on his opposite flank, leaving a 50-cent sized hole. A subsequent shot at 305 yards uphill into the brisket of a big Arapawa ram punched the full length of his body, leaving the shed jacket on the ground behind him. It had penetrated about a metre of wool, flesh, blood, organs and bone and exited. Dead is dead.
Now when my Sauer came along, I did some brief experimentation with the 180s and Reloder 22 propellent. That rifle just did not like slow powders, or should I say I did not like shooting them. The recoil and muzzle blast meant range shooters next to me would vacate my vicinity. Notwisthstanding the unpleasant shooting characterisics, those 180s put three shots into a sub half-MoA touching cloverleaf at 125 yards consistently and were well within safe pressure parameters. A second experiment with 190gn Match Kings yielded a five shot group under an inch at 200 metres and there I left it; just knowing what rifle and bullet could do was sufficient.
From that point on, I carried the Sauer routinely loaded with the Sierra 165gn Game King, which has been responsible now for some spectacular long range goat kills, including one which took 15 minutes to walk to after the kill! Loaded up with 51gn AR 2208 for roughly 2,860fps, it was milder on the ears and recoil than the AR 2209 that most prefer in their “ought-sixes” and it would put ten shots under 2-inches all day at 125 yards. When I compared the trajectory and energy figures in the Sierra Infinity 6 computer ballistics program, the 180 grainer only surpassed the 165 after 600 yards, so I settled on it. Once I loaded that 165 Game King in my 11-pound .308 Savage 112BT and mistakenly humped it in goat country. A shot came up on a billy at 200 metres and I took him front-on in the brisket and again, the jacket was lying on the clay near his rear end when we came to inspect him – full length penetration.
Many people claim that Sierra hunting bullets are too soft and I’d argue that many who say so have not used them much or, if they have, they have used too light a bullet for the game they shoot. Sierra’s philosophy is that you select a bullet of adequate calibre and weight for the game you are to shoot and you won’t be disappointed – I wholeheartedly agree with them. If I can make one observation based on many kills on medium game and one or two on big game, it is this. If you have said appropriate bullet weight and calibre in a Sierra flat-based Pro-Hunter or the boat-tailed Game King, you will often not experience through and through penetration at relatively short ranges, say the 50 to 200 yard window, but they kill like lightning. Go out past 200 yards, though and they tend to mushroom more like competitors’ premium bullets and completely penetrate, allowing you to follow up the animal’s blood trail into the cover a short distance away, where they have expired.
I have also found that the .270 Game King has always completely penetrated on similarly placed shots when the .30 Cal 165gn Game King may not have done so. Nevertheless, all the animals died with single shots in vital areas. That phenomenon could have a lot to do with comparative sectional densities or relative thickness of jackets to weight ratios, but I am not that fussed to pursue a wet newspaper test to verify my experiences.
While I have a relatively short but concentrated window of hunting ferals and game animals in the pacific, for my purposes, I see no reason to change to more solidly constructed premium-named bullets as the need just is not there. It’s nice to experiment but in the end I know that I get near-target accuracy and consistency from Sierra’s hunting bullets and really nice, predictable target accuracy out of their Match Kings. Without any fuss or palaver, Sierra is proving to be a continuing success story.