first published on July 21, 2020 by full30[mashshare]
For over 70 years, Sierra Bullets has been producing high quality projectiles for handguns and rifles. Most every experienced shooter is aware of the ubiquitous green boxes filled with MatchKing, GameKing, or BlitzKing bullets. What you might not know is that in 2017, Sierra was purchased by Clarus, Corp. of Salt Lake City, Utah.
This change brought with it an investment and desire to grow the existing line of Sierra Bullets. During the last couple of years, Sierra has released loaded ammunition. First came the Gamechanger line for medium to large North American game animals. Now they have the Prairie Enemy, a complete line of varmint ammunition. It is the Prairie Enemy line that we will focus on here.
If you are going to field test ammunition for varmints, there are a few places in the United States to go and Wyoming is on top of the list. For a few days in mid-July 2020, representatives from Sierra Bullets would be joined by several outdoor writers to get out in the wide open spaces of Carbon County, Wyoming and conduct pest control.
For this Prairie Dog Safari, Ruger loaned us several of their American and Hawkeye rifles. Burris Optics provided the glass and Champion sent eye and ear protection. All hands would stay at the semi world-famous Spur Outfitters Ranch and be fed by their illustrious ranch cook; Ms Nancy.
The Spur Ranch in Wyoming has over 50,000 acres on which to hunt as well as being bordered by tens of thousands of acres of open BLM land. There is definitely room to stretch out.
For this outing, we writers would have four different loads of the Prairie Enemy ammunition from which to choose; .204 Ruger with a 36 grain BlitzKing bullet (all PE ammo uses BlitzKing bullet technology), .223 Remington, 69 grain, .22-250 Remington, 50 grain, and 6.5 Creedmoor, 105 grain. Ruger had sent a couple of rifles in each caliber to accommodate us. Sierra Bullets also offers PE ammo in .224 Valkyrie and .243 Winchester.
Sierra Bullets has a stellar industry reputation for quality. Many of the big name ammunition makers buy their projectiles from Sierra to load in their precision ammo. When it was time to make loaded ammunition for the public, Sierra carried over their high standards to that product line. All cartridge cases are nickel coated, the primers are sealed to protect them from moisture, and, of course, premium quality BlitzKing bullets are used in every round. As for the propellant powder, it varies from load to load and is proprietary information.
For the uninitiated, in Wyoming, prairie dogs, ground squirrels/gophers, and marmots are all considered non-game species or pests/varmints. No special licensing is required to shoot them and there is no bag limit. Burrowing varmint species are the bane of ranchers as they leave their fields riddled with holes, holes that are a hazard to domestic animals such as horses and cattle.
While on the Spur Ranch, we bore witness to the dangers of these varmint holes. A young bull had stepped in a prairie dog hole and had severely broken his rear leg. The break was so bad that the cowboys informed us that he would have to be put down as he was suffering and could not get around.
These pest species number in the tens of thousands and there is little chance that hunters will endanger the varmint population. However, through dedicated effort, the pests can be controlled and their damage minimized or reduced. Enter Sierra Bullets.
For my first morning out, I chose the Ruger American rifle chambered in .22-250. I must admit that cartridge is one of my all time favorite varmint rounds. The 50 grain bullet of the Prairie Enemy line has a factory velocity of 3800 feet per second and a ballistic coefficient of .259. It is an extremely flat shooting round. I might mention that our average elevation was about 7000 feet above sea level, excellent conditions for rifle shooting.
My small group worked our way across the ranch to the base of the Sierra Madre mountain range. We engaged prairie dogs and gophers from an average of 50 yards to 200 yards, sometimes a bit further. Our guide used a laser range finder to check the distances. As you might imagine, the .224 caliber BlitzKing bullet moving at nearly 4000 feet per second was absolutely devastating on the prairie pests. Accuracy was exceptional. Our targets were on average the size of a 16 ounce soda bottle.
Kudos to Sierra Bullets here.
Just before noon we reached the base of the Sierra Madre mountains where the rock chucks like to hang out. A rock chuck is marmot, like an Ohio groundhog. These varmints are a bit more challenging as they are more skittish than the prairie rats and gophers. When we stopped I got out of the vehicle and started “glassing” the rocks with my binoculars. After several minutes, I spotted my quarry under a ledge. I estimated the range to be over 200 yards and held the cross-hairs on the upper part of the chuck. The recoil from the .22-250 from Sierra Bullets was mild and I saw the impact through my scope. Our guide shot the distance with his range finder and it was right about 260 yards.
When we recovered the animal, I was impressed to see that its pelt was not torn up by a large exit wound. The adult male chuck weighed around ten pounds, much larger than a gopher. The bullet had entered behind its shoulder, expanded dramatically and dumped all of the energy inside.
Why is this important? Anyone who hunts fur bearing animals for their pelts understands that the least amount of damage to the hide is the best scenario. The pelt on this chuck was wonderful and he is going to the taxidermist.
During my time with the folks from Sierra Bullets I primarily used the .22-250 and the .223 Remington cartridges in the Ruger Rifles. One of the nice aspects of the American rifle from Ruger in .223 is that you can use standard AR magazines. For our Prairie Dog Safari, we used 10 round AR magazines from MagPul, they were a perfect fit for the bolt-action rifles.
Over the course of a couple of days, I fired several hundred rounds of the new Prairie Enemy ammunition from Sierra. The quality of the ammunition never came into question and I was very impressed. My opinion on the matter was shared by all of the other outdoor writers in attendance.
Volume of fire and amount of time behind the trigger is really what a prairie dog safari is all about. You can only learn so much about a rifle/scope/ammo combination sitting at a bench. The best truth teller is the field. If your gun or gear has a shortcoming, it will be more likely to appear in the field than on a sterile shooting range.
I have been using Sierra Bullets for reloading for about 25 years. I am excited for them with their premium line of loaded ammunition and I am looking forward to another prairie dog safari in the future.
Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.