It’s no secret that I swear by my handloads. Give me any factory load and I’ll make it better; this is the metric that I live by. While that has always been the case, today’s ammo makes this task more and more daunting. With vast improvements in nearly every cartridge component, getting a substantial improvement in accuracy is taking much more work than it used to.
Well there’s always availability, right? If I want certain bullets in certain calibers, I have to make my own rounds, right? Again, not as true as that once was; especially now that Sierra is loading their own ammunition.
At the 2019 SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range, I had the opportunity to fire a sampling of the new GameChanger rounds out to 900 yards. While my hit percentage was outstanding, there was no way to walk downrange and measure groups, let alone gather velocity data. The new line of cartridges was built with an extraordinarily accurate polymer-tipped boattail hunting bullet, not the match bullets that most folks associate the company with.
I thought this was genius, as while Sierra’s stance in the competition market is well established, not many hunters are familiar with their products. Furthermore, sometimes it’s hard to justify even the price of a die set to handload for a rifle that you only shoot once a year.
I recently tested the new GameChanger ammo in the following loads: • .243 Winchester 90-grain TGK •.308 Winchester 165-grain TGK • 6.5 Creedmoor 130-grain TGK
Weather was so-so, with a light rain which was supposed to erupt into a downpour at some point, but that is the life of an outdoorsman. Besides, I figured it would be a good opportunity to test how they stood up to moisture. With that, I quickly gathered up some rifles along with a MagnetoSpeed V3 chronograph and headed to the ol’ sandpit where I seem to spend most of my life. My goal was to gather 100-yard accuracy data by firing five, five-shot groups and then firing 10 rounds with the chronograph attached to check on consistency.
I started my day with the .308 Winchester round. This round has been the parent cartridge of more rounds than I care to count. My test rifle was a well-used Savage 10FLP with a 24-inch barrel with a 1:10″ twist. Atop was a Bushnell HDMR II optic. I’ve used this rifle to pursue game and steel targets for the last 16 years, and it continues to amaze me with its consistency and reliability.
Sierra GameChanger .30-caliber 165-grain Tipped GameKing (TGK)
Today’s .308 can do everything a .30-06 can do, except typically more accurately. Right out of the gate I fired my best group of the day measuring just .78-inch. Groups like this were not a fluke either, as my final average of all five groups was only 1.06 inches; not too shabby for a barrel with more than 5,000 rounds through it. The rounds hit the chronograph at an average of 2652 fps with a standard deviation of only 22. Although I never expect a factory round to live up to its advertised velocity, this particular round was only shy 28 fps from the advertised 2680 fps on the box.
Going smaller, I turned my attention to the .243 Winchester ammo and the new Savage 110 Classic rifle. This rifle carries a 22-inch barrel in a faster 1:9.25″ twist. I scoped the rifle with a Riton RT-S Mod 5 optic and capped it off with a Kahntrol Solutions HexMod muzzle brake, making it effortless to shoot. The .243 has become a staple for the whitetail hunter who is recoil sensitive, and has been dispatching varmints across a prairie since its inception. My best group of the day came in at .75-inch on the nose and yielded an average of 1.31 inches at the end of the session. The velocity average on the 10 rounds was 3070 fps, about 130 fps shy of advertised, likely due to the shorter barrel. Standard deviation was only 15.2, which was pretty impressive for factory ammo.
I ended my range session with the newest of the three cartridges, the 6.5 Creedmoor. The Creedmoor has taken off and has been encroaching on the venerable .308’s territory in target shooting and medium-sized game hunting. It certainly does the trick, particularly if you’re interested in long-range pursuit and want to ensure an ethical harvest. For this test, I turned to my hybrid bolt AR build from a Uintah Precision 26-inch upper receiver in a standard 1:8″ twist. As a long-range setup, I topped the rifle with a Riton RT-S Mod 7 4X32 optic. I have sat in a deer blind up on a hill with this setup, as well as on the bed of a pickup truck in Texas awaiting the unsuspecting jack rabbit.
During testing, I noticed a bit of vertical stringing, which is usually indicative of excessive velocity spread or just a general incapability between that round and its host firearm. Turning to the chronograph, I was able to rule out the velocity fluctuation possibility, as the standard deviation was only 21.6 on these. Being 26 inches long, this gun is a bit of an odd duck and likely not a perfect match for this ammo. Nonetheless, I was still able to turn in some more-than-suitable groups for hunting, with my best being 1.37 inches and the average 1.56 inches. That’s still plenty accurate to consistently strike the vitals of a trophy buck at 400 yards. Advertised velocity was 2950 fps but we saw an average velocity of 2862 fps.
Overall, I was very impressed with how well each round fired with the rifles I had on hand. I wouldn’t shy away from any of these to put meat on the table this fall, especially if it came down to making the decision between handloading or an extra day in the field.
Sierra GameChanger ammo is currently available in the following configurations: • .243 Winchester 90-grain TGK | MSRP: $44 per 20-rnd. box • 6mm Creedmoor 100-grain TGK | MSRP: $47 per 20-rnd. box • 6.5 Creedmoor 130-grain TGK | MSRP: $49 per 20-rnd. box • .270 Winchester 140-grain TGK | MSRP: $49 per 20-rnd. box • .308 Winchester 165-grain TGK | MSRP: $50 per 20-rnd. box • .300 Winchester Magnum 180-grain TGK | MSRP: $58 per 20-rnd. box •.30-06 Springfield 165-grain TGK | MSRP: $50 per 20-rnd. box • 7mm Remington Magnum 150-grain TGK | MSRP: $58 per 20-rnd. box