If Prairie Enemy varmint ammo is any indication of what's to come, shooters are very lucky Sierra Bullets has entered the ammunition manufacturing game.
Bang! The next sound, “You got him! Nice shot.” My spotter was elated. So was I.
Sending a white-tailed prairie dog to varmint Valhalla from 495 yards isn’t the end-all-be-all, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t satisfying. Following up a minute later on his buddy, misfortunate enough to poke his head up … well, tickle me pink.
The shots were a grand finale to a two-day varmint hunt this summer in southern Wyoming, sponsored by Sierra Bullets. More than an exercise in pest control, the legendary bullet-smiths set a horde of gun writers free on the sage-addled expanses of the Spur Ranch to showcase the newest addition to its catalog—Prairie Enemy. And what a place to put varmint medicine to the test.
Nestled between the snowcapped Snowy and Sierra Madre mountain ranges, the limitless draws and endless flats of Carbon County provide targets to the horizon. Throw in the ever-present Wyoming variable—wind—and, well sir, you’ve got everything to assay not only a shooter’s mettle but his tools.
One Big Year
Before we get to the finer points of Prairie Enemy’s in-field performance, we should clear the air about something. Yes, the ammo came from the same Sierra Bullets handloaders know and love. The home of the Sierra MatchKing and a slew of other high-performance projectiles. Like countless other reloaders, the company’s little green boxes have become synonymous with accuracy for me. Though, Sierra’s expansion into full-fledged ammunition manufacturer flew somewhat under my radar.
For the record, it occurred in 2019 with the introduction of Gamechanger hunting ammunition, a premium option topped with Sierra Tipped GameKing bullets. Prairie Enemy—pitching Sierra BlitzKing bullets—followed this year. In all, the company now produces 17 loads covering 13 calibers ranging from .204 Ruger to .300 Winchester Magnum. For the ambitious hunter, there are options for about any game in North American … the better part of the globe for that matter.
If I think hard enough, I can vaguely recollect Prairie Enemy ballyhooed at SHOT Show 2020. (Apparently, I had a picture of the line’s display on my phone.) Forgive the cloudiness, it’s been a big year for Sierra. At the convention the news was the company’s partnership with polymer-composite-case ammunition pioneer True Velocity on their impending consumer line.
Not to overhype this union, but it has the potential of being a big deal. Scoff if you must at the thought of plastic ammo, but there’s a good chance what True Velocity releases in 2020 is the future.
On-Target Ammunition Information:
- The Blistering Hot 30 Nosler
- The .280 Ackley Improved
- If You Had To Pick Just One Cartridge, What Would It Be?
- Loading the .308 Winchester
Lighter, more customizable, highly accurate, potentially cheaper—the cutting-edge ammo could up shooters’ performance expectation as much as, say, polymer tipped bullets. Sierra is right there with True Velocity, topping the high-tech cartridges with MatchKing and Tipped MatchKing bullets.
Incidentally, here’s how the True Velocity will roll out: The initial offerings will include a 168-grain MatchKing and 175-grain Tipped MatchKing .308 Winchester round. The planned follow-up includes 142-grain MatchKing 6.5 Creedmoor and 300-grain MatchKing .338 Norma loads.
The Time Is Right
As to Sierra’s ammunition, it’s an about-time move for a company that up to this point seemed wed to pure bullet manufacturing.
Some stars had to align to make it happen according to Duane Siercks, Sierra’s Ballistic Technician Lead. Acquiring Sierra in 2017, the Utah-based Clarus Corporation holding company has proven much more receptive to evolving the brand to keep them proverbial kings of the hill. One of those steps is factory-loaded ammunition.
Smart move, given pure bullet companies, outside the boutique variety, are becoming rare. Factory-loaded ammunition is where it’s at and the market—even in good times—has an insatiable appetite for it. Especially top-shelf stuff.
Not that Sierra is going it alone … yet. According to Siercks, the company still sources its cases, primers and powders from outside vendors. As is common in the ammo industry, he wouldn’t tip his hand whose assembly line each rolls off. Suffice to say, it’s all top quality. Sierra has a sterling reputation for precision to maintain, after all.
Precision … that raises an obvious question for non-hunters in the audience—So what about match ammunition? Who wouldn’t want MatchKing performance with the convenience of factory ammo loaded to Sierra’s meticulous standards? Precision shooters can officially begin holding their breath, Siercks said it’s in the works. He didn’t have an ETA, but optimistically quipped, “The sooner the better.”
Tackling the high-desert varmints Sierra gave us four different loads of Prairie Enemy to work with: 36-grain .204 Ruger, 50-grain .22-250 Remington, 69-grain .223 Remington and 105-grain 6.5 Creedmoor. Though we had none in stock, the company also offers a 55-grain .223, 69-grain .224 Valkyrie and 70-grain .243 Winchester loads. Even before chambering any, it was easy to see Prairie Enemy was top-notch—nickel-plated brass cases, sealed primers and, of course, Sierra BltizKing bullets.
Modeled after the renowned MatchKing bullets, although with a polymer tip and much thinner jacket, the projectiles have exceptional ballistic coefficients for their class and explosive terminal performance. And they can be hot-rodded like no other.
A constant concern among varmint hunters is whether their bullets will hold up to the velocities they’ll push them. Breaking up in flight is a real possibility with thin-jacket projectiles. Not BlitzKing.
Utilizing a proprietary gliding alloy (95-percent copper, 5-percent zinc), the bullets are renowned for in-flight integrity. For instance, .20 and .22 caliber BlitzKings remain intact at muzzle velocities up to 4,400 fps. Which is to say, well beyond anything coming out of a factory or off a reloading bench.
Paired with Prairie Enemy, a selection of Ruger rifles from the gunmaker’s American, Hawkeye and Precision Rifles lines. Up top, Burris glass of every shape and magnification. The rifles were an especially nice mix, to my mind, with a variety of barrel lengths from 16 to 24 inches. To the elements, ranges and quarry, Prairie Enemy’s rifle compatibility would also go under the microscope.
Growing up in Colorado I’m intimate with the prairie dog issue.
Unchecked, their town's balloon to absurd sizes threatening the viability of hay fields and endangering livestock. In Wyoming, some other writers came upon a young bull with a broken hindleg, not for certain, but presumably from a misstep in one of the rodents’ dwelling. To the chagrin to the rancher, this would be chalked up in the loss column, given the bull would have to be put down.
This fails to mention the bubonic plague of which the rodents (more exactly the fleas on them) are a vector. Animal to human transmission is rare but possible; Colorado recorded a case this year in the southwest corner of the state. Additionally, the disease is hell on the animals themselves. At times, the plague runs like grass fire through prairie dogs, hastened by overpopulation, decimating regional numbers.
Which is to say, there are good reasons why the state of Wyoming classifies them and equally prolific ground squirrels and other rodents as vermin, meaning a license is not required to hunt them. It is also why farmers and ranchers greet hunters with open arms and open gates.
That is if you can get the buggers in your crosshairs. If you do with Prairie Enemy, watch out! The stuff hits like Thor’s hammer.
For me, the most impressive results came with hot-rod 36-grain .204 and 50-grain .22-250 loads, both pitched from Ruger Hawkeye predator rifles. For factory ammunition, the flat-shooting cartridges were frighteningly on-target, making anything out to the maximum point-blank range a proverbial chip shot. And going long? Those final shots of my hunt came via the .22-250 in the face of 10 mph quartering headwind. That was enough to make me a believer in Prairie Enemy’s accuracy when wielded properly.
I did and saw a heap of good shooting on the hunt—close, mid and long-range. No matter the rifle-ammunition combination, Prairie Enemy did its job—which is saying plenty. All in all, I feel comfortable saying that with the appropriate twist rate-bullet weight combination it will prove accurate out of any iron it's chambered.
And when it gets to its destination … This being a family website, play-by-play of Prairie Enemy’s terminal performance perhaps isn’t warranted. Suffice to say, most shots 100-yards in with most calibers, you’d have more prairie dog to mourn if you strapped a stick of dynamite on its back.
Not to say there weren’t pass-throughs on smaller dogs with the heavier loads. The .223 and 6.5 CM didn’t produce as dramatic detonations, but nonetheless killed the communal gophers graveyard dead. At 105-grains, the Creedmoor was much too heavy for this particular hunt. Still, I’m sure it and the .223 are ideal for long shots on running dogs. We never spotted a coyote, so this remains a theory only.
By no means are the dusty flats of southern Wyoming a laboratory test of Sierra Prairie Enemy ammunition. In my humble opinion, they’re better.
Under real-life conditions on living, breathing game the bullet-smith’s venture into fully-loaded ammunition showed its pluck regardless of caliber or rifle. To me, that speaks volumes louder than quantifying temporary cavities in ballistic gelatin or caliper measuring cloverleaves in paper.
Boots on the ground, Prairie Enemy gets the job done. Personally, with days short and coyotes putting on their winter coats, I’m stocking up on .223 and .22-250.
As hunters, we lucky Sierra has thrown its hat into the ammunition game.
For more information on Prairie Enemy, please visit sierrabullets.com.