When is an accurate shot most important in day-to-day civilian life?
Accuracy is crucial in a self-defense situation, of course, but the odds are small that you’ll ever need a firearm for self-defense. At the other end of the spectrum, a missed shot in competition probably won’t change your life (or anyone else’s). All competitors miss shots occasionally, and unless you’re one of the top competitors in the world, you won’t suffer too much from a flyer.
Hunting, on the other hand, combines the frequency of competition with the ethical import of life and death. Out in the tree stand, accuracy—or lack thereof—can lead to real suffering. No hunter wants to see an animal in pain, so they build their kits to dispatch game as quickly as possible.
The most important pieces of equipment are between the ears and in the hands, but a good rifle and hunting bullet don’t hurt. That’s why I was excited to hear about Sierra’s new match-grade hunting bullet: the GameChanger. When buck fever strikes or your shooting position isn’t ideal, fractions of an inch can mean the difference between venison dinner and a wounded animal.
I recently purchased a Ruger American rifle chambered in 308 WIN, and I can shoot consistent 1.2-inch, 100-yard groups with good factory loads. Not bad, and certainly good enough to get the job done out here in central Texas. But I wanted a more consistent hunting load, so I decided to put together a cartridge for my new rifle using Sierra’s new bullet.
I was hoping for two things out of the GameChanger: 1) improved accuracy over the GameKing and 2) comparable terminal ballistics. Based on my testing, the GameChanger delivers on both.
The basic premise is simple: GameChanger bullets combine Sierra’s legendary match-grade accuracy with the reliable terminal performance of their GameKing series. Pretty ambitious, but Sierra’s engineers did more than slap a green tip on the MatchKing and call it good.
Instead, they re-engineered the MatchKing bullet with a heavier jacket and a hollow pocket behind a polymer tip to ensure the reliable expansion of the lead alloy core. The synthetic tip also allows for smooth chambering and improved aeroballistic flight, and the bullet design features a higher ballistic coefficient than virtually every other hunting bullet from competing manufacturers.
At speeds of 2680 fps and above, for example, Sierra’s 165g .30-caliber GameChanger boasts a BC of 0.530 and Nosler’s 165g. .30-caliber Ballistic Tip round clocks in at only 0.475. Exceptions might exist, but Sierra’s new bullet features one of the highest wind-cutting BC’s out there.
The GameChanger costs about 30 percent more than the GameKing, but that’s because the GameChanger is a closer cousin to the MatchKing. Sierra’s Ballistic Technician Lead, Duane Siercks, told me that the GameChanger rounds are held to the same production standards as their match-grade offerings. These standards include maintaining bullet weights at plus/minus 0.3g and ensuring that both bullets meet the same accuracy criteria. So, in terms of production, shooters really are getting match-grade quality in a hunting bullet.
But how well does all this engineering translate on the reloading bench and in the field? Can switching from GameKings to GameChangers improve the accuracy of your hunting setup?
To test this, I developed two identical cartridges using 165g GameChanger and GameKing bullets. Theoretically (I hoped), the GameKing’s match-grade construction would make those cartridges more accurate than an equivalent load using GameKing bullets. That theory turned out to be both correct and incorrect.
Before moving on, two quick caveats. First, always use published load data, not the recipes you find in online articles (like this one). Second, keep in mind the GameChanger will perform differently in your rifle. It might even perform differently with the same rifle and the same load. It all depends, as far as I can tell, on what the reloading gods ate for breakfast that morning.
With that out of the way, here’s the recipe I finally came up with: 165g GameChanger, 47.8g of CFE 223, Sig Sauer brass, Winchester large rifle primers, and an OAL 0.020” off the lands. Average velocity for that load was 2790 fps, and my best group was 0.7”. It’s a hot load, but this rifle likes that upper end of the velocity range.
Here’s the best part – this same recipe produced the best groups with Sierra’s GameKing bullet as well. Your rifle might perform differently, but this at least suggests that if you have a load for GameKing, you should be able to use something similar with the GameChanger. You’ll have to adjust the overall length (the bullets differ drastically in shape), but you probably won’t have to begin from scratch.
So, how much more accurate is the GameChanger? I didn’t notice much difference until I found the right load, which was disappointing. But when I finally stumbled on a combination the rifle liked, the GameChangers were about thirty percent more accurate (0.7” vs. 1.1”). That’s a big difference, and given the shape of the GameChanger, it’ll only get more pronounced at extended distances.
Accuracy is king on the hunt, but as the old saying goes, “terminal performance covereth a multitude of missed shots.” There’s a reason bullet companies don’t recommend match bullets for hunting applications (though if you ever want to start a fight in the comments, take a side on that debate). Sierra designs the GameKing to eviscerate flesh, maximize damage, and bring down game, and the GameChanger needs to do the same to be a viable hunting option.
To test this, I compared the bullets’ terminal performance using a “wet pack.” Following these instructions, I soaked six-inch reams of newspaper in water until they each weighed 40 pounds. The soggy squares are a fair substitute for ballistic gelatin, the gold standard for ballistics testing. While they don’t correspond to actual flesh (16 inches in the wet newspaper doesn’t equal 16 inches in an animal), they do provide a nice, cheap way to compare bullets and get a sense of how each bullet might act traveling through a living creature.
Sierra says the GameChanger will open up at any speed above 1800 feet-per-second. I shot the wet newspaper from 50 yards using identical, fairly hot loads for each bullet, which impacted the wet packs at something around 2700 feet per second.
Both performed exactly as advertised. The GameChanger penetrated deeper, while the GameKing retained more weight, but both opened up beautifully and punched through to 17 inches and 15 inches, respectively. The GameChanger retained 110g and the GameKing retained 126.5g, which is about what I expected traveling through the wet newspaper.
More extensive testing would be required to absolutely confirm the GameChanger’s performance, but even this brief test is a great sign. Hunters aren’t likely to be giving up terminal performance with Sierra’s new bullet, and they’re gaining accuracy, to boot.
If you’re looking to accurize your hunting loads, give the GameChanger line a try. Every rifle is different, so your results may differ from mine. But as long-range hunting gains popularity, Sierra (as always) is on the cutting edge of the market. They know that hunters care about accuracy just as much as competitive shooters, and they’re leading the trend to marry the match and the field.