March 31, 2020
I knew Sig Sauer manufactured handgun ammunition, but a South African safari was my first exposure to their hunting ammo so I set out to get familiar with it, inside and out, especially on the shooting range.
Sig Sauer entered the ammo manufacturing business in 2013, primarily to support their firearm-manufacturing process, according to Brad Criner, Sig Sauer’s director of brand management and business development.
Sig was not satisfied with the availability or quality of ammo they were using in research and development and in testing and evaluating their pistols and rifles, he said, so they brought engineers on board to develop their own. Handgun ammo was first, Criner said, and their “first win was the development of the patented V-Crown bullet.”
The next two years were spent developing manufacturing equipment and processes and in 2017 the operation had expanded in Jacksonville, Ark., and was off and rolling, branching into rifle ammo and component brass manufacturing.
In Africa I planned to hunt kudu, zebra and warthogs. Kudu and zebra are large-bodied and -boned animals, warthogs not so much, but everything in the predatory world of Africa clings tenaciously to life so I chose a classic caliber that has been downing African game for decades, 308 Winchester. I wanted a classic-looking rifle to match, and found it in the nicely wood-stocked Mossberg Patriot Revere with the lines and looks of a rifle at home in Africa. I topped it with a Sig Sauer SIERRA3BDX 3.5-10x42 riflescope.
Sig’s focus for the past 18 months has been developing hunting ammunition, both tipped and solid-copper, Criner said. The result has been Sig’s three lines of Elite ammunition, Tipped Hunter, Tipped Varmint & Predator and Copper Hunting, in calibers ranging from 223 through 300 Win. Mag.
Criner outlined each, starting with the newest, Elite Tipped Hunter developed for medium to large game. These feature nickel-plated brass cases, black-plated copper-jacketed bullets with lead cores and translucent yellow tips. Criner’s pitch: “This high-performance ammo offers the serious hunter un-matched consistency and long-range flat shooting while not sacrificing devastating on-target performance.”
Elite Varmint & Predator ammo features a yellow-tipped, lead-core bullet designed for explosive, fast take-down of long-range varmints and predators, Criner said. They are continually expanding in available calibers, now in 223, 22-250, 243 and 300 Blackout, he said.
Sig partnered with Sierra for designing and manufacturing the Tipped Hunter and Varmint & Predator bullets, Criner said. Elite Copper Hunting ammo features a proprietary solid-copper monolithic bullet, made by a Sig partner in Arkansas, designed for deep penetration and energy transfer (1.8-times expansion) on large game.
I took solid copper to Africa, after a lot of bench work (and shooting-stick work) at the range. I always start by researching the stats to get an idea what I’m dealing with. So, Sig says the 150-grain bullet comes out of the barrel at 2,900 fps, with muzzle energy of 2,801 foot-pounds, dropping respectively, to 2,669 and 2,372 at 100 yards; 2,449 and 1,997 at 200 yards and 2,239 and 1,670 at 300 yards. I like to know I can shoot farther than 300 yards, and practice accordingly, but I’d like to think I can work into that range under most circumstances. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into in Africa, but I figured 300 yards was a decent distance to get comfortable with. Zeroed at 100 yards, the bullet will drop 1.9 inches at 200 yards; 9.6 inches at 300.
I found it performing pretty much as advertised, and I was using my Sig Sauer BDX scope which showed me holdover at various ranges past the 100-yard zero. I finished by consistently clanging a 400-yard gong and throwing a few at a 600-yard-plus gong, more as a test of ammo, rifle and scope than any plans to take long-range shots in Africa.
Sig is after consistency, Criner said, making another pitch. “Great performance starts with great brass,” Criner said. “Many of our manufacturing associates are hunters, handloaders and re-loaders” and they developed processes and equipment, with exacting controls, “to ensure we are building the most consistent, easy loading, extended-life brass available. Our necks are softer and more consistent, our heads are harder. Our primer pockets have nearly perfect concentricity and no burrs.” He said they also take extra steps to ensure all washes and lubricants are removed from the inside of the case to prevent even the slightest powder contamination.
Quality is assured by redundant, trackable quality checks, he said. “Our lot control is traceable throughout the process to each work cell in the operation,” he said. “We set high standards and quality checks that are monitored and tracked from the first cell to the last. Any deviation shuts the line down and the issue is corrected immediately. We do not wait until the end of the process to check quality control. This process ensures we fix issues when & where they occur.”
All this, he said, results in “lowering costs, increasing lot to lot consistency and all but eliminating the chance of sub-par product getting packed.”