Is the Sierra Tipped Match King the Best Choice for the AR… ever?

Is the Sierra Tipped Match King the Best Choice for the AR… ever?

The Sierra Tipped Match King line has made its way online, and it looks to add a new layer of awesome to shooting the AR15. Many shooters are aware of the previous level of awesome unleashed on the 5.56 ballistics world known as the 77 grain SMK which is famously put together in the Black Hills Mk262 Mod 1 loading. Finally… a projectile was produced that could really get the legs out of the 5.56 while still fitting in the magazine!

We all want better ballistics, and Sierra has introduced a more efficient design to both their prior 69 grain and 77 grain SMK offerings. The addition of a ballistic tip to the product line increases the ballistic coefficient of both the 69 and 77 grain loadings and reduces the velocity drop off and increases wind resistance. Below I highlighted the new tipped match kings and compared them to their old counterparts.

  1. STMK 69 grain BC: .375
  2. SMK 69 grain BC: .301
  3. STMK 77 grain BC: .420
  4. SMK 77 grain BC: .372
  5. XM193 55 grain BC: .255

As you can see, the new 69 grain loading has a higher BC than the old 77 grain loading, and the tipped 77 grain jumps to a BC of .420!


Click to enlarge this hard to see picture: We can see XM193 offers the flattest shooting load out to just past 600 yards, but where it fails is fighting against wind. The 69 Gr STMK appears to be the flattest shooting loading out to 700 yards in this scenario when launched at 2850 FPS with the 77gr STMK right behind it. All trajectories are calculated from 20 inch rifle length barrel velocities, respectively.

So how does this benefit you?

First and foremost, the wind resistance is strong with these new projectiles.While 55 grain stuff is the flattest shooting inside of 600 yards, it gets bullied by the wind.

90 degree wind at 10 mph @ 400 yards:

  • 77 grain SMK @ 2750 FPS :15.9 inches drift
  • 77 grain STMK @ 2750 FPS: 13.8 inches drift
  • 69 STMK @ 2850 FPS: 14.9 inches drift
  • 55 grain M193 @ 3250 FPS: 20.3 inches drift

At the edge of the 5.56s capabilities where we push to 900 yards, there is ten feet less drop from the tipped match kings vs the old match kings. I know what your saying: “Like that matters to me!” You’re right. Precious few of us have access to anything past 300 and those are the lucky ones. I can only shoot to 600 myself… How about a practical scenario?

Flight Flub Factor: When Velocity and BC Matter

cold range

In less pie in the sky fantasy, if we take the 77 STMK and shoot at a 9 inch round target at 450 yards, we have to estimate properly within 36 yards of error. We can mis-estimate that the target is 19 yards closer than it actually is, or 17 yards further out than it actually is and still get a hit from a center hold on target. The faster we push the bullet, and the higher the BC it has, the more forgiving the round is of our error.

Compare the above scenario with “normal” 77 grain SMK and the total flub factor is 33 yards where our mis-estimate can still score a hit. Drop the velocity to 2600-2650 FPS from a 14.5 inch carbine with the 77 SMK and you have 27 yards flub. Finally, a 10.5 inch SBR shooting 77 gr SMK with a velocity of 2500 FPS which yields an error window of 25 yards. So… choosing a longer barrel *is* a good thing!

25 yards seems generous, but best practice will be utilized when we choose the projectile with the highest BC available at the highest velocity we can afford to send it.  55 grain stuff is the flattest shooting “defensive” loading that we can get, and it would be a good choice in a world without wind. That said, going forward, I will be ordering 69 grain STMK for my future loadings. It shoots flat, and fights the wind better than what I currently shoot. Sierra looks to have a winner here, and hopefully we can examine some terminal performance gel tests soon.


Written by lothaen


  1. Blair · February 13, 2015

    Good News !,but i still have a bunch of the old 69 and 77 grainers to reload
    I would like to see your reloading recipes on the old and new ones.

  2. john young · February 13, 2015

    What is the purpose of shooting that far with an AR? I guess I understand the challenge or sport of it. However outside of that, if I was hunting at those ranges or even defending my self at those ranges I would NOT use a 5.56 if I could avoid it.

    To me my AR is a 200 yard rifle.

    I have hunted deer with it, but all of my shots were under 150 yards, if that, where I live. It will do the job with expensive rounds and good-great shot placement. My 30-30 at 150grains is a much better hunting round and the rounds are cheap and easy to get.

    For self defense, I seriously doubt I would shoot past 100 yards. Past 100 yards I would probably take the opportunity to evade the danger, quietly if possible, than take a shot and give up my position. I do practice at shooting 8 inch steel targets with both irons and my Eotech so that I know my rifle out to that range, but given the choice of evading or engaging I would evade.

    The 5.56 even from a 20inch rifle, quickly turns into a .22 much past 200 yards with XM-193. Expensive rounds will help but what does that buy you? 300 yards of range where the rounds will expand and do more damage than a 22 round? Don’t get me wrong, a 22 in the right place will do the job, but a 308 that is close to the right place will also do a better job.

    • lothaen · February 15, 2015

      I think it is reasonable to become capable with a weapon from close up and out far to the edge of its ballistic capabilities.

      The challenge is great, and the system might be just a .22 at distances pushing the edge of its capability, but, as the article above mentions, we continue to see advancement of the .223 projectile to further increase its usefulness.

      We wouldn’t see these incremental changes in the performance of the AR platform if we didn’t push it to the edge of its capability.

    • Kirk Freeman · June 11, 2015

      Sir, the AR will hit with devastating power with 77s at 700 and 800 yards (18 inch barrel or more). I shoot 600 yds A LOT with an AR. At that range the 77 is still traveling way over the speed of sound. So comparing a .223 at 300 yds to a .22 LR is not a good comparison.
      You are right a .308 will have way more knock down power at extended ranges but, look at it in a military prospective. Would you rather carry 100 rounds of .308 (5.7 pounds) or carry 210 rounds of .223 with 77 grains (5.9 pounds) that will kill at 700 or 800 yds too? I’d take the 210 rounds and carry an extra 2 quarts of water and not give up my position due to resupply operations.
      Now to your defensive position comment. If you are 100 yards away and at that point you are going to try and evade, you are too late. At 100 yards you can be heard, seen and even smelled. You want to engage the enemy from the max range possible. So that’s why the military starts with 2000 lb bombs, works down to 155 mm howitzers, the down to 60 mm mortars and the last 500 yards and in with individually carried small arms. If you are fighting an enemy using iron sighted AK47 shooting dump truck sized groups at 700 yards but, your free floated AR is shooting 12 inch groups or smaller at the same distance you are rendering your enemy’s weapon useless.
      In closing thank you for practicing with your rifles and exercising your 2nd ammendment rights.

    • Jim · February 14, 2016

      Bro, I’ve laid down 250 pound animals at well over 450 meters with a 77gr OTM from a 20in barrrl.

  3. Ryan · February 27, 2015

    And i just finished loading 1k rds with 77 grain nosler hpbt and opened another box to load. Guess im a few years behind the times.

    The 556 is more capable then the inexperienced give it credit for. Even with 855. I saw some shots i wouldnt believe if i didnt see them for myself.

    • lothaen · February 27, 2015

      When I was at my first high power match, i saw a 60 year old man tear up the center X at 600 yards with his A2 service rifle and Irons. What can’t this gun do?

  4. Bill Randall · July 3, 2015

    you’re completely fos about the 223 becoming “no more than a .22lr beyond 300 yds. The heavy 223 bullets still retain twice as much power at one THOUSAND yds as a regular .22lr rd has at the MUZZLE. YOu are spreading LIES. A goo 223 load, from a 20″ barrel, still has as much power left at 1/4 mile as a 4” 357 Mag has at the MUZZLe (ie, 500 ft lbs).

  5. Bill Randall · July 3, 2015

    Unless you use a suppressor on it, WHY have a mere 16″ barrrel? especially if you are dealing with long range shots? Ever heard of laser rangefinders? they are cheap and tel you within 1-2yds how far you are from the target. it’s the wind drift, loss of enough velocity to expand a softpoint bulet and target movement that are the problems with longer ranges, not the drop/trajectory

  6. mthornakMike · May 13, 2016

    I can’t agree with the author on this. you can’t load the same amount of powder in the case and have the same OAL with the TMK compared to the SMK. That might not an issue to some people, but when you’re trying to load to mag length it is. Ultimately you end up with less case capacity and less velocity negating the detable increase in BC claimed.

    • Dustin D. · August 5, 2016

      This just means you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone and try different powders. Sierra gives recommendations of a few powders to try with the new tipped bullets. I’ve had excellent results with Ramshot TAC, which yields great velocity, great consistency, and leaves plenty of room in the case. I can shake it and hear the powder bouncing around in there. Happy reloading!

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