Fortunately it seems like the ammo crunch of 2020-2022 is over. We've seen availaibility increase, and prices return to somewhat reasonable. A big part of that has been thanks to imports. The seasoned shooter knows that not all imports are quality, so when we spotted a new (to us) brand, Sterling Ammunition, at a decent price we bought a couple boxes to give it a try.
It's the economics that causes suspicion. For ammunition to be made, exported, transported across the globe, imported, and still sold at a competitive price to domestic ammunition you have to wonder a few things.
Did they cut corners?
Is the labor really that much cheaper overseas
Are US Ammo companies just really greedy?
What Is it? Sterling Ammunition is imported by Global Ordnance, a company that really does deal in the international arms and ammunition trade. While their US consumer side of the business is relatively new, they're do a lot of business with a lot of countries. This lead us to believe that Sterling Ammunition might be a good find. At the time this was written they import shotshells and handgun ammunition of the Sterling brand from Turkey. 9mm ammunition is available in 115gr with brass or steel case, 147gr brass-cased.
The load we tested (pricing as of 9APR23)
Why Consider It? Regardless of pricing, it's always good to know of an alternative should your normal preferred load not be available. As we've learned from years of What's For Dinner™, not all loads run in all guns, and some burn cleaner or dirtier, have more or less recoil. The more ammunition types you try, the more you'll know.
How to Test is totally up to your needs and own parameters. For us, with range ammo, it's a matter of knowing if it's dependable. Will it go bang when the trigger is pressed and will that bang be similar to the the last one and the next one? We used basic checks to see if Sterling Ammunition was decent range ammunition. An additional consideration is will it have enough energy to cycle the wide variety of guns we shoot.
Visual Inspection: This is something that should be done with any ammunition of any brand, every time you open the box. The good news is it takes but a second. Take a look at the primers, watching for any that are abnormally "proud" (not seated deeply enough). You also want to watch out for any that might be crooked, too deep, or backwards. We've seen it all, and from several brands. It's a simple manufacturing error but can result in an unpleasant range experience
Performance: While a chronograph isn't necessary, it's a neutral party that will tell you how consistent the ammunition is. Sterling Ammunition isn't advertised as "match grade", so we can't expect that, but how is it as a plinking load? To have a base line we'll chronograph Sterling as well as a known decent range load, Winchester White Box. We have this particular case of Winchester White Box thanks to our Ammo Squared supporters, and have noted in other videos that this batch is the best I've ever seen from Winchester. Either we got lucky or Winchester has improved their quality.
A Known-quality pistol: Accuracy and perceived recoil would require fancy scientific devices the average shooter does not have access to. What we do have however it our own brains and experience. Test the ammunition using a pistol you know well and have lots of experience with. For me it was the Grand Power K100 X-Trim. The K100's 4.25" barrel isn't SAAMI's standard 4" for testing 9mm, but it's my test and that's a pistol that I know will preform. Because the barrel is longer than 4" and because Grand Power uses a type of stepped chamber velocities will be higher than most other pistols. Grand Power pistol do indeed generate more power.
You can watch the process in the video below:
Results: Even with the known imperfections of this test, the Sterling 115gr proved to be quality ammunition. From our test it yielded slightly less energy than Whinchester White Box which means Sterling 115gr will feel softer, but the 297ftlbs of energy should be enough to cycle most handguns without issue.
If you're looking for a soft-shooting, affordable range load Sterling is not a bad choice. Considering Sterling Ammunition is softer than Winchester White Box it would be a great choice for those looking to work on accuracy and other weapons handling skills while also reducing the chance of developing flinching habbits. Of course we all need to know what full-house ammunition and our defensive loads feel like, but there are also reasons to find softer-shooting training ammunition.