How to Choose Long-Range Rifle Ammo?
MOA Contributor: Shine Taylor
How many of you have honestly shot a rifle at a distance over 200 yards? Go outside and see if you can even see that far down your street or neighborhood. It’s a long ways! Most of us probably shoot at targets under 100 yards but we eventually get bored with plinking or shooting holes in paper so you start trying to hit a target from longer and longer ranges. Maybe you have a fairly accurate bolt gun that you hunt with or an AR-15 that you’d like to push out to further distances. Or maybe you’re interested in shooting some PRS Matches (Precision Rifle Series) or just train at longer and longer distances to make those short shots easier. Well here it is:
Non – Fake News Flash Coming!
The only thing that I think really matters in long distance shooting is the bullet coming out of that muzzle. The bullet is the only thing that engages the target unless you are Darth Vader or Tenacious D and can shoot mind bullets!
Yes, your fancy scope helps you see the target, your muzzle comp helps manage recoil, and your stock holds the action but the round/bullet are the most important pieces of the long distance shooting equation. Most out of the box rifles today are capable of extremely good accuracy but I think sometimes we choose the wrong ammo for the application and expect accurate and repeatable results.
If you are looking for bulk blaster ammo for plinking or shooting competition at ranges under 75-100 yards then follow this guideline: find some inexpensive ammo from a reputable manufacture that runs through your firearm reliably and try to order in bulk to save shipping (AHEM… Cough Cough). There are plenty of choices and my ammo of choice for my AR-15 is the Federal 55 gr FMJ as they do not attract a magnet (non-steel core) and are great for competition and shooting on my personal range since they don’t hurt steel. Some of the military ammo is steel core, which can damage steel targets and go through lots of things before stopping so always be aware of those back stops and make sure you are shooting the correct ammo for the targets you have chosen.
So, lets say you have that fancy Remington 700 with some crazy 5-20 scope with MIL turrets and the most cleanest trigger you can imagine (be sure to check HERE and HERE) and you step up to the line to send some lead down range and you have a round that you bought at Wally World on the cheap and think that it will get you out to 200+ yards on paper or on a steel target. It probably just isn’t going to happen with any consistency!
Remington 700 .308, XLR Element Chassis, Vortex Viper PST 6-24, Timney Trigger
Even if you are the best shooter in the world and you are shooting ammo that is only capable of producing 2 MOA (minute of angle) at 100 yards then at 500 yards the round is going to produce a group no better than 10 inches without all the other variables that go into a bullet that’s in the air for over .5 seconds. It might be good enough for a large piece of steel but more likely you are going to be chasing your shots all day and be very frustrated as your buddy makes that steel sing all morning long.
Remington 700 .308 with Black Hills 175 gr ammo, 600-yard group
Most long range non-blaster ammo is labeled “Match” ammo and it usually signifies a little more precision in the loading process and for the most part, the bullets chosen for the cartridges are developed for long range shooting. They have higher BC (ballistic coefficient, or fancy term for bullet aerodynamics) and are usually not developed for hunting or similar applications. They usually cost a little more than other ammo but the differences in precision can be easily tested and confirmed by shooting some groups through your rifle at different distances. Most match grade bullets fly more aerodynamically leading to less wind deflection and carry more velocity down range further, which equates to greater accuracy and precision. For my long-range .308 and .223 bolt guns I run Black Hills 175 gr and Black Hills 68 gr, respectively but other match bullets sold on your favorite online site Modern Outdoor Adventures will work too! In my competition AR-15, I shoot 55 gr blaster ammo at targets closer than 150-200 yards and put in match bullets (68 gr bullets or larger) for those 200+ yard targets to increase my odds to make first shot hits to shave time off my stage runs.
One of my best friends finally bit the bullet (pun intended) and picked up a fancy Remington 700 chambered in .308 with a really incredible scope and all the other parts to make his gun a tack driver. Well we took it for it’s inaugural range trip and as we were breaking in the barrel this gun was putting in some really great groups at 100 yards with blaster and match ammo. We finally stepped back and put some longer shot (+500 yards) through the rifle and some of those blaster ammo choices just didn’t hold up well to long ranges. Maybe the BC of the bullet was poor or the powder charge was inconsistent or the cases weren’t all to the same tolerances but for whatever reason they just didn’t hold up at long ranges. I was impressed with one manufacture of what I thought were blaster ammo but overall the most consistent groups were coming out of the match grade ammo boxes from the big named manufactures.
So moral of the story is that he had well over $2,000 in the rifle and was shooting ammo that he was saving about 15 – 20 cents per round and expecting great results at long range. I’m not a rocket scientist but I am pretty good with math and the return on investment of a few bucks during a range session when compared to the investment of the rifle and time spent chasing targets at long range is small potatoes. I mean the goal of shooting is to hit the target consistently so just skip the latte on the way to the range, shoot better ammo and remove as many variables as you can and your ego will thank you.
There are plenty of options for ammo choices now and after the recent election prices and availability couldn’t be better. I’ve seen ammo deals that I wouldn’t have believed just a few years ago and some of the precision ammo that I shoot at long ranges is as almost as cheap as the blaster ammo of a few years ago. So if you do have yourself a range date with that rifle at some long range targets make sure to pick up ammo that will get the job done.
Shine Taylor is a biologist working in agriculture in Florida. I grew up hunting and over the past few years have re-kindled my love for shooting by learning a lot about long distance precision rifle with family and friends. I’ve recently picked up competitive shooting by venturing into 3-gun and am active at my local matches at the Manatee Gun and Archery Club in Myakka City, Florida as time and travel allows.