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Rifle Calibers – What The Pros Use

Well, the data is in for the 2014 “What the Pros Use!” For the past 3 years, we’ve collected data on the equipment the best precision rifle shooters are using. The Precision Rifle Series tracks how top shooters finish in major rifle matches across the country. The highest ranked shooters qualify to compete in the PRS Season Championship Match. This data is based on the gear those elite shooters used in 2014. For more info on the Precision Rifle Series and who these guys are scroll to the bottom of this article.

Rifle Calibers

The previous couple years have shown a trend towards the 6mm caliber. Many were anxious to see if this was a fleeting fad, or a permanent evolution in precision rifles. 2014 gave a clear answer: 50% more shooters were using a 6mm than a 6.5mm. While there were a handful of competitors using a 7mm or 30 caliber in previous years, in 2014 100% of the top shooters were either using a 6mm or 6.5mm. Of the shooters who finished in the top 50 in the PRS, 60% were using a 6mm cartridge, and 40% were using a 6.5mm cartridge.

Most Popular Calibers

Here is chart showing the popularity trends for the 6mm and 6.5mm over the past 3 years, among shooters who finished in the top 50 each year. This makes it easy to see the clear separation that occurred this year. 6mm calibers have obviously become the caliber of choice for this style of long-range, precision target shooting.

Trends of 6mm and 6.5mm Cartridges

Among the shooters who placed in the top 10, the 6mm was even more popular. It looks like there was only 1 shooter using a 6.5mm, and 8 were using 6mm. (Note: In case you notice 8+1 isn’t 10 … the 10th place shooter was the only shooter that didn’t complete the survey.) Among those placing 11-20, it was an even mix between the two cartridges.

Top 20 Finishers By Caliber

When you look at all of the shooters in the top 50, you’ll see that the average finish is lower for those using 6mm cartridges. This was the same trend we saw in 2013, but it’s even more amplified this year. The average finish for shooters using a 6mm caliber was 22nd, and 30th for those using a 6.5mm caliber.

Average Final Rank By Caliber

There is a question about whether that is correlation or causation, which essentially is just saying did those shooters place higher because they were using a 6mm … or did it just so happen that the top shooters chose to use a 6mm cartridge. You’d likely need random sampling and a larger sample size to be able to answer that definitively, so I’ll leave it up to you guys to debate. I bet these guys could be successful with either caliber … they’re outstanding shooters. What’s obvious, is the top shooters are moving to the 6mm caliber. It’s not like there are caliber sponsors influencing choices here. Each shooter has the freedom to pick whatever they want, and most believe a 6mm a cartridge gives them an edge.

Most Popular Rifle Cartridges

There was a new favorite cartridge in 2014, which was clearly separated from the rest: 6mm Creedmoor. 30% of the shooters who finished in the top 50 were using a 6mm Creedmoor! It was the most dominant cartridge in recent history.

The 2nd most popular cartridge overall was the 6.5×47 Lapua, followed closely by it’s 6mm sister, the 6×47 Lapua. Among the top 10 shooters, 4 shooters were firing a 6mm Creedmoor, and 4 were firing a 6×47 Lapua.

Behind those was the very popular 6.5 Creedmoor, then old faithful … the 260 Rem. The 260 Rem was the dominant cartridge a few years ago, and still has a sizable following among these shooters.

Best Precision Rifle Cartridges

If you look at the average finish by cartridge, the 6×47 Lapua was at the top of the list. That just means on average, the shooters using a 6×47 cartridge placed higher on the leader board than those using other cartridges. Behind it was the 6XC, which also had the lowest average finish last year. 3rd in line was the 6mm Creedmoor, followed by the 6.5×47 Lapua, 260 Remington, and 6.5 Creedmoor. Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s interesting to note that the top 3 cartridges are all 6mm … and the bottom 3 are all 6.5mm.

Average Finish By Catridge

Here is your list of the most popular cartridges among this group of elite shooters. Each of them was used by at least 3 shooters who finished in the top 50. These six combined to make up 91% of the cartridges used among the top 50 shooters.

Here is a side-by-side visual comparison of the top six cartridges. Thanks to AmmoGuide.com for allowing me to use their cartridge images.

Best Long Range Cartridges

There are a few modern cartridge design attributes common to virtually every cartridge created in the past 20 years:

  1. Steeper shoulder slope (around 30°). Older cartridge designs have a more shallow shoulder, typically around 20°. Cartridge designers have found a 30 degree has a lot of benefits. One is that it slows case growth, which means less trimming and longer brass life. Another benefit is the difference of how pressure builds with steeper shoulders, which can allow you to get the same velocities with less powder.
  2. Longer case neck (around 0.30″). Modern cartridges are designed with a longer neck to better support the bullet. This can promote concentricity and ensure the bullet is more perfectly aligned with the bore.

The 260 Rem is the only cartridge out of this bunch that doesn’t closely match these attributes. It has a 20° shoulder and the neck is 0.2595″. Does that mean it’s a train-wreck? Absolutely not. I just thought it was interesting to notice.

One other thing to notice is that the Lapua cases use a small rifle primer (both the 6.5×47 Lapua and the 6×47 Lapua), which the other 4 use a large rifle primer. Some believe the smaller rifle primer can deliver more consistent ignitions and therefore lower deviation in muzzle velocity. David Tubb has cited that “a detailed study of large and small rifle primers showed that large rifle primers worked best when the propellant charge exceeds 35 grains.” I’m not familiar with that study, and he didn’t cite any sources. All of these cases have a typical powder charge weight around 35-45 grains. I’ve also heard others say that the smaller primer pocket allows you to push these cartridges to higher pressures … but that doesn’t sound safe to me, and it likely isn’t recommended by Lapua. So there is a little debate surrounding the small or large rifle primers. I don’t have the answer, but it’s one more thing that differentiates these cartridges.

If you’d like to see the exact dimensions for these cartridges, click on the image below. I couldn’t find the cartridge dimensions for the 6mm Creedmoor, but the others are provided. Thanks again to AmmoGuide.com for allowing me to share these diagrams.

Best Long Range Cartridges with Diagrams

Meet The Pros

2014 Precision Rifle Series LogoYou know NASCAR? Yes, I’m talking about the racing-cars-in-a-circle NASCAR. Before NASCAR, there were just a bunch of unaffiliated, regional car races. NASCAR brought structure by unifying those races, and created the idea of a season … and an overall champion. NASCAR identified the top races across the country (that were similar in nature), then combined results and ranked competitors. The Precision Rifle Series (PRS) is like NASCAR, but for rifle matches.

The PRS is a championship style point series race based on the best precision rifle matches nationwide. PRS matches are recognized as the major league of sniper-style rifle matches. At the end of each year, the scores from around 15 different national matches are evaluated and the top shooters are invited to compete head to head in the PRS Season Championship Match. We surveyed the shooters who qualified for the finale, asking all kinds of questions about the equipment they ran that season. This is a great set of data, because 50+ shooters is a significant sample size, and this particular group are also considered experts among experts. It includes guys like George Gardner (President/Senior Rifle Builder of GA Precision), Francis Kuehl, Wade Stuteville, the GAP Team, the Surgeon Rifles Team, shooters from the US Army Marksmenship Unit, and many other world-class shooters. Thanks to Rich Emmons for allowing me to share this info. To find out more about the PRS, check out What Is The Precision Rifle Series?

Other “What The Pros Use” Articles

This post was one of a series of posts that look at the equipment the top PRS shooters use. Check out these other posts:

Enjoy this type of data-driven information? That’s what this website is all about. Sign-up to receive new posts via email.

About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. His engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and ability to present technical and complex information in a unbiased and straight-forward fashion has quickly caught the attention of the industry. For more info on Cal, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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  1. I have a 243 win

  2. Thanks again for posting this information! Although I may not be a pro, I’m the kind of person that finds this sort of information fascinating. Same goes for your ultra blind scope test. Thank you for doing all this and making it available for the rest of us.

    • Yeah, thanks Dylan. No prob. I’m the same way. At the end of the day a cartridge is a very personal choice, and there aren’t right and wrong answers here … but it’s interesting info!

  3. Cal, I may have inadvertently skewed the numbers, I originally signed in as using a 6xc, but ended up running my 6.5 Creedmoor. I was getting some case head seps on the xc, so switched at the last minute. I think myself and Solomon ran 6.5creeds and both ended in the top 5. As always appreciate the hard work you put into this.

    • Hey Jim, I appreciate the heads-up. Great shooting this year, by the way!

      Since the overall points are a combination of your best 3 matches from the season plus the finale, I’d prefer to reflect whatever you used for the majority of the season and not just the finale. The way I see it, that just better reflects the equipment you used to get so high up on the leader board. Do you think you used a 6XC or 6.5 Creedmoor in more matches? Any idea what Solomon primarily ran in 2014?

      I really appreciate you guys taking the time to complete this survey. Just like walking down the line and looking at rifles before a match, this is some fun info to look through every year. And I think it helps guys that are trying to get into this sport as well.


      • Soloman ran the 6.5 creedmoor the entire season but he has recently been picked up by team SAC (who had built his 6.5) and is getting a new caliber. which one? the 2015 survey will reveal the details! lol

      • Awesome. Thanks for the clarification. I’ll double check what I had down for him in the data and update the necessary charts.


  4. brillant article

    • Thanks, Rob! Glad you found it helpful. This is definitely some interesting data to look at. It’s fun to watch the trends over the years. I’m just thankful these guys take the time to share this info with the rest of us.


  5. My mind boggles at the work that goes into this site. Genuinely outstanding information. Difficult to comprehend that one person is driving it all. Kudos!

  6. I build a few 6 dashers. Set a national record with one and 2013. Personally out to 600 yards I don’t believe the dasher can be beat. Saying that, I like them all and chamber for all of them as well.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Tim. It looks like there were a couple shooters using 6 Dashers this year. They kind of came out of no where, because there wasn’t a single one among the top 50 finishers in the past two years. I’ve read a little about the 6mm Dasher, but haven’t had any experience with it … yet. It looks like a very capable round. In fact, I remember an article from AccurateShooter.com about a guy who shot a 0.4″ 5-shot group at 600 yards using a 6mm Dasher. Here’s a photo of that 0.065 MOA group!

      6mm Dasher Group at 600 Yards

  7. looks good, can’t wait to see the rest.

  8. Where’d you get that picture of my 100 Yd. group?

    • Yeah, that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I’ve had rifles with groups twice that size at 100 yards, and I was proud of it! Imagine 6 times that distance! It boggles the mind. The stars must have aligned on that string, because that is just unheard of in outdoor shooting.

      • My father was a long distance shooter. Even in his older years he was in a league that I could never compete in. I simply learned to be happy with what I could do and not try to do what he did. It was amazing when he was shooting at 600 Yds. with aperture sights and I frankly couldn’t even see the target.

      • Wow. I know what you’re saying. I watched a competition at Raton a few weeks ago with a guy that shot 7 x’s out of 15 shots at 900 yards with aperture sights … and most of the other shots were 10’s. That is just ridiculous.

  9. Cal, Sorry about that, I think I ran the 6xc in about half the matches, I ran the 260AI in two and the 6.5 cm in one. Thanks for putting this info together, I enjoy reviewing it every year.

    • No prob, Jim. I’m glad you enjoy reading it. I think everyone likes walking down the line at a match to check out the other rifles. It’s just fun to see what other people are using, just like when a car guy looks under the hood of one of his buddy’s cars. Thanks again for taking the time to fill out this survey. I know your time is probably in high demand at Center Shot Rifles, so it means a lot.


  10. Great article with a ton of very useful info.

    • Honestly it was enlightening for me to put together, and I find myself reference back to it already. Glad to know you found it not just interesting, but useful.


  11. Great article. I’m looking to get into the sport so this series of posts you are putting together is perfect for me. Thanks so much for all the hard work!

    • Yeah, Ryan. Glad I could help. I remember how hard it was for me to try to get into this sport. There just wasn’t a lot of good info out there that explained it in a way that wasn’t full or jargon or biased opinions. You’re the kind of guy I try to keep in mind as I’m writing articles. Glad you found the site!


      • Cal, a very basic question for you however relevant to me figuring out how to get into PRS, and what build/cartridge I should consider. Is the 6MM Creedmoor, and 6XC rounds reloaded/custom brass, or can you find them as factory match ammo?

      • Great question, Ryan. David Tubb sells loaded 6XC ammo for $2/round. I’m not sure anyone sells 6mm Creedmoor ammo, but a boutique loading shop might do it for you. If you’re looking to shoot factory ammo, the 6.5 Creedmoor is probably the way to go. I almost built one recently, just so I could shoot factory ammo and stop handloading. Hornady makes some match grade ammo for $1.30/round that is outstanding. It’s loaded with the 140gr AMAX bullet, which has a good BC. We’ve fired a ton of that ammo over an Oehler and the standard deviation of 10 shot strings averages 9-12fps. You have to be a seriously OCD handloaded to get better than that. I have a friend that has shot 0.25″ 5 shot groups on six targets in a row using this ammo. It’s good stuff. Ballistics aren’t quite as good as those others you mentioned, but they are in the same class.

        Hope this helps,

  12. Other that being insanely hard to find cases for, but has anyone used the 243WSSM in the series yet??

    • I’m sure someone has, but none that ended up in the top 50. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a great cartridge. I suspect these guys might say it has more recoil than you need for this style of competition. But that’s just a guess.

      • well, I have a long ways to go before I make it into the top 50. I have a 270 I am currently using, so the 243 would be a significant reduction in recoil.

      • Wow, Cliff. My first rifle was a 270. What a great cartridge. Possibly the best all-around hunting cartridge ever made. The one downside is that there aren’t a lot of modern high-BC bullets made in 27 caliber. There are good 6.5mm and 7mm, but they just skipped over that .277 bullet. Sorry for the tangent!

        I bet the 243 WSSM would be a great round for this type of shooting. The major downsides to consider is shorter barrel life, slightly higher recoil, and scarcity of quality reloading components. If you’re comfortable with those things, the ballistics of that round are amazing. I bet the #1 shooter would still be a top competitor with that cartridge … or maybe even the good-ole 270!

        Good luck!

  13. Great job gathering and sorting out this information, and thank you.
    Been shooting a DTA in 3 different calibers. Doing this the Lothar barrels are becoming my favorite. To bad gun smiths do not like working with them. I believe the metal is hard to machine. Don’t see any on the line up, yet they are the best performing barrels I have ever used. I havn’t used lots, only 3 other custom ones to date. Only 1 I was not impressed with and it was in the top barrels used, must have been a bad one. That happens. Thanks again and keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Lance. Glad you’ve found this content helpful. I hadn’t heard of Lothar barrels before, so I appreciate the tip.


  14. Thanks for all the great articles Cal! Your results have made me rethink the caliber choice for my next build. I was thinking of doing a 260 or 243 as a dual purpose target/hunting rig, but am now considering the creedmoors? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Keep up the awesome work!


    • Thanks, Adam. Glad you’ve found them helpful. I don’t think you’d go wrong with any of the cartridges you mentioned. There are plenty of guys out there with strong opinions on which is “the best” … but honestly, I think any of the top shooters could use any of the most popular cartridges and still end up on top. Here is the list I’d select from. These 6 represented 91% of the shooters who ended up in the top 50 in the PRS.

      • 6mm Creedmoor
      • 6XC
      • 6×47 Lapua
      • 6.5×47 Lapua
      • 6.5 Creedmoor
      • 260 Rem

      The 243 Win is also in this class of cartridges, but the 6XC provides the same muzzle velocity with 7 grains less powder … which equates to longer barrel life. So unless you’re concerned about factory ammo, I’d go 6XC over the 243. If you are hoping to buy factory loaded match ammo, you should go with the 6.5 Creedmoor. That Hornady 140gr A-Max loaded match ammo is awesome, and just $1.20 per round.

      I probably wouldn’t go 260 Rem (unless you already have dies and components for it), which I realize might be a very controversial statement. The reason is almost every cartridge designed in the past 20 years has a 30 degree shoulder and longer neck (around 0.3″). I believe we’ve learned a lot about cartridge design at this point, and those specs just produce the best results. The 260 is the only cartridge in that list that doesn’t closely match those modern cartridge design principles. It has a 20 degree shoulder and 0.2595″ neck. So I’d eliminate 260 Rem from the list.

      If you’re handloading, I personally prefer to stick with Lapua or Norma brass. In my opinion, those companies produce the best quality brass on the market (for example they’re the only ones I know of that drill their primer pockets instead of punching them), and in my own testing I can attest they’re more consistent in terms of weight and thickness than other brands I’ve tried. The availability of quality components should be a huge part of selecting a cartridge, and I think brass is more important than a lot of people give it credit for. So out of that list, you can buy brass from Lapua or Norma for these cartridges: 6XC, 6×47 Lapua, and 6.5×47 Lapua. I can’t give you an definitive data on the Hornady brass being worse … it could be as good as Lapua or Norma, but it’d be hard to believe it’s better. But that’s just my opinion.

      One other thing to notice is that the Lapua cases use a small rifle primer (both the 6.5×47 Lapua and the 6×47 Lapua), which the other 4 use a large rifle primer. Some believe the smaller rifle primer can deliver more consistent ignitions and therefore lower deviation in muzzle velocity. David Tubb has cited that “a detailed study of large and small rifle primers showed that large rifle primers worked best when the propellant charge exceeds 35 grains.” I’m not familiar with that study, and he didn’t cite any sources. But, if a smaller primer was obviously better … wouldn’t most of the top cartridges be using one? So if you eliminate the small primer cases … you’re left with the 6XC, which is why that’s what I personally built.

      But, back to my original point … I don’t think you’d go wrong with any of these cartridges. They’re all top-performers, and a good shooters could do well with any of them. I don’t want to quibble about the minute differences about each of them, but just tried to lay out my own thought process on cartridge selection.

      Bottomline: If you want to buy factory ammo, go 6.5 Creedmoor. If you plan to handload, go 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5×47 Lapua, 6×47 Lapua, 6.5 Creedmoor, or 6XC.

      • Thanks Cal, I do reload so that is a non issue, I’m leaning towards a 6.5 creed because of the hunting aspect of the rifles use (higher BC for more energy), do you think there would be a significant enough difference in energy to warrant choosing the 6.5 over the 6mm? I would most likely run the 140s in 6.5, 105 maybe 115s in the 6mm.

      • Yeah, that’s probably the right call if you’re going to hunt with it. There is certainly a difference between a 140gr bullet and a 105gr bullet. A 140gr 6.5mm bullet at 2800 fps has 1340 ft-lbs of energy at 500 yards. A 105gr 6mm bullet at 3100 fps has 1210 ft-lbs of energy at 500 yards. That’s an 11% difference, so its not enormous … but not insignificant either. The caliber of the bullet also has a big impact on the terminal ballistics, and the 6.5mm bullet is 17% larger in terms of area than the 6mm bullet. So, like I mentioned … if you’re going to hunt with it, I’d go 6.5mm … and if you go 6.5mm, I’d go 6.5 Creedmoor.


  15. Of the three, ◦6mm Creedmoor, ◦6.5 Creedmoor, and ◦6XC, what would be the real world
    round count, i.e.. barrel life of each caliber? Needing to rebarrel my .243 and am having
    trouble deciding on which caliber.

    • Both 6XC and 6mm Creedmoor would be similar. I’ve heard 2250-2750, but I’m not there yet. Tubb claims 3000 rounds if you use his throat maintanence, which I am. 3,000-3,500 for the 6.5 Creedmoor. I have a good friend who has been through a few of those. Barrel life can vary dramatically based on if you shoot long strings of fire and allow the chamber to really heat up, or if you allow it to cool regularly. But at least those are ballpark averages.

    • I’ll add to what Cal said about barrel life, As well as strings of fire, load pressure and barrel steel quality are two other big factors in round count. An example I will use is a 6xc I chambered in a Brux barrel. This was before Crucible steel shut down. Brux received a lot of steel that machined a little bit harder than the normal stuff. When you started to chamber one of these barrels you would actually think your reamer got dull on you because it cut noticeably different than normal blanks from Brux. The results were very good, I ran a load in that barrel at 2980 fps with 105 hybreds Right now that barrel has 3600 rounds down it and still shoots under a 1/2 minute. I actually screwed it off 2 matches after the 2012 finale when it had 2900 fired rounds and screwed it back on before the 2013 finale, when that match was over it had 3200 on it, now it is a practice barrel. I’ve had to add a few tenths more powder now and again to keep the velocity up, but other than that it still shoots match capable. With as many rounds as it has I wont trust it to another major match. That lot of Brux steel Lot 15 became very sought after by the f-class crowd for it’s accuracy and long life, I’m sure someone still has a stash of a few of those barrels.

      • Wow, that’s awesome. I never thought about different lots of steel having that big of a difference or being known for longer life … but it makes sense. Thanks for sharing!


  16. ok cal i need to know you got to pick a side which case out of 6×47 Lapua, 6 Creedmoor, or 6XC is the best ie gives most vel for the same bullet weight and powder used. You also talks about new super 30cal ammo which case do you think would be the best for that 7.62x55swede 7.62x57mauser ,308 ,7.62x54r 30-06 can include AI wildcat versions too. Also what do you think about 35degree and 40 shoulders in case design too?

    • While all are great, and most pros would obviously pick 6mm Creedmoor …. I actually did pick a few months ago: Custom 6XC Precision Rifle Build. I went 6XC for several reasons, but I definitely don’t want to present it as “THE right choice.” Brass selection is big to me, and Norma makes 6XC brass (and you can actually find it at times). I personally think Norma and Lapua brass is better than Hornady, but I have no data to back that up.

      David Tubb also makes some outstanding custom dies for the 6XC for $280 (Custom Sizing Die, Custom Competition Seating Die). While that might seem high … the Tubb dies integrate some great ideas, and they aren’t any more expensive than Redding Competition Die Sets for the less popular cartridges (like the 6×47 Lapua). I think Hornady is the only company that makes 6mm Creedmoor factory dies (at least right now), and I’m not sure they are in the same class as Redding dies or the Tubb custom dies. Brass concentricity is important, and I think 90% of that is based on the reloading dies you use.

      I also like the longer neck on the 6XC, although it isn’t a lot longer than the 6mm Creedmoor case and barely longer than the 6×47 Lapua case. The 6XC has more case capacity than the 6×47 Lapua, and also uses a large rifle primer (like virtually every other medium size cartridges). The 6×47 Lapua uses a small rifle primer, which the Fins believe help give more consistent ignitions, but I’ve also heard they designed it that way to give more strength to the case head so you could run it at higher pressures. Why run it at higher pressures instead of just adding case capacity? David Tubb has cited that “a detailed study of large and small rifle primers showed that large rifle primers worked best when the propellant charge exceeds 35 grains.”

      There are a few other things I took into consideration, but this is getting somewhat neurotic. I’m sure there are pros that I’ve overlooked about the other cartridges, or cons regarding the 6XC. But based on the info I knew at the time (and know now), I personally thought the 6XC was the best choice for me. This is all just my opinion. I really do think a pro shooting any of those cartridges could be equally effective … but I’m happy with my choice, and I’d do it again.


  17. Whidden makes the 6 Creedmoor die sets. I ordered a set but have not used it yet, I went back and forth with the 6 Creedmoor and the 6×47, ended up going with the Creedmoor because,,,, well just because.

  18. I have really enjoyed your series. I am just getting started in long range shooting. I have been using a Remington 700 in 300 mag. I am curious as to why the top shooters are using 6mm and not 300/338/416. These have much farther reach than the 6mm. Also, are competitions only out to 1,000 meters? I would like to shoot way, way out there. Thanks in advance, Rob.

    • Yeah, you got it … These comps are mostly out to 1200 yards, although I know at least one PRS match has shots out to 1740 yards. I am going to guess that 90% of the shots are 300-1,000 yards. So these cartridges are ideal in that range. If you are shooting 1600 yards or more, you probably should be in one of those larger magnum cartridges like a 338 Lapua Mag or a 300 Norma Mag. However, a 300 Win Mag and 416 aren’t in the same class ballistically as those two extreme long-range cartridges. I’m not saying they don’t have their place, but if you’re trying to really stretch it out … you might start with those other two. They can both reach 2,000 yards or more.


      • UGH, the thought of feeding a 338’s powder appetite for a weekend match

      • Thanks, the 416 I was thinking about is the 416 Barrett, which should easily do 2000 plus. I am just starting and picked one I knew would get out there. I will look into the 338. What do you think of the 416 Barrett?

      • Hey Robert, I don’t know a lot about the 416 Barrett, except that it is a serious cartridge for extreme range and with improved external ballistics over the popular 50 cal. Just for others reading, here is a quick summary of the cartridge:

        The use of a lighter, narrower bullet results in a significantly higher muzzle velocity and superior ballistic performance to the .50 BMG, and the .416 Barrett is claimed to retain more energy than the .50 BMG at distances over 1,000 yards. Barrett claims this cartridge is capable of propelling a 398gr bullet out of a 32-inch barrel at 3150 ft/s. With a G1 BC (ballistic coefficient) of .720, the projectile remains supersonic out to 1,900 yards.

        It is definitely is capable beyond 2000 yards, although I haven’t heard anything about its accuracy. I know the 50 BMG is notoriously inaccurate, so that large cartridge might be something I looked into more before committing. The 338 Lapua also has outstanding match grade ammo available, and it’s expensive (around $5 per round for the stuff I’ve used) … but the 416 Barrett is likely harder to find and more expensive. But the ballistics are crazy on paper!

        Sorry, I couldn’t be more help!

  19. Thank you, you have been very helpful.

  20. Great info! Thanks for compiling the data & completing the analysis.

  21. Where are .308 Winchester and .50 BMG on this list? Are no competitors using them anymore for long-distance shooting?

    • Well, nobody in these types of competitions. The ballistics of the 308 Win aren’t as good as the other cartridges shown here. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good cartridge when you need the energy it provides downrange (i.e. you are shooting animals or militants, and not steel targets or paper). The only competitors that use 308’s in the precision rifle world are those competitions that specifically require you to use a 308. It’s a legendary cartridge, but there are a ton of other cartridges that offer improved external ballistics.

      And most shooters don’t see the .50 BMG as a precision rifle cartridge. I did shoot on just a few weeks ago that could hold a 1″ group at 300 yards, which was by far the most accurate 50 BMG I’ve ever heard of. Most can’t come close to that. That one was a rifle built by Surgeon Rifles on a McMillan TAC-50 action in a Cadex stock. It was sweet. Recoil wasn’t near as bad as I expected either. Hit 3 for 3 at 600 yards (farthest target that range had). These cartridges are capable of FAAAARRRRR more precise groups than a 50 BMG. Most of these cartridges are inherently capable of shooting in the 1’s or 2’s in a precision rifle (i.e. extreme spread 5 shot groups measures 0.10-0.29 MOA) … if not better. And the recoil on these is far less too. With my 6XC precision rifle, my sight picture literally doesn’t change when I fire a round. I can watch my round the whole way to the target, which is impossible with a 50 BMG. You essentially have to have a spotter with a 50 BMG. These cartridges are ideal for extreme precision for 300-1200 yard targets. The 50 BMG is designs for taking out large targets at further distances, but not necessarily precisely. Match-grade ammo for these cartridges is closer to $1/round, where the 50 BMG is $5/round.

      I’d suggest you check out this post to learn how much cartridge matters, and see how the 308 compares to some of these cartridges:

      How Much Does Cartridge Matter?

      Hope this helps,