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Long Range Calibers and Cartridges

Long-Range Calibers & Cartridges: What The Pros Use

I recently surveyed the top 100+ shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS), and this post reviews the calibers and cartridges those guys are running this year. For those of you who may not be familiar with the PRS, it’s an organization that tracks how top competitors place in major rifle matches across the country. PRS matches are tactical/practical long-range rifle matches shot in the field conditions. Typical ranges for steel targets are from 300 to 1200 yards, and they are engaged from prone and improvised positions, often under extreme time pressure. It is one of the fastest growing shooting sports, and has attracted some of the best riflemen in the world. Literally thousands of shooters compete, so to land in the top 100 you have to be an exceptional competitor. I’d like to personally thank all the shooters who took the time to complete the survey.

More Info on the PRS

Advice From The Pros

On this year’s survey, I asked each competitor this question: If you could just give one piece of advice to a new shooter wanting to get into this sport, what would that be? I got some great answers and am planning a post covering those answers, but I’ll share a few a few as they’re relevant in this “What the Pros Use” series. I’ll sprinkle in these words of advice to help us keep perspective or show different viewpoints from these top shooters.

Let’s start with a tip from the guy who finished 1st overall, because it’s especially relevant to this topic:

“Get one caliber, learn your data, and don’t chase the new shiny.”
– Tyler Payne, US Army Marksmanship Unit, 1st Overall in Open Division

PRS Divisions

In 2016, the PRS introduced new divisions. All shoot the same course of fire.

  • Open Division:Able to use a rifle chambered in any cartridge 30 caliber or smaller with a max muzzle velocity of 3,200 fps.
  • Tactical Division: Restricted to 2 traditional military and law enforcement calibers: .308 Win or 5.56 NATO/.223 Rem.
  • Production Division: This division lowers the barrier of entry to start competing. Rifles can’t be altered/improved in any way from the original factory configuration, and combined MSRP for rifle and scope can’t exceed $3,000. (Update: They tweaked these rules slightly for the 2017 season.)

“The production class is a great feature the PRS offers. Just try one match and guarantee you will be hooked!”
– John Herring, 4th Overall, Production Division

Most Popular Calibers In Tactical & Production Divisions

First, I’ll quickly summarize the most popular calibers in the tactical and production divisions.

In the Tactical Division, the 308 Win was the most popular cartridge used, with 75% of those surveyed running it. But, there were a few people running the 5.56/223, including competitors who placed as high as 3rd overall in the Tactical Division.

In the Production Division, we only surveyed the top 4 shooters and they were evenly split between two very capable cartridges:

  • 6.5 Creedmoor: 1st & 4th place shooters
  • 243 Win: 2nd & 3rd place shooters

Most Popular Calibers In Open Division

Now, let’s dive into the most popular calibers in the Open Division. This was the only division that existed before 2016, and still represents the majority of shooters. This is the most interesting division when it comes to caliber choice, because there are very few restrictions. 95% of these guys handload and there are no cartridge sponsors (as far as I know), so each shooter goes with whatever they feel gives them the best shot at putting rounds on target.

The 6mm was the most popular caliber again this year. While there were still plenty of shooters using 6.5mm cartridges, the gap widened more than any previous year, with about 2 out of 3 shooters opting for a 6mm.

Best Long Range Caliber

“PRS shooting is a recoil management game. Go with 6mm and learn how to free recoil your rifle.”
– Paul Reid, 10th Overall, Open Division

Note: The chart above only shows the top 50 shooters, because in previous years we only surveyed those shooters in the top 50. So to keep it an apples-to-apples comparison, we filtered it to only include the top 50 ranked shooters for this graph.

Now let’s look at a breakdown of the most popular cartridges among the top 100 shooters in the Open Division:

Most Popular Long Range Rifle Cartridge

So here is the list of most popular cartridges for this past season:

  1. 6.5×47 Lapua
  2. 6×47 Lapua
  3. 6XC
  4. 6.5 Creedmoor
  5. 6mm Creedmoor
  6. 6mm Dasher
  7. 6mm Super LR

Last year, the 6mm Creedmoor was the darling of the 6mm’s, only to fall to the #5 spot this year, with the 6.5×47 Lapua and 6×47 Lapua leading the way in the top 2 spots. 6XC popularity more than doubled over last year, landing as the 3rd most popular cartridge among the top ranked shooters. The 6.5 Creedmoor and 6mm Creedmoor are perennial favorites, although they were a little further down the list than you might have expected. Lastly, the 6mm Dasher and 6mm Super LR both climbed in popularity this year.

View Last Year’s Data on Most Popular Cartridges

Here are the cartridge dimensions of most of this year’s top cartridges (at least the cartridges included in Berger’s Reloading Manual). You can see they share very similar sizes and design characteristics.

“Don’t chase calibers. Pick one in 6mm or 6.5mm, stick with it and learn it. Once you have something in either 6mm or 6.5mm it is the shooter’s ability after that. You’re not going to swap to a magical caliber and all of a sudden start winning matches.”
– Bannon Eldridge, 50th Overall in Open Division

Muzzle Velocity

The survey also asked each shooter what their average muzzle velocity was. That can obviously vary by barrel length and other factors, but 85% of the shooters were using a 24-26 inch barrel.

Let’s first look at the top 6mm cartridges. The data below reflects what the shooters firing a 105-108gr bullet said their muzzle velocity was. The gray arrows show the range of all answers, and the diamond indicates the average muzzle velocity of all shooters.

CAUTION: I haven’t personally verified any of this data to be within safe/recommended tolerances. It’s likely that some of these guys run hot loads, so this is for informational purposes only and should be used at your own risk.

6mm Rifle Muzzle Velocities

You can see that 4 of the top 5 cartridges have average muzzle velocities within about 25 fps of each other. The 6mm Dasher is the obvious outlier from this group, at 100 fps slower than the others. But one advantage to the lower muzzle velocity is reduced recoil (assuming bullet weight is the same). Remember veteran shooter Paul Reid told us the quick engagements and improvised positions common in the PRS-style of shooting makes recoil management a critical part of this game, and the 6mm Dasher may have the lightest recoil of any of the popular cartridges.

Next let’s look at the muzzle velocities for the 2 very popular 6.5mm cartridges. The muzzle velocities shown are from shooters who said they were shooting bullets weighing from 139gr to 142gr.

6.5mm Rifle Muzzle Velocities

You can see the 6.5×47 Lapua and 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges have very similar muzzle velocities. However, the 6.5×47 Lapua has a case capacity of 47 grains of water, where the 6.5 Creedmoor has 10% more capacity at 52 grains of water.

I’ve heard people say that because the 6.5×47 Lapua cases use a small rifle primer, they were able to push it harder (i.e. higher pressures) than you could most cases. I can neither confirm nor deny that report. You should be cautious and consult a quality reloading manual before attempting any load development. But, one thing that could cause a shift in upcoming seasons is the fact that Lapua has released 6.5 Creedmoor cases. The 6.5 Creedmoor was designed with a large rifle primer, but the Lapua 6.5 CM cases will feature both a small rifle primer and a smaller diameter flash hole. Lapua believes both of those things produce more consistent ignition, which means more consistent muzzle velocities … which is critical in the long-range game.

Lapua 6.5 Creedmoor Brass

When I first heard the news about Lapua making 6.5 Creedmoor cases, I figured it was just rumors or wishful thinking, because the case is so similar to Lapua’s darling 6.5×47 case. Even when I saw Lapua’s announcement, I was still a little skeptical … but I just received some of this brass today, so I can finally confirm that it is real! You’ll see the start hitting the shelves (or at least online) over the next couple weeks. My bet is Lapua will be shocked by the demand for the 6.5 Creedmoor cases, and they might struggle to keep up … and we may see a lot of guys running these cases in upcoming PRS matches.

Lapua Brass 6.5 Creedmoor For Sale

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. Cal has an engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and the ability to present technical information in an unbiased and straight-forward fashion. For more info, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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81 comments

  1. Excellent.

  2. This is my first comment on one of your posts… I’ve been reading your blog religiously for the past year – I plan to enter the competitive long range rifle game either this year or next (opportunities appear limited here in Minnesota), and your work has been invaluable.

    Thank you so much for what you do. Keep up the great work.

    • Hey, Matt! I’m glad to hear it’s been helpful. And you should definitely try out a match. I can still remember my first match … it was a blast and I learned A TON! In fact, I may have learned as much within 2-3 matches as I did in the first couple years of shooter long-range! There are a lot of guys willing to help you out, and I’m still friends with a lot of those guys I met at the first match. So I hope you can find a match to try out … or you could always move to Texas! 😉

      Best of luck to you!
      Cal

    • Matt check out bwrifle. com there is your opportunity.

    • Matt, I believe there is a group down near Rochester that is shooting PRS matches. I’m disabled and not able to compete in them, so I will be shooting IBS (International Benchrest) at 600 yd & 1000 in Harris (GRRC). I also shoot 1000 yd in FCSA (Fifty Cal Shooters Assoc) but they require a bit of travel.

      If you need more info let me know and I can try to help you get in touch with the guys in the Rochester area. My Email is BigDog58 at gmail dot com

      • Thanks much Jim. You may hear from me in a few months when I have some cash saved up for ammo.

        One of the barriers to entry I’ve encountered is most ranges/clubs have multi-year waiting lists, with a requirement to be “sponsored” or invited by an existing member… I appreciate your offer of help 🙂

  3. I really love these articles. I started shooting PRS club series late last year. These articles reinforce my gear selection choices. Glad to see the 6 SLR growing in popularity because I’ve got a Hawk Hill 6mm barrel with my name on it that will be chambered for it.

    • Yeah, the 6 SLR seems to be a great design. I looked into a little more this year after seeing that more guys were running it. It has the long neck and 30 degree shoulder like the 6XC and most of the other cartridges that are popular with long range guys, but with a little more case capacity. The 6mm Super LR has 54 gr. H20 capacity, I think that puts it 2 gr. larger than the 6.5 Creemdoor, 5 gr. more than the 6XC, and 7 gr. more than the 6.5×47 Lapua. I’m not sure if that gives you a measurable advantage, but it seems like it has the wishlist of features that lots of shooters are looking for in a cartridge.

      Here’s a link to more info on the 6mm Super LR cartridge for those that may be interested: http://www.6mmar.com/Super_LR.html

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Precision Addiction

        I read that article about 20 time before I ordered my reamer. I’ve got a pile of the new Sierra 110 gr MatchKings just waiting for the rifle to be finished. Most guys are reporting a G7 of .310-.315 for it.

      • I noticed a few of these top shooters reported shooting that new 110gr SMK. I haven’t taken a close look at that yet, but will post on it in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

        Thanks,
        Cal

  4. Cal one of the driving factors for the lean towards the 6mms was the wide spread use of target flashers. The past issue was uncalled impacts on far large targets. This year targets over 800 were to be equipped with flashers. Which has me considering a 6mm again.

  5. Cal, with the help of your information gathering skills and just basically laying that info out to us novices. You have no doubt set many shooters into motion towards attending PRS style matches. I know that I am one of those individuals for sure. I will be attending my first match Feb. 25th. Thank you so much for all that you do, SERIOUSLY! Oh yeah, I will be picking up a couple hundred rounds of 6.5CM Lapua brass at that match. Can’t wait to give it a go. Especially since all that you ever hear is about the inconsistencies of Hornady brass, we shall see.

    • That’s awesome, Jeremy. I bet you love it. Best of luck to you.

      And I know a lot of people bad-mouth the Hornady brass. I’m not sure if the Lapua brass clearly makes you hit more targets, but I do know it usually lasts longer. I think it’s more consistent too, but I haven’t done any measurements to prove that … so it’s really just a hunch. I’m anxious to see if the smaller primer pocket has any advantage. My load for my 6.5 CM with Norma/Prime brass typically has an SD of 5-6 fps. I’m not sure I’ll be able to improve on that much, but I’ll see if I can get a little more MV out of it without showing signs of pressure. I guess we’ll see!

      Best of luck to you! Enjoy yourself!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  6. I don’t shoot PRS but am a fan of the 6XC for mid- and long-range NRA competition, having started with it back in 2004. I was surprised and excited when I read about Lapua’s plans for production 6.5 Creedmoor brass designed with a small rifle primer pocket because I’ve been laboring to make 6XC cases from their superb PALMA brass since the first year it appeared on the scene. If pocket stretch is the criteria, cases made from PALMA brass last far longer than any if the large-primer brass I’d used before, but making it takes alot of time and effort.

    200 of Lapua’s 6.5 Creedmoor brass got delivered to my reloading bench this past Monday, I’ll be forming some to 6XC this Saturday & testing it Sunday… weather permitting!

    • That’s awesome, SP. I was needing to buy several reloading dies recently, and since I really like the custom 6XC sizing die I’ve been using from David Tubb, I asked David if he had any recommendations. In that conversation he said something interesting: David said the 6.5 Creedmoor case is so close to the 6XC in design that you could actually use his 6XC sizing die for it, all you needed was the 6.5mm shoulder bushing … which he said he had included in the case. I went and looked and sure enough, there was a 6.5mm shoulder bushing in with my die that I had never paid attention to before. He said just pop that bushing in there and you’ve got the best 6.5 Creedmoor sizing die money can buy! Kind of crazy.

      And I do think the pocket stretch is one of the big reasons we have to retire brass. It seems pretty rare that I get case head separations, cracked necks, or other defects like that. So I’m excited about the small primers for that!

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  7. Cal, I’ve been following your blog for a while now. I got into PRS this past summer for my first time as a competitor after having read your blog. I had a custom 260 Rem built specifically for competition.

    My question is: in your opinion, why is the 260 Rem not as popular as the 6.5 Creedmoor?

    • Hey, Joe. The 260 is still a great cartridge, even if it has fallen out of favor in light of some of the more modern designs. So don’t feel like you need to switch to get some kind of competitive advantage. The external ballistics of the 260 can be virtually identical to the very popular 6.5×47 Lapua and 6.5 Creedmoor. While everyone has a favorite, they are very similar cartridges.

      As far as case design goes, most cases that have been designed over the past couple decades feature a 30 degree shoulder and a longer neck (usually around 0.30″). That seems to be what ballisticians today feel like builds pressures most efficiently for this size of cartridge. So what I usually read is with that design you can get similar muzzle velocities with a few grains less powder. That could theoretically provide a little better barrel life. The 260 has the older 20 degree shoulder, and a neck that is 0.25″, which is longer than a lot of traditional cases.

      One of the reasons I like the 6.5 Creedmoor over the 260 is because you can buy good match-grade ammo for it at great prices. The 6.5 Creedmoor is special in that way. You have good options from Hornady and PRIME ammo. Historically, you were able to find match grade 6.5 CM ammo for around $1.25/round. It and the 308 seem to stand alone in terms of affordable match-grade ammo. So I think that’s one of the big draws.

      Compared to the 6.5×47 Lapua, I think a lot of guys like the smaller primer pocket. I hear a lot of guys say that case is VERY easy to load for. They get single digit SD’s without even really trying … or at least that is what I’m told.

      And some of this is that those other cartridges are in vogue right now. Many (if not most) of us like to tinker and try new things, so although I’ve been shooting a 6XC for a few years now … I’m thinking about chambering my next couple barrels in 6mm Creedmoor, after I shoot out the barrel I’m on. It’s not because I think there is a real advantage to that round, and it’ll instantly catapult me into contention. I just think the Lapua brass is better than the Norma brass in a few ways, and there might be something to that small primer thing. But some of it is that I just like to try stuff for the sake of trying new stuff. Sometimes it pays off, but most of the time it isn’t worth the hassle you have to go through. Most people might not get that real, but that is probably the truth of a lot of this! 😉

      Honestly, I couldn’t agree more with the comment from Bannon that I featured in the post: “Don’t chase calibers. Pick one in 6mm or 6.5mm, stick with it and learn it. Once you have something in either 6mm or 6.5mm it is the shooter’s ability after that. You’re not going to swap to a magical caliber and all of a sudden start winning matches.”

      The 260 is a good 6.5mm cartridge. Don’t feel like it’s inferior. I’d recommend shooting that barrel out! 😉 As a lot of these top shooters would tell you, It’s more about the indian than the arrow.

      Best of luck to you!
      Cal

      • Cal, something I’ve been wondering but haven’t seen any definitive info about… how do you know when you’ve shot out your barrel?

        (Broad question, sorry…. maybe worth a blog post? 😉 )

      • Great question! I’m sure there are a million theories, but I’ll give you my experience. Most of the time, I haven’t experienced my groups opening up when a barrel is “shot out.” In fact, I fired the best 5-shot group I’ve ever shot with my last 6XC barrel when it had 1,800 rounds on it, which is when most people would say it might be near the end of life. What makes me replace a barrel is when it feels like my muzzle velocity becomes inconsistent. As a barrel wears, you’ll naturally start to loose muzzle velocity. It happens really slowly at first, but eventually it starts to become noticeable. It isn’t the end of the world when you loose a few fps, but at some point you’re muzzle velocity might be 2950 and then after 100 rounds it’s 2920 … or an even bigger swing. That’s when I lose confidence in a barrel and change it out. If my muzzle velocity is different from the start of a match to the end of one, I find myself always questioning my rifle when I miss a target. 90% of the time it was me and not the rifle, but in the back of my head I’m wondering if it was the barrel. And the problem is the drop in muzzle velocity doesn’t seem to be linear or predictable (in my experience). I might fire 200 rounds and the velocity is virtually identical to when I started, but then I fire another 50 and it instantly drops 30 fps. At least in the long range game, 30 fps can matter. You start questioning your dope, and that going on in the back of my head in a match can really mess me up. So I replace a barrel when my muzzle velocity becomes less unpredictable.

        Like I said, the barrel may still group great … But in the long range game consistent and predictable muzzle velocity is critical to first round hits.

        Also if you add up all the money you spent on practicing, travel, hotel, and entry fee on a match … you realize pretty quickly that trying to squeeze out another 200 rounds out of a barrel may not be the best idea. Unlike the action, trigger, stock, and other parts, I see barrels like a consumable. It’s like tires on your car. If you use it often, you’ll need to replace it. It may seem like a big cost at the time, but it may not be wise to keep driving on bald tires.

        Hope this makes sense! Maybe some others can chime in with their experience, because it could vary based on how hot you let your barrel get, how hot your load is, etc. So this is just my experience, but I hope it helps.

        Thanks,
        Cal

      • Cal, thx for the quick and indepth reply. There is some very good information in there and I find myself better educated after havind read it.

        And yes, I do agree with you about Bannon’s comment. I don’t plan on switching calibers anytime soon. I really like the 260. I am not saying I would not experiment with new calibers coming out but I read some good remarks about the 260 Rem and based my final decision on the fact that it apparently gave a little bit of a longer barrel life than other newer calibers.

        In a year or two, once I’ve gone through my 260 barrel, I will probably look into trying another caliber, still in 6.5 but a newer setup…6.5x47L sounds interesting.

        Again, thx for the response. Looking forward to more of your blogs.

        Joe

      • Great answer!

  8. Excellent report. I always look forward to your new posts, but especially the “what the pros use”. Thanks for the hard work. Keep it coming!

    • Thanks! I honestly look forward to seeing this data every year too. When most of us go to the range, we probably enjoy walking down the line and looking at what other people are shooting. This is kind of the same thing, but on the internet!

      Thanks,
      Cal

    • Is this CAPT Nichols-NAVAIR Mustang?
      fm: Spud

  9. Hey there,

    I am intrigued by the small primer vs. large primer issue. I have also heard some people claim that using magnum primers in cartridges like the .260 Rem yielded more consistent muzzle velocities which seems to be the complete opposite idea of the small rifle primer idea. Is it just a different mechanism achieving a similar result?

    • Ha! Great point. I’ve heard similar things. It seems like there are lots of theories, but not a lot of hard data out there related to these topics. It’d be interesting to see a real scientific test done on primers and see if there were any statistically significant “truths” that fell out. However, I bet the results might be controversial no matter what they were! Until then … I guess we’ll keep tinkering! 😉

      If you’re interested in seeing what primers these guys are using, you can look at last year’s data. That was a question when I surveyed them last year:
      http://precisionrifleblog.com/2015/12/27/best-bullets-brass-primers-powder/

      Thanks,
      Cal

    • Simple physics says more brass surrounding the primer is going to make the casehead stronger. I’ve had many different .473″ casehead cartridges to include 308, 284, 7mm08, 260, 6xc, 6SLR and 6.5×47. The primer pockets last longest in the x47. By FAR. I have cases with at least 25 firings on them and primers are still difficult to press into some of them using a Hornady hand tool.

      That said, I started noticing some slight hangfires this year. Maybe my batch of primers (Tula SRP), but since switching to the magnum variant (Tula SMRP) I haven’t had any.

      • John, I get what you are saying and I understand the advantages of small primer pockets. However, my question is more oriented towards muzzle velocities. My particular brass has large primer pockets and I have heard claims from some that using large magnum primers resulted in lower ES and SD, which intrigued me because I have heard the same from people using standard small rifle primers. If they are both telling the truth, they are getting the same results from polar opposite approaches. Interesting, don’t you think?

      • It is not simply a matter of “more brass”. Lapua consistently has a harder/stronger brass case head than most other manufacturers.

        One other thing to consider if making a change from a large primer to a small primer is the size of the firing pin hole in the bolt face and how tightly the firing pin I’d fitted to it. Small primers have thinner cups and are consequently weaker than most similar large primers. They will “blank” at a certain pressure level that a corresponding large primer may not. Thus the selection of a (small) primer becomes a combination of its firing characteristics and its physical attributes. I have not yet read the article on primers, but I will be surprised if the CCI 450 and one or two others with tough cups are not among the most popular with people shooting “warm” loads.

        About the trend toward 6mm, this is only following the trend in other disciplines for the same reasons. Where there is no power factor involved, the 6mm has a lot going for it.

      • I think you’re right, Rick. The CCI #450 was the most popular small rifle primer used when I polled these guys last year. I didn’t really know why that was at the time, but your point here makes sense to me. In case anyone would like to see it, here’s a link to the data on what primers these guys were using last year: http://precisionrifleblog.com/2015/12/27/best-bullets-brass-primers-powder/

        Thanks,
        Cal

      • Except that I’ve used Lapua brass in all of those chamberings except 6SLR… Even used Lapua 22-250 to form my 6xc.

  10. I’ll be interested to see if anyone is running the Alpha Munitions 6.5 creed brass. I doubt it since it’s relative infancy to the shooting scene very late last year, so we’ll see what happens over this next year.

    The brass from Alpha Munitions is top notch, and I’d love to see a review of it here from you, Cal!

    • Hey, David. I think I did see a couple guys who said they were running Alpha Munitions brass. I’ll be doing a post focused on what components those guys said they were using soon, so stay tuned.

      Thanks,
      Cal

    • I’m one of the guys running the alpha brass, got a sample late last year and it’s good stuff…… quite a bit heavier than the hornady version and I can obtain the same velocities with a couple grains less powder. Super consistent weight variation wise as well…….. not a lot of reloads on it yet but it shiot great for me right out of the box and I ran it on its first loading at the finale and preformed great!

  11. It seems that .308 doesn’t even exist any longer. OK. I guess I owe my friends an apology and a thank you. I apologize to those that kept saying 6.5 would take over the shooting world. The thank you is because I will continue to shoot my .308 at very accurate consistency and now at a new lower cost due to all of the ex-.308 shooters.

    • Hey, Timothy. Thanks to the new PRS Tactical Division, there were guys competing with 308 again this year. Lots of guys still love that cartridge. I just broke the results for the Tactical Division out from the Open Division in this post. Hey, if you’re happy with it … don’t try to fix happy! 😉

      Thanks,
      Cal

  12. Another excellent article from PRB. Thank you!

  13. Cal

    I read all of your posts and find this site to be the most informative and comprehensive site on the net. You are truly the man and I thank you for your work.
    Another great article but I just wanted to comment on the cartridge selection based on my own opinion. I am presently building my first purpose build PRS rifle and my caliber choice will likely scare some but I would encourage yourself and others to run the data and see for yourself. I am chambering in 22-250AI and running 90gr berger VLDs. I already have a rifle in this chamber and in a 26″ Bartlein 1:8 bbl with Lapua brass and RL22 I am pushing 3150fps and the drops calc out to .280 G7 BC. Barrel life is unknown at this time but not a major concern for this shooter.
    Less recoil, less powder, Lapua brass and top shelf ballistics due to bullet and velocity.

    • That’s a bold move! I can appreciate how you’re blazing your own trail. I think what these guys might say about a 22 caliber is that it may be tough for RO’s to call hits with it. But who knows! Let us know how it goes.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  14. Great job Cal……. I see this info useful for newer shooters so in the interest of supporting the versatility of the 6.5’s I’ll point to a 6.5 Creedmoor shooting 130gr bullets…….. I push the 130 pills at 6 mm speeds and recoil levels with great success or I can use 139-140’s if I want…… kinds like two separate rifles from one cartridge!

    We can discuss barrel life at 2800 vs 3040 fps but the options exist! The 6mm’s don’t offer this much useful range…….just thought I’d bring it up, keep up the great analysis.

    • Great point, Curtis. I also primarily use a 130gr bullet in my 6.5 Creedmoor. I can’t say it offers a clear advantage over the 140’s, but in situations where they may be range uncertainty … it might be an advantage. The recoil is slightly less too, although it may not be very noticable. There are obviously advantages to the 140’s too or most of these guys wouldn’t be running them. I’ll focus more on bullets in a later post, but I appreciate you sharing.

      Thanks,
      Cal

    • I recently read an article by Glen Zediker about barrel life for AR15’s. He stated that it is not bullet velocity that destroys barrel, or more accurately the throat, but it is the hot gas from the burning powder. So, his findings are that a heavier, slowing moving bullet, allows the gas more dwell time to burn and eat at the rifling in the throat. This was the first time I had heard this and it completely spun my head around 360 degrees. Lol

      • That’s an interesting theory, and sounds plausible to me. I’ve read some of Glen’s stuff and he seems like a sharp guy. The physics of what is happening inside a barrel is a pretty advanced topic and it seems like there is still a lot we (at least the shooting community in general) don’t understand about it. I read a really good article a couple years ago called Understanding & Predicting Gun Barrel Erosion. It was based on research conducted by the Australian Dept. of Defense. It was an interesting read if you’re interested. There is a link to it here: http://precisionrifleblog.com/2012/07/09/practical-tips-to-extend-barrel-life/

        Thanks for sharing. You certainly got me thinking! I might still be thinking about that one when I wake up in the morning! 😉

        Thanks,
        Cal

  15. since it seems that recoil management is becoming a bigger player, maybe when you start running the FPS you can start putting in the recoil force chart as well. i think it would be nice to see how the recoil of the heavier slower matches up to the faster smaller etc. maybe we throw in some rifle weights and see how it all works together.
    in theory we can create the rifle parameters one should look at when choosing a caliber/rifle combo.

    • I like the idea, Brian … But I don’t ask for rifle weights. We could guess at it, but I’m not sure how helpful that would be. I guess if that approach works for you, the charts here provide all the data you’d need to do it. It’d be interesting to see.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  16. I have an AI AT that has a large firing pin bolt and I’m going to get another barrel for PRS. I know I can use the 260 Remington without any pressure problems. From my research, the 6.5×47 Laupa will probably exhibit pressure signs using a LFP in my rifle . What about the other 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges? I reload my own.

    Very informative article!

    • David, that question may be above my pay grade! Maybe someone else will chime in. It seems to me if you stay at safe/recommended pressures, you shouldn’t have any issues with any of them. But I may be missing something.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  17. Just a quick point of clarification. In your chart showing the caliber choices of the top 100 from the open division, I only count 8 total folks out of the top 10 indicated in the chart. Is this an error or am I just making a stupid mistake? I’m really curious about what those other two are shooting and I also wish the top 10 were also rank-ordered, rank by caliber.

    • Hey, Carl. You must be a detailed guy! I can certainly appreciate that … I’m pretty detailed myself. 😉

      Not all of the shooters completed the survey. Out of the top 30, there were only 2 that didn’t take it (93% participation) … and as you noticed, it was 2 guys in the top 10. I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, so I won’t mention who they were or what places it was. I know a lot of guys are very busy. That’s why I really appreciate the ones that did take the time to fill out the survey. This year we sent out the survey a few days before the finale, which was poor timing on my part. Those guys had a lot on their mind that week. Next year we plan to make the survey part of the registration process for the finale match, so I should get 100% participation if we do that.

      Here is the list of cartridges for the 8 guys in the top 10 that took the survey, starting with 1st place, Tyler Payne, on top … and then working toward #10. Once again, I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus by saying which place is which.

      • 6XC
      • 6×47 Lapua
      • 6.5×47 Lapua
      • 6XC
      • 6.5×47 Lapua
      • 6×47 Lapua
      • 6mm Dasher
      • 6mm Creedmoor

      I was hesitant to give that list, because I think you can draw bad conclusions from it. I honestly think if you took all of the guys in the top 30, and rechambered their rifle with any of these popular cartridges … they’d probably still land in the top 30. It’s more about the indian than the arrow. I know everyone has a favorite, and some people are REALLY passionate about it … but any of these cartridges are capable of a winning performance. So just because a 6XC won, doesn’t mean it’s superior. Likewise, just because a cartridge like the 6.5 Creedmoor wasn’t in the top 10, that doesn’t mean that it is inferior. It just means the best shooters this year weren’t behind a rifle with that case in the chamber.

      Now if you rechambered Tyler’s rifle in a 308 or a 223 or a 7 mag … his likelihood of winning would definitely go down. He might still be able to outshoot me and a lot of other guys, and maybe even still make it into the top 100 … but it’s probably unlikely that he’d be able to overcome that handicap to win it. My point is that if something makes this list, it’s likely capable of a winning performance with a good shooter behind it. So while this is fun to look at, don’t let yourself obsess over it too much. (By the way, that’s advice I need to hear myself often times … so I’m 1/2 way saying it so that I hear it! 😉 )

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Cal:

        Yeah, I’m both a scientist and attorney so I’ve got the worst possible case of chronic nit-picking you could imagine. And I’ve spent enough time putting together graphs and charts from raw data to know that it’s pretty easy to screw it up, at least for me. Your “missing data” explanation is what I suspected but wanted to confirm, and I like your proposed remedy too. I also like your caveat about over-interpreting the Top-10 cartridge choices. I just wanted to make sure my own weapon was chambered for at least one of their choices and it is, so I’ll go back to obsessing about other things. Thanks for the thorough reply.

      • Ha! I love it, Carl. We’re both afflicted. I consider it both one of my greatest strengths and one of my greatest character flaws! Just depends on the situation. I’d think as an attorney and scientist, an attention to detail comes in handy!

        Thanks,
        Cal

  18. Hi, following your blog and getting the bug to do this.

    It would be awsome if you could also ask the shooters about a sugested production setup and a budget setup. I get it that these guys are pros and use top gear, but it would be nice to get an initial vector for budget entry gear to try out the sport. Ex: caliber, rifle, minimum scope, other gear.

    Thabk you

    • That’s a great question. I noticed a few of the top shooters in the Production Division were using a Ruger Precision Rifle, and that is a great option for a budget/entry rifle setup. Another great option just came out a few weeks ago, and that is a Remington 700P in an AI Chassis from EuroOptic.com. Right now they have some of those setups on sale for $1350, which is almost what that AI chassis retails for by itself! I’ve heard a lot of guys say they could get those Remington 700P barreled actions to shoot sub-MOA right out of the box. I can’t say if that’s true or not. I’d expect most of them might shoot 0.7-1.0, but it all depends on the one you get … it could be better or worse. But even if it isn’t sub-MOA, you could always send it off to be blue-printed and rebarreled with a match-grade barrel by a good gunsmith later. A friend recently got a quote from GA Precision to do just that, and his estimate was $880. The guys at GA said when he got that rifle back it would shoot sub-1/2 MOA, which is about as good as anything out there. If you got it rebarreled, you could have it chambered in whatever cartridge you want at that time. So that setup might be a good base precision rifle that you could get started with, and then if you really start getting into this you’d have a solid “upgrade path” to a long-term setup you’d probably be happen with.

      Honestly, the RPR or the Remington 700P kit are both good options for a budget/entry-level build. Either way you’d be into a capable rifle at a fraction of the cost of a full custom rifle (typically $4-6k for a base rifle, no optics).

      For caliber/cartridge, I’d highly recommend the 6.5 Creedmoor because you can find affordable, factory match-grade ammo for it. PRIME Ammo and Hornady both offer capable, match-grade ammo for about $1.30/round … which is much lower than what you can find loaded ammo for these other cartridges for. The 308 and the 6.5 Creedmoor are the only 2 cartridges options with affordable, factory match-grade ammo. That really helps if you don’t want to take on handloading, or if you want to shoot more than tinker. In fact, factory ammo these days is so good that I’d bet it is more consistent than a lot of ammo handloaders turn out, unless they are super-OCD and have above average loading equipment. I have great loading equipment and am OCD … but I still shoot a lot of factory, match-grade ammo for practice. It take a lot of time loading if you’re going to shoot 3,000+ rounds a year! Lots of times guys are trying to learn how to shoot long-range and handload at the same time, and there are learning curves on both sides. Going with factory ammo (at least at first) can be a great option for a lot of new shooters. The 6.5 Creedmoor is still a great option if you handload, and has competitive ballistics with any of the cartridges on this list. But … it has the added benefit of good factory ammo options, so that’s why I typically recommend it and why I personally have several barrels chambered in it.

      As far as a minimum scope, here are what I think are capable scopes and a great value for the money (all under $1600):

      I know a lot of guys have a low-brow view of Bushnell, but I personally conducted the most in-depth test ever done on tactical scopes, and after that I believe they may be the highest value scope out there. It doesn’t have the sharpest glass, but it is good enough to make shots at any distance. You don’t have to be able to count the hairs on the target to be able to hit it.

      I also noticed a few guys using Burris scopes this year, so that might be a good option. I’ll highlight scopes in the next post, including what the guys in the Production Division were using, so you might wait and check that out for more details. I’m still crunching the data at this point.

      Hopefully that at least gives you a little direction. If you got either the Ruger Precision Rifle or Rem 700 with AI Chassis, you’d be in about $1300 for the rifle, then probably $1500 for a scope, and good scope rings (e.g. Badger, Nightforce) run about $200. So you’d be all in for around $3,000, and that would be a sweet setup that you could grow with.

      But don’t feel like you need a setup like that to start. I’d suggest trying a match with whatever you’ve got. If you know guys doing this, you might see if you can borrow a rifle. I shot matches my first year competing with a 7mm Rem Mag … not exactly ideal, but it’s what I had! But I sure learned a lot, and then when I eventually invested in a match rifle … I had a much better idea what I wanted. A lot of this comes down to personal preference, so it helps to get some experience under your belt if you can, before you start making buying decisions.

      Hope this helps, buddy! It’s a great question. I do want to help guys getting into this, so I hope you don’t mind the long-winded answer. Maybe one day I’ll do a post on it.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  19. Hi Cal,

    I’ve been wondering a while now if there might just be something lurking in the middle ground between the 6mm and 6,5mm which could provide a best of both scenario for the PRS crowd.

    I’m thinking along the lines of a .250 AI chamber in a fast twist .257″ barrel (1 in 8″) and a 120 – 130gr VLD style bullet. Maybe even the 47mm Lapua case with a straight neck down from 6,5mm.

    Velocity always in the 2950 to 3100 fps window.

    Question is why has the .257 Cal been sidelined in the long range efficiency race?

    We only need a bullet maker to provide one or two long range options at around 120 – 130gr and the game will be on.

    Fast twist barrels should pose no problem from a number of makers.

    Any one keen to step out there? (Hornady – Nosler – Berger)

    That difference of .257 to .264 seems awfully small and irrelevant but you know it is more than that and comes down to the balance of efficiency factors such as TOF, wind drift, barrel life, loading costs etc..

    Any comments out there?

    • Well, I think you hit the nail on the head. We follow good bullet designs to a large degree. I don’t think there is anything inherently better about 6mm or 6.5mm over the 25 caliber. If someone would make some high-BC, match-grade bullets for it … it’d be a valid option. The question might be will a manufacturer spend the dollars to develop 25 caliber bullets knowing it is currently such a small market segment compared to 6mm and 6.5mm. If the space becomes competitive enough, someone may eventually give it a shot!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      Cal

  20. Hey Cal,

    How are ya? Hope all is well.

    I’m curious about an apparent shift in focus in your article. Not criticizing; just want to understand better. I’m probable being dense like the box of rocks I can be.

    In your first couple of charts you show that the favored rnd was the 6mm L both in this year and last year yet then in the next chart, you show that the 6.5mm L is the top caliber? Then, throughout the article, the primary discussion is on 6.5mm?

    I don’t have a dog in the fight YET, but I am definitely looking for a path to follow. So I read the first part of the post and thought “OK, I’m gonna follow the 6mm path.” But then I read the rest of the post -twice- and now I’m thinking that maybe I should follow the 6.5mm path.

    I’m not chasing a caliber but I am lookin for an entry point. Guide me Sensei!

    • Hey, Dave. I essentially just provided a paragraph or two of commentary on each chart, and then at the end I mentioned the new Lapua 6.5 Creedmoor brass, just because I figured some of my readers might not know about that … and it’s big news for shooters like me. But 1/2 of the new brass I bought (pictured in that photo), I plan to neck down to 6mm. My plan at this point is to have a rifle chambered in both 6mm and 6.5 Creedmoor.

      To your point, the 6mm caliber was more popular … but the 6.5×47 Lapua was the most popular cartridge. The 6mm’s were split pretty evenly over 5 different cartridges. On the other hand, on the 6.5 side most of the shooters all congregated around the 6.5×47 Lapua. In fact, there were almost twice as many shooters using a 6.5×47 Lapua as any other cartridge. But that doesn’t negate the fact that there were still more shooters using 6mm bullets … they were just launching them from a lot of different chambers.

      I know a lot of guys get VERY passionate on this topic, but I’d suggest we blow the comparison out of proportion. There are a lot of guys using both the 6mm and 6.5mm, because they are both great options. It isn’t like there is an obvious advantage to one or the other. Jim See mentioned that a lot of guys are moving to 6mm now because match directors are required to put a flashing light that indicates hits on targets beyond 800 yards. The goal of most of us is to use the lowest recoil cartridge we can that still provides competitive ballistics and has enough energy for the RO’s to call our hits. On 6mm rifles, most shooters use a 105-115gr bullet. On 6.5, most use a bullet closer to 140gr. So the 6.5 will usually pack more energy downrange, which makes it less likely that you’ll hit a target and the RO wouldn’t see enough disturbance to call it a hit. But, if everyone is using those hit indicators on targets beyond 800 yards … then that isn’t really necessary. And some would say a good RO should still be able to call hits on distant targets even if you’re using a 6mm. It’s hard to argue that isn’t right, but at the end of the day most of the RO’s are volunteers and I’m just grateful they’re out there to help put on the matches.

      Ultimately, I think Bannon’s advice does a GREAT job of summing it up: “Pick one in 6mm or 6.5mm, stick with it and learn it. Once you have something in either 6mm or 6.5mm it is the shooter’s ability after that. You’re not going to swap to a magical caliber and all of a sudden start winning matches.” I’ve used both 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges in matches, and I don’t think I have a measurable performance difference with either of them. I’ve also ran WEZ Analysis on a lot of these, and the difference in hit probability is so small that it would completely be “in the noise” of the shooter’s ability to call wind and hold. You might ask why I have rifles chambered in both … and that’d be a great question. I originally started off with a 6mm, and I built my 6.5mm rifle for that barrel test that was published in Litz’s book. Me and a friend had 2 identical rifles built by Surgeon Rifles that we used in that test. So I don’t have both because I think one is better than the other. Some of it is because I just like to try stuff and tinker.

      I know this might not be what you are looking for, but I’d suggest to just pick one of these cartridges and go with it. These are all excellent choices, and I doubt any of us would be noticeably better with one over another.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  21. Cal ,

    You made “mention” of the Tactical shooters , and the predominance of the .308 in the category , and left it there . How bout a little more data in that area , also ? There are still .308 shooters out here , who do this type shooting to keep our skills to a necessarily “needed” level . And I don’t think the book has been closed on new , or updated information for that caliber . Think we all know “why” Tactical Shooters don’t shoot the 6, 6.5, etc . L/R accuracy is one thing . Hit power on target is another .

    • Hey, Gene. Really I’m just trying to present the data with a little commentary or interesting notes for each area. The Tactical Division is still just a tiny fraction of the shooters in the PRS … so I didn’t spend much time focusing on that. Honestly, it’s less interesting what cartridge they use because it’s regulated to either 308 or 5.56/233.

      You seem a little sensitive on this topic. The 308 is still a great cartridge for many applications. Don’t feel like I’m trying to talk you out of it. It sounds like you like it, and I always say: “Don’t fix happy!” As you mentioned, when you need energy down range … the 308 can be an excellent option. But in this style of match, we’re shooting steel targets and we only need enough energy for the RO to be able to call the hit. Anything more than that provides no advantage in this game … in fact, it becomes a handicap because you’re adding more recoil without any real benefit. The 308 is great when you’re trying to kill stuff, but we’re just ringing steal. When you’re ringing steel targets at 300-1200 yards from improvised positions under tight time constraints … the cartridges used in the Open Division likely provide the best balance of ballistic performance and recoil. Keep in mind, what cartridge is the “best” is always highly dependent on the application.

      But, hey man. I know there are a ton of guys who just like to argue the 308 is the “best” … or that it is obsolete. I’m not one of those guys, and I’m not interested in getting into one of those debates. If you’re happy with it, I’d stick with it. Don’t fix happy!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  22. What are your thoughts on the .25-284 winchester? I would like to try out long range shooting but not at the point where I want to purchase a rifle to do so. I have the .25-284 would it work to start with? Thanks.

    • Honestly, Will, that’s the first I’ve heard of it. That certainly doesn’t mean it’s not a good one though. I’ve heard of 6.5×284 and 6×284 … so why not?! Wish I could be more help.

      Ultimately it comes down to what bullets you’re going to run out of it. I typically start with a bullet in mind and ballpark muzzle velocity and work backwards. The next step is gathering a short list of quality brass options that are actually available. I personally don’t love wildcatting or a bunch of steps to form brass (some don’t mind it), and I prefer Lapua brass, but also shoot a lot of Norma. That’s how I land on cartridge, but it’s certainly not the only way to do it. I guess I’ve never got to the 25×284 because there aren’t a lot of high-BC match-grade bullets for that caliber that I’m aware of. But I’ll admit I haven’t done a lot of looking, so there certainly could be some out there.

      Do you already have a bullet in mind?

      Thanks,
      Cal

  23. ….very informative tech info, thank you! Hope to see more coverage on the PRS Gas Gun series, especially the tech aspects, keep up the great work!

    • Yes sir! It’ll be interesting to see how the gas series does this year. Maybe I could report on it next year if it takes off.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  24. Once again the 6.5×47 gets left out in the cold. Even though it is clearly the winning cartridge all that can be talked about is Creedmoor this Creedmoor that.

    • Hey, man. I just talked more about the Creedmoor because of the new brass. I figured guys would like to know about it. I did mention the 6.5×47 Lapua and 6×47 Lapua led the way in terms of popularity this year. I bet there are a lot of readers who didn’t know about Lapua making 6.5 Creedmoor brass, and they might find that helpful. I’m just trying to help people out here.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  25. I am just curious. I have heard that some websites are getting paid to push the Creedmoor? Is that true here?

  26. Cal:

    Was interested in your comments about barrel longevity. Is the loss of accuracy in a worn out barrel only due to irregularity in muzzle velocity? Or are there other, equally important, factors? One test would be to correlate correlate accuracy of individual shots in a group with their muzzle velocity. Could calculate the effect of muzzle velocity alone on location of bullet hole and thus determine if muzzle velocity was the only factor or other factors were involved.

    I have been studying “Rifle Accuracy Facts” and would suggest the sub-title should be The Book of Revelations.” Almost every page has a conclusion based not only on experimental evidence but also theoretical analysis. With regards to bullets HRV presents three accuracy degraders – core striping, bullet inbalance, and bullet cant in the bore. There factors are rarely, if ever, discussed and I wonder why. Technological innovation in bullet manufacturing? Certainly monometallic bullets would eliminate core striping. And greater bullet density homogeneity would lessen inbalance, perhaps to level where bullet inbalance is no longer significant compared to the other accuracy degrading factors. According to HRV one factor creating canting is a bullet with a tapered afterbody. I wonder if the tapering of the afterbody involves a tradeoff of canting with BC?

    As always your posts generate interesting questions on the one hand and happiness that shooting standing, offhand at short range means they are of intellectual but not practical importance.

    Rick

    • That’s a great theory, Rick … but I’m not sure it matches my experience. I realize that is anecdotal, but in my experience … the group sizes never really open up in any statistically significant way. For the 6XC barrel I burned up recently, I shot it to 2200 rounds and it was still shooting 5-shots groups under 1/2 MOA. In my experience, it’s only the muzzle velocity that becomes inconsistent. I’m sure at some point the groups would start to open up, but I guess I toss the barrel before it gets to that point.

      What’s funny is that I’ve done a lot of load development over the years, and I’ve found that sometimes my tightest groups had a really high standard deviation in muzzle velocity. Being a long-range guy, a low SD (i.e. consistent muzzle velocity) is critical, so I try to ignore those tight groups and let SD be my guide. I won’t stop until I get single digit SD’s. For example, I just did load development on a new barrel this month and on one of the load combinations I tried I measured the SD over a 10-shot string to be a dismal 17 fps SD (using a LabRadar that I’ve validated over a bunch of other high-end chronographs). Yet one of the 5 shot groups for that load with the stupid-high SD measured 0.16 MOA! So even if your muzzle velocity isn’t very consistent, you may still be able to shoot tight groups at 100 yards. If I find a load with single digit SD’s, I’ve found my groups are always pretty good … but they might not be the smallest group of any load. Low SD typically equals decent groups, but High SD doesn’t necessarily mean a big group. They seem only loosely related!

      I guess that’s why benchrest shooters can just throw their powder charges with a powder measure … but most of these long-range guys weigh the powder charge on every round. Here’s the chart from last year that shows how the guys in the top 100 weight out their powder:
      Weigh Powder or Throw With Powder Measure

      And I TOTALLY agree with you about how awesome the “Rifle Accuracy Facts” book is. I had that on my shelf for a long time before I ever cracked it. I read a lot, and have a stack of books waiting on me at any one moment … but that one was different than the rest on my shelf. It was REALLY, REALLY good. That guy was something else.

      Bullet manufacturing has come A LONG way in the past decade. Most of Vaughn’s research was done in the 90’s, and the book was published in 2000. So you may be right that some technological innovations have addressed some of the issues to some degree.

      I believe most of what I learned in that book is still applicable, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in investigating the more technical aspects of precision rifles … or those of us who just like to challenge the way they think about things. I promise it will make you question some of the things you thought were facts. I’ve become friends with a guy who was friends with “Harry” Vaughn and his family, and we’ve been trying to get them to republish “Rifle Accuracy Facts” or sell the rights so we could do it for them. It’s a legendary work and I wish everyone could have an opportunity to read it. Vaughn operates on a whole different level than 99% of the people who have ever lived. He was a genius.

      And in any good study … it usually leads to more questions than answers. So I’ll take that as a compliment! Most the time if a study leads to a clean conclusion or clear answers, we should all be skeptical. That just isn’t the way this usually works, at least in my experience. The more I learn, the more I am aware of all the things I don’t know!

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Cal:

        Most interesting comments.

        If I understood them, for your scenario the longevity of a barrel is determined by muzzle velocity inconsistency but not by group size accuracy at one distance. The reason is that you are shooting at long range targets with targets considerably separated in distance. And you want first shot hits. Thus, a 5 shot group with excellent accuracy at one distance but inconsistent muzzle velocity means cannot predict ballistics with sufficient accuracy at a different distance.

        As another observation, if the main source of inaccuracy at 100 yards is muzzle velocity variation and the average muzzle velocity is around 3000 fps then I can well believe the group size could be 0.16 MOA if the muzzle velocity SD were 17 fps. Think about the Houston Warehouse Experiments. I am certain a bit of WEZing would confirm that.

        As to the loose correlation between muzzle velocity SD and group size, it must be the variables controlling muzzle velocity dispersion for the shots in a are not those controlling group size dispersion. How is that for stating the obvious.

        A real advance in understanding will come with a system that easily measures both the muzzle velocity and location of every shot in a group.

        Rick

      • Good points. There are lots of factors that play into group dispersion at 100 yards, and variance in muzzle velocity is just one of those … and it might be a relatively minor part of it. But at 1000 yards, variance in muzzle velocity is a larger contributor to group dispersion. That’s why I pay more attention to SD than group size at 100 yards.

        And what you just described at the end is exactly what I was hoping to do by combining a LabRadar, a target camera, and a SCATT training device (the newer model that can be used for live fire). That setup would take it a step further and you could record your EXACT point of aim when the trigger was broken AND when the bullet exited the muzzle. It’s a very high-resolution device. I’m not sure I’ll ever have the time to tap into the potential of a setup like that, but I think I now have all the hardware to make it happen. It’d be interested to fire a hundred rounds through this setup with 5-6 different rifles/calibers and see if there was any interesting patterns in the data.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  27. Cal,

    Its great to see you’re posting again! I knew the holidays would be busy but I almost thought we lost you, haha.

    I just began buying up equipment to reload down the line, probably by the end of summer when I have everything. I was wondering if you could poll these guys about some of the steps they take. I read your last post on what the pro’s use for reloading but I had a couple follow ups, if you dont mind.

    1) What press do you use?
    2) a. What dies do you use?
    b. carbide?
    c. micrometer top?
    3) Do you crimp your rounds?

    Thanks again for all the work you do!

    • Sorry, Adith. I polled these guys last month … so I can’t tack on more questions. I did ask what reloading press and dies they use, and I plan to publish that in an upcoming post. So stay tuned for that.

      You’ll be able to see what dies they use in a later post, and although there might be a way to special order some in carbide … I think it’d be unlikely that these guys would be using carbide. From what I understand, lots of guys (including me) use carbide dies for straight wall cases (like pistol), because you can do that instead of using lube. For bottleneck cases like these rifle rounds, we use steel dies and along with a lube like Hornady One Shot. Inconsistent lube around the case can negatively affect bullet runout, but Hornady One Shot lube allows you to get a very consistent coverage. I bet there are lots of guys using dies with micrometer tops and lots that are standard tops. That feature is designed for convenience, but it doesn’t necessarily affect the quality of the ammo. If you can afford the few extra dollars … I’d prefer the die had a micrometer adjustment.

      Crimping could potentially affect SD, so I bet these guys would avoid that too. I can’t think of any reason it’d be necessary for a mid-sized cartridge bolt gun. People use that in semi-autos or possibly big magnums because the rounds are being slammed into the chamber or slammed around under recoil.

      Some of that is a guess, although I do know several of these guys personally … and what I said describes their view as well. So maybe it is a guess + a little anecdotal evidence! 😉 Maybe I’ll ask more specifics in this area if we do it again next year.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  28. Hello Cal…

    You probably don’t remember me, but years ago you helped me “fine tune” my shooting skills with my then Savage .308 “HS Precision”… and then later helped me move up to my current set up: Savage “Model 12 Benchrest” 6.5×284 Norma with a Vortex “Razor HD” scope and Spuhr mount.

    After about 200 rounds I sent the rifle back to Savage for a “custom tune” job. I was lucky and got Savage’s top sr. gunsmith to work exclusively on my rifle… functions like Rolex. The 6.5×284 Norma ammo I’ve used since day-one with this rifle, which you highly recommended, is HSM Trophy Gold 140gr Berger Bullets. Great ammo!!

    Anyway, with all the talk in recent years about 6mm this and 6.5mm that… esp. the 6.5mm Creedmoor… and others, I’ve never seen any articles or discussion or tournament results on the 6.5×284 Norma… and it was my understanding at the time I decided to go with this round that it was basically the “cat’s ass” in the world of long-range precision shooting.

    Now, that is not to say that the other rounds are not nearly as good, as good or even better than the 6.5×284 Norma… but if the Norma has the reputation it has, then why is it that there is virtually no mention of it anywhere, if at all? It’s as though I have been shooting an “underground round” the past four to five years.

    I would also like to take this opportunity to THANK YOU, Cal… not only for your absolutely superb website, but moreover all the help and advice you’ve given to me over the years. All greatly, greatly appreciated. Take care, my friend…

    • Hey, George. I do remember that conversation. The 6.5×284 is a great cartridge, and is still very popular in many shooting disciplines, including 600 and 1000 yard benchrest, F-class, and even long-range hunting. I personally used a 6.5×284 at the Gunwerks Long Range University Level III course this summer, and it was lights out! I shot a 3″ 3-shot group at 1100 yards and hit targets beyond 1 mile with it. There is also Lapua brass for it, which makes it especially attractive and capable of top-shelf performance.

      So it is still one of the most capable long-range rounds you can buy, and I’ve personally thought about using it in matches like this before. But, there are 2 things that have kept me from doing it (at least so far):

      1. Decreased Barrel Life: Since you’re launching 6.5mm bullets much faster than the 6.5 Creedmoor or 6.5×47 Lapua, you can obviously expect barrel life to be shorter. I’ve heard guys saying they got 1000-1500 rounds of accurate barrel life out of a 6.5×284, and that wouldn’t be enough to get me through a full season. For reference, most of these cartridges have a barrel life in the range of 1800-2800.
      2. Increased Recoil: As you probably read in this post, recoil management is a big part of this game … and while I don’t consider the 6.5×284 to be a heavy recoil gun, it does have noticeably more recoil than the mid-sized 6mm’s you see here that are popular. That makes it more difficult to stay on target to watch your bullet splash and make corrections.

      These are the 2 common downsides to improved exterior ballistics. Almost anytime you’re comparing 2 cartridges, you have improved ballistics on one side and these other 2 on the other side and we’re all just trying to strike “the right” balance for our situation. That’s why a lot of times there is “a best”, because it’s relative to how much you value one side or the other.

      When buying a factory rifle, you’re limited to a subset cartridges. The 6.5 Creedmoor, 243 Win, and 6.5×284 are among the top choices for factory rifles engaging targets out to 1200 yards.

      Hope this helps,
      Cal