Meet The Pros
The Precision Rifle Series (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 15 different matches are evaluated and the top 50 shooters nationwide are invited to compete head to head in the PRS Finale Match. The info below is based on the equipment those pros brought with them to the most recent finale. 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. 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?
Best Precision Bullets
It probably isn’t a surprise to anyone that Berger bullets dominated the Precision Rifle Series. Just over 60% of the bullets shot were Berger. Others represented were Lapua Scenar, Hornady A-Max, Seirra MatchKing, DTAC VLD (David Tubb’s proprietary MatchKing design), and Swampworks JLK bullets.
Berger Bullets now has several bullet designs. In the past, Berger VLD bullets have dominated the long-range shooting scene … but it looks like the newer Hybrid design was more popular among precision shooters, with 65% of those shooting Berger bullets opting to use Hybrids.
Best 6mm Bullets
Berger released the 6mm 105gr Hybrid Match bullet in late 2011, and it has been in high demand ever since. Over 65% of the shooters using 6mm bullets chose the Berger 105 grain Hybrid. In fact, 1 in 3 shooters in the whole competition were using that bullet. With all of those top shooters buying the same bullet, it explains why they can be tough to find. I talked to Berger last week, and they said they’ve schedule to retool their line in November to produce more 105 grain Hybrid bullets.
The 115gr DTAC is a bullet produced by Sierra for David Tubb according to his proprietary specs. David Tubb used this bullet at Camp Perry in 2004 to not only win, but also set the record for the NRA’s National High Power Long Range Rifle with the only perfect score ever fired (1450/1450). Unfortunately these bullets are also very hard to find. I talked to Superior Shooting Systems (David Tubb’s company) earlier this week, and they said the production of those bullets has been pushed back once again and they now expect to have a shipment at the end of January or early February 2014.
Best 6.5mm Bullets
The 6.5mm crowd was more evenly split between a few different bullets. More people picked the 139gr Lapua Scenar than any other, with the Hornady 140gr A-Max was a close second. I suspect at least some of the competitors shooting those bullets were using factory match-grade ammunition, because there are great options in those for both the 260 Rem (what all of the Lapua bullet shooters were using) and the 6.5 Creedmoor (what all but one of the A-Max bullet shooters were using).
I have a close friend that shoots the Hornady 140gr A-Max Factory Match-Grade Ammunition out of his Surgeon 6.5 Creedmoor, and it is a tack driver. He can put 10 shots inside a 1/2″ circle with that factory ammunition. He has asked me multiple times why he should consider handloading … the truth is, you’d be hard pressed to improve upon what he is getting out of the Hornady factory ammo. He has found a couple of bad batches (loaded too hot from the factory), but that was some time ago and those bad batches are likely already off the shelves. Hornady produced a ton more 6.5 Creedmoor ammo a couple months ago, and none of the new batches have given him any problems.
Best 7mm Bullets
There weren’t many 7mm bullets in the competition. I personally shoot a 7mm in competition, and I currently load the Berger 168gr VLD. Another great option is the Berger 180gr Hybrid. I was very surprised to not see it listed, because it is definitely a viable option for long-range use.
Best Rifle Powders
Hodgdon’s H4350 dominated the scene with almost 75% of the shooters using H4350. H4350 along with all of the other Hodgdon powders used are from their Extreme Series line. That means the Hodgdon Extreme Series Powders combined for a staggering 93% of powders used. All of the powders in that line have Hodgdon’s thermally desensitive coating technology, which has been proven to have significantly less temperature sensitivity and lot variation than other powders.
I personally use Hodgdon Extreme Series Powders exclusively (I pay retail for it … they are not a sponsor), and have always been able to find at least one of the powders in that line to shoot in any of my rifles. But honestly, if I couldn’t … I might consider trading the rifle before I tried a different kind of powder. I’ve just witnessed so many shooters struggle with temperature variation in competitions. They might have dope that is dead on early in the morning, but as the day heats up (which can be extreme in West Texas) they start missing or have to switch to a different card. Some guys I shoot with even use Reloader powders, which are notorious for this. They say they get their best velocities and groups with that powder, and don’t seem to think much about how it can handicap them through temperature variation. I honestly don’t understand why you’d ever reach for a powder like that when you were doing load development … apparently most of these shooters think along those same lines.
Not all Hodgdon powders are in their extreme series, only those that sport the “Extreme” logo shown here. A full list of those powders are listed below, and for more info you might also read this article that includes test results showing the variations found for the Extreme powders versus other popular powders.
Hodgdon Extreme Series Powders:
- H4831 & H4831SC
Best Powder for 6mm Bullets
I grouped the 6mm bullets with similar weights to illustrate which powders these precision shooters found most accurate. There were just two groups of bullets: 1) those weighing either 105 or 107 grains, and 2) those weighing 115 grains. H4350 was the overwhelming choice for 6mm bullets, with 62% of shooters choosing it. I was actually surprised to see H1000 on the list, because it is a slower burning powder than what is typical for 6mm, but one shooter found it to shoot well and he ended up in the top 10 with his 243 Win.
Best Powder for 6.5mm Bullets
I grouped the 6.5mm bullets with similar weights, and they also fell into two major classes: 1) lighter bullets weighing 123 or 130 grains, and 2) heavier bullets weighing 139, 140 or 142 grains. Once again, H4350 dominated the shooter’s selections.
Best Powder for 7mm Bullets
There weren’t many 7mm in the competition, but here are the powders represented. I personally shoot a 7mm in competition and have also found Hodgdon’s Retumbo to be a very good powder choose for Berger 168gr VLD bullets.
Other “What The Pros Use” Articles
This post was one of a series of posts that look at the equipment the top 50 shooters in the country use. Check out these other posts:
- Best Rifle Calibers & Cartridges
- Best Long-Range Scopes
- Best Gunsmiths, Actions, Barrels & Stocks
- Best Precision Bullets & Powders
- Best Precision Suppressor & Muzzle Brake
- Best Rear Bag Shooting Rest
I just discovered your site after a bunch of people have been sharing it on Facebook. I like how you’ve presented the gear the PRS shooters are using, well done.
With regard to your friend shooting the Surgeon 6.5 Creedmoor with factory ammo. 10 shots inside a 1/2″ circle is awesome, and I assume that’s at 100 yards. But what I’ve found with most factory match ammo is it shoots well at 100 yards but the velocities are not consistent, which hurts long range (>600 yards) accuracy and precision. Inconsistency in velocity leads to vertical dispersion at distance, and might vary enough to cause the bullet to fall outside of the accuracy node of the rifle, if you believe in that sort of thing. I’m probably preaching to the choir here but so many people base their load development on relatively short range group size and miss the importance of consistent, low standard deviation velocities. Do you think your friend could improve his long range precision by carefully weighing each powder charge and using brass fire formed in his Surgeon chamber?
Again, great site here, I look foward to reading your future posts.
Christopher, you are absolutely right about the impact that even minor variances in velocity can have long range. It is a fact many long range shooters overlook, and it can seriously handicap you as you start stepping out in distance and leave you frustrated and confused. My friend I was talking about does run his ammo over his Oehler 35P chornograph (professional grade “proof” chronograph) regularly, and I believe his SD with the Hornady match ammo is in the single digits. I want to say it was 7 fps last time he told me, but I could be wrong. He is actually in Tahiti for the next week (tough life), but when he gets back I will double-check and reply to this comment with the real number. I do know he is able to hit very consistently at 1200 yards, so you certainly can’t do that if you have major variances in velocity.
I checked with my friend that shoots the Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor 140gr A-Max Match loaded ammo, and his SD is 12fps on average. That’s even over different boxes and lots. He’s probably shot 2,500+ rounds of it, and done well in competitions. It’s good stuff (excluding the one bad batch last year … He threw it out).