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Rifle Caliber

Rifle Caliber – What The Pros Use

Welcome to “What The Pros Use” 2018 Edition! I recently surveyed the top ranked shooters in both the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) and the National Rifle League (NRL) to learn what gear they’re running in long range rifle matches. These guys represent the best precision rifle shooters in the country, and over the next several posts I’ll be publishing the results. Learn more about the PRS & NRL.

Most Popular Rifle Caliber

I can remember a time when there was a battle between which caliber was most popular: 6mm or 6.5mm? That battle appears to be decisively won at this point, because 6mm bullets clearly dominate precision rifle competitions. 7 out of 8 of these top shooters use a 6mm cartridge.

Best Rifle Caliber

On the chart above, the various colors represent where a shooter landed in terms of rank. For example, black indicates shooters who finished in the top 10 in the PRS, the darkest blue is people who finished 11-25 in the PRS, and the lighter the blue, the further out they finished in overall standings. The green colors represents the top shooters in the NRL, where the darkest green is the top 10, medium green is 11-25, and light green are the shooters who’s season rank landed from 26th to 50th. The chart legend itemizes the league and ranks each color represents, but basically the darker the color, the higher up the shooters placed.

While the 6mm dominates the chart above, there are a couple of things worth noting:

  1. At least one of the top 10 guys in each league said they used a 6.5mm, so rest assured a good shooter can still be competitive with them.
  2. Two guys in the NRL’s top 50 said they were using a 22 caliber, and that’s the first year that’s popped up among top shooters.

The NRL rules allow a rifle of “any caliber between .224 to .308 and not to exceed 3,200 fps.” The PRS has similar rules but doesn’t limit caliber on the smaller end. However, I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised to see guys using 22 calibers at this level. Shows what I know! 😉

Magneto Speed Target Hit Indicator T1000The trend seems to be going to smaller calibers and smaller cases. The reduced recoil helps shooters better spot shots when shooting from improvised positions off barricades. Something helping this trend is the growing use of target hit indicators, like those made by MagnetoSpeed. Those are now common at most major rifle matches on targets 1,000 yards and beyond. That means you don’t have to rock the target to get the “IMPACT!” call from the RO. In the past, more guys were using 6.5mm bullets because there is nothing more frustrating than actually getting a round on target but not getting a call for it. So terminal energy was an important consideration, but the more widespread use of target hit indicators has decreased the need for more energy on the target and allows us all to use lighter bullets at lower speeds.

Most Popular Rifle Cartridges

When we dive into the specific cartridges guys were running, there has been a significant shift over the past couple years. The 6mm Dasher (aka 6 Dasher) has become a fan favorite – by a fairly wide margin.

Rifle Calibers

The 6mm Dasher has been widely adopted among top shooters, but the 6mm Creedmoor is still a favorite as well. In fact, it takes the next 3 cartridges combined to equal as many people as those shooting the 6mm Dasher or 6mm Creedmoor. Almost half of the top shooters are using one of those two cartridges, at 47.4%.

The 6XC was still represented in good numbers. The Creedmoor and “x47 Lapua” case designs are both very similar to the 6XC cartridge.

Then you have a group of cases: 6mm BRA, 6mm BRX, and 6mm BR. Those, along with the 6mm Dasher, 6mm Comet, and 22 BR are all variants of the 6BR case. You can see a nice side-by-side photo of the 6mm BRA and 6mm Dasher below (photo courtesy of Wheeler Accuracy, shared with permission). I’ll dive into all of these 6 Dasher and 6mm BR cartridges in more detail towards the end of this post.

6mm BR vs 6mm BRA vs 6mm Dasher

The good old 6.5×47 Lapua and 6.5 Creedmoor are still represented in significant numbers. I realize a lot of guys reading this who own a rifle chambered in one of those. Please don’t feel like you should trade it in for one of these new, shiny cartridges. Those cartridges are still capable of top-tier performance. I personally recommend the 6.5 Creedmoor to more of my family and friends than any other cartridge. Remember that looking at what gear these guys are running is fun, but don’t let it steal your joy or contentment of using what you already own.

On the survey I asked these top shooters, “If you could give a new shooter one piece of advice, what would it be?” Here is some timely wisdom from a well-respected veteran on this topic in particular:

Wade StutevilleStart with good gear, then focus on yourself in learning and improving your fundamentals.  Don’t chase equipment, speed, new cartridges, etc.” – Wade Stuteville, 2012 PRS Champion & perennial top 100 competitor, and owner/gunsmith of Stuteville Precision, partner in Impact Precision Shooting.

Of the guys in the NRL using a 22 caliber, both were using the 22 BR. One finished 20th and the other was 39th overall for the season in the NRL, so that cartridge can be competitive with a good shooter behind it.

Lastly, one of the top shooters was using a 7mm, which was the 7MMachine. It was launching the 150gr ELD-X at 2,810 fps. I asked the shooter, Matt Neitzke, about it and he said, “The 7MMachine is nothing too special. Just a 30 degree 7mm-08. I love this cartridge though. It routinely out scores my 6XC.”

Now let’s take a closer look at the cartridges among the top 10 shooters in each league:

Long Range Caliber

The story in the chart above echoes similar trends to the wider group, except the 6mm Dasher is even more dominant among the best of the best shooters! 40% of those ranked in the top 10 in either league were running a 6mm Dasher. That’s crazy, considering only 6 of the top 100 in the PRS were using the Dasher when surveyed two years ago. It’s pretty clear that the best precision rifle shooters in the country put their money on the 6mm Dasher when it comes to long-range shooting.

How Much Does Cartridge Matter? As long-range shooters, we tend to obsess over every little detail. This post uses Applied Ballistic’s Weapon Employment Zone (WEZ) analysis tool to gain data-driven insight into how different field variables in real-world shooting affect the probability of hitting long-range targets. Learn how much hit % changes based on which cartridge you’re shooting.

Rise of the 6mm Dasher & Other 6BR Cases

48% of all the shooters surveyed were using a cartridge based on the 6mm BR case. That was even higher at 65% among those who finished in the top 10 in either league!

Here is a look at the most popular variants these shooters were using that were based on the 6mm BR. Each has small tweaks that adds a little case capacity to the 6mm Norma BR case. However, if you held these cases in your hand it might be hard to tell them apart without close inspection.

6BR vs 6 Dasher

Norma has released brass for the 6mm Dasher, so that you don’t have to wildcat it from Lapua’s 6mm BR brass if you don’t want to. The Norma version of the 6mm Dasher features a slightly longer neck too. But of all the 47 shooters who said they run the 6mm Dasher, only one of those said they were using Norma brass – 46 of 47 said they were using Lapua brass. Some shooters say Norma made the 6mm Dasher brass too thick, which made it have slightly less powder capacity and the muzzle velocities you could achieve were around 100 fps less than if you’d used Lapua brass.

t could be that the Norma brass may just not be as readily available, or these guys may just prefer to do the extra steps of wildcatting for the quality of Lapua’s brass.

The 6mm Comet and 22 BR are other cartridges a couple of these guys were using that are based off the 6mm BR. I couldn’t find a lot of info on the 6mm Comet, but it sounds similar to the Dasher. The 22 BR is obviously a 6BR necked down to 22 caliber.

Until recently, the overwhelming majority of shooters were using cases like the Creedmoor, “x47 Lapua,” and 6XC, which all have a case capacity very close to 50 grains of H2O. The 6mm BR cases represent a significant departure to cases with a 40 grain capacity of H2O. That’s a 20% reduction in case volume between a Creedmoor-class case and a BR-class case!

Case Capacity by Rifle Caliber

This decrease in capacity means you’re burning less powder per shot, which should extend barrel life. I’m sure that is appreciated since 65% of these guys shoot 4,000 rounds or more each year! But it’s not like there is a 20% decrease in velocity or energy at the muzzle. In fact, based on the muzzle velocities these shooters said they were running, there is only a 4-5% decrease in muzzle velocity from the 6mm Creedmoor to the 6mm Dasher, so these cartridges are simply “more efficient.”

I asked each shooter what bullet and muzzle velocity they were running, and did some analysis on that. Here is the typical muzzle velocity the shooters were running in the top 6mm cartridges. (Note: Most these guys run a 26″ barrel.)

Typical Muzzle Velocity by Rifle Caliber

One last interesting point is that I asked each shooter what their standard deviation (SD) was for their muzzle velocity. If you’ve never heard of that, we often reference SD as a gauge for the consistency of your muzzle velocity shot-to-shot. If you have a small SD like 4 fps, it means that most of your shots are very close to your average muzzle velocity. A larger SD (like 15 fps) would indicate that your muzzle velocity varies pretty significantly from your average, which means you’d expect to see more vertical spread in your impacts at long range. We all want really low SD’s, and many of us fixate on getting that number as low as possible. Some cartridge designs make achieving a low SD easier than others, and while it certainly isn’t totally driven by case design, I thought it’d be interesting to look at what SD’s these guys were getting on average based on the cartridge they were running.

Average Standard Deviation by Rifle Caliber

The chart above shows one more reason so many guys are loving cartridges based on the 6BR – all of them have an average SD that is around 5 or less! Keep in mind that this based on what the shooters themselves said their SD was, but it was averaged over a relatively large group. The 6.5 Creedmoor data is only based on 5 shooters that said they handload and use that cartridge, but all the other data is based on responses from 9 or more of these top shooters. I don’t want to over-simplify this, but that’s a pretty interesting result from this unique sample size.

For more details on these newer cartridges, check out these links:

Stay Tuned!

Stay tuned for more posts in this “What The Pros Use” series in the near future, as I cover other equipment these top shooters said they’re currently running. At least one of those posts will dive deeper in the reloading components, and it will share a little more related to cartridges including the specific loads these guys are running.

This is one of several posts based on a gear survey of the top PRS shooters. Want to be the first to know when the next set of results is posted? 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. 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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  1. Christmas came early with “what the pros use 2018”, thank you Cal!

    • Ha! You bet, Robert. Ho, ho, ho! On 6mm dasher, on 6mm comet, …

      • Happy Holidays Cal! Can you do a ‘what the pros use’ for sniping coyotes at distance?? Im having a custom walnut stock made that I want to use an Area rail & RRS anvil 30 on my Pig tripod. I have a lot of questions. 🙂
        Thanks agin for your work!

      • Ha! I can tell you much of what works well for positional shooting in PRS-style matches translates to performance on coyotes out in the field. My daughter smoked two coyotes with head shots from my match rifle off the tripod I use in matches. The key is to get a steady position, and a heavy rifle on a tripod with some good technique can be close to as steady as a prone shot. The pro coyote hunters I know use pretty basic setups, so you don’t need all the fancy gear to smoke a coyote … but I bet if they tried one of these they’d be impressed.


  2. Could you gather what percentage of the top shooters are Lefty?

    • That’s an interesting thought. I’ve obviously already finished the survey for this year, but I added this to my list of ideas to consider asking next year. That’d might be helpful for manufacturers to know. I bet it’s similar to the general population, which is 10% … but it might not be because what side you shoot with is often driven by what eye is dominant, which might be different than right/left handed. It’s an interesting question for sure, so I might ask it next year.

      Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. I have to admit the caliber evolution in PRS is a little surprising, yet somewhat unsurprising as well! 6mm BR was the absolute king in 600 yard competition almost 20 years ago (and still is, with dasher being the AI upgrade). It is a bit shocking that everyone was using 6.5 Creedmoor, then 6×47 Lapua, then 6mm BR.

    It’s a logical progression towards efficiency. The barrel burning aspect is what prevents most from even getting into 6mm. I do hate having to size down brass in stages when I make 6×47 Lapua out of 6.5×47 Lapua cases- the BR would be an interesting no size alternative if Norma is providing the brass.

    6XC seemed to be king for awhile there too, I was considering that for my next build but now all I can think of is the BR!

    • I know exactly what you mean, Chris. I think a lot of it has to do with games like the PRS originally starting out as primarily prone matches, and they’ve changed over the years to primarily improvised positions. I think a lot of that was just to try to make things harder as the community in general became more competitive shooters. Also, as I mentioned in the article the target hit indicators have definitely helped. I’ve heard a couple of the top shooters say that specifically when I was squadded with them at a match. When even a light hit at 1000 yards results in a light going off, you get the point … you don’t have to hit it like a Mack truck anymore. The last thing is probably similar to what you said. The 600 yard Benchrest crowd had already figured some of this out, and we’re just catching up. The 6mm Dasher is a lights-out performer when it comes to precision and consistency. I do bet it’s easier to tune a load to be 5 fps or less SD with that than these larger cartridges. Those short, fat cases just seem to be easier and more efficient.

      And if Lapua responded to the market to started producing 6.5 Creedmoor brass and 6mm Creedmoor brass, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 6mm Dasher brass from them after this post. I wouldn’t have said that 5 years ago, because it was like Lapua never listened to the market. But I was shocked when they started producing 6.5 Creedmoor brass, and then really shocked when they started producing 6mm Creedmoor brass.

      I personally shoot a 6mm Creedmoor currently, and shot a 6XC for 2-3 years before that. Both are still very competitive. You put one of the best shooters behind either of them, and they’ll still be one of the best shooters. Personally I still love the 6mm Creedmoor because I can buy Lapua brass and not have the hassle of wildcatting … and I love the option for affordable, match-grade factory ammo. I use Hornady factory ammo for all of my practice sessions instead of handloading all that ammo too. For me, that makes sense, because I just don’t have the time. But obviously these guys are all better shooters than me, so the 6mm Dasher and other 6BR based cases are all great options as well.

      And who knows, one day we may all be running 6 PPC! 😉


      • Actually with SD for a given case design its a matter of %. The ratio of bullet weight and powder vol and primer % effect. You really can see the science in this is the FT class shooters. Consider why you never see .223 winning at the 1K line? They have bullets with the BC to easily do it with both 90 and 95 gr. Its standard deviation vs the 308 that kills it. Fact is the powder column of the 223 is just too small in a % to not only the accuracy of the loading weight but more to the point as a % factor to variations in primers power or vel variation effect. You will never see single digit SD consistency in a 223 win and just from the variation is elevation from the vel alone creates a issue for a winning formula once you step past 700-800yd.

        What is being found here is really not a barrel life savings as that is not an issue for the top shooters. Its where is the sweet spot between needed vel and hits on target recoil and consistency of load. With rules capping off the use of real lazer hyper vel loads to save targets from being chewed up you are basically running in that 3000 fps cap as it found more accuracy stable nodes seem to be in and round 3K near the top limit.

        What they want is cartridges that are super efficient and given large generous accuracy nodes that work in large variations of temps and other environmental conditions. With the high BC 6mm bullets of the last 10 yrs this gives the best of all worlds. Low recoil, efficient powder columns (btw for any given design small powder column is always more efficient than larger one all things being equal). Wind Wind Wind. As long as it can handle the error rate of the wind they will be using the lightest load they can. No reason not to.

        IMO 22 now that they are using electronics to indicate hits has some real possibles especially with the 95 smk and its stupid crazy real world .6 BC. Take a 22 dasher or the like 26″ barrel with a proper throat for that long body 95 SMK and you have a setup with no recoil flat shooting setup that can match the 6mm out to 1200 yds. With that said nothing will be dethroning the 6mm any time soon. I predicted the 6mm would dominate PRS way back in the infancy of PRS when Berger started hinting at a new high BC bullet in development.

  4. Thank you for compiling all this data

  5. Cal,
    It appears that the top shooters are using rounds that generate a very small SD as well as low recoil. I know you’re intensive about your research. I’ve seen recoil calculators based on bullet weight, powder charge and rifle weight. Do you have a future article that might compare a calculated recoil number based on these factors vs. where the top shooters are aligned? Keep up the great analysis.

    • That’s an interesting idea, Wade. I don’t plan on doing that, but you’ve peaked my curiosity. This year I did ask all the shooters about their rifle weights and their loads, which I’ll include in a future post. So I seem to have all the data. I’ve done those calculations before, but the values don’t always seem to translate to “perceived recoil” in my experience. I wrote about perceived recoil quite a bit in this post, back when I did that big muzzle brake test. You might find it interesting: http://precisionrifleblog.com/2015/07/01/muzzle-brakes-recoil-primer-test-equipment-rifles/


  6. 6mm to 6.5 bois

    “The future is now old man”

    • Ha! Well, this things has gone through a cycle like that before … so who knows! Three years from now we might be back on the 6.5, or we might be down to the 22 BR. You never know!

  7. Nice work as always , very interesting. On another note would you mind sharing what reloading dies you are using for your 300 Norma mag. Would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for your support in the sport and all the information you gather.

    • Thanks, Joel. I use the Redding dies on my 300 Norma Mag. Specifically the two die set, with the competition seater and then the full-length type S match bushing sizing die.

      Redding Type S Match Bushing 2-Die Set 300 Norma Magnum

      In related news, I have a post coming up that will show what dies all these guys are using … 😉


  8. Excellent write up as usual Cal. I look forward to your next article!

  9. I really appreciate all the work you put into this. I find your articles fascinating. Do you expect the trend toward smaller calibers to continue? How small can they realistically run and reach the distance needed for competition?

    • Thanks, Steve. Great question. I’d noticed several guys at competitions were using a Dasher, but didn’t realize so many had moved over to it. I’m not sure anyone knows where the trend will go, but I’ll give you my 5 cents since you asked. It’d be hard for me to see everyone moving to 22 caliber. It seems like the Benchrest guys are mostly using 6mm, even at short range … so I’m skeptical that it’ll go below that, but could be wrong. As far as case size and speeds, it seems like maybe they might have gained some consistency in muzzle velocity by not pushing it as hard, going from 6-7 fps SD’s to 4-5 fps … but can you really expect better than that with an even smaller case size/design? It seems unlikely.

      At the end of the day, I’m a little surprised to see so many already moved over to the Dasher … and it could continue in that direction, but who knows! That’s why it’s fun to see how this really shakes out!


  10. Thanks for your excellent write-up, Cal. I always look forward to seeing your updates.

  11. Excellent review. I am looking for the 6 mm BRA standard deviation or close to that. Is it possible to do with a purchase of $1,300.00 (excluding the scope)? What is the best place to start shopping.

    Thanks again for all of this data. You definitely have the gift of giving.

    • Ivan, I’m afraid a 6 BRA is a custom chambering, and so I’d be shocked if you could find it for that price. Here are a couple options you might consider:

      • $1300 RPR Factory Rifle in 6mm Creedmoor – If $1300 is your budget, I’d go with a Ruger Precision Rifle in 6mm Creedmoor. It retails for more than that, but you can find it for $1300 or less on GunBroker.com.
      • $2000 Semi-Custom Rifle from PVA in 6mm Dasher or 6BRPatriot Valley Arms makes a rifle called the “John Hancock” that is a steal of a deal. It’s semi-custom, meaning you don’t get to pick every detail (like it’s only offered in a few chamberings) … but is as high of quality as most custom rifles. It’s built on a good action and has a good chassis, and is probably the highest value of anything in it’s class that I’ve seen.
      • $3000+ Full Custom Rifle in 6BRA – If you go the full custom rifle route you will get to pick everything, but the price will be higher. I’d say it starts close to $3,000 and goes up from there. The average custom precision rifle might run around $4-5k. If you really, really have to have the 6 BRA, this is the only way I know of to get it.

      If anyone else has suggestions, please chime in! These are just the few that came to mind.


      • Thank you Cal, glad you put this into perspective. Sometimes I think I enjoy the loading process more than the shooting. SD is just another measurement I found that best shows ability of balancing all the right ingredients that go into 5,10,20,50 shots- showing an a mature reloaders ability (with equipment that is not industrial). All of these fanatics (myself) looking for the perfect loads help create “Best Practice” to shorten the path (spending) to better accuracy and precision. Just as you are skillfully doing with all of this data.

        I think you pointed me in the right direction 6mm Creedmoor will serve my purpose.

        Thank you again.

      • You bet, Ivan. A lot of people are that way. We like to tinker with loads and ammo. My personal match rifle is a 6mm Creedmoor and I don’t feel like I’m giving anything up. I might not be at the “elite” level were it makes a difference. For me, the shooter is still by far the weakest link! And there were 2 shooters in the top 10 in the PRS and 1 shooter in the top 10 in the NRL running a 6mm Creedmoor, so put a good shooter behind it and it still wins lots of matches!


  12. Awesome write up as always. So much detail but in simple terms. Very anxious for the next one!

  13. Seems better SD is the new hype.

    • Maybe so. This was the first year I’ve asked about that, and I’m the one drawing the correlation … so I’m not sure that’s driving behavior, but you may be right. I only hedge slightly because there is a saying though, “Correlation does not imply causation” and it might apply here. Just because the guys using those cartridges get a low SD might now be why they went there. It could be that the guys who went there are the ones who are most maniacal about their loads, and they would have also been the ones with the lowest SD’s even if they were shooting a Creedmoor. Is it that those cartridges are “inherently” more consistent? That’s a big question, and it’d be really hard to prove statistically. I know I have a chart that kind of leans towards that, but it’s far from conclusive, that’s all. Just don’t want to over-simplify what’s going on.

      I personally think low recoil is the new hype, and low SD is a nice benefit. But who knows. All these guys probably have different reasons for making the switch. At the end of the day, we can’t blame this one on sponsors! 😉


  14. Cal:

    While reading the blog what came to mind was WEZ. Let me say as an aside that WEZ is a terrible name. The acronym should be AFA, accuracy factor analysis, or PFA, precision factor analysis depending if accuracy or precision is your game. But just words.

    In the scheme of WEZ how big a deal is the difference between various types of 6mm ammunition or even between 6mm and 6.5mm? Until you can quantify the marksmanship component of the weapon system such as effect of recoil/perceived recoil, I presume will never know.

    With all the “progress” in equipment, do the scores increase year to year? The proof of the pudding. What about a blog doing a statistical analysis of the scores. All sorts of fun to be had.

    Last but not least, Season’s Greetings, All the Best in 2019 and hope you move up the PRS ladder.


    • Great question, Rick! I should have probably linked to this in the article, but I totally forgot. Here is what I think is a great summary of WEZ analysis on how much a cartridge matters:

      How Much Does Cartridge Matter?

      In fact, I should probably go back and insert a link to that in the article, just so people can keep this stuff in context.

      From a pure ballistics perspective, launching the same bullet at a slower speed would typically decrease your hit probability. But launching the same bullet at a slower speed with a smaller SD, would probably balance things back out (at least I’d bet it would). I may do that analysis later and see if that’s the case, but that’s where my money would be.

      I don’t know if the scores increase. I bet more than that the difficulty of the matches increase, so it’s not like there is a baseline match we could judge it from. It’s a good question. I do know it is way harder to land in the top 10 today than it was a few years ago. These guys practice a RIDICULOUS amount to stay as sharp as they are, and you can see if someone doesn’t have as much time to practice they drop back in the ranking pretty quickly. But the level of competition and what guys are able to do with a rifle is just getting better every year. I’d bet if the guy who won it 5 years ago was magically transported to today and competed with the same level of skill, he might finish somewhere between 20-50. That’s just my gut though, watching these guys. I know I’ve improved dramatically, but my place at a match hasn’t gone up much. The truth is everyone is getting better, so to perform at the highest level you have to put in the time at practice, and I’m talking a lot of time. In fact, I plan to talk more about that in a future post because I added some questions around that.

      Thanks for the comments!

      • Cal:

        Some king or the other in the past was told there is no royal road to learning mathematics. Just a lot of intellectual perspiration.

        There is no royal road to marksmanship either just plenty of physical and perhaps some intellectual perspiration. You and others have said this time and again but can never be said too often. You cannot buy marksmanship.

        The question becomes the correlation between PRS standing and practice time. Presumably a very positive correlation between amount of practice time and standing. Of course equal practice time does not produce equal results because of differences in natural ability. Unfortunately also cannot buy natural ability, only can maximize. That leads to question of quality of practice. Does one practice regime suit all? Am I being the straight man to a future blog?


      • You bet, Rick. I totally agree, and yes … there will be an upcoming blog that will touch on that in the near future. Already in the works! 😉


  15. The issue with the Norma 6 Dasher brass was not availability, it was that Norma made the brass way too thick and acheivable velocity was around 100 fps less than what was acheivable with the Lapua brass. There are some long threads about this between many of the top shooters in the Facebook 6 Dasher BRX BRDX Discussion group.

  16. Thank you again for you excellent work. Your detail and analysis always provide a few new nuggets for me to think about. Your blog contains some of the better “rocket science” our sport is based on.

    • Thanks, Dan. I know I appreciate when someone just presents the data with a little commentary and lets me make up my own mind … instead of having an agenda or trying to sell me on something. So that’s what I’m trying to provide here. I’m fortunate to not need to make money off this, and can just tell it like it is! I’m glad to hear that it resonated with you.


  17. Hi Cal! Great article, as always.

    Do you think you could do an article specifically about the guns and gear that are being used in the gas gun classes? I am having a hard time finding any good data, even on the number of competitors and how competitive it is. Being a person that appreciates the mechanical nature of the semiauto, I would love to see more coverage.

    I did do a search on your site, but it didn’t come up with much. Appologies if I missed something good.


    • Thanks a good idea, George. I only focused on the bolt gun series this year, but I like that idea. I added it the list of ideas for next year’s survey. Honestly, that might be one of the best ideas I’ve heard yet. I’d be very interested to see what those guys were running, and to see how different or similar it was to these bolt gun cartridges. Thanks for the idea!

      The only thing I’ve ever written about precision gas guns is the post below. You might check it out. I know it’s not exactly what you’re looking for, but you might find it interesting:

      6.5 Creedmoor AR Showdown


  18. This statement: “Some cartridge designs make achieving a low SD easier than others” …
    Why would that be ?

    • That’s a $1000 question right there. The truth is, I’m not sure. There may be a handful of people in the world who have insight into that, but honestly that gets into internal ballistics, and I haven’t ever come across someone who claimed to be an expert in that. Lots of people make claims about a cartridge being “inherently accurate” or “easy to load for”, but exactly what dimensions or characteristics about a cartridge give it those properties (or if that is even true at a level that is statistically significant) would probably require a larger study than anything I’m aware of that has ever been done.

      I would say that it seems like the trend over the past several years in this world and Benchrest is to shorter/fatter cartridges … rather than cartridges with long columns of powder (like the 300 Win Mag). There may be some ideal proportions between the diameter of the case and the headspace of the cartridge, as well as the angle of the shoulder and length of the neck that play into how easy a cartridge is to tune to a very low SD. I’d imagine the ideal dimensions might also change based on the powder you were using, so it’s a lot of variables that you’d have to fix and play with to come away with anything that you could draw hard conclusions from.

      I think I wrote an article a couple years ago that identified a few interesting trends among popular cartridges that had been designed in the past 10 years, regarding shoulder angle and neck length, and they all seemed to be very similar. So there may be some best practices emerging, but I’m afraid when it comes to internal ballistics we are probably still in the steam engine days where tinkering and experience in the field are driving cartridge popularity more than hard science.

      Hope that helps! I guess it’s a long way to say “I don’t know!” 😉 But it’s a fantastic question. I wish I did know. If anyone has any insight into this or knows of real studies that have been done that we can read, I’d love to know about it!


  19. Hi Cal

    I decided to drop a comment mostly to say great work I really enjoy your articles and the way you lay out the info so we can apply our own values to compare data.

    Up in Canada we don’t have the number of prs comps that you guys do so it’s not something I have done. Yet…..
    I never had a tutor so being self taught I have had to learn many things the hard way and have spent a lot of time comparing different therorys on reloading and rifle set up etc. Just because people say something is the best doesn’t say that it truly is. What pieces of equipment the top shooter used is of less interest to me then the why. Being able to compare different years really helps with “guessing” the why’s.
    The 6 Dasher might be fad or it might not two years from now we will know lol. Going 22 Cal I would feel will become to hard on barrels because of the very fast twist needed to shoot 90-100 vlds and velocity requirements to match 6mm ballistically. Going to the 6 Dasher to conserve barrel life makes sense even if you give up say even 100 fps there is very little lost in hit percentage. By the way you articles on does it matter are great. I am trying the opposite larger case slower powder but so far it looks like I have greater SD with slow power vs faster so the smaller case with less powder might be the way to go. Drat now I need to order another reamer….
    Your question on SD was a very good question to ask I never would have thought of that based on the case and would have pointed more towards the reloader and his choice of components and goles but that maybe a point to look at.
    Thanks for the hard work I hope you enjoyed creating it as much as do reading it.

    • Right on, John! I couldn’t agree more. I’m a guy who loves to not just know “the what” … but really want to understand “the why.” You don’t know how much that resonates with me.

      And thanks for the compliment on the “How Much Does It Matter?” series. That was very interesting for me to write, and I learned a ton doing that. For engineering types and those who just like to tinker, here is a link to that:

      How Much Does It Matter? An Objective & Quantifiable Way To Understand How Much A Variety of Topics in Long Range Matter To Hit Percentage

      I do think there are some cases that are easier to get tiny SD’s out of than others. Not only does that align with my personal experience, but I’ve heard some of these guys say that same exact thing to. I’d love to see a large study done to show that and quantify it, but I guess it’s just a theory at this point. If this were a full-time job with unlimited budget, that’d definitely be something fun to test!

      I appreciate the thoughtful comments.


  20. Thanks for all your excellent reporting on “What the Pros Use” Cal ! Barrel life for the various cartridges would also be of interest to many. I know that many PRS shooters use multiple barrels/year. I’ll bet most of the top shooters have a pretty good idea of the round count they expect – and most, if not all, stock extra barrels so they can quickly replace a barrel during the competition season. In my discussions w/some top shooters they share that speed/MV (and thus less drop and wind hold) is way more important to them than barrel life.

    • You’re right, Jim. Great idea! Honestly, that depends on so many factors, including how hot your barrel gets and how much you allow it to cool between strings. So if you just ask one person, you might get something that is 500-1000 rounds different than if you asked someone else. But it’d be very interesting to ask this group of guys in particular, and then see what the average (or probably more applicable would be the median). I didn’t ask it this year, but I’ll definitely ask it if I do this again next year.


      • Thanks Cal, I’ll look forward to it. This is a bit off topic, but still about barrel life. Do you know of any data on barrel life for the “straight jacket” barrels, especially in the precision rifle/PRS/ NRL type of shooting? Thanks again!

      • I don’t, Jim … other than what I shared in my barrel test that was published in Bryan Litz’s last book: Modern Advancements In Long Range Shooting Volume 2. I shared some of Todd Hodnett’s experience with it in that book. I do have one installed on one of my personal rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, but it’s only up to around 1,500 rounds at this point … which is still within the normal accurate barrel life of a traditional steel barrel.

        If anyone reading this has experience with barrel life on the Straight Jacket, please chime in and educate the rest of us.


  21. Shorter, fatter, smaller shoulder angle, and smaller projectile always ends up being a barrel burner in my experience. I’d say the gold standard is something like 308, where 3000 rounds of top performance and accuracy is easily achievable. Knock off another 500 rounds for a 6.5 cartridge, and when you get to 6mm it’s going to be a good barrel that can take 2000. Start to go AI and higher pressures, lower intervals between strings, and harsh use and you see 1500.

    The 6mm BR competition guys love to shoot fast strings in competition to get the best wind conditions, so they commonly see 1000-1500 for 6mm Dasher. Of course mileage varies, but the 6mm is a barrel burner comparatively speaking.

    Another aspect is the fact that competitions breed highly specialized equipment and results that can get further and further away from anything valuable in real world situations. I have no doubt a 6mm has better flatter trajectories and is capable of lower SD’s. But hitting a gong at 1000 doesn’t mean it can do anything else other than that, and militarizes know this and have avoided these calibers for a reason. It’s a complex subject and it’s always controversial- and it goes back over 100 years. Paul Mauser used to argue with his engineers about 6mm vs 7mm vs 8mm all day long back in the 1890’s!

    I guess the philosophical question is this: Is it better to hit your target hard or hit it accurately?

    • Great points, Chris. Thanks for sharing. I agree. We want it all, but in the end everyone is trying to strike “the right” balance between these competing characteristics: Ballistics, Precision, Recoil, Terminal Energy and Barrel Life. You can’t have the best of all of them, and what “the right” balance is depends on the application. If you’re ringing steel that’s different than punching paper, which different from hunting, which is different than military use. I don’t believe in the supremacy of any one cartridge, it’s all about the right tool for the job … and even then there is a lot of room for interpretation and opinions. So like Mauser, we’ll continue to debate! That’s part of the fun of this game. We can all decide what we think is the best and bring it to compete.

      I still think if you take someone in the top 10 and give them a 6mm Creedmoor or 6 BR or 6 Dasher or 6×47 or 6XC … they’d still land in the top 10. It’s more about the shooter than the cartridge, but all of us still have that nagging voice haunting us from the back of our mind that maybe the new ____ could help us be better! We all have it! So the debate continues, and I’m sure will still be raging 100 years from now! 😉

      I appreciate the thoughtful comments. Great input.


  22. 6mm Dasher has been king of Long Range benchrest 600-1000y for quite a number of years now ,but its still suprising that shooters let off the chase for speed (remember people shotin .243win). Kinda wonder have distances at matches droped ,as unless most of the shooting is sub 800y more speed would still be beneficial at longer ranges

    Also changes in velocity between 6dasher and 6Creedmoor is suprisingly small with lighter bullet but expectedly larger with heavyer bullet.

    Things that kinda make you wonder are:
    Mag feeding 6BR and wildcats was always considered poor mag feeder what changed?
    People willing to go trough all the case prep for Dasher ,what changed? Dasher is far from a new round.
    Of all the calibers 6mm bullets advanced the least in past couple of years.

    • Interesting points. I don’t feel like the distances have changed substantially, but I could be like a frog in boiling water … if the change was slow over a few years, I might have just not noticed it. The thing is, each match is different and the match director gets to decide how far the targets are. The match-to-match variation is part of what makes this fun. There are more ELR/PRS matches popping up like the Q Creek ELR Match in Wyoming that definitely have shots further than traditional long range matches. This year it had shots out to 2,000 yards, although most of the shots were 800-1700 yards. Overall though, I’m not sure. Some matches are certainly shorter than others.

      I’ve heard the issue about mag feeding, but I think I’ve heard people say those 6 BR cartridges feed well out of the new magazine from American Rifle Company. I tried it with 6mm Creedmoor and it didn’t feed well, but it might be more designed for those Dasher-type cases. I might could tune on it and get it to work, but I just went back to the AI’s.

      On the hassle of case prep … yeah, I’m not sure. I don’t want to do that, but apparently all these guys don’t mind it. You can now buy hydroformed Lapua brass that at least claims to be “match ready” without fire-forming. The company claims “HLR 6 Dasher brass is in use by multiple nationally ranked shooters in the country,” so apparently some of these guys are going that route, but I’m not sure how many. Sure is nice to take a case out of the box and just load it, so if that actually worked, it’d be the direction I went.

      The 105gr Hybrid is a good bullet, and the 115gr DTAC was another incremental improvement (in my opinion) … but overall, I agree. There has been some bigger improvements in other caliber bullets than the incremental improvements in the 6mm bullets. But with how many guys are shooting them, it’s bound to happen at some point.


      • In any case 6mm sure makes less of a dent in pocket end of the day.And even tough Dasher is considered a barrel burner in BR you have to take in account much higher accuracy demanded , a burned out BR barrel is still a tack driver in a practical rifle so you might be looking at longer usefull life than BR crowd

        I myself run a wildcat as well a .284 Shehane on my tactical/practical long action rig(keeps up with the big magnums and is also a very low SD round), euro sniper comps are low round count events and on the long ones most use .338LM so 7mm alrealy feels like underdog.

        Things that kinda changed for me was die availabilty with Whidden Gunworks offering many of the ‘race’ calibers at good prices (prior to that wildcat dies cost pretty penny and were hard to get).
        High BC 7mm bullets became availible .

        Case prep is substantial compared to 6.5mm creedmoor. -284 Shehane is just about the max you can squeze out of a .308 bolt face

        As for chasing speed ,have shot 6.5×47 in the past now making ready 6.5creedmoor barrel,i kinda realised that if you want speed go for round with a bigger case do not chase the limits of smaller one only causes issues .

        Note the custom Mags used for High Power , 6 BR in the past , to prevent nosedives

      • Thanks for sharing. I couldn’t agree more with your point about starting out with a larger case, rather than pushing to get that last 50 fps out of a smaller case. There are so many cases to choose from these days that you can always find one that can provide the speeds you’re looking for without having to red line on pressures.


  23. Do you have an article that compares barrel life with the various 6mm (please include .243 win.) & 6.5mm rounds?

    Thanks for the hard work you do in all of your articles!

    • Chris, I don’t and the main reason is barrel life depends a lot on how someone shoots, and how much they allow the barrel to cool between strings of fire. But someone suggested I ask this crowd what their typical barrel life is on the survey next year, and I think that’s a great idea because you could average it over a large group of people to quantify the variance and also what is “typical.”

      But, I also know how frustrating a “it depends” answer is … so I’ll try to just give you what my gut would be on “accurate barrel life” for a few cartridges based on what I’ve experienced or heard from others. Even what “accurate barrel life” means will vary by the person. Some of us might be penny-pinchers and hang onto a barrel longer than others would. Benchrest shooters may replace a barrel when groups grow outside of the 1’s. A shooter replaces a barrel when expectations are no longer met, and we all have different expectations. In my own experience, I usually replace a barrel when the muzzle velocity starts to drop off and become less predictable. If I believe the muzzle velocity might drop by 20-50 fps over 200 rounds (the round count over a 2 day match), I’ll toss the barrel. But honestly the precision may still be there when I replace it. Once I fired a 0.11 MOA 5-shot group with one of my 6XC barrels just 200 rounds before I replaced it. That’s not always the case; sometimes the precision goes but it’s just as likely that the muzzle velocity could be the reason I replace a barrel. When the velocity starts to go, it won’t always be linear (in my experience). By that I mean a barrel might be shooting 2950 fps for 200 rounds, then over the next 50-100 rounds it drops 30-40 fps, and then maintains that for an unknown amount of time and quickly drops another 25 fps. That kind of behavior can shake your confidence, and if you go to a match with a rifle like that you will always be questioning whether your muzzle velocity is what you think it is. Was that miss low because of you, or a vertical wind you didn’t account for, or the range was off slightly, or because your muzzle velocity just dropped? In my opinion, this is game is too hard to allow one more variable to enter the equation!

      So here is what I’d guess “accurate barrel life” might be. I know there will immediately be guys who argue with this (which is okay), so I’ll add the disclaimer that your mileage may vary based on how hot you let your barrel get, how hot your load is, and when you decide a barrel no longer meets your expectations:

      • 308 Win: 3000 rounds
      • 6.5 Creedmoor: 2200-2500 rounds
      • 6XC: 1700-2000 rounds
      • 6mm Creedmoor: I’d expect this to be similar to the 6XC, but I’ve heard a couple guys say they had a barrel that didn’t make it to 1000 rounds. Once again, mileage may vary. I’d bet that shorter life could even be due to lower quality of steel in that particular barrel. Barrel manufacturers can’t fully control the quality of the steel they’re working with, so milage could even vary by lot of steel. The guy who told me that is one of the top 10 shooters here, so I should also say that competitions can really put some wear on a barrel on those stages with a round count above 8 rounds. I once had to replace my 300 Norma Mag barrel after just 500 rounds, because I used it in a match that made it get really hot.
      • 243 Win: 1000-1200 rounds
      • 6mm BR: 2000-2500 rounds (according to this article)
      • 7mm Rem Mag & 300 Win Mag: 1200 rounds

      There are two articles I’ve found helpful when thinking through barrel life. The first has an Excel spreadsheeet that attempts to calculate the barrel life. It’s rough, but is the best attempt I’ve seen at trying to make this quantifiable so you have something to compare cartridges with.

      Hope this helps!

  24. I’ve been trying to find more information on the 7MMachine cartridge that was used by one shooter. Google isn’t turning up anything for me. I’m assuming it’s a wildcat used by only a couple people, or maybe even just the one guy.

    • Hey, Tyler. I tried to look up some info on it before I published this article, and also wasn’t able to turn up anything. I’ve emailed the shooter who was using that cartridge and asked if they could share some details or point us in the right direction for where we could find that. I’ll let you know what I hear back from them.


    • Tyler, I talked to Matt Neitzke, which is the shooter using the 7MMachine. Here is what he said

      The 7MMachine is nothing too special. Just a 30 degree 7mm-08. I love this cartridge though. It routinely out scores my 6XC.

      He said you could contact him on Facebook if you had more questions: https://www.facebook.com/M-Machine-711831565660702/


  25. Hello
    I use Savage 110 fcp hs precision 300 win mag and 11 hog hunter 308 win and Mossberg mvp lr 308 win .
    for 2019 i will buying Savage new scout 308 win and Savage 110 Brush hunter 338 win
    I like rifle stainless steel .
    I wich you good healt for the new year and happy new year , my GOD bless you ,and protect you .

  26. Wow, as a country bumpkin who loves to shoot his 6.5 Creedmoor out to 600 yards (max range on the turnip farm), I enjoyed reading the comments section almost as much as the article (almost as much). I’m a professional nuthin’, but I’ve known some “professionals” and I’ve observed something common to professionals-they can make stuff work that won’t work as well with amateurs. Pro athletes can squeeze extra juice out of fancy bats, rackets and shoes, but everyone else just squeezes out extra money. Don’t get me wrong, they need that slight edge to win. Sprinters at 100 m train for years for an extra 0.1 second. Also, specialized gear has specialized intricacies. Put a race car in the hands of a Toyota Camry owner, and watch the car hit the rail. Not worthy of your time, but I would be amused to see groups of the average weekend-local range-500+ yard shooter with a RPR 6.5 Creedmoor and a 6mm Dasher. I bet those groups are the same. As you have covered. The wins come from the shooter more than anything.

    As a side note, I shoot at a club bench rest match. Everyone there shoots a full bench rest set up with a short and fatty 6mm cartridge. They humor me and let me shoot my factory 6.5 Creedmoor on a bipod on the last bench. Granted, their front rest costs more than all my gear, but that’s not the point. They shoot 1 inch groups at 600 yards. I aim for sub MOA. Apples to oranges. But pro gear in the hands of a pro results in amazing results.

    • Ha! Well I am very intentional to try to keep my opinion out of the post content, but I’m more free with it in the comments, especially if someone asked a direct question. So the comments can be a little more lively and raw.

      And you are spot on, Paul. If you are an elite athlete (or elite shooter), then maybe the 1% increase in performance from some piece of gear could help … but for most of us the shooter is by far the weakest link. I admit that is true for me! Any performance increase from switching cartridges would be “in the noise” of my match performance.

      Very, very well said, Paul.

  27. Cal , i can’t tell you how much i appreciate and look forward to your articles. there is nowhere else to get this kind of insight. Keep up the good work man.

    Thanks again

  28. It will be interesting to see how many in our series down here in Australia change up what they use because of this article and the other articles coming. Time will tell.

    • Ha! Yep, there is always some bandwagoning that occurs after this for sure. I guess we’re all hoping if we just use the same thing the good shooters are, we’ll magically become better ourselves. While using a competitive cartridge can help, I’m not sure switching from one competitive cartridge to another will yield much results. We’d probably be better off just going to the range and practicing! 😉


  29. Superb series of articles … professional, unbiased and allways informative.. keep up the good work
    UK tactical team

  30. ahhhhhhh; Feel like I need a cigarette now cal after getting my WTPU fix. You are the authority on data collection for the sport we love. Thank you so much for bringing this back to life. It puts quite a bit of perspective on things. And I love how you collect and report the data free of bias. Keep up the great work. I’d imagine there’s a few hours in each of these pretty articles.

    • You bet! There is several hours that goes into each, but it’s a labor of love. I hope my passion for this comes across, because I do love the sport. This is as interesting to me as anyone reading it!


      • Cal,
        I know all the top PRS shooters use a bolt action but I would really be interested in the AR10 semi auto that PRS has as a different class. What rifles they shoot, what kind of accuracy is necessary to compete, what are the most popular rifle manufacturers, what is the most common caliber used in competition, what barrel length is commonly used for AR10 style rifles, why don’t more shooters compete in this class, etc. I have complete confidence that if you take up his task, you will give a comprehensive and accurate review of this particular PRS class of shooters. It appears, based on your recent post concerning your dual 6mm builds, that you are a bolt guy, but I can’t see anyone but you reviewing the semi- auto class of PRS.
        Thanks again for the time and effort you put in to inform all of us of the latest and greatest in th PRS world

        Wade Mertz

      • Great idea, Wade. I may survey the gas gun guys next year, but didn’t this year. I did write this article you may be interested in reading: 6.5 Creedmoor AR Showdown. That article also talks about a lot of reasons that guys run bolt action rifles instead of gas guns.

        That’s the gas gun I bought after running that test. I own a JP in 6.5 Creedmoor and it’s pretty sweet. I won’t make claims about it being “the best” … but I’d bet it’s one of the best precision gas guns you can buy.


  31. Hello, would You mind if I will translate this article and put it in my blog? I will add the link to this article obviously and explain the origin…
    I’m trying to popularize this kind of shooting in my country (Czech Republic).
    Thank You

    • Harry, I’d be okay if you wanted to translate the words and provide commentary in Czech, but please don’t copy the graphics. Just link people to this original article to see the charts and diagrams.