I’m so excited to start sharing the data I collected in a massive field test I conducted on 19 different types of 6.5 Creedmoor match-grade factory ammo. With the price of this kind of 6.5 Creedmoor “match-grade” factory ammo hovering around $3/round right now, it seems like this series might be especially relevant! That’s too expensive for most people to experiment with several brands and types of ammo, so hopefully, this research will help guys narrow down their search to a couple of the best-performing brands and types to try in their rifles.
I know there are a ton of guys shooting a 6.5 Creedmoor, so I wanted to help them out by testing every type of popular 6.5 Creedmoor factory ammo that is marketed as “match” ammo. With so many options on the market, I wanted to try to give some context for the type of real-world performance guys might experience for each brand and type. Like most tests I do, this is going to be completely over-the-top!
I bought a box of each type of ammo from an online distributor, then waited 6 months and bought another box of each type of ammo from a different distributor. I measured a bunch of dimensions of the loaded ammo, then fired almost 1,000 rounds over a few days at the range, and carefully collected all the data. I ended up investing around $4,000 out-of-pocket on this research project because I know it will help a ton of shooters. I suspect this is one of the most in-depth match ammo tests ever conducted.
Here is the complete list of the ammo types that were included in the test:
- Barnes Precision Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. OTM
- Berger Match 6.5 Creedmoor 120 gr. Lapua Scenar-L
- Berger Match 6.5 Creedmoor 130 gr. Hybrid OTM
- Berger Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. Hybrid Target
- Black Hills 6.5 Creedmoor 147 gr. ELD-M
- Copper Creek 6.5 Creedmoor Berger 140 gr. Hybrid
- Copper Creek 6.5 Creedmoor Berger 144 gr. Long Range Hybrid
- Federal Premium Gold Medal 6.5 Creedmoor Berger 130 gr. Hybrid OTM
- Federal Premium Gold Medal 6.5 Creedmoor Sierra 140 gr. MatchKing
- Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor 120 gr. ELD-M
- Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. ELD-M
- Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor 147 gr. ELD-M
- Norma Match 6.5 Creedmoor 130 gr. Golden Target Hybrid
- Nosler Match Grade 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. Custom Competition
- Nosler Match Grade 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. RDF
- PRIME 6.5 Creedmoor 130 gr. MatchKing (USA-Made)
- Remington Premier Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. OTM
- Sig Sauer Elite Performance Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. OTM
- Winchester Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. MatchKing
If you missed the intro post on why I picked 6.5 Creedmoor or more on how I ran all the tests and how I plan to analyze the results, check out this article.
Measured Round-To-Round Consistency
Like all of my field tests, I was determined to objectively measure and test everything I could. I carefully fired and recorded data on almost 1,000 rounds of 6.5 Creedmoor ammo during this test, but I started by quantifying the physical round-to-round consistency. That’s what this article will focus on.
I took a box of each type of ammo and measured these attributes for all 20 loaded rounds:
- Concentricity (a.k.a. bullet runout)
I will say there were more than a few surprises in which ones were super-consistent – and which ones were NOT! Even though these were all marketed as “match” or “target” grade ammo, a few of them didn’t fall into what I’d consider match-grade tolerances – at least based on my 10+ years of reloading experience. I thought it would be interesting to see how much correlation there was between the consistency of these physical properties and performance in the field in terms of group size and muzzle velocity consistency.
I also invested in a Sartorius Entris II BCE64-1S Analytical Balance and an extra box of a few types of ammo so I could take the rounds apart to measure how consistent the powder charges were in terms of weight. Those results were very interesting! I will share those weight measurements in this article, and in a subsequent post, we’ll see how those measurements correlated with performance.
Before we dive in, I will note that I measured 20 rounds from one box of 6.5 Creedmoor ammo, so obviously it was from a single lot of ammo. For the live-fire tests, I fired ammo from more than one lot, but these physical measurements were from a single box. So these measurements should be representative of what might come in a box, but there could be variation between lots that wouldn’t aren’t captured here. This still gives us a rough idea of the tooling and quality control for each of these manufacturers within the same lot of ammo.
Length of Loaded Rounds
When it came to trying to quantify the round-to-round consistency for the length of a loaded round, I chose to focus on the length for Cartridge Base to Ogive (CBTO), instead of Cartridge Overall Length (COAL).
CBTO is a more direct measurement of how the loaded round will fit in the chamber, and how far the bullet will have the jump before it engages the rifling in the barrel.
“Due to the complex dynamics of internal ballistics which happen in the blink of an eye, the distance a bullet moves out of the case before it engages the riflings is highly critical to precision potential. Therefore, in order to systematically optimize the precision of his handloads, it’s critically important that the precision handloader understands how to alter bullet seating depth in relation to the riflings. Part of the required knowledge is understanding how to accurately and repeatably measure the Cartridge Base To Ogive (CBTO) dimension.” – Bryan Litz
Note: For more info on how critical the bullet jump distance is, read more here.
“If your bullets have precisely the same nose curve and the same diameter then your CBTO will be very uniform and should easily be able to maintain a +/- .001 tolerance,” Bryan explains. So, if that is the type of consistency we’d expect from a good handload, what will this match-grade ammo measure?
I measured the CBTO length for all 20 rounds in a brand new box of each type of ammo. The tools I used were a Mitutoyo Digital Caliper and a Hornady Bullet Comparator with the 6.5mm insert (shown in the photo above).
As I mentioned in my Statistics for Shooters series, Standard deviation (SD) is the descriptive statistic that allows us to communicate how spread out values are from the average with a single number. That seems to be the most appropriate way to compare the round-to-round consistency, so that’s what I’ll show here.
If you aren’t familiar with SD, I’d HIGHLY recommend you go read the first half of this article, which is written in a way that is easy to understand – even if you don’t like math. I literally wrote that series to help people better understand these results.
This chart makes it clear that some 6.5 Creedmoor ammo was much more consistent in terms of the length from the cartridge base to the ogive of the bullet than others. They were all over the map!
For context, I grabbed some of my handloaded ammo that was leftover from a recent match, and I measured the CBTO of 20 rounds and the standard deviation for my handloads was 0.0002 inches. That wasn’t something I loaded “special” for this comparison, but straight from a box of 30-40 rounds that I had leftover from a regional match a few weeks prior. That means my handloads were twice as consistent in terms of length as the best factory ammo measured, which was the Berger Match 6.5 Creedmoor 130 gr. OTM. However, I dusted off some 6.5 Creedmoor ammo that I reloaded 5 years ago and the SD of the CBTO length for it was 0.0019. That ammo was also leftover from a two-day PRS match, so I thought it was good at the time, but obviously, my loading practices and tools have improved since that time.
Remember that Bryan Litz said if you’re using good bullets we “should easily be able to maintain a +/- .001 tolerance” in length from our handloaded ammo. That would roughly equate to an SD around 0.0003-0.0005. There were only two types from this set of match-grade factory ammo that fell into that category, and it was the Berger Match 6.5 Creedmoor 130 Grain Hybrid OTM Tactical and the Remington Premier Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. Open-Tip Match (OTM). I suspect Remington being that high on the list surprised a few people. I’ll admit that it surprised me! But that’s why I actually measure this stuff and don’t just talk about it!
Hornady’s Match ammo with the 147 gr. and 140 gr. ELD-M bullets also measured fairly consistent, as did the Black Hills 6.5 Creedmoor ammo that was also loaded with Hornady’s 147 gr. ELD-M bullet. The Sig Sauer Elite Performance Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. OTM also had an SD under 0.001 inches.
It will be interesting to see if there is a correlation between the consistency rank here and the performance I measured in the field.
Bullet Jump On New Ruger Precision Rifle
While we’re on the subject of the length of a loaded round, I took off the barrel of a brand new, never-fired, Ruger Precision Rifle and carefully measured the distance to the lands (using this method), and then calculated what the bullet jump would be for each type of ammo on a new RPR. Conventional wisdom would say minimizing the jump will result in tighter groups, with many reloaders loading their ammo so their bullet is anywhere from 0 to 0.020 inches off the lands or some even “jam” the bullet slightly into the lands (read more on bullet jump). Because factory ammo should theoretically be able to fit in any chamber, I was interested to see how far out these manufacturers were seating their bullets.
Here is what I calculated the bullet jump to be for each type of ammo on a brand new, never-fired Ruger Precision Rifle (in alphabetical order):
You can see there is considerable variation when it comes to the distance the bullet would have to travel before it contacted the rifling of the barrel, with the overwhelming majority between 0.019-0.072 inches. There were a few outliers, like the Nosler Match Grade 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. Custom Competition Hollow Point Boat Tail ammo, which would be “jammed” into the lands 0.010 inches. That isn’t a tremendous amount, and while it’s interesting it likely isn’t of any practical concern. I can say that I didn’t have a single issue with any of the 40 rounds that I fired of that Nosler Match 140 gr. Custom Comp. ammo.
One last note here is that your rifle will almost certainly have a different distance to the lands and therefore a different bullet jump than what is shown above. In fact, the Ruger Precision Rifle I measured was slightly different after I fired a hundred rounds down the barrel because the rifling erodes by a very small amount with use. To learn more about that, read How Fast Does A Barrel Erode?
Because I know that it might be helpful for some readers, the chart below shows the median CBTO lengths that I measured for each type of ammo. (Not sure what “median” is or why I chose to use it? Read the first half of this article.)
Weight of Loaded Rounds
Okay, let’s now look at how consistent the overall weight of each loaded round was in a box of ammo. I simply weighed each round right out of the box. That means the weight includes the brass, primer, powder, and bullet, and variance in any one of those components could result in variance in the overall weight.
We’ll again chart the standard deviation of the recorded weights since that statistic allows us to make comparisons related to how much variance there was in terms of weight for each type of ammo. (Again, if you aren’t familiar with SD, read this.)
You can see the top 4 seemed to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, with all of them having a standard deviation in their weights of 0.33-0.36 grains:
- Sig Sauer Elite Performance Match 140 gr. OTM
- Berger Match 130 gr. Hybrid OTM
- PRIME 130 gr. MatchKing (USA-Made)
- Berger Match 140 gr. Hybrid Target
The ammo with the least variance in overall weight was the Sig Sauer Elite Performance Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. OTM and it had an SD of 0.33 grains. That means that 95% of the rounds weighed in at +/- 0.66 grains from the average – which is still more than I expected. For context, the match-grade handloads that I had leftover from a recent match had an SD of 0.18 grains. Of course, I should say those were loaded with Lapua brass, and the powder measured on a Prometheus scale, so it’s an advanced reloading setup.
When I look at the chart above, it seems like the best class of match-grade factory ammo is in the range of 0.33-0.43 grains, and then another class seems to run from 0.52-0.75 grains, and then there are those with an SD of 0.90 grains or more.
In Modern Advancements In Long Range Shooting Volume 2, Bryan Litz teaches us a way to estimate the effect of powder weight variance:
“There is a way to estimate how much variation in muzzle velocity you can expect from a variation in powder weight using a reloading manual. Suppose you look up the load data for a particular cartridge, bullet and powder and the min-max loads are 46-56 grains. Also suppose that the expected muzzle velocities for the min-max loads are 2500 and 3000 fps. What this is telling you is you can expect a 500 fps change in velocity for a 10 grain difference in powder charge weight. Well, that means that for a 1 grain difference in powder, you would expect a 50 fps variation in muzzle velocity, and for a 0.1 grain variation in charge weight you would expect a 5 fps variation in velocity.” – Bryan Litz
However, keep in mind that we are measuring all the components together, so it’s unlikely all of that variance was from the powder charge alone. The brass likely had some variance in it, along with the bullet, etc. My point is that an SD close to 1 grain seems excessive for “match-grade” ammo. We’ll have to wait to see if that had a noticeable impact on performance, or if it was all “in the noise” and we’re worrying about things that don’t matter in the field.
Deconstructing Rounds & Measuring Individual Components
I’ve had several conversations with different industry insiders that tell me all of the large ammo manufacturers load their powder by volume – not by weight. That means they don’t weigh out the powder for each round, because that would be too time-consuming. Instead, they use a volumetric powder measure, similar to a typical powder meter used to “throw powder” when reloading. Once again, in Modern Advancements In Long Range Shooting Volume 2, Bryan gives us context for the resolution or consistency we can expect from a volumetric meter compared to other common reloading scales:
So a volumetric meter like the RCBS Uniflow or Harrell’s Powder Measure can throw powder to within +/- 0.2 to 0.5 grains, but that varies by the shape and coarseness of the powder. They tend to dispense more consistent weights with finer, spherical “ball” powders but aren’t as consistent with extruded, cylindrical “stick” powders – like what is popular for mid-sizes rifle cartridges like the 6.5 Creedmoor. So we’d probably be on the upper end of Bryan’s range with +/- 0.5 grains in powder variance when measuring it based on volume and not weight.
Because most of these manufacturers measure powder by volume and not weight, this is one of those places that we should expect a performance difference from handloading – especially if you are willing to weigh every single powder charge down to +/- 0.1 grains or less.
For the weight data I shared above, I didn’t take the rounds apart, because I used that particular box as part of the live-fire tests and I didn’t want to do anything to it that might affect the performance. But, after a long conversation with an industry pro about this test, I did buy an extra box of several types of ammo so that I could take them apart and weigh the individual components because I wanted to know how much weight variance was from the powder.
I didn’t do this for every type of ammo, because ultimately I bought all this ammo out-of-pocket at full retail prices. While I could have reached out to companies like Hornady, Berger, PRIME, Federal, and others, and I’m sure they would have happily sent me discounted or even free ammo for this test – I decided to buy it all for full retail price from popular online distributors. I didn’t even tell any of the manufacturers that I was even doing this test. I paid full retail price for all the ammo to ensure none of it was cherry-picked or loaded “special” for this test. It was all just random ammo off a shelf somewhere.
To measure the weights, I used an RCBS Bullet Puller with a 6.5mm collet on my loading press so I could carefully remove the bullet without accidentally spilling any of the powder. I then carefully emptied the powder into a scale pan and visually checked each case to ensure I got every kernel out and into the pan. I weighed each powder charge using a Sartorius Entris II BCE64-1S Analytical Balance, which has an MSRP of $1,975 and is extremely precise and repeatable to less than 0.0001 grams, which is 0.0015 grains. I even bought a certified calibration weight to ensure these measurements were extremely accurate.
Check out this video to see the awesome precision of this Sartorius scale reading the difference in a single kernel of gun powder! (Note: The displayed weight is in grams, not grains – although you could change the units.)
Below are the 7 types of ammo that I went through all this hassle of deconstructing and measuring the individual components. I simply tried to pick a cross-section of ammo that is representative of this group:
- Berger Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. Hybrid Target (Lot #P002086)
- Copper Creek 6.5 Creedmoor Berger 144 gr. Long-Range Hybrid with Hornady Brass (Lot #26010220)
- Federal Premium Gold Medal 6.5 Creedmoor Sierra 140 gr. MatchKing (Lot #S36A161)
- Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor 147 gr. ELD-M (Lot #3171906)
- Nosler Match Grade 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. RDF Hollow Point Boat Tail (No lot number on/in box)
- PRIME 6.5 Creedmoor Sierra 130 gr. MatchKing USA-Made (Lot #130653501902)
- Remington Premier Match 6.5 Creedmoor Barnes 140 gr. Open Tip Match (Lot #B571-1 004 BB06)
After weighing all 20 rounds from a box of ammo for each of the 7 types above, here are the results in terms of the standard deviation each one had in powder weight:
You can see that the Copper Creek loaded ammo had the most consistent powder charge weight. That isn’t surprising, since Copper Creek Cartridge Company is a relatively small “custom loading” ammo company. They don’t turn out millions of rounds per year like some of these other companies, so their loading processes and quality control may be very different than the larger ammo companies. Their website says they offer “handmade custom precision rifle ammo,” so I wouldn’t be surprised if they weigh individual powder charges (i.e. not just throw them with a volumetric measure). Regardless of their method or processes, what I can say for sure is they had the most consistent powder charges of the ammo I deconstructed.
Hornady Match ammo and PRIME Match ammo also both had fairly consistent powder charge weights. Then there were a few in the middle, including Federal, Berger, and Remington – and pretty far behind all of those was Nosler Match 140 RDF with a standard deviation of 0.28 grains. That means 95% of the rounds would have a powder weight that was +/- 0.56 grains from the average. So from the lightest charge to the heaviest, you’d see 1.1 grains of variance in the Nosler ammo. That is enough to result in 50 fps of velocity variation or more! That was surprising. The very next article in this series will share all of the muzzle velocity data I recorded during the live-fire tests, so we’ll have to wait to see how this materialized over two lots of ammo – or if maybe this was just a bad box.
I also weighed every primed brass case without the powder or bullet, and here are the results showing the standard deviation in weight for each type of ammo. I added the brand of brass that was used for each type of ammo for reference.
The chart above shows that Federal Premium’s brass was the most consistent in terms of weight among this group. Did that surprise anyone? PRIME ammo uses brass made by Peterson for their rifle ammo that is made in the USA, and they were also very consistent. Both of those edged out the Lapua brass that Berger uses in their loaded ammo. Most shooters consider Lapua brass as the “gold standard” when it comes to high-quality, match-grade cases. The two that were the lowest on the chart, meaning they had the most variance in the weight of their primed cases were both using Hornady brass. At least based on this sample, it makes it seem pretty clear that Hornady doesn’t make the most consistent brass in terms of weight.
You might be tempted to discount the brass weight variance, or at least not consider it as significant as the powder charge – and you might be right. But then again, some shooters hold that brass weight variance is an indicator that the volume and wall thickness of each piece of brass likely varies as well. If those things vary shot-to-shot, then the chamber pressure can also vary shot-to-shot and that may materialize in a similar way to variance in powder charge. I’m not certain the proportion of impact each has, but I simply wouldn’t be quick to dismiss either of them.
Finally, I measure every individual bullet from each of the boxes of ammo, and here are those results:
Berger’s new Long Range Hybrid bullet had the most consistent weight within this sample that was tested. This new Long Range Hybrid line of bullets from Berger is hyped to have extreme consistency, and this data seems to pretty clearly support that.
I will say that I was pretty shocked to see how much variance there was in weight bullet-to-bullet when it came to the Hornady Match 147 gr. ELD-M. It had twice as much variance as most of the other bullets I measured. The Hornady ELD-M bullet was the only bullet of the group that had a ballistic tip, with the rest having basic Open-Tip Match (OTM) designs. I’m not claiming that caused the variance, but that is simply one major difference between the Hornady bullet design and the rest of these. Remember this was based on 20 bullets from a single box of loaded ammo, so I’d say we’d need to have a much larger sample size before we draw strong conclusions from this, but it is interesting.
For long-range work, slight variance in the weight of the bullet isn’t the only thing we should worry about – or maybe not even the most significant thing. Shot-to-shot variance in a bullet’s drag is also another factor that can affect your long-range precision. You might shoot a tight group at 100 yards, but if your bullet’s BC varies shot-to-shot that group would naturally open up at 1,000 yards because the drag that is affecting the flight is different on each shot. I didn’t have a way to quantify that in an objective way, but I thought it was worth mentioning because it’s become a hot topic related to bullet-to-bullet consistency over the recent years as we’ve been able to start measuring that with some of the high-end ballistic Doppler radars that have become available. (To learn more about this topic visit here.)
What does all this mean? First, the largest weight variance of a loaded round comes from brass, not powder or bullets. If we compare the variance for each component over all the rounds that I deconstructed, we find 69% comes from the primed brass, 21% comes from the powder charge, and 10% comes from the bullet. Second, I feel like this showed that there are fairly significant differences for how much variance you might find in the components, even among boxes of ammo that are all advertised as “match-grade.” It will be interesting to see if this data correlates with the live-fire data in the coming posts, like maybe how consistent the muzzle velocity is shot-to-shot. Will the components with the most variance prove to have the most inconsistent muzzle velocity? Stay tuned to find out!
Concentricity or Bullet Runout
Finally, I measured the concentricity of 20 loaded rounds from a box of each type of ammo. Here is how an NRA Certified Reloading Instructor describes concentricity and bullet runout:
“Run-out can be described as how much the entire loaded round is out of a true straight line from center point on the case head to the point of the bullet. Run-Out is more formally known as concentricity of an object. ‘Concentric’ comes from the Latin word for ‘common center’. True concentricity is an object sharing a common center point or axis throughout. When measuring bullet run out you are checking everything from your reloading sequence has properly worked to create a loaded round that is as close to concentric as possible. Poor bullet run-out can cause poor and inconsistent accuracy, and variations in bullet velocities. The truer the loaded round the more consistent your results will be on paper and across the chronograph.” – Pete Petros, Sinclair Lead Reloading Technician & NRA Certified Metallic Reloading Instructor
For this measurement, I used a Sinclair Concentricity Gauge with Digital Indicator. The Sinclair Concentricity Gauge is used to measure bullet runout by rotating a loaded round on two sets of bearings fixed in aluminum blocks. To get a visual and more extended explanation, check out this video from Gavin over at UltimateReloader.
After measuring all of the rounds, I calculated the median for each brand and type of ammo. (Not sure what “median” is or why I chose to use it? Read the first half of this article.) Here are the results:
Wow! The Remington Premier Match 140 gr. OTM was the most concentric ammo by a long shot! Remember that Remington was also one of the very best when it came to consistent length of loaded ammo, so whatever Remington is doing to seat bullets seems to be really working.
Federal Premium Gold Medal 130 gr. Hybrid OTM was also very concentric with a median bullet runout of 0.002”. The Barnes Precision Match 140 gr. OTM ammo was right there with them with just 0.0025” of bullet runout. Following those guys is a long list of others that had a median of 0.003” of runout:
- Copper Creek Berger 144 gr. Long Range Hybrid
- Norma Match 130 gr. Golden Target Hybrid
- Nosler Match Grade 140 gr. Custom Competition
- Nosler Match Grade 140 gr. RDF
- PRIME 130 gr. MatchKing (USA-Made)
For context on what is “match-grade” when it comes to concentricity, let’s go back to Pete Petros, a competitive shooter and the Lead Reloading Technician at Sinclair Intl.:
“A reloader can drive themselves crazy trying to make each and every loaded round a true ‘0’ in run-out. You will still see some minimal amount no matter what you do. Set yourself a standard of maximum allowable run-out for your loads. For instance for my Long Range 600 and 1000 yard F-Class loads I like to see .002” or less. I average .0015” and see a few in the range up to .004”. I spin each loaded round on my Sinclair Concentricity Gauge and sort them by run-out. Those that run over .002” I use for sighters or practice.” – Pete Petros
Overall Results & Summary
We covered a lot of details, so let’s wrap it all up in summary. When you’re dealing with so many different aspects and different kinds of numbers, I find it helpful to create a score for each aspect to help me put it all in perspective.
All my scores were on a 0 to 100 scale, with 100 being what I consider outstanding and 0 being very disappointing and not worthy of being called “match-grade.” If ammo landed between what constitutes a 100 or a 0 then it will be assigned a grade between 0 and 100 based on where it falls between those extremes. Here are the specifics of how I calculated the scores:
- Length Score: If the standard deviation of the CBTO lengths measured was 0.0005” or less, the ammo received a perfect 100 score. That would mean that 95% of the shots would have a jump window that varies by up to 0.002”. On the other hand, a type of ammo would get a score of 0 if the SD was 0.0025” or more. Remember Bryan Litz told said if you’re using good bullets we “should easily be able to maintain a +/- .001 tolerance” in length from our handloaded ammo. An SD of 0.0025” is 2-5 times that much, so that doesn’t seem even close to “match-grade.”
- Weight Score: If the standard deviation of the loaded round weights I measured was 0.2 grains or less the ammo received a perfect 100 score. But, if the SD was 1.0 grains or more, it was given a score of 0. An SD of 1.0 grains would mean that 95% of the shots would have a variance in weight of 4.0 grains! Remember this is the complete round and not just the powder weight, but either way, I wouldn’t consider ammo that might have a difference of 4 grains in weight round-to-round to be “match-grade.”
- Bullet Runout: If the median bullet runout of the loaded rounds was 0.0015” or less the ammo got a perfect 100 score. If the median was 0.0060” or more, it received a 0. If the median was 0.006” or more that would mean half of the rounds had runout that was more than that. Remember Pete said anything more than 0.002” he’d only use for sighters or practice, so if half of the rounds are 3 times that much it shouldn’t be considered “match-grade.”
Based on those definitions and scoring methods, the results below show the scores for how consistent the external measurements were round-to-round. This combined list gives us a good perspective on how a type of ammo did overall and helps us see the few that might have done very well in some categories and not very well in others.
For context, I added in what some of my handloaded ammo scored that was leftover from a match. I promise that I didn’t make that up, cherry-pick, or load something “special” for this comparison. I had 30-40 rounds left over after a regional match, and I measured the first 20 rounds out of the box. I simply wanted to show what’s possible with good equipment, time, and attention to detail. Obviously, I can personally spend more time and care producing my handloads than is reasonable for mass-produced ammo, but a few of these sure got close!
At the top of the list is one of the boxes of Berger Match ammo that I tested, specifically the Berger Match 130 gr. Hybrid OTM. In fact, all 3 of the different types of Berger ammo that I included on this test finished in the top 6, which makes it clear that Berger’s loading practices produce consistent ammo.
2nd on the list is Federal Premium Gold Medal 130 gr. Hybrid, which interestingly is loaded with that same Berger 130 gr. Hybrid OTM bullet. So the only two types of ammo using that Berger 130 gr. Hybrid bullet ended up right at the top of the list! The Federal was fairly consistent in all 3 categories, although it wasn’t at the very top of the list in any one of them. But, the high average across all 3 categories put it up at #2 overall.
Coming in at #3 is Remington Premier Match 140 gr. OTM, which I have to admit was a surprise to me! But that’s why we actually measure this stuff and don’t just spout opinions about what is better! 😉 The Remington Premier Match ammo was always on the extreme with a perfect score for consistency on length and bullet runout but landed a 0 on the weight consistency. Overall that still landed it an average score of 67, but we’ll have to wait to see how it performed in the live-fire tests. I have to admit when I measured all this, I hadn’t fired any rounds yet – and I couldn’t wait to see how this would translate to performance out in the field.
Then at #4 is Sig Sauer Elite Performance Match 140 gr. OTM. Sig has been one of the most aggressive companies in the industry over the past few years and often offers a ton of bang for your buck. We’ll have to see how this translates in the live-fire tests, but it looks like that might be the case here, too. The Sig ammo showed a lot of consistency when it came to length and weight, but it was below average on bullet runout.
PRIME and Copper Creek also had ammo that finished above average compared to the others in this group of match-grade ammo.
At least based on these external, physical measurements, all 3 types of Hornady Match ammo ended up below average in terms of consistency. Based on how popular Hornady Match ammo is, I would say that might surprise a lot of folks. Seeing names like Black Hills and Norma so far down on the list might surprise a few people as well.
Note: I realize where I drew the line on what was 0 or 100 was subjective, but remember I provided all of the underlying data in the charts throughout this article – so feel free to use those to calculate your own scores based on whatever criteria you’d like.
How Much Will This Correlate To Performance?
So how much will physical, round-to-round consistency correlate to performance in the field? Will the measured weight variation translate to inconsistent muzzle velocity? Will consistent length, minimal jump, or minimal runout correlate to smaller groups?
From my perspective, all that really matters is performance in the field. However, since I was already investing so much time and money into this test, I thought it’d be interesting to measure the rounds first to see how that correlated to real-world performance.
Be sure to check out the next article where we’ll dive into the live-fire data. Many veteran reloaders see consistent muzzle velocity as the true gauge of how good ammo is, so that’s where we’ll go next. We’ll look at the results from almost 1,000 rounds fired where the muzzle velocity was recorded on every single shot!
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6.5 Creedmoor Match Ammo Field Test Series
Here is the outline of all the articles in this series covering my 6.5 Creedmoor Match-Grade Ammo Field Test:
- Intro & Reader Poll
- Round-To-Round Consistency For Physical Measurements
- Live-Fire Muzzle Velocity & Consistency Summary
- Live-Fire Muzzle Velocity Details By Ammo Type
- Live-Fire Group Sizes & Precision
- Summary & Long-Range Hit Probability
- Best Rifle Ammo for the Money!
Also, if you want to get the most out of this series, I’d HIGHLY recommend that you read what I published right before this research, which was the “Statistics for Shooters” series. I actually wrote that 3-part series so my readers would better understand this ammo research that I’m presenting, and get more value from it. Here are those 3 articles:
- How To Predict The Future: Fundamentals of statistics for shooters
- Quantifying Muzzle Velocity Consistency: Gaining insight to minimize our shot-to-shot variation in velocity
- Quantifying Group Dispersion: Making better decisions when it comes to precision and how small our groups are