A Data-Driven Approach To Precision Rifles, Optics & Gear
Home / Ammo & Handloading / 6.5 Creedmoor Ammo Test Part 2: Physical Round-To-Round Consistency
6.5 Creedmoor Ammo Consistency

6.5 Creedmoor Ammo Test Part 2: Physical Round-To-Round Consistency

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:

  1. Barnes Precision Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. OTM
  2. Berger Match 6.5 Creedmoor 120 gr. Lapua Scenar-L
  3. Berger Match 6.5 Creedmoor 130 gr. Hybrid OTM
  4. Berger Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. Hybrid Target
  5. Black Hills 6.5 Creedmoor 147 gr. ELD-M
  6. Copper Creek 6.5 Creedmoor Berger 140 gr. Hybrid
  7. Copper Creek 6.5 Creedmoor Berger 144 gr. Long Range Hybrid
  8. Federal Premium Gold Medal 6.5 Creedmoor Berger 130 gr. Hybrid OTM
  9. Federal Premium Gold Medal 6.5 Creedmoor Sierra 140 gr. MatchKing
  10. Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor 120 gr. ELD-M
  11. Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. ELD-M
  12. Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor 147 gr. ELD-M
  13. Norma Match 6.5 Creedmoor 130 gr. Golden Target Hybrid
  14. Nosler Match Grade 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. Custom Competition
  15. Nosler Match Grade 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. RDF
  16. PRIME 6.5 Creedmoor 130 gr. MatchKing (USA-Made)
  17. Remington Premier Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. OTM
  18. Sig Sauer Elite Performance Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. OTM
  19. Winchester Match 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. MatchKing
6.5 Creedmoor Ammo Test

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:

  1. Length
  2. Weight
  3. 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.

Sartorius Powder Scale

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).

COAL vs CBTO Reloading

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.

6.5 Creedmoor Match Ammo Length Consistency

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!

Berger Match 6.5 Creedmoor 130 gr. Hybrid OTM Tactical Ammo
Remington Premier Match 6.5 Creedmoor Barnes 140 gr. Open Tip Match Ammo

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):

6.5 Creedmoor Bullet Jump

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.)

6.5 Creedmoor Distance To Lands Bullet Jump

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.)

6.5 Creedmoor Match Ammo Weight Consistency

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:

6.5 Creedmoor Match Ammo Powder Charge Weight Standard Deviation

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.

Brass Case + Primer Weight Standard Deviation

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:

Hornady Berger Sierra MatchKing Bullet Weight Variance

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

Sinclair Concentricity Gauge with Digital Indicator

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:

Bullet Runout Measurements

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.

Overall Scores for External Measurements

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!

If you’d like to be the first to know when the next article is published, sign up to receive email notifications about new posts.

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:

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:

  1. How To Predict The Future: Fundamentals of statistics for shooters
  2. Quantifying Muzzle Velocity ConsistencyGaining insight to minimize our shot-to-shot variation in velocity
  3. Quantifying Group Dispersion: Making better decisions when it comes to precision and how small our groups are

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.

Check Also

Muzzle Velocity Statistics for Shooters

Muzzle Velocity Stats – Statistics for Shooters Part 2

Part 2 in my Statistics for Shooters 3-part series focuses on how to analyze muzzle velocity consistency, which is critical for us as long-range shooters. This article shows how to apply the concepts from Part 1 to get more insight and make better decisions related to muzzle velocity. It provides practical answers to some age-old questions: Should we look at ES or SD? How many shots do we need to fire in a string? How do we get the most value from the shots we fire at the range? I spent an absurd amount of time arduously crafting this article and creating visuals so it was approachable by shooters who aren’t math nerds because I firmly believe these concepts can help a TON of people in the long-range community.

64 comments

  1. Blake Bienemann

    Sooo excited to have new content, thanks a ton for the hard work. I am going to click all your ads to help the cause, lol.

    • Thanks, Blake! I’m excited to finally talk about this stuff. I’ve put in a ton of time on this, but honestly I thought if I started publishing it when you couldn’t actually buy any of this stuff at any price … I thought it’d be more frustrating for people than anything. It certainly wouldn’t be helpful. But now it might be even more helpful than I originally thought it’d be. Funny times we live in!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  2. Glad to see you back…….was getting worried there after awhile…….plenty talk around here about the 6.5 and its use in the NW of Alaska…….

    • Yep. I’d suspect more rifles have been chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor over the last 5 years than any other cartridge (at least if you’re talking about the civilian world). And it’s not just hype, either! I find myself recommending it quite often, because it is just a really great all-around cartridge for hunting and for long-range plinking. It has all the must-have features. Now I don’t know much about northwest Alaska, but I don’t think I’d try it on some of your big game up there. It seems more appropriately sized for deer-size game or up to elk. I went elk hunting this past year with a group of friends in Idaho, and we took some monsters. One of my friends used a 6.5 Creedmoor to take his elk and he got the whole thing on video. One clean shot and the animal stood motionless for just a second and then buckled right in place. So it can do the job with the right bullet. In Alaska, you probably want to own a larger caliber for some animals, but the 6.5 Creedmoor seems to be popular in just about every corner of the world these days.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  3. Interesting data Cal, but I guess we’ll need to see your results when you ‘drop the other boot’ in the next report.
    This is a game where we can measure absolutely everything – statically, but as you correctly point out, it’s field performance that counts.
    In our testing we have results that have ‘exposed’ issues and ideas that require a lot more investigation and their consequences for influence.
    One is case capacity. We have found brass (one of the Europeans – in 300 Norma) that varied in weight by up to 2.5 grains (measured using lab scales of course) which is much greater than your 6.5 samples, but when the case capacities were measured in h2o, the discrepancies were most unexpectedly very small in our sample of 50 – to the tune of 0.25 grains. This was/is obviously very confusing. Still scratching my head … we might need the assistance of a brass manufacturer to help with this one.
    The other, which is far more difficult to measure is, as you again correctly pointed out – is Form Factor.
    We have deliberately used bullets of the same calibre and type with the same Form Factor, but different weights, varying by up to a grain and have come to the belief that Form Factor consistency is of greater significance than weight consistency. Again these results were measured on a Doppler radar and targets (the ultimate lie detector) at distances from 1,200 to 2,800 meters.
    The other thing that we tested with a Doppler radar was BC consistency, but this is so closely related to Form Factor that the finer points we will set aside as the left and right hand of the same devil.
    Great work Cal. This job must have cost you a bomb!

    • Yes, sir! I almost measured the H2O capacity of the cases, but then I talked myself out of it. I figured I was getting off into the weeds, because like you said … all that really matters is the performance in the field. I mostly thought it’d be interesting to measure some of these things and then see if there was any clear correlation that appeared between how consistent the physical dimensions and weights were compared to precision and muzzle velocity variation in the field.

      At the very least, I feel like this gave the ammo manufacturers a good sense of their quality control compared to some of the other brands. I’m sure this series is going to make some of those guys mad, and while that isn’t my intent … maybe they’ll channel that into producing a better product. I was surprised by the variance I found with a lot of these guys. Honestly, I’d be embarrassed by some of this stuff if my name was on the box – especially if I was trying to position it as “match-grade.” Just a bunch of marketing hype in some cases, which is what I was hoping to sort through with this research. Who are the guys producing serious ammo that is worthy of a match, and who is just stamping “match” on the box and trying to charge more for it?

      I believe that the Applied Ballistics team has a cool device that can take a bunch of extremely accurate measurements on a sample bullet. I wish I had something like that, but I don’t. Ultimately, I think the results I gathered in the field cut through all of this academic stuff and tell the real story. So stay tuned for that! I’ll start working on the next article which will cover all the muzzle velocity data that I collected, which might be my favorite part of this research!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  4. Whoa, welcome back Cal! I was wondering the other day if you were doing alright with the long lag time from the last post. I’ve been interested in seeing your results even though I don’t currently own a 6.5CM chambered rifle nor plan on anytime soon with the pandemic causing such short supplies. We appreciate all the cool and in-depth insights, and look forward to diving into this article. Stay safe and happy shooting!

    • Thanks, Don. Well, I’ve been sitting on this series for a little while, because I didn’t want to frustrate everyone by talking about stuff that couldn’t buy even if they wanted to. Unfortunately, that ammo shortage lasted longer than I thought it would. But, I’ve noticed this stuff showing up in a few places online, so it’s finally time to share it with all of you guys.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  5. Thank you for putting this together. I haven’t found anything else like your comparison out there. Looking forward to reading the rest of your articles.

    • Thanks, Adam. I’ll take that compliment – although honestly, there is probably something clinically wrong with me for how far I take some of this stuff! 😉 I often say that, “I have no half-ass gear.” If I’m going to do it, I’m going to take it all the way!

      I do think this series in particular will help a lot of the guys who have invested in their first long-range rifle over the past couple of years. One of my good friends got a 6.5 Creedmoor for Christmas, and he isn’t going to reload. I also know he doesn’t have the time, money, or even drive to go buy a bunch of different kinds of ammo to see what works best. I think this series will help those guys narrow it down to just a couple of boxes of ammo that they could try and have confidence they’re going to get really good performance out of it. When ammo is running $3/round, you want to limit how much you experiment!

      Can’t wait for you to see the rest of it. I honestly can’t wait to organize and write about the rest of it. I’ve obviously collected all the data, but I’m still going through this stuff as I’m publishing it and it’s fun for me to see the finished form and results.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  6. It would be very interesting to sample some basic less expensive “non-match” ammunition from the same manufacturers to see how it varies compared with what they are charging a premium for …

    • Ken, I’m with you. I thought the same thing … but then I did the math of how long that would take me to try all of those other kinds and the cost in terms of barrel life. So I decided I had to limit the scope of this test somehow. I also knew if I didn’t include one brand of ammo that was marketed as “match,” there would be guys belly-aching or claiming it was “so much better” than some of these others. So I tried to be thorough within the scope of any ammo that was marketed as “match.” Maybe one day I’ll circle back around and do this again with some standard ammo, and even do it in a way that was comparable across this test too. Who knows!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  7. Really looking forward to studying this. Thanks for all your efforts Cal.

  8. Outstanding work. Thank you

  9. This article was very informative and interesting. I learned a lot about the ammunition that I use. Thank you for taking the time and funding this research. I greatly appreciate your efforts.

    • David, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Glad you found it helpful. I enjoyed writing it. It got a bit long, but honestly, I enjoy talking about a lot of this stuff, so that’s what usually happens! 😉 I’ve never been accused of being brief!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  10. Steve Fleischer

    WOW!!!

    I am very impressed with the huge amount of work (and money) that went into this article.

    The difference between a professional and an amateur.

    • Ha! Thanks, Steve. It might be a disorder or character flaw! 😉 I’m clearly passionate about this stuff, and we should never underestimate the power of passion. Combine those things with some OCD and technical training, and viola … you get things like PRB! Ha!

      In all seriousness, I will say that I’m a big “quote guy.” I love how some people can wrap up some truth that resonates deeply with me in just a few phrases. I collect good quotes. Here is one of my very favorite quotes that seems to describe my view of this and a lot of other things in life:

      “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” ― James A. Michener

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • What a beautiful and profound quote! I’m a quote “collector” and live life accordingly to the hand-selected ones. This is one that I will definitely add to my list!

      • Ha! You bet, Dan. That is among my favorites for sure.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  11. hi, cal ,how‘s it going ’? You haven’t updated your article so loooog time , hope you are well

    Anyway, better late than never, your posts are great as always.
    have a nice day ))))

    • Thanks, Bryan. It has been a while, but I’m excited to be writing again. I sure enjoy it. I hope the series is worth the wait!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  12. Ooops … didn’t even think much about how much barrel life for the testing would add if you included generic ammo. Maybe grab a few [3 – 5?] boxes of off the shelf generic 6.5CM, measure and test them, but publish the results in a blind manner [no names … just Box A, Box B, Box C] so we could get an idea as to how much different the “match” ammo can be from stuff at the local gun shop.

    • Yep. I certainly have gone through some barrels in all my testing over the years! I think I’m going to make something out of all of them one day – maybe a piece of furniture or something! Lots of guys talk about the “cost per round” as if it’s just the cost of the ammo, but if you think about the “cost per shot” it should include the pro-rated cost of a new barrel, too. If you get 2,500 rounds on a barrel for a particular cartridge, then the pro-rated cost of the barrel adds around $0.32 per shot. If your ammo is $1/round (hoping it goes back down to that at some point), then your total cost per shot is actually 32% higher than the ammo alone. Kind of funny how we don’t think about it like that though! When you’re shooting as many shots as I have testing stuff, that reality slaps you on the back of the head pretty quick!

      That’s a very interesting thought. At this point, I’m committed to publishing what I’ve already collected … but you’ve got me thinking, Ken. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is something I do at some point. It might be one of those things I am still thinking about 3 weeks from now, and I end up heading to the range with some ammo. 😉

      Thanks,
      Cal

  13. Kenny Robert, Sr

    This was absolutely one of the best and most advanced studies I’ve read. Thank you, you’ve taught me and many precision shooters a lot of usable information and saved us us a heck of alot of research. I’ll be anticipating the continuation.

    • You bet, Kenny! I appreciate your kind words. That means a lot. I was hoping this would help a lot of my fellow shooters!

      Thanks,
      Cal

    • Excellent article – cannot wait to read the other parts. I have believed for a while now doing testing that the brass plays a bigger part than is normally talked about. I shoot a lot of different brands of 6.5 creedmoor brass and noticed a major difference between them and my lapua brass. Some brass have a weight difference of up to 5 grains.

      • I agree with you, Paul. I feel like brass plays a more significant role than a lot of shooters realize. Honestly, how I normally decide what cartridge I’m going to build a rifle on is to pull together a list of the cases that the top brass manufacturers make. I typically lean towards Lapua, because I’ve had great experience with them. But, ADG (Atlas Development Group) produces some great brass, and I think companies like Alpha and Peterson make top-shelf brass, too. Norma isn’t bad … but I can tell you it’s not Lapua. I shot Norma brass for 2 barrels in my 300 Norma Mag, and I was thinking about switching to a different cartridge to compete with when Lapua released brass for the 300 Norma Mag, so I thought I’d give it another go with Lapua brass. Man, it was all the difference in the world. I never got single-digit SD’s with Norma brass even though I spent a ton of time tinkering with loads at the range trying to find that “perfect” combination. With Lapua brass for the same cartridge, same type of powder and primer … I found multiple loads that had single-digit SD’s in just a couple of hours of load development. It was almost too easy!

        I do think I might do some testing around that one day. I’ve definitely had that thought and even did a little planning around how I might go about it. It’s one of those things that would be pretty time-consuming, but might produce some interesting results.

        I’ve put a bunch of time into the next article already, and hope to have it up in the next several days. So stay tuned! Really interesting stuff in it!

        Thanks,
        Cal

  14. Great piece, One non surprise was the Berger hybrids. Loading them in varies 30 caliber rounds with great results. You have certainly reinforce my reloading passion.

    • You’re right, Jim. Berger has a long reputation of excellence that was hard-earned. A Berger bullet in a Lapua case has been a winning combination for a lot of competitive shooters over the years! I’ve also been loading Hornady A-Tip bullets lately, and if you haven’t tried those I’d recommend it! I bet you’d enjoy them. And I’m with you. Just talking about this stuff reignites my passion for it!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  15. Joseph Selva III

    I thought something bad happened to you Cal. Hadn’t read a blog in months. Glad you’re among the breathing.
    Thank you for the time and expense for this test.

    • Ha! Well, I’ve been busy … but I‘ve also just been waiting until factory ammo got back in stock to start publishing this stuff. I didn’t want to move on until I got this stuff out there. So I’m as excited as you are!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  16. Cal:

    Once again you have created a masterpiece. Your natural curosity combined with the solid engineering and testing is exactly what keeps me coming back for more. I cant wait to see the rest of this series. After this the only thing left for you is a repeat of the old “warehouse test”.

  17. Wow! Thanks Cal. I was wondering what became of this experiment. You downplay your meticulous research as OCD and possibly pathological but from where I’m sitting this is Heroic. I was excited about receiving your next blog and now I am even more excited about the field testing. How did you go about dealing with the erosion from so many rounds fired affecting the bullet jump from the earliest fired rounds to the latter fired? I imagine that gave you a headache? Anyways, thanks for all the services you do for the shooting community worldwide (I am in Australia) as there are a lot of people down under who are aware of PRB and I point searchers of the truth in your direction all the time. Bring on the field testing! Kindest regards, Stephen.

    • You bet, Stephen. I will talk about the details of how I went about that in the next post, but I did have a method. I will say that I honestly think that is “in the noise” when you are dealing with “longer” bullet jumps. When you are into the lands or within 0.020″ of the lands then small variations in that jump distance might have a measurable performance difference, but even then it is unlikely to be significant over a large enough sample size. That is actually why I wrote the “Statistics for Shooters” series of articles because a lot of people make judgments on how precise some variation is on a sample size that is exponentially smaller than what would support the conclusions they’re drawings on relatively small differences.

      However, I did use a method that tried to mitigate that (a round-robin type of ordering the firings) – even though I personally believe the results wouldn’t have changed if I wouldn’t have. Most factory ammo uses longer bullet jumps already, so they’re less sensitive to minor changes in the distance to the lands. If you’re wondering where I am coming up with that conclusion about longer bullet jumps, check out the series of posts I did last year on Mark Gordon’s bullet jump research. As I showed in this article, there were only 2 of these 19 types of ammo that had jumps under 0.020″ even on a BRAND NEW barrel on a Ruger Precision Rifle – and one of those was only 0.019″ jump … so after 100 rounds on that rifle it was likely jumping more than 0.020″. Most were jumping 0.040-0.080″, which isn’t as sensitive to minor changes in bullet jump like you’d see over a test like this that spanned just under 1,000 rounds … but was also divided over two different rifles (so only half that many on each barrel).

      I definitely appreciate you referring the “searchers of the truth” to PRB … that’s what I feel like I am! I really am just trying to sort through all the marketing hype and figure out what the truth is.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  18. Thanks again Cal for this extensive and expensive test! Here in Oz it is what you describe with the ammo shortage in the US only continuously. 20 rounds 6.5 CM for $60/70 is normal 🙁
    Keep up the good work!!

    • Yep! It’s a crazy time we live in. I’ve been seeing this kind of match-grade 6.5 Creedmoor ammo hovering right around $3/round. I just checked right now, and the lowest price on the Berger Match 140 gr. Hybrid ammo is $2.95/round at the one place that seemed to have it in stock, and the Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor ammo is $3.00/round at 3 different distributors that have it in stock. So we’re with you right there at $60 for a box of 20 rounds. That does seem ridiculous, but it’s the crazy times we live in. It seems like 9mm and 223 ammo have both been coming down gradually, so I expect these others to follow that trend over the next few months – at least that’s what I’m hoping!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  19. Humberto Claudino

    Congratulations on the wonderful and exhaustive article.
    Greetings from Brazil.

    • Hey, Humberto! Good to hear from you. I’m glad you appreciate the article. It did get pretty long, but I enjoyed writing on the topic. Pretty interesting stuff, and I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone ever collect or publish this kind of information. I feel like it might even be helpful for the manufacturers to see where they rank on different aspects they could absolutely do QA on and likely improve at their factory. Then again, all that really matters is the performance in the field … so we’ll see how much these physical measurements relate to the muzzle velocity and group size data, and ultimately the hit probability at long-range.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  20. Cal, thanks for the time and financial investment in this effort.

    Several years back i bought some 6.5CM Winchester Match ammo to have some brass for reloading. I was surprised at the velocity data when i shot it next to my Labradar chronograph.

    I’ll have to find my old data to compare to your results in Part 3.

  21. Really appreciate this work Cal! Great process and great write-up! Reminds me of my favorite YouTuber, Gavin at UltimateReloader.

    • Ha! I know Gavin. He came from a similar background, and I really enjoy his stuff, too. I love that he’s able to do that full-time now. I even linked to one of his videos in this post, because he puts out great stuff. So I’ll take that as a huge compliment!

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Scott Priestley

        Our Microsoft careers overlapped a bit but we didnt meet each other there. Im with another global software company now and love the analytical approach of guys like you two!

  22. Hello Cal,
    I have been working on a very similar project with factory-loaded 223REM ammunition. To date, I have also measured 19 different brands of “match-grade” and hunting ammunition, but the process is ongoing. My batches are 40 rounds in size, and I measure 4 different physical parameters and detailed performance data. In my opinion, the direct correlation you use between the CBTO measurement and bullet jump really only applies to handloaded ammunition. Therefore, your bullet jump figures may be off by a bit. To understand jump consistency in factory loaded ammunition, you needed an additional measurement. I think you missed a golden opportunity to establish the quality of the brass used in these “match-grade” offerings. Like you, I have found that “match-grade” should mean more than slapping a boat-tail target bullet into a less-than-optimized cartridge. My research is driving me towards handloading; something I didn’t want to do. I would relish the opportunity to discuss our common OCD testing methodologies with you some time. Thanks for your efforts, as always.
    Steven

    • Wow, Steven! That’s crazy how similar your research is (i.e. “19 different brands of match-grade and hunting ammunition” and “batches are 40 rounds in size”). Funny we landed in the same areas. Hey, if you feel like I missed “a golden opportunity,” I’d be open to hearing more about what that is. I guess I missed that if you explained it in your comment, other than it has something to do with the brass. I still have all those cases in carefully labeled containers, so if you convince me it’s worthwhile I might go measure some more stuff after this series is published. I really am always open to feedback on how this could be better, especially from someone who knows what goes in behind-the-scenes with this kind of research.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  23. Thanks! Really enjoyed reading your work. Looking forward to the shooting and how objective measurements correlate to actual performance, or not.

  24. Cal
    Amazing, amazing analysis. Thanks once again for your commitment to performing and sharing the research.

    • You bet, Jeff! Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Cal,

      Regarding your Bryan Litz quote about how to estimate affects of powder weight variance, I have seen plenty of people claiming nodes exist where adding more powder doesn’t add more velocity. They also claim that said velocity node is where you are likely to get the best accuracy. (Scott Satterlee’s with his “10 Round Load Development Ladder Test” is probably the most prominent proponent of this idea). These statements or ideas seem to be at odds with each other. Do you have any experience with this idea of velocity nodes?

      • Great question, Nathan. I would love to have a definitive answer to you on that, but I haven’t done first-hand research into that … yet. It is a very hot topic and there are tons of opinions around it, so it is ripe for some good Mythbusters style research! 😉 I’ll try to do my best to at least tell you what I think, but it’s just my opinion. Before I even say my opinion, I will say I have a ton of respect for Scott Satterlee. I really like Scott, as a friend. He likely shoots more rounds some weeks than I do in a year. He has more real-world experience than I do and is a higher-ranked competitive shooter than I am. Having said that, it is my opinion that oftentimes people make decisions about stuff like that on a sample size that wouldn’t support such strong conclusions. That is one of the reasons I wrote the “Statistics for Shooters” series, which took me more time to write than anything I’ve ever published. I was trying to help guys understand how big of a sample size you really need to draw conclusions between relatively small differences. It’s very common for shooters to make decisions based on patterns they see in the data, but if they re-ran the test 3 times they would get a different result at least one of those times.

        Here was one of my statements in the executive summary of that Statistics for Shooters series:

        As humans, we naturally tend to see patterns everywhere, but that can often lead to us finding meaningful patterns in meaningless noise. Statistics is a tool that can help us differentiate between true patterns and meaningless noise.

        When people start talking about nodes, that might be one of those areas where we are making decisions and thinking we really found something special … but the sample size was simply too small for us to have much confidence that the minor differences weren’t a result of natural variation in the data. Of course, then again it might not be! Maybe there is really something to that theory. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any research that has been done with a significant enough sample size to lend real insight into that problem.

        I should also say that I have been a subscriber at times to that theory, so I’m not saying anyone is dumb for believing it. Ultimately, none of us want to shoot a monster sample size of bullets to be able to arrive at an academically supported conclusion … so we cut corners and might even decide to go with something even if it hasn’t technically proven to be anything but dumb luck. Does that hurt anything? Probably not! It saves barrel life and we end up with a load that we have confidence in – and the reality is there isn’t likely some magical load that consistently shoots significantly better over a really large sample size … so maybe we should stop searching so hard for it.

        Here is one last quote I’ll pull from that “Statistics for Shooters” series that was one of the big conclusions that was from comments another author drew after doing a thorough statistically analysis:

        By making statistically sound judgments, you may find that many loads produce statistically similar results and loads, in general, are not as finicky as conventional wisdom would lead us to believe.

        All that to say … I don’t know, but maybe I’ll do some research into that one day. If anyone knows of any rigorous research that has been done into this area, please share it with the rest of us!

        Thanks,
        Cal

  25. Hello Cal, i just want to let you know how much I appreciate the work you’re doing. I have been reading your articles for a long time and you’re integrity and transparency have led me to trust your information above any other source of media. In fact you have had a positive effect on my purchasing decisions on multiple occasions! As someone who doesn’t handload I am looking forward to the rest of this series in particular! Anyway, thank you VERY much for putting such a large investment of your time and money into this. It is truly helpful and appreciated.

    • Wow, Ryan. Those words mean a lot to me. I put a lot of effort into being ultra-transparent with my readers, and really am just in search of the truth. Luckily I don’t have to make my provision off this, and just do it because I’m passionate about the topic and want to help fellow shooters. I’m glad you’ve found it helpful. I really appreciate you taking the time to send in the comment.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  26. Great read Cal. Welcome back and that you for taking the time to perform and write these testing/results in a professional way.

    • Fantastic article Cal. An awful lot of thought, hard work, time, and money has gone into this. I look forward to reading the following articles.

      You mentioned the consistency of your own handloads, how they compare to the factory ammo, and how your handloads have improved over time.

      I’m sure I’m not the only one that would love a future article that details your process and equipment for loading your own match ammunition, to achieve acceptable variation on muzzle velocity and accuracy.

      While there is plenty of information on the interwebs about handloading and how to make consistent, accurate rounds, I am at a bit of a loss to determine what has merit and what doesn’t. For example, am I better off spending money on a more accurate automatic powder dispenser, or a better single stage press that has less ‘slop’ in order to produce rounds with less bullet runout? Am I better off buying an annealer, better seating dies, collet dies, or a case neck turner to have consistent neck tension? The list goes on and on… There is some difficultly in this…how far down the rabbit hole do you go? How earth do you measure this huge amount of data with so many variables? Perhaps surveying a number of top ranked shooters and querying them on their process and equipment could prove useful.

      I expect that the data in your next articles, and how it relates to the data in this one, will show the more important factors to focus on when reloading. But HOW to do that with reloading process and equipment would be of great interest to me, and I’m sure many others as well.

      Thank you for the effort you put into this website. I have enjoyed reading your articles for several years, and I’m sure I will continue to do so for many years to come.

      • Thanks, Benny. That is a great idea for a future series of articles. I will say that Bryan Litz has done a lot of that kind of research, and tried to take a 100% data-driven approach to what makes a measurable difference in performance when it comes to handloading. He dedicated an entire section of one of his books that walks chapter by chapter into various topics. Here is an except about that “Part” of the book:

        Part 2 of this Volume is focused on various aspects of advanced hand-loading. Any reloading manual covers the basics and safety, but in Modern Advancements we dive deep into topics and explore everything broadly with live fire testing to truly answer the important questions that precision hand loaders are asking. What are the best practices for making ammo with consistent muzzle velocity? Do things like: flash hole deburring, neck tension, primer selection, fill ratio and powder scales make a difference and how much? All of these questions are explored and the reader is presented with clear results they can use to make well informed decisions about their own hand loading practices.

        The book is Modern Advancements In Long Range Shooting Volume 2. I find myself referencing it all the time. I may have mentioned it 3-4 times in this article, and already a few times in the comments. If you like my style of writing and research, I promise you’ll love that book. Bryan and I talked about me repeating some of his tests to see if I reached similar results. Bryan was surprised by some of the things he found, so he seemed genuinely interested to see if my live-fire tests would reach the same conclusions. There were some things he just knew would make a difference, and the data didn’t support that claim. It was pretty interesting stuff. At the very least, it might challenge what you believe to be true – but it also helped me realize a few things that just don’t matter. I literally load ammo with SD’s as low as 5.5 fps over 36 shot strings, and I skip some of the steps that some reloaders think are “critical.” It turns out they aren’t. At the same time, some steps are far more critical than many people think they are. The trick is to let the data guide you on what has a measurable impact on performance and what doesn’t – not someone’s strong opinion on the internet! Even if it’s mine! 😉 Bryan is so good about that, and I have a similar Mythbusters style approach of careful testing and the scientific method.

        And you’re absolutely right about it being a rabbit hole. To be able to test each of those variables independently and have any kind of conclusive results you need a REALLY large sample size. It would take a lot of time and money, but I will say that I’d love to do it one day. Maybe I wouldn’t get to every possible aspect, but even if you just did a few of them … or publish them one at a time over the years, it might lead to a lot of new insight over time.

        I’d suggest you pick up that book from Bryan. I think you will find it very interesting and I bet it at least gives you some of the insight you’re looking for. At the very least, it will tune your gut and help you make more data-driven decisions.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  27. A little off the 6.5CM subject but related to brass in general … I have been measuring the neck tension created by different size bushings that range from .001″ to .003″ smaller than the OD of loaded rounds using a K&M forcepack. I get forces that range between 7ish and 30ish pounds but are fairly consistent [+/- 2ish lb] for the same bushing with un-modified 22 and 6mm caliber Lapua cases. Have not done any detailed group testing yet but am wondering if there is any published / un-published data on the effect of neck tension? Should it be on the low side or high side or just somewhere in the middle but how consistent for a non-tight neck chamber?

    • Hey, Ken. I actually have already bought some equipment to do a neck-tension test that I’ve been thinking about for a while. The only serious/professional research I’ve seen on neck tension is from Bryan Litz. It was very good, and I plan to do a test that is pretty similar to what he did with a few variations. Bryan’s research on neck tension was published in one of the chapters of Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting Volume 2, which has a ton of great research in it (including a massive barrel test that I personally conducted). Bryan and I have talked about a few tests he did in that book, and thought it might be interesting for me to re-run some of the tests to see if the results match. Some of his results were even surprising to him, so he seemed genuinely curious to know what I’d find.

      After reading Bryan’s study, I have started running 0.003″ of neck tension, even on my ELR rifles where the muzzle velocity consistency is UBER-critical. I have posted some SD’s in the 4-7 fps range over strings of 20 or even 30 shots, so it seems to be working. Now is it causing that to happen or it just so happens that … correlation does not imply causation, right? That’s why I want to do a really serious research project about it. It’s one of those areas that it seems like we don’t know a lot about, or there isn’t a ton of data-driven best practices out there. I personally run 0.003″ of neck tension, but I can’t say for certain that is “the best”. I’d bet what is the best might vary by the application. What I can say is important is consistent neck tension. I’m pretty certain about that!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  28. straightshooter1

    Just an outstanding job there Cal. I’m sure many shooters will appreciate what you’ve done here. I’m one of them. And I know how much effort it took to do this as I did much the same thing just a couple year back, but on a much smaller scale.

    I had some 175 SMK Federal Goal Metal Match (as it use to be called) and some known as Gorilla and some 176 solids known as Predator’s for ELR shooting. When I fired some of the Predators at short range, the results were so poor I couldn’t understand how they might be considered for ELR shooting. So I went through pretty much the same process with the remaining 20 cartridges I had to see what might be going on and decided to do the same those other brands to see what difference there might be and how they compare to my hand loads. It was a real eye opener. Like with your results, none of them were anywhere close to what I get with my hand loads (not that I really expected they would). I took the powder I had removed from the 20 Predators and divided it equally between the 20 cases and reseated the bullets with a TIR less than .001 compared to the previous .006 – .008. The reloaded cartridges did almost as well as my normal hand loads though not tuned for my barrel. The Federal Gold Medal Match ammo I had deconstructed and measure was pretty much in line with what you found, though I was dealing with .308 ammo vs. 6.5CM.

    No doubt, I’ll be recommending to other shooters to read your article here.

    Glad to see you back. Best wishes.

    • Wow! That is very interesting. That is a clever way to see how much the powder variation affected real-world precision/consistency. Thanks for sharing that, and thanks for the kind words.

      Thanks,
      Cal