Top Five Long Range Cartridges – The Best of the Best

Long-range shooting expert, he literally wrote the book, L.P. Brezny, makes his case for what he thinks are the best Long Range Cartridges.

The Long Range Cartridge Line up
The Long Range Cartridge Line Up:

L.P. Brezny

United States -( First off, a number of you won't like what I have to say on the subject of long range cartridges.

Prior to starting this material I interviewed several hard nosed long range shooters and asked each of them the same question. “Name five of the very best long range cartridges please”.

In each case, I got a totally different answer, except for a possible single round of ammunition, and that was the tried and true 300 Win Mag of which I own several rifles and totally agree. You see this is the problem here. Everyone out there in AmmoLand has their idea of the best of the best, and in most cases, it starts with what they own in a rifle, and shoot themselves. With that in mind, I turned to an old saying that I have hung my hat on for many years. The saying goes like this.

There are the three “P's” when it comes to the best of the best long range rifle rounds, and as you already know, I am about to tell you about each of them : Performance, Practicality and Price.

When evaluating a cartridge that adapts well for a very long shooting down range I like to look at the rounds performance ability, practicality in the field, and finally the price per round.

Somehow the idea has been floating around that shooters are made of money now-a-days. The fact is nothing could be further from the truth. Making a more modest round have some staying power is the key to success, but in so far as my task, it is to select each round based on a number of factors that center around the best of the best long range cartridges, so here is the whole deal in an ammo can.

50 BMG Long Range Cartridges

M-2 Ball 750 gr 50 BMG in links. These make great rat lodge destroyers in a prairie dog town at long range.
M-2 Ball 750 gr 50 BMG in links

Say what you like, but nothing fired from a human shoulder can touch the big bad 50 cal cartridge. The fuel cell is so outstanding that the bench mark 30-06 cartridge was the basis for it by the developer John Browning in his search for an anti-aircraft round. The big 50 will send a 750 grain bullet down range at 2700 f.p.s., then destroy almost anything in its path that ranges from barricades to warm targets. In terms of ranging ability the massive bullet will stay awake (above the speed of sound ) and clear out to 2,500 yards before someone puts a pillow under its head. Shooting the 50 cal requires a whole lot of rifle, and in this case I have owned several, but today shoot a very straight forward Steyr H.S. 50 with cut rifling, and it is so accurate that it has held world long range titles for back to back years across the board.

Practical? No, but a great deal of fun when shooting off the tops of bad lands mud butts at a mile away.

Price per round? Very high but through outfits like Century Arms, and Federal Cartridge ( American Eagle ) case lots are half that of much smaller long range rounds. In terms of performance. Well, nothing was feared more then an American sniper and his 50 Barrett in the sand box.

On that note I rest my case.

408 Chey-Tac Long Range Cartridges

408 CheyTac Long Range Cartridges
408 CheyTac Long Range Cartridge

The 408 CheyTac has a mixed history of both success and failure, but in the area of pure ballistics it is a very deadly gunning system. As a total long range wildcat round with no parent case at all, the round is unique, and the time I have spent behind a custom McMillan turn bolt shooting this cartridge can be considered memorable at the least. Some will say the 416 Barrett commands more respect then the 408, but being a bit old school, and liking the added velocity of the big “8” over the 416, it still takes top billing in my book.

The 408 Chey-Tac sends a 419 grain solid copper ultra high BC bullet down range at 2900 f.p.s., or a somewhat light weight pill being 305 grains at a blistering big bore 3450 f.p.s. That's hot in terms of a big round, and I have a close neighbor in the mountains that shoots over a mile off his back deck at a lime stone bolder on the next mountain over for kicks on any given Saturday afternoon when the wind is right.

338 Lapua Long Range Cartridges

338 Lapua Ammunition
338 Lapua Ammunition

Viewing the whole best long range cartridges subject as you care to, in most cases the real heavy weights in cartridge selection will boil down currently to the 338 Lapua. From grain weight options, price point per round, practical applications, and performance at long range, this cartridge is just about the best of the very best as a long distance shooting choice. Like the previous offerings just covered, the 338 Lapua is a military generated round that has been developed by the Fins to replace the 50 BMG, 416 Barrett, and the 408 Chey Tac as a long range snipers tool.

As 338 Lapua ammunition has built an outstanding track record among military snipers and sportsmen alike this option is here to stay.

300 Winchester Magnum or just Win-Mag

300 Winchester Magnum
300 Winchester Magnum

The short form here is this 300 Winchester Magnum cartridge is a massively popular go-to round due to cost per round down range, options in rifle available as chambered in the 300 Win, and its performance even at ranges well beyond 1000 yards.

Currently the US Army has gone to this cartridge when chambering their turn bolt Remington 700 action sniper rifle, ( M-24's, ) and when applying a new round to chassis rifles like the Remington 2010 sniper platform, among others.

Snipers needed to get past 1000 yards, and that meant turning to more cartridge and more bullet to do the deal.

Now the 300 Winchester Magnum can hold off mortar crews and small unit snipers to ranges beyond 1500 yards all day long in the mountain of Afghanistan. As a long range big game round or hard steel target cartridge this is a top contender, to say the least.

Hornady's 6.5 Creedmoor

Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor
Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor

Hornady's Dave Emery ballistic expert broke the mold on this one, and now after almost two full years of testing by way of four different rifles at, and beyond 1000 yards here in western South Dakota, I can say for a fact that we are seeing the next rising star in long range shooting.

Why the best of the very best?

Because the 6.5 Creedmoor will stay with and exceed a pile of cartridges, not break the household bank account, and is quickly growing in terms of cartridge brand options and bullet types. Sierra has just released the 130 grain TMK in 6.5 caliber, and Hornady offers the brand new cold tip ELD-X in a 140 grain Match bullet this summer. With the new Federal American Eagle offering in a 140 grain “hollow tip” pill, and Winchester's 140 grain Match ammunition, factory loads are everywhere. Black Hills ammunition is considering very seriously offering the new round, because I believe due to the Sierra bullet options now available to this high quality cartridge company.

In just handloaded bullets, Berger has now built a new 130 grain VLD that will drill prairie rats to 800 yards all day long. By the time this copy goes to press I would not be surprised to see still additional bullets and loads coming to volition.

I believe that the 6.5 Creedmoor could be the 21st century 30-30 in terms of general popularity down the line.

Brezny with Browning X Bolt 6.5 Creedmoor, Cartridge 120 grain A-Max Hornady

About the Author L.P. Brezny:

With more than 50 years experience in the field and the testing lab, author L.P. Brezny is one of today’s most recognized shotgun experts and authors. He is a contributor to dozens of firearms publications, such as Wildfowl, Shotgun Sports, and Varmint Hunters, and he is a regular columnist in the Gun Digest annual.

AmmoLand Editor Comments:  This article was updated to reflect changes in product improvements / availability on 06/30/2017.

  • 234 thoughts on “Top Five Long Range Cartridges – The Best of the Best

    1. My goodness we don’t need to hit deer at 500 yds +. We don’t need military sniper lads .i do not under stand the lack of 7mm mag recognition I have shot a 7 mm for 8 yrs now and have loved it.remington sendero sf lll and been more than satisfied
      . Good rifle needs a good scope .ldecided on a4x12 x50 Swarovski 1 in tube. Ballistic reticle .14 shots 14 kills no running involved 139 grr hornady btsp love it William.

        1. Sir we’re u been that’s about all we shoot in our hunting club here in Georgia a couple 3006 & few 270s rest r 308s bolt guns one lever action browning in 308

        2. The cartridge is a 308 the rifle launches is a ruger the cartridge is 308win sorry u was confused maybe I didn’t clarify thanks

    2. This one for mom just for the sake of saying it I don’t like bill Clinton very much and I absolutely hate with a vengeance that snake in the grass Hillary Clinton wow hope we never ever have to deal with them ever again

    3. My “reach out and touch someone” rifle shoots .270 and I am more than pleased with it and my 30.06. Never seen ANYONE use a .50 for hunting. My brother swears by his .338 Lapua and I certainly cannot disagree with him on that choice.

        1. lol I’m neither u may need to learn to spell before u start commenting bill isn’t very good and Hillary is forever a sadistic joke that feels she deserves the White House just because if anyone cud be worse than Obama sorry to say it would be Hillary go cry somewhere else not here

          1. Georgiaoutlaw,

            I can read that you are another product of the abysmal, government school system. Before you criticize my typos perhaps you should clean your own comments of misspelled words, run on sentences and lack of punctuation. You do have some arrogance attempting to correct me when you yourself failed 2nd grade English class.

            GFY Einstein.

            1. And just for the so very glad Hillary didn’t make it to the White House and hope she NEVER does she would be so so bad for America

            2. I just reread ur comment about me not punctuation in my comments on this site I feel it easier that way and most ppl with any commen since can figure that one out u really piss me off u sound real intelligent ur self sir go F$-k ur self kind sir

        2. It’s actually imbecile I do believe lmfao have fun brother good shooting r hunting wut Eva u do have fun don’t take things to serious

      1. I would love to never c r hear of them again horrible people especially the beloved HILLARY wish she would just crawl in a hole somewhere and just shut up& go away and I don’t punctuate on here because it’s easier and faster to type these comments out have a good day sir or ma’am wuteva u r still prison for Hillary would be niceWaiting on that day to come

      2. The truth has finally can out bout that crooked Hillary Clinton the lies have caught up to her told u she was no good from the beginning Hill and bill just need to quietly just go away leave the public life enjoy the new grand baby leave the American people alone

    4. Howdy.
      well, i’m old school, but my favorite all time hunting and long range cartridge is STILL THE 30/06 IT HAS NEVER FAILED ME.

      1. Funny you should mention that, for the 30-06 cartridge, fired in either the Garand or Bolt Action Rifles never failed me either, and that included target shooting at 1000 yards

        1. Alan.
          i own both and neither has ever failed me, but i also keep up with the cleaning and maintenance of all my firearms.
          i was first induced to the 30/06 round when i joined the Marine Corps back in 1960.
          and have never looked back lol.

      2. The only big rifle that I own is the old Springfield M1 hence 30.06. I’ve got numerous .22 rifles because they are still cheap to shoot. Like many out here in ammoland, I’ve got my Ruger 10/22. However, by the time I got the end of the barrel threaded to receive either of my two legally owned cans and also the following; a Volquartsen speed slide and Volquartsen trigger with a Mongoose scope and a silicon shaft to replace part 20B to quiet the back slap I’ve ended up spending over $1,200 on that particular rifle. I don’t know for sure, but I think that there are more post factory parts for the Ruger 10/22 than any other weapon. I should add that I also am old school and old to boot. My wife of over 44 years still thinks that I own too many guns. Go figure! Women.

        1. Isume
          I believe that if your wife thinks you have too many weapons, [and I don’t mean anything rude or mean…All in fun.] I would say you have too many wives….just personal preferences because I’ve found that a whole gaggle of weapons is cheaper than one wife…and oft times warmer to sleep with. Do weapons come in gaggles?
          Okay, so back to the true reason for this forum. I shoot a Barrett .416 with the B.O.R.S. system. The 416, as I’m sure most of you probably know was designed to keep their solid brass slugs that are turned on a lathe was to keep the projectile supersonic out to 2000 meters. Why? When a bullet drops out of SS, that’s when all that work on boat tails and BC goes out the window. That is why a lighter, bullet with poor ballistics cannot outdo a super heavy bullet with excellent ballistics. That is, to whatever range the bullets drop out SS and begin to wobble and may even start flipping.
          With that said, my 416 shoots a tight circle, as does the 6.5 Creedmore and 338 LM. For that reason, those are my favorites. ECCEPT, I’m sure you all know, as well, watch closely the size of your bullets for speed as well as configuration and ballistics of each bullet.
          You may find a heavier bullet that has better coefficient than a lighter, faster bullet with coefficients. At equal ranges, both bullets will make the same group, but possibly at a distance of 50 or 100m farther , the larger, heavier bullet will still be stable while the lighter one is taking the path of a bee seeking pollen. Good configuration and ballistics will actially make a heavier and slower round at muzzle velocity mantain faster and more efficient flight than the lighter, faster muzzle velocity bullet when it drops from its super sonic speed, which it will do so at a shorter distance, all because it’s configuration slows it down sooner. Even if you’re buying them off the shelf, be sure to study the variables of speed at which you plan on shooting. Also, think and read a bit when you’re loading and thinking you can go a few more grains because you are safely under the max pressures but your brass grows pretty long and eventually the neck stays in breech. I remember almost giving away a MINI.14 because after I started reloading, half the bullets went through the target sideways….that is the few that found the target.
          I can’t kill anything anymore due to my past experiences of taking different lives, but I can remember my dad going hunting, carrying 2 or 3 different loads for different ambient conditions and different distances, up hill, down hill, snowing, or 100 degrees. He might jack 2 or 3 rounds out on the ground. I used to be amazed at him tackling an elk with one round in his weapon. He always said ” one bullet is all I need” and it was!
          BTW the B.O.R.S on my .416 Barrett is great but I still have my charts, pen and paper, and calculator….especially out at 1500 meters. Oh, and I just ordered a .338 on an MRAD from Barrett. With a screw driver and a $1500 barrell or two or three, that’s the last weapon I’ll ever need to buy.
          Is there such a thing as too many weapons?

    5. Hmm…in my opinion, in this order, the best 5 would be 375 chey tac, 416 barrett, 408 cheytac, and a straight up tie between .338 lapua, and 50 BMG. Any counter argument?

      1. In my opinion the .50 caliber is the big dog, then the 408 Chey-Tac, then I must go with the 338 lapua, followed by the 300 win mag, and finally believe it or not 303 British rifle. I still can’t understand why the 303 is not produced anymore. Before you start criticising the 303 do some research on it. Not meaning to be boasting in any way, but I have several several guns ranging from $1400. to $68,000 and I still enjoy shooting my British Enfield 303.

    6. Right on brother I really hope we’re done with clintons for ever I would like to never c r hear Hillary and bill ever again

    7. Guys I have been watchin this “what’s the best long range” yada yada yada! The best long range cartridge what a bunch BS ………………… you can quote BC MV all you want guys 99.9% of hunters will never “send one” at some of the ranges you folks state. The best long range cartridge is the BEST cartridge you can send with confidence and on target. I don’t care the range. Some a 300 yard shot is as far as they are comfortable with, some out to 500, some out 600+ yards. Personally my Weathby 300 WSM sending Hornady can go out to 400 all day long no doubt longer BUT most of us don’t have those mountain top to mountain top shots in our areas. anything over 600 yards is one hellva long shot. If I was to head out to the Midwest I would dial it in to maybe 800 the Leupold on top has the X to go that far. Enough said, each and every one of the cartridges addressed will no doubt get the job done. But the 50 cal who uses that on a normal (real world) typical hunt. Not a knock guys just a observation.

      1. The topic is Top Five Long Range Cartridges. It seems that a lot of the post are referring to hunting, and that’s okay with me. But, it was talking about the top five long range cartridges. I am not trying or meaning to start an argument, just getting back to the original topic of this post.

    8. Did you try the Iron Sights that came with, or certainly should have come with the rifle? By the way, and the following is purely a personal preference observation, even for a Service Rifle, the idea of messing about with the Front Sight for elevation seems like the dumbest of dumb ideas.

    9. 223 aetec got to come back to the left bout 6″ & down 6r 8″ to get a good zero bushnell said change rings that should fix the problem but lm not sure wut u guys think

    10. Got my Nikon back its on my 308 sons 223 got a Simmons aetec phillipines made can’t get scope to come to the and down enuff to get a good zero anyone no wut might be my problem its strictly a hunting rifle

      1. @Le K. I don’t know. I never shot one, but my favorite rifle maker builds rifles in that caliber. So it must be good. If you have shot a 6.5/284, then what are your thoughts?

        1. I have shot it numerous times. It is FAST, but I have nothing to compare with it. It is NOT too abusive to my shoulder and if not shot rapidly one could shoot for several hours from one position.IF there is ever a chance to contact your friend that makes these, I would like to ask him.
          Thank you

            1. @ W. Bill, how are things in your world? Did the storm get you? If it did can you stand in your living room and wash your gonads without bending over. The last was a little joke but ,seriously, how is your world?

            2. @tcat, We lucked out, big time. Harvey marching North took a right face and went to La. We got the most peasant 20 mikes of rain that you ever saw. Looking forward to a beautiful third crop of hay. And we are all so happy that Hillary is not our president!

            3. @WB… Glad the ARC is still in drydock. Know someone in Baytown haven’t heard anything from down there.

            4. @ W Bill, if a person is sad all they have to remember is that Hillary is not President. Trump and the governor are attending to the folks that got hit so I hear plus the citizens are coming together to help each other. Nothing good about something like this except that it brings people together.
              Third cutting of hay, don’t you usually get that? Tennessee usually does but in Michigan and Indiana the limit is usually two because of the cold weather coming so early.

        2. The 6.5×284 was the caliber of choice for long range F-Class shooters (open) until recently. It is a long action cartridge and very accurate. Our daughter shot one and set a new national record in 2007 with it at Whittington Center. Her gun was a Savage action with a Bartlein barrel and 12-42×56 Nightforce scope. Some of the new short action calibers hold promise, but one has to always be conscious of the fact that manufacturers have a habit of terminating production of brass when they don’t get the sales they desire. Case in point… Winchester has abandoned production of the 7mm WSM brass, but denies it, even though they have not made any for over three years. That is the main reason I stay with the “tried and true” calibers that have lots of ammo choices available and an abundance of reloadable brass,.

          1. If 260 brass ever dries up (or 6.5CM for that matter) it’s easy enough to make from .308. By the time all of that dries up, I’ll be long dead – or moved on to a different hobby.

    11. I shoot a 300 win mag but I also load Accelerators which come out og the barrel around 4900 ft per second, you need a solid bullet as a hollow point will disintegrate at those speeds. But they just explode on a coyote at 500 yards!!!!!!

      1. lol I’m a deer and pig hunter shoot 3006 180gr & 308 150gr they both do all I need them to do and that’s place federal cartridges with great accuracy into vital zones of my target animal I will never need wut u shoot wow that is fast

    12. What about the Grendel and the 5.45×39. Both are tack drivers out at 500 yards. The 5.45 is not a deer gun but it is a killer. No brass for the 5.45 and no billets right now don’t know why?.

      1. William,

        Interesting question you pose re: 5.45×39. Interesting as I’ve only recently acquired both a Molot VEPR and an Arsenal SLR 104 chambered in the 5.45. So far I have only put 300-400 rounds through the 104. Nevertheless, I find the 5.45 as intriguing (for me) as I do my great satisfaction with the 300 BLK AAC cartridge.

        Based on my experience with 77/85 grain, 5.56mm, I find shots beyond 300-350 meters to be the exception. Not the rule. Seeing as the 60 grain in 5.45mm is the common bullet available, perhaps you can elaborate on your suggestion that the 5.45mm is a 500 yard cartridge ? Especially so in light of the fact that brass casings are literally non-existent.

        Thanks for your thoughts.

    13. I have for many years (38) used a 375 H & H for any serious shouting. It used to be the long range goto cartridge. I greatly enjoyed shooting it after it was Magna-ported.

    14. Let’s remember, the obviously inferior .308 (left out by author although it is our premier sniper round since 1960) will at 500 yards deliver the same energy and velocity as a .44 Magnum will from an 8-inch barrel just one inch from the target.

    15. I’ve never been a big game hunter. I was a prolific bird hunter for a number of years with many ducks and doves sprinkled in with some geese, pheasant, and quail when I had my bird dog which was, in my opinion, the best bird dog ever and was a golden retriever. Granted, the golden doesn’t have the nose of more popular bird dogs but my golden didn’t get more than 50 yards away and held Point with great patience. Also, she could find all of the birds that I would never find in the high grass of the Flint Hills in Kansas. The slack jaw of the golden is a miracle in and of itself. I haven’t hunted now in probably over 30 years now. However, I have tried to generate a ballistic coefficient without using hard data and using only mathematics and fluid dynamics to no avail at this time. I’ve enjoyed the effort though. I’m a retired mechanical engineer and spent a fair amount of time working on that problem. The biggest contribution to slowing down your projectile is the wind load which is a non linear function which is why I’ve failed to date.

      1. Isume, my dad was he same way, he lost his best bird dog, and rarely hunted pheasant or quail again. His was a Irish Setter. Years later my brother got a Irish setter, then the blizzard came thru the mid- west and decimated the natural pheasant & quail population. That and line fence to line fence grain farming really put a damper on birds in Ohio.
        Good luck on those Ballistics Coefficient figures.

      1. @GO… Sorry missed your question No not being funny . Fruition in this case would mean ” after while ” or in due time , or someday.

    16. Explain to me wut it would be a violation of I like hunting and fishing very much more hunting deer & pigs I’m not sure I understand what ur speaking of thanks

      1. I was being silly and making a joke about the author’s word choice. I believe he meant to use a different word, but of course it’s not crucial to reading nor enjoying the article, so no offense was intended. (The word used was “volition”.)

    17. “By the time this copy goes to press I would not be surprised to see still additional bullets and loads coming to volition.”
      A bullet coming to volition would be frightening. I would like the bullet to go towards my point of aim.

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