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.

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

    1. Smed – missed that you had already posted the Wikipedia article on long range sniper snots. And one of the best books ever on sniping – is by “White Feather” – AKA – Marine Sgt Carlos Hathcock – 93 CONFIRMED KILLS . Loved his story about slowly crawling for a day through the tall grass (he had to let the grass spring back up behind him to not show/leave a trail) – and having a snake slither over him – to finally get in position to shoot a VC General at 800 yards (with his trusty 30.06) – and then staying still in the grass while the VC stomped all around looking for him – almost stepping on him – and finally crawling out. His longest shot was when he experimented with a .50 Cal. – and while essentially standing guard – or some such – when he shot a VC supplier riding a bike with small rockets strapped to his back. Carlos thought – what the heck – let’s see what this baby – the .50 – can do – and BINGO. 🙂

    2. OK – my latest “dream” is a Weatherby Vanguard in 6.5 300. Smoking hot – 3,550 fps? – 140 g – and shoots flat. Do I really need to become a 1,000 yard shooter at 71 years of age? My wife would say NO – but don’t think she looks in my gun safe very much. 🙂 Pair it up with a decent scope (relatively inexpensive) – maybe from Vortex and have a 1.000 yard rig for under $1,000.

      1. Old Marine >>> Tom Schiff
        I noticed that you might be looking for ” A decent scope (relatively inexpensive)”
        I tend to favor scope line that is becoming bigger every day. ” Shepherd Scopes ” is now run by Salvo Technologies With production in Florida and headquarters in Nebraska. They have the only double reticle scopes that are perfect for shooting at unknown ranges. I found out about them when researching Big Game Hunting in AFRICA. There reputation is very good with Military, Law enforcement and Industry. They are very large company operating in many countries and are very innovative holding the Patten on the double reticle system. Shepherd is a family run as one part of SALVO. The scopes are made specific to the ammo you use. I have used a P1 (308) scope for four years and find it to be good and fast . A different kind of scope with advanced engineering at half the cost of the expensive older name brands. A scope that would cost you about 2k would cost you closer to $800 in a Shepherd. The scope is great at shooting the first target at 300-yds. and the next shot at 1000-yds without ever adjusting the scope for the range change. Checkout the dual reticle at ” ” or I find it to be the easiest, fastest and fordable scope on the market. That being said have fun shooting. >>> Oldmarine

    3. why list the 338 lapula my 338-378 weatherby out performs it in fps and energy ? 338 lapula everyone wants they like the hype 2 many monkey see monkey do people who dont do research and just want the pick of the day from what they hear from others .

      1. People probably chase the 338 Lapua instead of similar, existing cartridges for the same reasons they ignore the Remington 260, Lapua 6.5×47, or 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser in favor of the 6.5 Creedmoor. There is the “Me too” mentality, but then there are people like me.

        I grudgingly bought a 6.5cm because it is the de-facto standard for 6.5mm, short action cartridges. Equipment and components are available in Creedmoor that were never available in my preferred 260, and I know the market is too small for multiple standards. Success breeds success.

    4. I’ll put my tried and true Marlin 3030 and Federal Fusion 130gr against anything mentioned here at 1000yards. But I will need time to walk the first 925 yards.

      1. What u claiming to do with that 3030 I no ther good accurate hunting rifles my cousin shot one out to of a dead pine bout 200yds with one shot he also shot several deer over 200yds but I don’t understand what ur gonna do with urs

      2. Lol my cousin shot several deer over 200yds and once he shot a crow out top of a dead pine bout 300yds with one shot for a bet between 2young boys just out having a good time so yes the marlin 3030 is pretty accurate for shooting and hunting

    5. All calibers mentioned would do the job.It’s like the old saying,opinions are like assholes,everyone has one,including me.I’ll take a 308 Norma Mag over 300 mag.As far as the 6.5 creedmoor,don’t know what all the fascination is with it,unless it is just saying a fancy name. You already have the 260rem that will probably out do it.They are almost identical. You could have put any of the RUMS in this category.So I think it is personal choice and what you can afford

    6. Annnnd, they all just got blasted out of the water by 375 spinnela, 400 grain pill, pushed by 200 grains of powder, muzzle velocity of 3300 feet per second, necked down 50 BMG case. Heres the big number. Goes transonic at 3800 yards.

    7. No hell yea’s yet a nd to keep the 3006 safari in tact I need as many as possible to confirm the 3006 is awesome brobama totally sucked as his job as president of the United States of America glad he and his Secretary of State shcrillary clinton are gon the both are very bad for these United States of America glad ther gone hopefully forever

      1. 30-06 and 308 are the go-to general purpose rounds in my area. They aren’t the best for anything, but they’re good at just about everything. If I could only have two rifles, one would be a .22lr and the other would be a 30-06 or a .308.

    8. Watched a video yesterday of a guy in Logan, Utah – (Thompson Long Range?) – who precisely mounts scopes for long range shooting — and then has the rifle fired to check it all out – as well as taking the client out to shoot at 1,000 yard targets.. Thinking of the relatively inexpensive ($650?) Weatherby Vanguard – in 6.5 Weatherby 300 – which does not seem to kick much. A 140 grain bullet comes out screaming at around 3,550 fps – and still has 1,200 ft lbs of energy at 900 yards – ‘enuff for a Deer – assuming you are a good ‘enuff of a shot. Prints a 7 inch group at 1,000 yards – and you only have to hold 19″ high? (When the zero set at 300 yards)
      And keep on spreading too info Smedly. Might ed-u-cate these crackers. 🙂 (Sayeth the one who grew up in a small mountain town in Oregon. Double 🙂 )

      1. I used to think that home was a city, but a visit to Chicago made my small town look much better.

        For accuracy, I prefer a short action for the little bit of extra rigidity. I don’t know how that transfers to magnum actions since the match shooting I’ve done up until now meant 40-60 rounds per match, and two matches a day in tournaments. The most powerful cartridge any of us used was 7-08, and the current trend is to 6cm or 6×47 Lapua. Granted, our longest range was 500 meters, but it was offhand so it may still count as precision shooting.

    9. WOW! I really appreciate the article. I am a novice shooter with a .223 being me largest and go too. I have a AR and a bolt action 223. It is very fun and cheap. I am looking for my next caliber, and before this article it was 308. Tried true and available. However knowing life like I do, the 6.5 is on my list. I will research more before moving up, but this article has moved me to think about that decision a little longer. Thank you LP. And for all you guys who “dont get it”, move back to Facebook and complain elsewhere.


      1. @Micah, Welcome to the site. I’d like to put in my recommendation in the 6.5 category: 6.5 x 47 low recoil, easy on the barrel, phenomenal accuracy. Or perhaps the new Hornaday 6.5 PRC. I have not shot the 6.5 PRC but it has some very interesting numbers. Do you reload?

        1. The 6.5×47 Lapua is a terrific cartridge, but that means having a rifle built and then, probably, loading your own ammunition. Wouldn’t a 6.5 Creedmoor be a lot easier since rifles and ammunition in that caliber are commercially available?

      2. Lol that’s 3 rifles but let ya go on that one becuz they are good choices…..,,.That was funny?ive read some articles say that the 6.5creedmore I bleeve it was wast that good I don’t own one never shot one just my 2cents on the topic but I have heard good things about them I’m talking bout one article

    10. Really appreciated this article – and after reading numerous reviews – it has just about cemented my buying one – a lower priced model – maybe the Ruger Predator – or the Tikka – or the – believe it or not – $650 Weatherby Vanguard model is it? All are supposed to be accurate with good triggers, etc.

      1. Oh – I should have also said that the Weatherby Vanguard is made by Howa, and they have an excellent reputation.

    11. The article is supposed to be the best long range cartridges. I don’t believe the 6.5 Creedmoor belongs in that catagory. The author goes as far as saying that “I believe that the 6.5 Creedmoor could be the 21st century 30-30 in terms of general popularity down the line. The 30-30 certainly can’t be grouped with long range rifles. Staying with a pile of cartridges doesn’t make the Creedmoor a standout.

    12. Excuse me for being ignorant I don’t understand this post from u me tom schiff can u please explain wer someone simple like me can understand thanks

    13. Plain and simple as a president of these United States obama totally sucked at his jobgive me a hell yea to georgiaoutlaw if u agree

    14. LOL. A couple of you Marine grunts are just the types one would want out on the point – holding the line – until relieved – all that stuff, without question or giving an inch – while in the Command Post – you would want somebody like Smedley or moi – working the fine nuances (yes, some give and take is included) with HQ’s – to try and get the supplies/reinforcements you might need – when all the other units are also clamoring for same. 🙂

      1. Every unit needs a King Rat. And someone that thinks in terms of accomplishing objectives with no or minimum casualties, and nobody left behind.

    15. A post by Gregory Romeu included the following items:

      29 March Press Felease: Gifford criticizes Virginia legislature for failing to enact a Gun Violence Prevention Bill this year.

      26 March Press Release: Gifford applauds New Jersey Assembly for passing a package of Gun Safety Bills.

      No details provided, which raise the following questions, Exactly what would the unencted Gun Violence Prevention Bill not enacted in Virginia have had to say? ALso. Regarding the New Jersey state assembly enacted package of Gun Safety Bills, exactly what do they say? Details and a close examination of the real world workability of such proposals might prove more than casually interesting.

      By the way, the foregoing is not intended as a criticism of Mr. Romeu. It merely seeks details regarding what was and was not enacted.

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