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 08/29/2018.

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

    1. I have a great savage 6.5CM and it is a Tac driver. Thought the article was great; however, I have found for long range shooting nothing beats my 6.5×284 Norma. Once a wildcat now legitimized, but still not popular. Don’t know why, as for me I am sold on 6.5.

      I have many calibers of rifles but the 6.5’s beat my 300 wm hands down.

      6.5×55 great deer gun
      6.5 CM awesome sheep gun
      6.5×284 – best gun to shoot the dandruff of a flea at 700 yds

      One mans opinion 6.5×284 Norma!

    2. My gunsmith and I are making a custom long range rifle, as we speak. It will have a carbon fiber bull barrel with custom action, custom trigger, and tactical sniper chassis. He is going to turn the chamber and barrel ,out of a blank , into a Weatherby 6.5-300 Weatherby mag. That gun should be a tack driver at 500 yards and be able to bust milk jugs at a 1000 all day long. We are cutting the grooves with beveled 5R rifling to further increase accuracy and longevity of the barrel due to the “barrel and chamber burning” of that cartridge. The only thing I am worried about is the price of the Weatherby ammo. Which is right at $5.00 a round. So, I will have to learn how to reload. Which is something I have been wanting to get into anyway. I can’t wait to start making some wildcat rounds for my Encore pro-hunter 308. I would like to see what a Berger ELD at +3000 fps will do on accuracy for the 308 “deer slayer.”The 6.5-300 will strictly be a bench/competition toy. And, oh yeah, we are going to put a hydraulic shock absorber on the butt plate with a monster muzzle brake to keep the recoil at bay. Can’t wait for it to be finished! I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. And I am 52 years old. With all that in mind, I think Weatherby’s new round will knock the Creedmore off of its high horse.

      1. I’ll shoot anything. I make sure I can shoot a few 3” groups at 200 yards offhand with any centerfires.I’m satisfied for the day at that point. I’m no Stevie Sniper wannabee- lol. My out of the ordinary 325wsm rifles do pretty good way out there. Other than that I’ll stick to common calibers like 30-06,
        30-30,.223. Have fun shooting boys n girls. This long range craze and supported shooting is of little interest to offhand shooters and won’t be as practical as you think in the moment of truth.

    3. I started shooting for fun after I got out of the Army in 1972. My uncle was a bachelor and had several rifles in various calibers. After he passed away I tried out his weapons. They were as follows: (1.) Savage .250-3000; (2.) Marlin .308 and (3.) Winchester 30-30. None of these weapons thrilled me as much as the M-14 in .308 caliber. Several older guys I worked with were into reloading. One guy suggested the Remington 700 in 30-06 caliber. I bought one and have been reloading it since 1976. I also bought a Remington 700 in 300 win Mag. I gave it to my son, who now lives in New Hampshire. The one thing I enjoyed about the 30-06 Remington is the fact that Remington started to load ammunition in the form of the “Accelerators” in the 80’s. I tried out the 30-06 Accelerators and I loved them. Unfortunately, like the 25-06, they were loud. With the .257 bullet wrapped by a plastic sabot, the were fairly accurate at 100-300 yards. But about a year later, Remington was forced to take the off the market. I believe the reason was no rifling on the bullet. This made it hard to determine rifling and spin. Now, I enjoy reloading the 30-06 for target shooting. Every time I get to go out west, I love to take my rifle and try different length ranges. The best round is the 168 gr. Sierra HPBT. It has a nice flat trajectory out to 200 yards. Just my two cents. KeRu

    4. I see no mention of the Nosler rounds. I realize they are somewhat new and untested but the 6.5 Creed suffers from relatively the same problem?

    5. Good article. What about the Remington 25.06? I’ve been shooting my model 700 with 4-12 variable Leupold for 30 years without having to adjust the optics for just as long. It’s, literally, deadly accurate at 500 yards. I would not hesitate to give it a go at 1000 yards with the right load. Granted, I’ll never hunt moose with it though. That I have done with a .270. Check out the 2018 American Rifleman article creedmore vs 25.06.

    6. You may have forgotten about one flat shooting cartridge that holds up with the 300 mag and hits probably almost as hard that’s the 270 or 270win mag

        1. I love the 270 Win.

          When Obama got me back into shooting, my first bigger caliber purchase was 270 Win…….as were my next two.

          Then I became a reloader, bought another 270 Win, and kept learning.

          Think it was the rifles ~ and my skills set ~ that while giving me LOTS of fun did not give me lots of tight groups.

          Started going to ranges that were beyond my skill level but intent on stretching it. The 270’s I had did not stand up, although I had proven by then they were gonna get my deer for sure out to 200 and sometimes out to 300. Not that I hunt. I just like to shoot paper.

          In target shooting terms, then tried a 300 Wby Mag, again not an expensive weapon, with so-so results.

          Started hearing all the hoopla about the 6.5 Creedmoor, so I bought a low end Savage in 6.5 CM.
          THIS rifle made me so happy I got ahead of my budget and ordered the Ruger Precision 6.5, got lucky and got the basic rifle with the Barrett Brown cerakote for the same price all the others were selling the basic black. BUT more importantly I got one fine FLAT shooting rifle. One instructor at a range said it was the second flattest rifle he had ever seen. So I’m now sold on 6.5 CM.

          Until I can afford the Ruger Precision in .338 Lapua, for which I’m already buying Lapua ammo…….

          But you’ll never hear me bad mouthing the 270 Win…….and yes, I DID hit the target some at 1000 yards………..even though I bracketed the hell out of it to do so.

          All my 270 Win fun was before I learned to start upgrading my optics…….another budget buster, eh?

          And now I’m buying Norma and about to switch to Lapua brass for my reloading, tuning the bullet.

          If I ever find the time, I’m gonna mount one of my Vortex or perhaps my Sightron to my best 270 and check it out……… Haven’t got my Nightforce …….YET.

          Happy Shooting and Happy Trails……

        2. I beg to differ, the 270 is on the heels of a 7mag with way less powder, I get 3340 fps with a 130 gr sst and sub 1/2 moa from my browning hi-wall 28” barrel. Shoots flat as a string.

          1. Dave. What weight of powder. Primer ? I had wild results with Norma MRP. I found Sierra bespoken were separate in at high speeds

        3. The. 270. Is one of the best Calibers out there. Just read Jack O Connors. Articles. Books. I think everyone should have one as a 30-06. 30-30 win 94 And 300 Win Mag. And a Ruger 10-22. And Rem 870. This covers basic. Then select. Your special. Irons. And today there are Sooo. Many.

    7. Great article ….. I purchased a 6.5 Creed this past year and I really like its versatility. I have not done bench competition with mine yet but I have hunted Montana mule deer with it for the last two years. And two shots down range ( both right at 250 yds) have put two nice deer in the freezer. I hunt with the Hornady 143 gr. ELDX with 34.8 grs. of Accurate 4064. The impact is incredible. My next step is to get more educated on this round and start loading for long range prairie rats.
      Thanks again for the article. You have me wanting to start working on long range loads for my 300 Win Mag and 300 Ultra too. And of course I will be tweeking my elk and deer rounds also. I shoot the Creed in a Model 25 Savage.

    8. Good article, good points. I shoot the win-mag, after cutting my teeth on Dad’s trusted ’06. SOOO much more down-range punch with the venerable .300WM. Alas, Dad shot what he could afford. (30.06 Sprgfld Remington Sporterized military surplus). I loved that 1906 cartridge so much that my, now, 2nd fav cartridge after the .300 is a 25-06. All I can say about that quarter cartridge is…wow, obscure, but deadly, and waaay easier on my shoulder and ears than the .300.
      Flash forward to today, I am considering putting a 6.5CRDMR on top of my ar-10 platform. You just talked my into it.
      Thanks again, good Sir

    9. Grizman,

      Thank you for all the info ! Yes, you’re correct about the relationship of the length of a bullet and barrel twist. I regularly look at the Berger chart for stabilization or use the Greenhill formula to have a quick answer for a particular bullet. For the 300 grains pure copper ones, you are correct, unless I shoot at high altitude they will not stabilize. Another factor is bearing surface, if it is reasonably on the shorter side, a longer bullet can still stabilize. I have this Lapua rifle for hunting and depending on where I am, I use 225 (Barnes or Hornady all copper) , 250 (Barnes) and 265 grains. (Nosler AB Long Range) which has a very good B.C. for a hunting bullet and can be pushed in my rifle to over 2900 fps. I stick to 2800, I haven’t hunted with it yet. All 250s I’ve tried so far fly particularly well and are exceptionally accurate.

      Thanks again for your input, much appreciated !

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