2018 Precision Rifle Ammo Roundup
July 05, 2018
Ammunition is a variable in the longrange game that many shooters take into their own hands. However, there are plenty of quality factory loads on the market for those who don't have the time or inclination to roll their own. From brand-new cartridges to line extensions, this year is bringing some serious firepower.
Hornady Precision Hunter
Ethical shots on long-distance game require a deadly combination of accuracy and terminal performance. Removing either from the equation results in a bad day for all involved. This year, industry titan Hornady has added nine new loads to their appropriately named Precision Hunter line. The best-in-class ballistic coefficients (BCs) of Hornady's popular ELD-X bullets with Heat Shield tip give hunters the ability to reach out and touch 'em, while the high InterLock ring and thick jacket shank combine to create devastating terminal performance at both conventional and long distances (400-plus yards). Hornady's clean-burning propellants and legendary consistency provide shooters the confidence they need for the hunt of a lifetime.
- 6mm Creedmoor 103-gr. ELD-X
- .25-06 Rem. 110-gr. ELD-X
- .257 Wby. Mag. 110-gr. ELD-X
- 6.5 PRC 143-gr. ELD-X
- .270 WSM 145-gr. ELD-X
- .280 Ackley Improved 162-gr. ELD-X
- 7mm WSM 162-gr. ELD-X
- .338 Win. Mag. 230-gr. ELD-X
- .338 Lapua Mag. 270-gr. ELD-X
Nosler RDF Match Grade
Nosler is celebrating their 70th anniversary this year, and they're continuing the tradition of excellence by stuffing an even wider array of Reduced Drag Factor (RDF) bullets for their RDF Match Grade Ammunition Line. In addition to using high-performance powders and Nosler's premium brass, Nosler's RDF bullet is on point (literally) boasting some of the most consistent and tiny meplats in the business. Factory-new loads include 70-grain RDF .223 Rem.; 70-grain and 85-grain RDF 22 Nosler; 140-grain RDF 6.5 Creedmoor; 175-grain RDF .308 Win.; and 210-grain RDF .300 Win. Mag.
Black Hills Gold
This year, Black Hills Ammunition has added five new loads to their flagship Gold line. Expanding its lineup with the needs of the long-range hunter in mind, Black Hills is now loading Hornady's all-star ELD-X bullets for 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm Remington Magnum and .300 Win. Mag.
Meanwhile, Hornady's homogenous copper alloy bullet, the 125-grain GMX is being loaded in .308 Win. The light-for-caliber hunting bullet moves full tilt out of a .308 at 3,000 feet per second (fps) at the muzzle, while maintaining an identical trajectory to .270 Win. out to 400 yards - all while still providing reliable expansion due the precut petals and offering superior weight retention when compared to traditional lead-core bullets.
To round out the new offerings, and without leaving the competitive match shooter behind, Black Hills is also offering a 6.5 Creedmoor load using Hornady's high BC, 147-grain ELD-M bullet. The company that got its start by loading ammo by hand still inspects every round by hand before it leaves the factory.
Federal Premium .224 Valkyrie
The din on the SHOT Show floor regarding buzz about Federal's new cartridge introduction for this year was palpable. Developed by Federal Premium Ammunition for the small frame AR platform, the new cartridge is capable of remaining supersonic past 1,300 yards while generating significantly less drop and wind drift when compared to other loads in its class.
To accomplish the amazing ballistic feats, Federal took advantage of the ample case volume provided by the .30 Rem./6.8 SPC and necked it down to .224 caliber. According to Federal, the .224 Valkyrie 90-grain Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing (SMK) leaves the muzzle at 2,700 fps from a 24-inch barrel with a 1:7-inch twist, maintaining a blistering 1,950 fps at 500 yards and 1,268 fps when crossing the 1,000-yard line.
The .224 Valkyrie generates significantly less recoil than other cartridges with comparable ballistics, and all at a more economical price.
Federal is performing a full-court press with their new load, hoping the cartridge stands the test of time by initially offering the Valkyrie in four different factory loads: Federal Premium, 60-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip Varmint; Federal Premium Gold Medal, 90-grain SMK; Federal Fusion, 90-grain MSR; and Federal American Eagle, 75-grain TMJ.
While the jury might still be out on the Valkyrie's longevity, manufacturers are already jumping on board to chamber rifles for the new cartridge, to include Savage Arms, Mossberg, JP Enterprises, Barrett, LaRue Tactical, Seekins Precision - and the list goes on.
The numbers don't lie, however, and shooters looking to break through the glass ceiling with hits on target past 1,000 yards using a small frame AR would be wise to give the Valkyrie a try.
The legendary Browning brand has taken note of the desire for many precision shooters to assign their favorite competition calibers hunting duties. This year, Browning has added several new calibers to their popular BXS Solid Expansion, Big Game and Deer line of ammo.
The all-copper, polymer-tipped bullets result in high BCs designed for use on deer and big game. With a hollow core, these bullets offer controlled expansion for devastating terminal performance but penetrate deeply through thick hide and bone. Nickel-plated casings round out the package to resist corrosion and enhance feeding.
New load offerings include:
- 120-grain BXS, 6.5 Creedmoor
- 130-grain BXS, .270 Win.
- 150-grain BXS, .308 Win.
- 180-grain BXS, .30-'06
- 139-grain BXS, 7mm Rem. Mag.
- 180-grain BXS, .300 WSM
- 180-grain BXS, .300 Win. Mag.
Berger Match Grade Target Ammunition
Applied Ballistics Munitions (ABM), the company whose purpose from the start was to provide competitive shooters the best factory loaded ammunition available, has undergone some drastic changes over the past few months. After escaping the hostile environment of California, Berger consolidated their bullet plant and ammo plant under one roof. To commemorate the move, ABM Ammo is now being rebranded as Berger Ammunition.
Berger's Match Grade Target line is currently being offered in .260 Remington using Berger's 140-grain Hybrid Target bullet, .308 Win. using the 185-grain Fullbore Target and .308 Win. using the heavier 185-grain Juggernaut Target.
After completing several equipment upgrades in conjunction with the move, Berger's production capacity has also increased, and shooters can expect to see several additional offerings coming up on the horizon - to include loads for 6.5 Creedmoor and additional bullet offerings for other chamberings.
Three appropriately named ammo lines are currently available: Berger Match Grade Target, Match Grade Hunting and Match Grade Tactical, all geared toward the shooters who rely on them.
Remington Premier Match
Big Green is making a comeback, and to complement the introduction of their new precision bolt-gun, the model 700 PCR, Remington is now offering their Premier Match line of ammunition in both 6mm Creedmoor and .260 Remington. Loaded with 112-grain and 140-grain Barnes open-tip match (OTM) bullets, Remington is putting their specialized loading techniques to good use by meeting the needs of competition shooters everywhere.
Winchester Expedition Big Game Long Range
When long-range hunting is your thing, bullet selection becomes paramount. Luckily, Big Red's Expedition Big Game Long Range load offers a tremendous value for today's hunter, utilizing Winchester optimized propellants, weight-sorted cases and high-BC bullets designed to open up at speeds as low as 1,300 fps. Available in 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., .30-'06, .300 WSM and .300 Win. Mag. Another great thing about these loads is price. Unlike many, they sell for only $35 a box.