All long-range calibers aren’t the same.
So, which is the best long-range caliber? Well, your choice of one caliber over another depends on several factors.
Below is a series of questions to help you pinpoint which caliber works best for you and your rifle.
Before you spend your money on any long-range caliber, ask yourself?
How Long is the “Long” in Your Long Range Caliber?
Based on your residence and shooting range, “long-range” can mean 200 to 2,000 yards.
You’ll want to determine your realistic shooting distances when choosing caliber for long distances. You’re better off with a caliber that can maintain supersonic speeds past your longest anticipated shots.
Here’s an example;
Even though 77-grain .223 Remington bullets are way superior for long-range shooting than their 55-grain counterparts, they maintain supersonic speeds at about 750 yards — of course, this may vary based on your weather conditions and altitude.
On the flip side, the relatively new.224 Valkyrie will maintain supersonic speeds for extreme long-range shooting. We’re talking past 1,000 yards out to 1,300+ yards at higher altitudes.
Where Will You Be Shooting?
Elevation and local atmospheric conditions may not make a huge difference at 50 or 1,000 yards.
However, your location is crucial when shooting at 1,000 years.
Here’s an example based on the 6.5 mm Creedmoor cartridge.
Let’s say your rifle shoots a 6.5 Creedmoor 140 grain ELD Match bullet at 2,780.3 feet per second. Your shooting location’s elevation is 30 feet above sea level. At 1,000 yards, this bullet will drop 305.39 inches while maintaining a speed of 1,444 feet per second.
If you were to shoot with the same rifle and cartridge in Denver at 1,000 yards, the bullet drop would be 244.45 inches. Further, the 6.5 Creedmoor will move faster at 1,882 feet per second as it sails past the 1,000-yard mark. Denver’s elevation is 5,820 feet above sea level.
The trajectory for long-range cartridges changes significantly depending on your location, as seen in the image above.
Are You Hunting or Target Shooting
As we’ve established from the example above, a bullet’s velocity over extended ranges can vary A LOT depending on the shooting location.
Long-range hunters shouldn’t focus on muzzle velocity. Instead, it would be best to use heavier bullets with a sufficient velocity at the project distance down range where the bullet will hit the target.
Even though the 6.5 Creedmoor in the example above isn’t a hunting bullet, we can still use it to illustrate this point for long-range hunting.
In South Carolina, the projection boasts 648-foot points for energy at 1,000 yards. In Denver, the 6.5 Creedmoor carries 1,100 pounds of energy at long-distance shooting.
Regarding target shooting, the energy your long range cartridge delivers down the range isn’t as important. You only need to ensure your bullets don’t miss the safety berm.
Long range shooters should be more worried about other factors like wind drift.
Will You Buy or Reload Your Long Range Caliber Ammo?
Costs can vary significantly, especially for factory loads, based on the long-range caliber you pick. If you’re shooting magnum cartridges like the 300 Winchester magnum, create a budget of $5,000 to $7,000 per high-quality pre-loaded factory ammo.
Indeed, specialized rounds like 300 win mag can be expensive.
Still, the best long range cartridges If you’re on a tight budget, you can choose the less expensive .244 Valkyrie that can fit in the standard AR-15 lower receiver. And the beauty of this is that you can still buy the inexpensive long range calibers from the factory.
You can even get high BC bullets like 6.5 Creedmoor for less than $2 a shot — that’s affordable for match-grade ammo.
Is Your Rifle’s Action Semi-auto or Bolt?
It is easy to pinpoint the best caliber for long range shooting if you prefer one type of bolt action.
The most common long range rifles in the semi-automatic sections belong to the AR-10 or AR-15 family. Rifles with lower receiver types can limit your cartridge choices because their magazine is relatively smaller.
So, if you intend to fire several shots, your long range cartridges need to fit in AR-10 or AR-15 lower receivers.
Bolt action rifles offer more flexibility.
… as we come to the near end of this article, let’s look at one crucial subject.
We need to cover Ballistic coefficients in detail, but we’ll keep it as simple as possible to help you choose the best long range caliber.
A bullet’s numerical value defines its “slipperiness” through the air. Think of it as the bullet’s ability to maintain velocity as it sails through the air.
A new .244 Valkyrie 90-gr Sierra Matchking projectile yields a 0.563 ballistic coefficient. A .308 caliber flat nose, a 150-gr bullet has a 0.185 ballistic coefficient.
High ballistic coefficient bullets carry their velocity better. As a result, they’re more predictable at long range precision shooting.
A ballistic coefficient may or may not be relevant depending on your particular situation.
For instance, target shooters hitting objects at 500 yards looking for a solid long range performance are better off with heavy bullets with a low ballistic coefficient.
The Bottom Line
When looking for the best long range caliber, you’ll want to determine what you want to achieve. What are your projected targets? Are there weight limits on your rifle? Do you need to use factory ammunition with your rifle?
The more you narrow down the specifics, the easier it is to pick a long range caliber that can deliver consistent accuracy.
You may be tempted to choose a long range round that can maintain supersonic speeds at extended distances, preferably past 2,000 yards.
Still, good cartridges should fit in your rifle and allow you to carry your gun all day. With the tidbits provided in this article, you shouldn’t have a problem choosing long range cartridges that meet your specific needs.