The best long-range cartridge must maintain specific elements to hit a target accurately at 500 or 1,000+ yards.
One, it needs to have a large case volume (propellant capacity). Two, you must pair it with a projectile that has a high ballistic coefficient (BC) rating.
In addition, the projectile needs to be heavy enough to remain balanced and stable during flight.
Sum up all these characteristics, and you have a unique and select collection of cartridges that can fit this description.
That said, the following 5 long-range hunting cartridges are top of the cream. Check them out.
1. 6.5 Creedmoor
Haters say the 6.5 Creedmoor has nothing special than other cartridges. Some claim it isn’t better.
Conversely, that’s not true. The 6.5 Creedmoor works well with heavy bullets that have extremely high ballistic coefficients.
Even more impressive, the bullets fit perfectly because of the neck design, making this cartridge ideal for long-range precision hunting.
In addition, the chamber and cartridge specs help improve accuracy while ensuring the recoil is manageable.
Like its smaller counterpart, the 6mm Creedmoor, the 6.5 delivers less wind drift when used with high ballistic coefficient bullets. That’s impressive compared to other 6.5s that shoot lighter bullets.
Further, the 6.5 Creedmoor is incredibly accurate. It is reasonably priced too.
And to top it all off, you can use the 6.5 Creedmoor with a host of rifles and ammunition. With what it can do, this cartridge can outperform popular long-range shooting rounds such as the .308 Winchester.
The 6.5 Creedmoor Highlights
- Muzzle velocity at 1,000 Yards: 1289.1 fps
- Energy at 1,000 Yards: 516 ft.-lbs.
- Drop at 1,000 Yards:110 inches
- Recoil: ~13 ft.-lbs.
2. 6.5mm Creedmoor
Developed in 2009, the 6.5mm Creedmoor is a necked down of the bigger 6.5.
This design is almost similar to another cartridge, the .243 Winchester, regarding performance.
Even though the .243 is a versatile round that can shoot light bullets, it was created for American big game hunters; the Creedmoor is.
The 6mm features more precise chamber specifications. Plus, most rifles compatible with Creedmoor have slow twist barrels capable of handling 103+ grain bullets and .500 ballistic coefficients or better.
The 6.5mm Creedmoor is more accurate than the .243 Winchester. Moreover, it has a lighter recoil, a crucial factor for calling shoots in a shooting competition.
The 6.5mm Creedmoor Highlights
- Muzzle velocity at 1,000 Yards: 3020 fps
- Energy at 1,000 Yards: 2430 ft.-lbs.
- Drop at 1,000 Yards:135 inches
- Recoil: ~11.86 ft.-lbs.
3. .300 Winchester Magnum
The .300 Win Mag is a solid long-range round with a stellar performance to match.
It delivers more recoil than most cartridges in its class, which makes it ideal for extreme long-range shooting. It is also a good choice for big game animals.
While it won’t turn you into a trained sharpshooter who can hit targets with inherent accuracy, there’s a reason some of the most skilled shooters choose it.
At 1,000 yards, the .300 Win Mag travels remarkably fast, hitting harder than most long-range calibers. Still, that doesn’t make it the best for long-range caliber.
Many hunters who use the .300 Win opt for an option with less kick.
Still, the 300 Win Mag is an excellent cartridge for extreme long-range if you can control it.
- Muzzle velocity at 1,000 Yards: 1516 fps
- Energy at 1,000 Yards: 2282 ft.-lbs.
- Drop at 1,000 Yards: 284.1 inches
- Recoil: ~20 ft.-lbs
4. 6.5 PRC
The 6.5 Precision Rifle Cartridge (PRC) is a product of Hornady, the 6.5 mm and 6.5 Creedmoor makers.
The 6.5 PRC can handle 108-grain ELD Match and 103 EXD-X bullets.
The PRC's larger case derived from the .300 Ruger Compact Magnum makes it a top long-range cartridge that gives this unit similar powder capacity.
The ripple effect is that the PRC can propel bullets 250 feet per second faster than the Creedmoor, which means a flatter trajectory and more power.
At 1,000 yards, the 300 PRC drops about 260 inches zeroed at 300 yards, 10 inches more than the Creedmoor.
In addition, the cartridge boasts extra foot-pounds at the same distance, allowing you to bring down even the largest animals.
- Muzzle velocity at 1,000 Yards: 1716 fps
- Energy at 1,000 Yards: 3850 ft.-lbs.
- Drop at 1,000 Yards: 260.7 inches
- Recoil: ~26 ft.-lbs
5. 6.8 Western
6.8 Western is perfectly built for long-range rounds.
It can fire .277-inch bullets weighing 165 to 175 grains, meaning it can do more than most in-class cartridges in external and terminal ballistics.
At 500 yards, that 165-grain bullet has 1,856 foot-pounds of energy, which is relatively more than the .300 Win Mag.
It delivers this performance with short-action rifles. Sure, 7mm, Rem. Mag can generate the same recoil.
Still, the 6.8 Western can outperform the 7mm Reg ballistically. This makes the Western a good hunting cartridge without being intrusive at long range.
- Muzzle velocity at 1,000 Yards: 2,970 fps
- Energy at 1,000 Yards: 3,226 ft.-lbs.
- Drop at 1,000 Yards: 101 inches
- Recoil: ~23.6 ft.-lbs.
Other notable long-range cartridges include:
Developed in 2003, the .28 Nosler is emerging as a formidable cartridge for long distances. It can deliver a top muzzle velocity of 1,850 at 1,000, which is what you should expect from a big game cartridge.
While cartridges like the .338 Lapua Magnum, 50 BMG, and .375 Cheytac can deliver good performance over extended ranges, they’re relatively expensive.
Even though prices differ significantly depending on your rifle, feeding them can be time-consuming, even with reloading.
The Bottom Line
Long range shooting and hunting can be more fulfilling if you have the right cartridges.
The five long range cartridges highlighted above can deliver what they promise over the extended range. They’re specialized rounds that’ll work with heavier bullets for better results.
What’s your favorite cartridge for longer distances?
Feel free to leave a comment below.