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Best .50 BMG Rifles & Ammo [Ultimate Guide]

The .50 Browning Machine Gun cartridge — commonly called the .50 BMG — is one of the most iconic rounds ever designed.

This mammoth cartridge saw extensive use by Western militaries and captured the hearts and minds of firearms and video game enthusiasts the world over.

.50 BMG
.50 BMG

Today, we wanted to take a minute to talk about this legendary round, including some of its history.

We’ll teach you everything you need to know about it in the modern era, including where to buy the very best .50 BMG rifles and ammo and how to get started reloading it as well.

By the end, you’ll be all spun up on the .50 BMG.

So, let’s dive in.

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How Did We Get .50 BMG?

During WWI, the Godfather of modern American firearms design, John Moses Browning, began developing an anti-aircraft round based on the .30-06 Springfield.

The .30-06, while excellent, just wasn’t big enough.

.30-06 Springfield
.30-06 Springfield…not quite big enough.

After some tinkering, he hit on the final design of the .50 Browning Machine Gun cartridge. Subsequently, the Browning M2 machine gun helped cement the cartridge’s legacy during WWII.

Since then, the .50 BMG has been used by American and allied militaries in just about every major conflict worldwide.

.50 BMG Today

Today, the .50 BMG is still used by the military as a heavy machine gun and anti-material round.

Basically, if the US government wants to put a large but precisely placed hole in something, this is the go-to round.

It’s also the largest cartridge you can really buy a rifle for here in the U.S. without getting a destructive device tax stamp.

This makes it popular with everyone from YouTubers to long-range shooting enthusiasts that like to reach out to a mile and beyond.

Of course, just given the sheer size and the limited commercial demand, ammo is expensive.

Something Of a Poor

It can get downright ridiculous when you start looking into match-grade ammunition instead of standard “machine gun grade” stuff.

And that’s not even taking into account the vast number of specialty projectiles that are designed to penetrate armor in some way — in some cases via fiery explosion.

Best .50 BMG Rifles

Modern .50 BMG rifles aren’t cheap, so it’s a good idea to head into your shopping experience with a good idea of what you want.

If you’re just looking for a fun range gun, then any .50 BMG rifle is probably fine. There are several affordable single-shot .50 cals out there.

M82A1 Pair
Pair of Barretts just hanging out. (Photo: Barrett)

Then again, if you’re looking to do some serious long-range shooting, something a little pricier is probably in order.

There are plenty of match-grade rifles out there as well…you just have to be prepared to pay for them.

So, with all that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best .50 BMG rifles out there.

1. Barrett M82A1

This is the classic .50 caliber sniper rifle you probably picture when thinking about the .50 BMG.

If you’ve ever played a modern first-person shooter, you’re probably at least passingly familiar with this one. And the good news is, you can buy one!

The Barrett M82A1 is my happy place.
The Barrett M82A1 is our happy place.

The M82A1 is the manufacturer designation for what the US military calls the M107A1.

Sporting either a 20-inch or 29-inch fluted barrel, the semi-auto M82A1 weighs in around 32.71-pounds with a 10-round mag.

Barrett M82A1
The Barrett M82A1 is my happy place.

For the low, low price of $9,500 to $10,000, you can have one of your very own.

Just make sure that you have a very robust backstop behind whatever you’re shooting.

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2. ArmaLite AR-50A1

If you’re looking for something a little bit more affordable and don’t mind a single-shot bolt-action, then the ArmaLite AR-50A1 is a great choice.

This rifle runs around $3,500 and is surprisingly accurate to anyone familiar with .50 BMG rifles.

AR-50A1
AR-50A1

Featuring a 30-inch barrel, the AR-50 measures 49.8-inches collapsed (58.5-inches expanded) and weighs 34.1-pounds.

With the right ammo and the right scope, you can do some seriously precise shooting with this one. So, if you’re looking to really step up your plinking game, this is a great option.

The hefty muzzle brake tames a large amount of the .50 cal’s stout recoil. Even without the M82A1’s gas system and buffer to absorb recoil, it’s still very manageable.

2499
at Sportsman's Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

3. Accuracy International AX50

Of course, if you want to do some true precision shooting with the .50 BMG, then the Accuracy International AX50 is possibly the best option civilians can get their hands on.

This modern take on the .50 BMG bolt action has all the same precision shooting capability as AI’s other sniper rifles.

Accuracy International AX50
Accuracy International AX50

It offers a 27-inch barrel with 26.5-pound weight. Features include a tactical muzzle break, quick adjust butt and cheekpiece.

Though it is very expensive, it certainly won’t let you down when you want to put a very large hole in a very particular place, from very far away.

It’s a very competent precision rifle; it just happens to shoot bullets the size of your thumb.

And yes, I know it sucks in Warzone. Don’t hold that against the real version.

11067
at Accuracy International

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

4. Serbu Firearms BFG-50

On the complete opposite end, we have the Serbu Firearms BFG-50.

It’s one of the most affordable .50 BMG rifles on the market at just $2,395.

The bolt-action, single shot BFG-50 delivers a 51.5-inch overall length for the standard model and 56.75-inches for the 36-inched barrel variant.

Weight comes in around 18-pounds for the standard and 26-pounds for the 36-inch model.

Serbu 50 BMG
Serbu BFG-50

While it isn’t the most accurate rifle on this list, it’s perfectly serviceable for plinking and target shooting — especially if you just want a fun .50 to impress/annoy your friends at the range with.

And make no mistake, it is well made.

Thankfully for all of us, they aren’t too committed to the “serious” side of firearms and are totally fine with making guns just because they’re cool.

2520
at Serbu Firearms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

5. Safety Harbor SHTF-50

The Safety Harbor SHTF-50 is another affordable way to send .50 BMG rounds downrange.

It’s an AR-15 upper conversion that turns an AR into a single-shot, bolt-action .50 BMG. So, it slots right in just like any other upper.

SHTF50 Uppers
(Photo: Safety Harbor Firearms)

Suddenly, you have an anti-material rifle!

The SHTF-50 comes in three models – an 18-inch, 22-inch, and 29-inch.

While it is marketed as a military item, anyone in the U.S. (and not in a restricted state) can own it and have an emergency .50 cal on hand at any time.

And, of course, it’s still a perfectly good .50 BMG bolt-action. It doesn’t have to be just for use during the apocalypse though it doesn’t hurt.

1850
at Safety Harbor Firearms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

6. Barrett M95

Moving back into the world of military rifles available to Joe and Jane Civilian, the Barrett M95 is another very accurate bolt-action rifle chambered for the .50 BMG.

This one is also designed for anti-material work. While it wasn’t adopted by the U.S. military (Barrett’s M82 won the contract instead), it is currently used by 15 militaries around the world.

Barrett M95SP
Barrett M95SP (Photo: WikiCommons)

These include the armed forces of Denmark, Italy, India, Portugal, and Thailand.

The M95 brings an overall length of 45-inches to the table with a weight of 23.5-pounds. This bolt gun features a 29-inch barrel and a 5-round capacity.

6472
at Sportsman's Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

7. Remington R2Mi Bolt Action Rifle

Next, we have another precision rifle, this one by Bushmaster.

The Bushmaster BA50 is a bolt-action rifle designed primarily for military use, but it’s also great for anyone looking to reach out to several thousand yards.

And honestly, .50 BMG isn’t the best caliber for that…but it might be the cheapest factory ammo that can get the job done.

5495
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If you’re going to be loading your own ammo, though (more on that in a minute), this is a great option.

Go to any Extreme Long-Range competition, and you’re liable to see a few of these in the .50 BMG categories.

Remington R2Mi
Remington R2Mi

Bushmaster’s BA50 has since been discontinued and replaced with the Remington R2Mi Bolt Action Rifle.

Featuring a free-floated barrel with 1:15-inch twist, the R2Mi brings a 1913 Picatinny rail and Magpul PRS Gen 3 adjustable buttstock.

It sports an AAC Cyclops muzzle brake and can accept AAC’s Cyclops silencer.

4299
at Sportsman's Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Best .50 BMG Ammo

Next, let’s talk about what you can feed those .50 BMG rifles.

Best Match Grade .50 BMG Ammo

Hornady is one of the biggest names in ammo with a reputation for both quality and availability.

That second thing is especially helpful in this case since .50 BMG is hard enough to track down as it is.

Hornady 50 BMG 750 gr A-MAX Match is Hornady’s only ammunition for .50 BMG, but the Match line is one of the company’s best. The A-Max FMJ bullet features a low-drag tip and a boattail for optimal performance.

75
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Another good match grade option is PMC Ammunition X-TAC Match .50 BMG 740 Grain FMJ-BT.

This round uses in-house designed and manufactured solid brass bullets that are slightly lighter than the Hornady ones and slightly higher muzzle velocity.

84
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Best .50 BMG Ammo for Plinking

.50 BMG ammo is expensive, though, so you probably don’t want to shell out for match-grade ammo every time you shoot. For just recreational shooting, you can go with something that’s (relatively) more affordable.

Our recommendation for plinking ammo is another round from PMC, this time from the less expensive Bronze line.

PMC Ammunition Bronze .50 BMG 660 Grain FMJ-BT is only about half the price of the X-TAC match, but it still delivers accurate and reliable enough performance that it won’t leave long-distance shooters frustrated.

43
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Best .50 BMG Bullets for Reloading

If you’re looking to save money, reloading is another great option to do that. For the unfamiliar, reloading refers to assembling your ammunition yourself.

It does require an initial investment to get the necessary tools and supplies, but you’ll definitely save money per round over time just from assembling the round yourself.

Pew Pew Tactical Founder and Editor, Eric Hung’s Reloading Station
You’ll need some specialty tools to get started in reloading.

The savings kick in when you reuse brass, though. The same cartridge can be used three to five times as long as it stays in good condition, so you’re not paying for new brass for every single shot.

Reloading ammo also allows you to customize your rounds, which is another huge advantage since .50 BMG isn’t as widely available in a huge assortment of products as other calibers are.

Pew Pew Tactical Reloading Supplies
An assortment of reloading supplies.

If you haven’t tried reloading before but are interested in learning more, our Beginner’s Guide to Reloading Ammo is a great place to get started.

If you’re sold on reloading, we have a few different recs.

Hornady A-MAX 50 Caliber Bullets are the same bullets used in the Hornady 50 BMG 750-grain A-MAX Match above.

61
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

For an even more affordable alternative, you can go with Hornady FTX 50 Caliber Bullets.

Barnes Bullets TAC-X .50 BMG Bullets come in at a similar price point to the A-MAX bullets but have an all-copper design.

56
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

As for casing to go with whichever bullet you go with, you can start by collecting your spent brass when you shoot pre-assembled rounds.

For fresh casing, though, we like Hornady 50 BMG Brass Cartridge Cases.

128
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Conclusion

The .50 BMG cartridge isn’t the most practical everyday cartridge. Both the guns and ammo are expensive at the best of times. And you can’t hunt anything with it unless you’ve got a tag for a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

But it is a cartridge with a lot of history and even more cool factor behind it. It’s a fun cartridge for civilians to shoot, and the THOOM of it going off will never get old, that we can promise.

M82A1
M82A1 in Action

If you’re looking to add some .50 BMG to your life; you should now have all the info you need. Now get out there, have some fun, and then tag us on Instagram with your cool guns so we can live vicariously through you.

What’s your fave .50 BMG setup? Let us know below. For more big bangs (that you can actually hunt with), check out our guide to the Best Big Bore Hunting Rifles.

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12 Leave a Reply

  • Dave Anderson

    I have a an older SERBU single shot, bolt action and love it. I have modified the gun with a bench rest type fore stock that bolts on where the bipods go and get 1.5MOA.

    April 28, 2021 1:47 pm
  • Luis Pacheco

    What about the other Serbu that looks like the Barret. It looks very similar to the Barret 107 and offers great advantages like better recoil and less weight, it also runs around the $6 to $7K price point which is substantially less than its main competitor. I think it would be the best choice by far but you failed to mention it.

    April 21, 2021 9:43 am
  • Harrison K Millard

    So was this article an ad for Barrett. About all I am seeing. You don't mention to of the Deadliest most accurate .50 BMG Rifles in the World. Especially since the McMillan TAC50 Holds the Worlds Record for the Longest Kill Shot by the Canadian Sniper Team. Robar RC 50 and 50F Father to the McMillan TAC50. These will run circles around anything you mentioned in your article.

    April 21, 2021 8:36 am
  • buck

    Sounds like we got a bunch of picky Democrats making comments. There is nothing wrong with this article since it is only a brief of some guns on the market.

    April 21, 2021 7:38 am
  • Taylor

    M82A1 is not the same as the M107A1 though. Its much more than just a difference in manufacturer designation.

    April 21, 2021 6:33 am
  • Another Ed

    Serbu Firearms of Tampa, Florida manufactures three types of 50 BMG rifle. My personal favorite is the magazine fed, semi-automatic BFG-50A.

    April 20, 2021 11:23 pm
  • ELR Anthony

    Megan, this is a sad attempt at an article. Did you google .50 bmg and this is what came back?

    I honestly feel like unsubbing from pewpewtactical because of this trash article.

    April 20, 2021 9:27 pm
    • Biteme

      Yea google

      April 20, 2021 11:41 pm
    • Eugene D. Clough

      I am not familiar with the .50 caliber BMG other than I have read about the Barrett and know that various guns in .50 caliber have established very long distance kills in the Middle East. Consequently, I found the article to be very informative. Perhaps the title should have read something like "An Introduction to the .50 cal. BMG and a Look at Some of the Rifles Currently Available in This Caliber." I think some of the comments are vulgar and overreaching. On the other hand, I am glad to learn about other makers just as a point of information.

      April 21, 2021 3:46 am
  • George

    No mention of the Desert Tech HTI? It would be on my A-list.

    April 20, 2021 8:41 pm
    • ELR Anthony

      Exfugginxactly!!!! I mean what a clown shoes review with no mention of the deserttech HTI.

      DT mustve told pew pew to go pound sand when they asked for kick back money to shill their products.

      April 20, 2021 9:21 pm
  • Evan

    How can we have a purported “ultimate” list of the “best” .50 BMG rifles (Serbu and Safety Harbor, seriously? And the less said about the Cobb/Bushmaster/Remington, the better) without even so much as a nod to the McMillan TAC-50? I understand that it’s relatively obscure, but it’s held the world’s record for longest confirmed kill twice in the last couple decades alone.

    Come on PewPew. You’re better than this. I believe in you.

    April 20, 2021 2:36 pm