7 Best Long-Range Cartridges: Hit Stuff Really Far Away

What is long range shooting?

Honestly, it’s relative to the shooter.

Some people may never need or care to shoot past 200 yards. While others may strive to keep an accurate and precise fire at 2,000 yards.

HBH Going Long Distance
Going Long Distance

In this article, I aim to help you decide which cartridge may be best for you, your wallet, and what you may be able to expect out of these long-range capable cartridges.

Let’s look at some of the more popular calibers between gas guns and bolt actions.

Best Long-Range Cartridges

1. .223 Remington/5.56 NATO – Old Faithful

Assorted 5.56 Rounds (XM193, XM855, Gold Medal 69gr)
Assorted 5.56 Rounds (XM193, XM855, Gold Medal 69gr)

While this may not be the first cartridge that comes to mind for long range shooting, with an appropriate bullet, the compact .223 Remington, or 5.56 NATO is more than capable of shooting over 500 yards with accuracy.

authorsrifle
.223 Wylde chambered, 20” barreled rifle.

With the popularity of this cartridge due to America’s favorite rifle, the AR15, more and more people are stretching the out its legs.

If you would choose to shoot long-range with a .223 Remington, I would highly suggest shooting longer, heavier bullets with a 1:7 rifle twist. To explain the nuances of rifle twist, you can read my previous article about AR-15 Twist Rate! 

An added benefit with the .223 Remington is cheap, readily available ammo.

While precision match loads can be pricey, you can always run cheaper alternatives. I would recommend a longer 20” barrel to gain as much velocity as possible for long range. Some of the best loads I have shot through various .223 Wylde/5.56 NATO chambers have been:

2. .224 Valkyrie – The New Kid on the Block

.224 Valkyrie
.224 Valkyrie

The .224 Valkyrie was developed with long-range shooting in mind from its inception. It is hard to believe that a .224” caliber bullet with a C.O.A.L. (cartridge over-all length) which fits inside of an AR15 magazine well can be capable of 1,000+ yards.

I even had my own doubts because I am a bit of a cynic.

kenkat
Me (left) with Kat Ainsworth at 1,250 yards with the PSA .224 Valkyrie.

After reaching out to 1250 yards on a trip to the amazing High Bar Homestead in Gillette, WY, I am now a firm believer in the .224 Valkyrie. It is a screamer, and with velocity comes increased range. Coupled with bullets that have a high ballistic coefficient, impressive results can be achieved.

Federal American Eagle 90 gr vs 75 gr .224 Valkyrie
Federal American Eagle 90 gr vs 75 gr .224 Valkyrie

It also has less wind drift and less bullet drop than the .223 Remington or the 6.5 Grendel. Ammo prices are a bit steeper than the previously mentioned cartridges, but the American Eagle 75-grain TMJs are relatively easy on the wallet.

Best Long-Range AR-15 Budget Upper
499
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

While I was in Wyoming, I was able to test and evaluate the .224 Valkyrie from Palmetto State Armory. It happened to shoot the Federal Premium 90-grain Sierra Match Kings very well and hitting a steel torso was fairly regular between myself and my shooting buddy, Kat Ainsworth.

3. 6.5 Grendel – The AR15 Long-Range Savior

I may be a huge Grendel fanboy.

6.5 Grendel
6.5 Grendel

I am no expert, but scholars believe that the 6.5 Grendel was ordained during an ancient ritual in Bill Alexander’s secret Temple of Ballistics. I can not confirm this, but it seems completely legitimate.

grendelmeme

All kidding aside, the 6.5 Grendel is an amazing cartridge that was originally established in 2003 for the AR15 platform and is now available in bolt action rifles.

While other cartridges have come out and gained popularity, the 6.5 Grendel still has a permanent place in the conversation when talking about long range shooting. Prices can be high for match grade ammo, but Wolf offers extremely affordable plinking ammo with their 100-grain FMJ steel-case loads.

psagrendel
Author shooting the Palmetto State Armory 6.5 Grendel with Federal Premium 130-grain Berger OTM loads.

With a growing choice of ammo from 90-130 grain projectiles and the benefit of a great ballistic coefficient with the 6.5mm bullet, 500+ yard shooting can be almost boring. While at the High Bar Homestead with PSA, I was able to evaluate their 6.5 Grendel out to 1,000 yards with Federal Premium 130 grain Bergers.

Once dialed in, I was able to put rounds on a steel silhouette regularly.

Of course, if you want to know a LOT more about the 6.5 Grendel – you need to read the 6.5 Grendel Shootout!

4. 6mm Creedmoor – The Speed Demon

The 6mm Creedmoor has gained a lot of traction with competitive shooters over the last couple of years.

6mm Creedmoor
6mm Creedmoor

It’s parent case, unsurprisingly, is the 6.5 Creedmoor which has an amazing pedigree for long range shooting.

Necking the 6.5 Creedmoor down to 6mm is straightforward and using high ballistic coefficient bullets around 100 grains gives great performance out to 1,000 yards.

6.5 Creedmoor vs 6 Creedmoor vs 6.5 PRC
6.5mm Creedmoor Vs. 6mm Creedmoor Vs. 6.5 PRC Source, Hornady’s YouTube

Ammunition choices have increased lately and Hornady has ammunition with the 87-grain VMAX, and a 103-grain ELD-X for long range hunting. Barnes and Remington also have loads for hunting and long-range precision shooting.

None of these choices are necessarily friendly on your wallet, with most loads over $1/round, but the velocity with a lighter grain bullet and the case capacity makes for a great long-range round. Bucking the wind, though, is not in its favor compared to its bigger brother, the 6.5 Creedmoor.

Availability is not great either, so online buying or reloading may be the best option for this cartridge.

970
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

While ammo might not be cheap, 6mm rifles seem to be dropping in price – I’ve seen Ruger Precision Rifles in 6mm Creedmoor going for crazy good prices lately.

5. 6.5 Creedmoor – The Hipster Round

Developed in 2007 by Hornady, the 6.5 Creedmoor has a parent case with the .30 TC, which was originally based on the .308 Winchester.

Assorted 6.5 Creedmoor (L to R: Federal FMJ, Soft 129gr, Ballistic Tip 120gr, Gold Medal 140gr)
Assorted 6.5 Creedmoor (L to R: Federal FMJ, Soft 129gr, Ballistic Tip 120gr, Gold Medal 140gr)

Where the .308 Winchester comes up short, the 6.5 Creedmoor turns on the afterburners largely because of the 6.5mm bullet’s excellent sectional density and ballistic coefficient. For many, this is a round that you hate to love.

I understand why some hate the round, and it’s largely the .308 Winchester fanboys.

It honestly feels like cheating behind a quality 6.5 Creedmoor. The 6.5 CM is superior to the .308 Win in just about any practical sense of the matter with better range, less effect with wind, and less bullet drop.

While they are relatively close within 500 yards, at 1,000 yards the .308 Winchester has 4 feet more drop when you compare a 6.5 CM 140-grain ELD vs. a .308 Win 168-grain ELD.

This is largely because the .308 Winchester is a heavier, slower bullet. Even with kinetic energy factored in, after 500 yards the 6.5 CM pulls away as the leader due to its retained velocity.

6.5 Creedmoor
6.5 Creedmoor

Ammo availability has gotten much larger for the 6.5 Creedmoor as well, and can even be picked up locally at your neighborhood Wal-Mart.

While there isn’t much of a cheap alternative for 6.5 CM ammunition, Lucky Gunner lists S&B 140-grain FMJs for $0.78/round. A personal favorite of mine is the Federal Premium 130-grain Bergers, which at the time of this writing costs $1.50/round.

What’s your take on the 6.5 Creedmoor?

Readers' Ratings

4.85/5 (136)

Your Rating?

Honorable Mentions

.308 Winchester has been around for almost 70 years now and has served militaries and police forces around the world as faithfully as it has served competition shooters.

Assorted 7.62x51mm (MEN 147gr, PPU 165gr, PPU 180gr, Gold Medal 168gr
Assorted 7.62x51mm (MEN 147gr, PPU 165gr, PPU 180gr, Gold Medal 168gr

While there are newer cartridges around, many of them are derived from the .308 and all of them are measured against it.

Aero M5 .308 AR-10
Aero M5 .308 AR-10

.416 Barret while a very new cartridge compared to most is currently the ultimate boss king of extreme long range shooting – the Team Global Precision Group not long ago used the .416 Barrett to ring steel at a mind-blowing 6,012 yards (3.4 miles, 5497 meters, 18,036 feet). If you took the Statue of Liberty and laid it down, that’s almost 20 Statues of Liberty long. That’s a lot of FREEDOM.

.300 Winchester Magnum is a favorite of hunters around the world for big game at long range. Need to drop an Elk at 500 yards? .300 Win Mag is your ticket. While still a great long-range precision shooting cartridge, it is starting to lose ground to newer and softer shooting cartridges.

A Long Trip Down the Rabbit Hole

Like Alice in Wonderland, you can go down a very deep rabbit hole of different calibers and cartridges for long range shooting.

Common Rifle Calibers
Common Rifle Calibers

Covering all of them would practically be a novel, so I am going to stop short here. Depending on your personal budget, and what kind of rifle you want, the sky is the limit.

.338 Lapua vs .30-06 Black Tip
.338 Lapua vs .30-06 Black Tip

Cartridges like the .338 Lapua Magnum, .375 Cheytac, and .50 BMG have shown incredible performance down range. Price ranges a lot for rifles, and feeding them is a whole different story, even if you reload. If you take a left turn, you can go through an endless list of wildcats.

What are some of your favorite long-range cartridges? Let us know in the comments below! And to reach out that far…you’ll need some great glass.  Here’s our Best Long Range Scopes.

25 Leave a Reply

  • Atch

    I kinda thought 7mil rem mag would be there somewhere. I use it long range and it does just fine. So who is going to tell me how bad it is. I know someone will. Hoping to hear some good things about it too.

    1 month ago
  • Chief Wampum

    Looks like another article telling us it's ok to shoot at an elk from 500 yards away. I have news for you, it's not ok! I don't care if you have a Win Mag or a Creedmoor and can hit steel from a mile away with it. I know plenty of people who can actually do that and even they won't shoot at game beyond 300 or 400 yards, depending on the wind. Why? There is too much to go wrong and game animals aren't targets or enemies. The problem with articles like this is that it gives younger readers (whose experience likely includes playing call of duty or watching American sniper) the false impression that any of these rounds will simply do the trick without a great deal of training and practice. Those folks who actually do have that great deal of training and practice, once again, know better than to take outrageously long shots on our valuable big game animals.

    1 month ago
    • Royallancers

      I may be wrong, and its ok for me to be wrong. But where in the article does he even mention big game hunting. For me a guy who likes hitting steel at long range this article was extremely helpful. The article is "7 Best Long-Range Cartridges: Hit Stuff Really Far Away". He didn't say Elk or Deer or Hogs or Trolls. He said stuff. You are not wrong in your thoughts. I just think this article was not specifically a hunting article. There are many of us who have rifles to attempt to master the art of long range steel shooting. Just my 2 cents plus change.

      1 month ago
  • greg Saunders

    thanks and what of the 6.5cm PRC you have a picture of it but dont mention it. Is it the 6.5 CM on steriodes but with out the kick of the 300 win mag? wanting to hunt with it as wells a compete win PRC Im thinking it is all that Ineed and a little more. more... do I really need more ??? what are your thoughts ??

    2 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      It's basically 6.5cm on roides, yes. We haven't gotten any trigger time with it yet, but I'm hoping to do some testing soon. Right now options are really slim and ammo prices are really high.

      2 months ago
  • Jim

    I always favored the .264 Win Mag. A great flat shooter. I guess because it was my dad's and the first long distance rifle I was taught with. It's a pre-64 and well it's not used much now. It will be passed down to my son and so forth. Although it will always be there and ready if the need arises. Oh, I also on a 300 Win Mag too, just in case I get lucky enough to go elk hunting.

    6 months ago
  • Tom

    To build off of the PSA .224 Valkyrie Upper you recommended is there any other changes needed to a standard AR-15 lower assembly? In other words, can I just remove my .223 Wylde/5.56 NATO223 upper assy and install the PSA .224 Valkyrie upper?

    6 months ago
    • Steve

      You sure can. It's a quick and easy swap. All you need is a magazine for the .224 round and the 6.8 SPC mags do a very good job.

      6 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Yes, you can. .224 Valk just needs a new barrel and a new bolt. The only thing about the lower would be magazines, .224 Valk uses 6.8 SPC mags.

      6 months ago
  • Clark

    I wish there was more talk around 308 since you've established it as the baseline by which all long range cartridges are judged.

    6 months ago
    • Tim

      With new( in the works)bullet designs the .308 surpasses the .300 win mag and is closing in on 6.5 ! Reloaders take notice don't give up on the .308 yet good things to come.

      6 months ago
      • Jerry

        Umm.. the .300 mag is far superior to the 308. According to the ballistics charts on the boxes.

        5 months ago
  • Andrew

    So many variables and I think the age old "it depends". Cost, purpose, reload or not, competition or not, etc... If I am just putting holes in paper at 1000+ I'd go 6mm Creed, 6mm Dasher, or 6x47 Lapua. If I want to be a King of 2 Mile shooter .375 Cheytac hands down followed by a .50 BMG, if I want to overwatch an infantry squad either .338 Win Mag or .50 BMG, if cost isn't an issue Anzio Ironworks 20mm (yes 20mm), Barrett, AI, or a full up custom build. If I reload then a wildcat cartridge like 6x47 Lapua. If im trying to hunt, 300 Win Mag, 338 maybe a 7mm. So it just depends , but I wouldn't lump 556, 224, etc into this category. Look at what the best are shooting in PRS, pretty much 6mm and variants.

    6 months ago
  • Phil Double

    You would be surprised at what my .25-06 Rem will do.

    6 months ago
  • Mike Russell

    No mention of the new 300 PRC??

    6 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      It's new, very little data out about it. Not much else to say, sorry.

      6 months ago
  • Robert M. Copley

    My favorite for many years is the 7mmX300 Weatherby on a Ruger No.1 with a Schillen @ 24'' a long with the 264 Win. Mag. Model 70 with a 24" Medium wt. bbl. I still like my 300 Win. Mag Browning Eclipse using 208 Grain Hornady Match Bullets and am having a good time with my new DPMS with a Geissly Trigger and custom Muzzle brake with the barrel cryogenically treated hitting golf balls at 200 yards.

    6 months ago
    • J Hurley

      Surprising how many people seem to have forgotten the .264 W mag

      6 months ago
  • Mestengo Hidalgo

    This is probably my inexperience talking but I have to ask why, when evaluating long range potential, the evaluations are always limited to flight path and ringing steel? Shouldn't penetration at the point of termination be a consideration?

    6 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Generally, long-range shooting is pure sport and for sport the effectiveness of the round on target is moot. USSOCOM did just adopt 6.5 Creedmoor as their new go-to cartridge though.

      6 months ago
    • Ken Whitmore

      That is also something to take account of with regards to a hunting bullet. But that can also vary from projectile to projectile. Effective accuracy range is much different than effective and ethical killing range on game, but that is something to take into account if the rifle will be used for hunting.

      6 months ago
  • Woodsman

    A rather odd collection but since anytime we have a "best" of anything its all subjective. We could go into all sorts of great cartridges that frankly its hard to find anything that is a clear cut winner in the group. They each have pros and cons. This "best" list is a list of "best" for the author, others mileage may vary.

    6 months ago
    • joe

      i think the 50 bmg would make most every ones list on this topic

      6 months ago
    • Ken Whitmore

      Definitely agree with that statement. There are far too many cartridges out there to narrow down, let alone the shooter's need factored in. I tried to pick out some popular ones on the market currently based on typical ranges most shooter's shoot out too.

      6 months ago
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