Best Precision Rifle Cartridges

Best Precision Rifle Cartridges
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Best Precision Rifle Cartridges

These centerfire rounds combine excellent accuracy with managable recoil

There is no shortage of rifle competitions these days with the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) and National Rifle League (NRL) doing most of the heavy lifting. Each has centerfire and rimfire components, but this article will focus on centerfire matches. Even if the local shooting club isn’t affiliated with one of these organizations, it will likely use a similar format. One of the most asked questions when someone is considering shooting in a competition is: “Which cartridge is best?” Let’s take a look at the front-runners and dissect where and when each is the best choice.

6.5 Creedmoor

This cartridge took a long time to catch on and now it seems like it’s popular to hate on it. The reality is the 6.5 Creedmoor is the best general-purpose rifle cartridge on the market and it does well at any rifle competition. The NRL Hunter class matches have this cartridge as their minimum and it is, by far, the most popular cartridge on the circuit. With inexpensive and readily available factory match ammunition, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with the 6.5 Creedmoor

6 Creedmoor

What started as a project between George Gardner of GA Precision and John Snow of Outdoor Life has become one of the most popular 6mm cartridges in the competitive shooting world. 6mm projectiles rule in the PRS because they have great ballistic coefficients (meaning they are aerodynamic and resist the effects of the wind well) and low recoil. The downside of the 6mm cartridges is they can wear a barrel out quickly because they push a lot of burning powder down the small bore. Barrel life for the 6mm Creedmoor is about half of the 6.5 Creedmoor.

6 BR/BRA/Dasher

These are the most popular cartridges in the PRS because they offer excellent accuracy, good barrel life, and are easy to handload. The 6 BR is the original cartridge and the 6 BRA and 6 Dasher are variations of it. While there is limited factory ammunition available for the 6 BR, it is hard to find and expensive. These cartridges only make sense for hard-core competitors who want the easy performance of the 6 BR family. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, be prepared to hunt for Varget powder and spend some time at the reloading bench.

6 GT

This is a newcomer, having just become SAAMI-approved this year. The 6 GT shoots the same bullets as the 6mm Creedmoor, just at a slightly lower velocity. The reason the 6 GT is likely to overtake the 6mm Creedmoor in popularity is the longer barrel life and lower recoil, both of which matter more than 100 feet per second.

Another reason the 6 GT will overtake the 6mm Creedmoor in popularity is its case capacity. Factory ammunition is available, but the GT is also a great choice for the handloader because H4350, RL16, 6.5 Staball, and Varget powders all work well in this cartridge. Unlike the 6mm wildcats that dominate the PRS world, the 6 GT leaves the shooter open to powders other than Varget (which is almost impossible to find).

6 ARC

This little oddball started life as an AR-15 cartridge and has an odd-sized case head of .422-inch. However, it offers inexpensive factory-loaded ammunition that propels a 108-grain bullet out of a bolt-action rifle at right around 2,800 feet per second from a 24-inch barrel. Incidentally, the guys winning the most at the PRS are shooting 105- to 110-grain 6mm bullets at 2,800 feet per second. This bullet weight and velocity combination offers the ideal blend of low recoil with a nice, flat trajectory. The 6mm ARC isn’t a big player in the PRS, but for those looking for the easy button without having to handload, this is for you.

Choosing a cartridge for competitive rifle shooting is not as intimidating as it might initially sound. Pick the 6.5 Creedmoor if maximum barrel life is important. Pick the 6mm Creedmoor if you want maximum performance with negligible recoil, but barrel life will be short. The 6 BR family offers maximum performance and minimal recoil but you’ll have to handload. The 6 GT will likely become the most popular competition cartridge because it combines the performance of the 6 BR family with lots more powder choices for the handloader. Finally, don’t forget about the 6 ARC. Its factory ammunition replicates the 6 BR, but it has an odd case head diameter so it’ll require a custom rifle build. That may not be a bad thing.

 

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These centerfire rounds combine excellent accuracy with managable recoil

There is no shortage of rifle competitions these days with the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) and National Rifle League (NRL) doing most of the heavy lifting.

Each has centerfire and rimfire components, but this article will focus on centerfire matches.

Even if the local shooting club isn’t affiliated with one of these organizations, it will likely use a similar format.

One of the most asked questions when someone is considering shooting in a competition is: “Which cartridge is best?” Let’s take a look at the front-runners and dissect where and when each is the best choice.


6.5 Creedmoor

This cartridge took a long time to catch on and now it seems like it’s popular to hate on it.

The reality is the 6.5 Creedmoor is the best general-purpose rifle cartridge on the market and it does well at any rifle competition.

The NRL Hunter class matches have this cartridge as their minimum and it is, by far, the most popular cartridge on the circuit.

With inexpensive and readily available factory match ammunition, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with the 6.5 Creedmoor.

6mm Creedmoor

What started as a project between George Gardner of GA Precision and John Snow of Outdoor Life has become one of the most popular 6mm cartridges in the competitive shooting world.

6mm projectiles rule in the PRS because they have great ballistic coefficients (meaning they are aerodynamic and resist the effects of the wind well) and low recoil.

The downside of the 6mm cartridges is they can wear a barrel out quickly because they push a lot of burning powder down the small bore.

Barrel life for the 6mm Creedmoor is about half of the 6.5 Creedmoor.

6 BR/BRA/Dasher

These are the most popular cartridges in the PRS because they offer excellent accuracy, good barrel life, and are easy to handload.

The 6 BR is the original cartridge and the 6 BRA and 6 Dasher are variations of it. While there is limited factory ammunition available for the 6 BR, it is hard to find and expensive.

These cartridges only make sense for hard-core competitors who want the easy performance of the 6 BR family.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, be prepared to hunt for Varget powder and spend some time at the reloading bench.

6 GT

This is a newcomer, having just become SAAMI-approved this year. The 6 GT shoots the same bullets as the 6mm Creedmoor, just at a slightly lower velocity.

The reason the 6 GT is likely to overtake the 6mm Creedmoor in popularity is the longer barrel life and lower recoil, both of which matter more than 100 feet per second.

Another reason the 6 GT will overtake the 6mm Creedmoor in popularity is its case capacity.

Factory ammunition is available, but the GT is also a great choice for the handloader because H4350, RL16, 6.5 Staball, and Varget powders all work well in this cartridge.

Unlike the 6mm wildcats that dominate the PRS world, the 6 GT leaves the shooter open to powders other than Varget (which is almost impossible to find).

6 ARC

This little oddball started life as an AR-15 cartridge and has an odd-sized case head of .422-inch.

However, it offers inexpensive factory-loaded ammunition that propels a 108-grain bullet out of a bolt-action rifle at right around 2,800 feet per second from a 24-inch barrel.

Incidentally, the guys winning the most at the PRS are shooting 105- to 110-grain 6mm bullets at 2,800 feet per second.

This bullet weight and velocity combination offers the ideal blend of low recoil with a nice, flat trajectory. The 6mm ARC isn’t a big player in the PRS, but for those looking for the easy button without having to handload, this is for you.

Choosing a cartridge for competitive rifle shooting is not as intimidating as it might initially sound. Pick the 6.5 Creedmoor if maximum barrel life is important.

Pick the 6mm Creedmoor if you want maximum performance with negligible recoil, but barrel life will be short. The 6 BR family offers maximum performance and minimal recoil but you’ll have to handload.

The 6 GT will likely become the most popular competition cartridge because it combines the performance of the 6 BR family with lots more powder choices for the handloader.

Finally, don’t forget about the 6 ARC. Its factory ammunition replicates the 6 BR, but it has an odd case head diameter so it’ll require a custom rifle build.

That may not be a bad thing.


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