Let's be honest; there is not a single caliber that is perfect for all long-range shooting situations, which is why it's so important to choose the best sniper ammo to match the conditions you most often face.
Whether you're looking for pin-point accuracy, specific bullet characteristics, or cost-efficient rounds, we have you covered below. The most common long-range shooting ammo is listed below from the smallest to the largest caliber.
- .223 Rem / 5.56 NATO
- 224 Valkyrie
- 243 Winchester
- 6mm Creedmoor
- 6.5mm Creedmoor
- 6.5mm Grendel
- 7.62mm NATO
- .300 Winchester Magnum
- .308 Winchester
- .338 Lapua Magnum
- .408 Cheyenne Tactical
- .416 Barrett
- .50 BMG
So which one is best for you?
Let's begin by explaining our top picks; then, we will break down the characteristics that determine the best sniper ammo.
Best Calibers for Long-Distance Shooting
Best 223 Long-Range Ammo
Federal Premium 69gr HPBT
- Bullet Weight: 69-grain
- Casing Type: Brass
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,950 fps
- Muzzle Energy: 1,333 ft-lbs
- High-quality materials
- Well known brand
- Excellent bullet for accuracy and long-range
- Compatible with the AR platform
- Lightweight bullet
- Can't shoot as far as other calibers
Why We Chose It
The 223 is an entry-level long-distance round, with long-distance being a relative term.
The .223 Rem maxes out around 400 yards, and most shooters don't push it over 200 yards, especially on windy days.
But high-quality ammo like Federal Premium 69gr HPBT is relatively inexpensive compared to the same quality of ammo in larger calibers.
The HPBT bullet design is one of the best for long-range shooting, though it lacks the power to get to impressive distances.
Because the 223 is widespread and one of the main calibers for the AR-15, it's an excellent place to begin your journey of long-range shooting.
Best 6.5 Creedmoor Long-Distance Ammo
Hornady 147gr ELD Match
Shop Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor Ammo
- Bullet Weight: 147-grain
- Casing Type: Brass
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,695 fps
- Muzzle Energy: 2,370 ft-lbs
- Favorite of competition shooters
- High-quality materials
- Incredibly accurate
- Established brand
- Doubles as a hunting round
Why We Chose It
The 6.5 Creedmoor is a favorite of many long-range competition shooters because of its low recoil and high accuracy. Pairing that with one of the top ammo brands in the industry is a match made in shooting heaven.
Hornady uses top-of-the-line materials for their match-grade ammo. However, that means it comes at a high price.
While 6.5 Creedmoor is nowhere near the most expensive caliber to purchase, it's not what I consider cheap.
If you like to hunt, you'll be happy to know that the 6.5 Creedmoor has enough power to take most medium-sized to big game in North America.
The 6.5 Creedmoor Hornady 147gr ELD Match is ammo from which beginners and experts can benefit.
Best 338 Lapua Magnum Ammunition
Black Hills 250gr Sierra MatchKing
- Bullet Weight: 250-grain
- Casing Type: Brass
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,860 fps
- Muzzle Energy: 4,540 ft-lbs
- Trusted by the military
- Designed for extremely long shots
- High-quality ammo
Why We Chose It
The .338 Lapua is one of the most popular sniper calibers in the world. The US Military and many other militaries adopted it as their primary sniper.
It was designed for extremely long-distance shots yet remained lightweight and portable compared to the 50 BMG.
The biggest drawback to Black Hills 338 Lapua ammo is the expense. These rounds aren't cheap, nor are they easy to find.
Black Hills is known for manufacturing high-quality match-level ammo, and these rounds are no different.
The 338 Lapua is for the serious long-distance shooter with a little extra cash to spend each time they pull the trigger.
Best Long-Range Ammo Based on Accuracy
Whether you're long-range hunting or shooting in competitions, accuracy is crucial.
But what do I mean by accuracy?
Accuracy is how close you can get to where you were truly aiming. It's determined by several factors, from the shooter to the gun and ammo.
In order to make an ethical kill or score well in the competition, you must be accurate.
Typically smaller calibers with less recoil will be more accurate at closer ranges. However, wind and gravity begin to take effect at longer ranges, making them less accurate as the target gets further away.
So as a long-range shooter, you must walk the line of having enough power to resist the wind and gravity while choosing a round that doesn't hurt your shoulder after one shot.
Once we've chosen our favorite caliber, many competition shooters choose the 6.5 Creedmoor or 6.5 Grendel; now it's time to pick our favorite ammo.
Bullet design and quality are the two most significant factors affecting the accuracy of the ammo when all other things are considered equal.
The bullet shape determines whether it will slice or tumble through the air. When a bullet tumbles, it is much less accurate and lowers its maximum effective distance.
So we don't want a bullet that tumbles.
Instead, we need a bullet that slices through the air like the 6.5 Creedmoor Federal Gold Medal 130grain BH OTM ammo. This is one of the most accurate factory-produced ammo rounds that allows shooters to reach sub-MOA standards.
It's designed to use slightly heavier bullets to help resist wind; however, it maintains a high muzzle velocity and muzzle energy despite the additional weight.
Federal Premium is a leader in the ammunition space, so when you purchase these rounds, you can trust they'll do as they're intended.
If you're looking for a light recoil long-range round that's more suited for coyote hunting or personal protection, the 224 Valkyrie 88 Grain Hornady ELD Match ammo is what you should consider.
These polymer-tipped rounds are incredibly accurate and designed for shooting out to 1,000 yards on the semi-auto AR platform.
Lastly, if you're looking for a proper sniper round that's deadly accurate out to 2,000+ yards, I can't fail to mention the 338 Lapua Magnum.
This round was initially designed for military snipers to fill the gap between the 7.62 NATO and 50 BMG. Still, law enforcement officers and big game hunters quickly adopted it as one of their favorite long-range cartridges.
However, it's still known for much heavier recoil than the 5.56 or 6.5 Grendel, so new long-range shooters will find it less accurate than those rounds.
Best Sniper Ammo Based on Ballistic Coefficient
If you're new to long-distance shooting, you might have heard the phrase ballistic coefficient, but you don't have a clue what that means.
Don't worry; we've all been there. Don't let the trolls in the forums discourage you for not understanding the terminology.
While there's a complicated formula to determine the BC of a bullet, it's the numeric expression of the ability of the projectile to overcome air resistance while flying.
A high BC shows the projectile can better resist drag.
Drag slows a bullet down, allowing gravity to take effect quicker, bringing the bullet back to the earth instead of flying a long distance.
Round nose bullets have the lowest BC, while spitzer rounds with a boat tail have the highest ballistic coefficient.
A spitzer bullet is a projectile with a pointed tip. Sometimes it's a polymer-tipped bullet, and other times; it's an all-lead bullet.
Understanding the BC of your bullets is crucial because it will help you become a more consistent shooter.
Once again, the 6.5 Creedmoor rifle cartridge has a very high ballistic coefficient for the projectiles it fires compared to other long-range rifle rounds.
For handloaders, the 150-grain Sierra MatchKing bullet has the highest BC of 0.713. However, these are difficult to find in factory-loaded ammo.
For factory ammo, the 6.5 Creedmoor Hornady 147-grain ELD-Match has a high BC of 0.697.
If you're looking for the highest BC, look no further than the Hornady A-Max 750-grain bullet of the .50 Browning Machine Gun cartridge with a ballistic coefficient of 1.05.
This is the best ballistic coefficient of any bullet to date. There's a reason militaries worldwide still use a 50 BMG bolt-action rifle for sniping.
The 408 CheyTac is a relatively new rifle caliber for sharpshooters. It boasts a BC of 0.874, and some indicators point to a 0.900 BC at 2,900 fps.
Best Long-Distance Shooting Ammo Based on Sectional Density
Sectional density is another term you might have heard and needed clarification on because it's not used in an average conversation.
SD is how well a projectile will penetrate a target. This is most important for hunters and military members such as those in the US Army.
The ability of the bullet to penetrate doesn't matter as much to competition shooters.
The SD of a bullet is determined by a formula that, in part, takes the bullet weight in grams and divides it by the bullet's diameter.
This means that heavy bullets will have a higher SD than lighter bullets.
A 110gr Barnes TSX BT 300 Win Mag bullet has an SD of 0.166, while the same bullet in 180gr has an SD of 0.271.
While a 45gr 223 bullet only has an SD of 0.125, or if you step up to a 55gr bullet, it's 0.157 SD.
It's recommended for animals such as deer to have an SD near 0.2 and larger animals, like elk or moose, to have an SD closer to 0.3.
If you're choosing your ammo solely based on sectional density, then I would recommend magnum cartridges like the 338 Lapua Magnum.
The 50 BMG is another caliber with excellent sectional density for its bullets. The Hornady 750gr A-Max UHC bullet has an SD of 0.412.
The Remington Core-Lokt Polymer Tipped 243 Win 95gr bullet is primarily used for deer hunting because of its exceptional sectional density with little recoil.
Top Sniper Ammunition Based on Terminal Ballistics
When speaking of the bullet's terminal ballistics, we're talking about what it does at the end of its flight once it has hit the target.
Think about how much energy it transfers to the target or how big of a hole it punches.
The bullet design, sectional density, and velocity all factor into the bullet's terminal ballistics.
This is important for snipers and long-distance hunters because these factors ultimately determine the round's effectiveness.
The types of bullets with the best expansion and lowest fragmentation are polymer-tipped hollow point bullets.
The terminal ballistics of smaller calibers, such as the .223 Remington or the .224 Valkyrie, will not have as good of specs as larger magnum cartridges like the 300 Win Mag or .338 Lapua.
A 223 caliber bullet typically has a high velocity, ranging from 2,700 to 3,400fps. However, it doesn't have enough mass to maintain these speeds for long distances and get deep penetration. Nor does it have a wide wound channel.
That's why the 223 Rem is primarily used for varmints and medium-sized game like small deer.
On the other hand, the 300 Win Mag bullet has a similar velocity but is three or more times heavier, so it will hold its velocity longer, have better penetration, and have a larger wound channel.
Top Long-Range Ammunition based on Reliability
Imagine having the elk of a lifetime walk out well within your range. You calmly get it in your sights and smoothly pull the trigger on your hunting rifle, but nothing happens.
You wait to ensure the round won't fire, then eject it and rack in another, but the same thing happens again.
Now imagine this scenario, except the stakes are raised, and you're in a combat situation. You can't afford to have ammo that won't fire because you risk getting your buddies or yourself hurt or killed.
Ammunition reliability is one of the most overlooked factors. The only thing worse than ammo that doesn't go boom is inaccurate ammo.
The good thing is most factory ammo produced today goes boom when you pull the trigger.
The main things affecting ammo reliability are manufacturing quality and primer design.
Today most ammo uses boxer primers, which are the most reliable. However, not all ammunition brands use the same gunpowder, which can affect ammo quality.
As long as you stick with well-recognized brands like Hornady, Federal, Winchester, Remington, and other high-end brands, you can rest assured you're buying reliable ammo.
The cheaper the ammo, the less reliable it tends to be.
You can always check the reviews of the ammunition you're purchasing on Ammo.com to understand better how reliable it is from people who have used it
Top Sniper Rifle Ammo Based on Cost
We all only make so much money, and only a portion of it can be spent on a new Ruger rifle or ammo for that rifle.
I like shooting a lot, but I can't afford to buy an unlimited supply of the best ammo, so sometimes I have to settle for the best ammo I can afford.
This is a delicate balancing act because I don't want to waste money on rounds that don't work, but I also don't need the top-of-the-line ammunition for plinking on a Sunday afternoon.
Generally speaking, the smaller calibers will cost less than larger calibers because they don't require as much material.
For example, 243 Win ammo costs less per round than 50 BMG ammo.
The brand name also factors into the cost. Though brands like Federal, Winchester, Hornady, and Remington are reliable, they tend to cost more than brands like Wolf, TulAmmo, and Fiocchi.
How to Choose the Best Sniper Ammo
Now that you know some of the best options, how do you choose which one works for you?
I recommend using price, availability, reliability, amount of recoil, and which rifle you're shooting to help determine which sniper ammo you should buy.
It often hurts to think of how much we spend each time we pull the trigger, but we must consider it.
While several things determine ammo prices, I always recommend staying within your budget and buying the best ammo you can afford.
One way to reduce the price is by choosing to shoot steel vs brass casings. However, there are some downsides to shooting steel casings.
There are a few ways you can save on high-quality brass-cased ammo, which we will discuss later.
The good thing about buying standard calibers is that they're easier to find. However, they can be more difficult to find in times of high demand because everyone else is buying them.
When this happens, ammo manufacturers typically start producing more to try to catch up with demand, so the most common calibers are also the first ones back on shelves.
However, if you're a handloader, this is fine as long as the materials are available to craft your own ammo.
The ammo you buy should be reliable, meaning it should go boom when you pull the trigger.
You'll need to walk a fine line between reliability and cost if you're on a tight budget.
The rifle you choose to shoot determines which ammo you should buy.
Each rifle will perform differently with various brands of ammo. You'll have to experiment with different brands and bullet weights to determine which rounds work best in your sniper rifle.
Lastly, you should consider the amount of recoil each has; even if you're shooting the same caliber, the bullet weight can change how much recoil you feel.
Less powerful rounds have less recoil and can be more accurate; however, you're giving up potential distance when you step down in power.
How to Save Money on Long-Range Ammo
If your budget is tight, or you shoot often and spend a lot of money on ammo, there are a few ways to save money.
Buy in Bulk
Buying bulk ammo is one of the best ways to lower the cost per round. However, you need to invest more money upfront to reap the benefits of buying in bulk.
So it will initially cost you more, but you'll save money in the long run.
Reloading spent brass is another way to save money.
This also requires a significant investment because you'll have to purchase all the reloading equipment and supplies.
Once that's purchased, the cost per round depends on how fast you can pump out high-quality rounds.
I especially like reloading because you have much more control over the process and can craft the perfect round for your rifle.
Combine the Two
To exponentially increase your savings, do both, buy bulk ammo and then reload the spent brass.
You'll be able to double up on the savings this way.
Common Long-Distance Shooting Bullet Types
Not every bullet will work when shooting long-range. There are specific types of bullets that work better than others because they're more accurate.
Below you'll find some of the most common bullets found in long-distance ammo.
The full metal jacket is not the best, but it's the cheapest long-range bullet. So if you're looking to save a little extra, consider buying ammo with an FMJ bullet.
A full metal jacket boat tail bullet is a step up from an FMJ. This type of bullet helps provide a more stable flight and increased accuracy.
This bullet type has a higher BC than an FMJ, so it has become the standard for long-range competition shooting.
Hollow point bullets weren't originally intended to be shot long distances. However, once a plastic tip was designed for HP bullets, they performed very well at long-range competitions and even better in long-range hunting situations.
The pinnacle of long-range hunting bullets is the hollow point boat tail. This bullet design gives hunters incredible accuracy and knockdown power, even at long distances.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you'll find several commonly asked questions about sniper ammo.
What ammunition do snipers use?
Snipers use different ammunition depending on the situation and current ammo contract.
What is the best bullet for sniping?
The best bullet for sniping is a polymer-tipped hollow point boat tail.
Why do military snipers use 308?
Military snipers use the 308 because it's one of the original sniper calibers.
What is a 338 Lapua good for?
The 338 Lapua is good for long-range shooting and big-game hunting.
What is a 338 Lapua cartridge?
The 338 Lapua cartridge is used by military snipers, law-enforcement snipers, and big-game hunters.
What is the most popular sniper rifle?
The most popular sniper rifle is the Barrett M82.
What is the best caliber for long-distance shooting?
The best caliber for long-distance shooting is the 6.5 Creedmoor. However, this can change depending on your needs.
Parting Shots: The Best Sniper Ammo
The best sniper ammo for you depends on several factors, such as accuracy, reliability, and cost.
These factors determine which caliber and brand of ammunition you choose to shoot.
Our top picks for the best caliber are .223 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .338 Lapua Magnum because they're either reasonably priced ammo, incredibly accurate, or excel at shooting long range.
Best Sniper Ammo To Make Every Shot Count (Long Range Shooting) originally appeared in The Resistance Library at Ammo.com.