Ammunition for Long Range: Part 2
Let’s cover some bits about ammo that you buy already loaded. Most long range aficionados will tell you that you need to get into handloading to get the full potential out of your rifle. Well, that’s pretty true but not totally true. Yeah, I know you thought of truth as being on or off like a light switch or being pregnant but it’s not as far as this goes.
Not handloading means you’re accepting whatever comes out of the box and your only options for tuning your rifle/load combination end up being done in rifle hardware because your only other option is to pick a different load entirely. So what do you do if you go to Big 5 and buy a box of Federal Gold Medal Match and it shoots like crap from your rifle? Well, there’s not much you can do there. Maybe add or remove a brake, tinker with action bedding, barrel floating, etc… but that’s likely to get you only so far. Most people would switch from FGMM to some other load, maybe one from HSM or Black HIlls or whathaveyou.
If you’re sticking with factory ammo you can try changing to a different projectile (if SMK’s don’t treat you well, try a load with Berger VLD’s, etc…) or a different brand or try to find a lot that works well and buy all of it you can find. You see why experienced long range shooters that handload are so bigoted about handloading being the way to go.
However you end up going about it, if retail ammo is your approach then you’ll find this to be an expensive hobby. On the upside, retail ammo is pretty consistent stuff most of the time and match quality ammo is even better. If you happen to find that any ol’ box of FGMM will do the trick for you then count your lucky stars and buy a lottery ticket. If not, consider really seriously that there’s a reason we handloaders are so snippy about not handloading being nothing more than finding a very expensive and short sighted form of laziness.
Once you find the ammo you like you still need to go through all the data collection steps that you would with handloaded ammo. On the upside, retail ammo of high quality is available over the counter in most areas. I will caution you that buying already loaded ammunition of sufficient quality and consistency that comes with the right bullets for long range precision work will be a shocking experience for your wallet. You might pay 3 bucks a round or more for rifle ammo of that grade. To load it yourself you can manage with the same bullets and quality to get substantially under a dollar a round. The savings is really substantial. You won’t actually save any money by handloading. The way it ends up working out is that you spend the same amount of money you would have but you end up with vastly more ammunition to burn and you might end up with a few rounds left over after a day of ringing steel.
Stay Tuned! Handloading tips are coming next.