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Old September 25, 2008, 11:32 PM   #1
efgf
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Looking for an inexpensive, accurate, long-range caliber

I am mainly a pistol shooter, but I got a .22LR rifle recently and really enjoyed trying to get better and better accuracy from long distances. There's a limit to the distance and accuracy you can get with .22LR, so I am thinking about what comes next.

From what I read, .308 is a great choice for long distance target work. The cartridge has good ballistics and is easily found, as are quality rifles which shoot the caliber. It seems like a great choice, but wow are .308 rounds expensive!!!

The price of .308 rounds don't allow me to get much practice and since I am not interested in reloading (at least yet), I am looking for advice about what other alternative calibers to consider.

Ideally these calibers would have plenty of inexpensive ammunition for practice and also more expensive but more accurate ammunition for really honing the skills (just as .308 does). The rifles for these calibers (suggestions welcome) should be readily available, relatively inexpensive and accurate. The farthest range I have access to is 500 yards, although one that could go farther than that would be great. While I am not afraid of recoil, a powerful cartridge is otherwise not important since I won't hunt with it, I will just shoot holes in paper targets.
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Old September 26, 2008, 12:16 AM   #2
lewwetzel
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.223 Centerfire Next Best Step

If your thinking of going that route. Factory loaded ammo is cheapest of centerfire; .223 is pretty accurate, .22-250 more so, but more expensive. .204 Ruger's a good one, too, and ammo is "reasonable"; very accurate if not too windy. Any .30 cal is expensive, unless you handload..243, .270 Win. or .260 Remington would be worth considering, also.
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Old September 26, 2008, 12:18 AM   #3
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The sweet spot for ammo cheap is 5.56 NATO. That leaves you the choice of a match grade AR15 or similar.

I shoot a bolt action .223 varmint rifle and it's going to cost you about $10-12/20rds of plinking ammo, about $25/50 for hunting grade ammo and $40+ for match grade. the very similar 5.56 NATO should not be fired in most bolt actions.

A good choice for a bolt action target rifle would be the Savage 10FP for about $550. This is not a carry around hunting rifle. It's actually intended as a police sniper and is heavy but very accurate. The heavy barrel will allow you to shoot more without the barrel heating up and moving the point of impact. Budget another $350-500 for a scope and rings.

I do about 95% of my practice with precision 22s using true grade match ammo, and only about 5% using my .223. If I'd stop buying and building rifles 22s would save me a ton of money.
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Old September 26, 2008, 12:21 AM   #4
lewwetzel
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Should have added that if you're thinking of going long-range, you might want to start with the smaller cal's. first. Learn the basics, then go in increments.
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Old September 26, 2008, 01:58 AM   #5
FrankenMauser
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Unless you reload, nothing will be cheap. (In my opinion.)

My suggestion: .220 Swift

Ruger finally stopped chambering it, after the release of the .204. However, many of the .220 Swift rifles built prior to the stoppage are still in dealer inventories. Several other companies still chamber the cartridge, as well.

Runner up: .22-250

Everyone makes a rifle chambered in it, and ammo is easier to find than the Swift.
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Old September 26, 2008, 03:45 AM   #6
458winshooter
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Rifle looking

+ 1 for the 223/5.56 nato.Ammo for this caliber will run cheaper (not cheap by any means)than most other rifle calibers.Make sure that it is capable of handling the hotter military stuff though.It is a very accurate round out to 300 yards and with practice will hit where you aim at 500 as well.My other idea would be a Mosin/Nagont type of rifle.They are plentiful and cheap but are well made.They shoot a 7.62x54 round that is on par with a 308.Soviet Bloc countries won many international matches with that caliber.Ammo is availible on line or at gun shows at reasonable prices and it is readily available.
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Old September 26, 2008, 05:34 AM   #7
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.223

+2 about the 5.56/.223.
An AR-15 with a rifling twist of at least 1-8 (1-7 is better) will allow accurate shooting out past the 500/600 yard distances - with the proper bullet. With the development of high quality 80 grain match bullets, that rifle/cartridge combo has eclipsed the .308 in service rifle competition at every distance.
The problem is that you may have to start handloading in order to use the best bullets.
Inexpensive???
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Old September 26, 2008, 08:27 AM   #8
phil mcwilliam
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308 factory ammo might be expensive, but even if you are not into reloading, 7.62 x 51mm Nato military surplus ammunition will work in a 308 & can still be purchased cheap.
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Old September 26, 2008, 08:41 AM   #9
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depending on how serious you are on "long range"... you could even buy a ( I know Remington & CZ have bolt action rifles in that caliber... I'm sure there are other offerings too ) bolt action 7.62 x 39... cheap ammo is very cheap compared to anything else right now, & better grades are available for more money... the cheaper ammo will allow you to practice more, the cartridge is big enough to hunt with, but will not leave you hurting enough after an afternoon of bench shooting, tha you won't want to do it any more ( .308 may do that )... I shot 80-90 rounds of 30-06 off the bench 2 weekends ago, & my shoulder is finally ready for more 2 weeks later

of course the 223 bolt action varmint rifle is likely the best option though... the 7.62 would be pretty accurate out to 150 yards or so, the 223 good to 300 yards or so... .308 would go much further with the right equipment, but at a much higher cost...

bench rest shooters use almost exclusively .224, 6mm, 6.5mm, or 7mm calibers ( there are several variations in cases that hold those bullets, so if you are very serious, you could look at like 6mm ppc ( for example ) however to shoot these cartridges economically you would need to reload )
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Old September 26, 2008, 08:48 AM   #10
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I tned to think the .223 would be a good step up for you. They have decent range. They're fun to shoot and ammo is readily available.
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Old September 26, 2008, 08:55 AM   #11
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You taske isnt as difficult as you think. Get a shotgun news or go to their web site, buy a mauser 98 action. Then go to Brownells or MidwayUsA, and find a pre-chambered 308 barrel for the action. Screw it on, do the final chambering to fit your action, polish it a bit, then from the same sources get a stock that suits you and put it together.

You can build a pretting good rifle and know that YOU BUILT IT.

What you end up with depends only on how much care and effert you want to put into it. I think you'll find that it will shoot pretty damn good.

Remember, lots of people talk about sub min groups in their high dollar rifles but in reality, you see very few clean 600 & 1000 yard targets. The 10-X rings of these targets are about 2 min of angle.
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Old September 26, 2008, 09:00 AM   #12
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There are opposing theories on what shoots best at greater distances. There are people that say a heavier round actually is more accurate at long distances because their extra mass means less problems with wind. It gets back to that Newtonian physics thing where an object in motion tends to stay in that motion unless acted on by an outside force which in this case would be wind. The greater the mass of the bullet the less it's affected by wind.

Bigger rounds are harder to push out to long distances though so gravity becomes more of a factor. A really skilled rifleman will learn how to adjust for distance though and even though he won't be shooting flat like those lighter rounds will do, he will be shooting accurate if he knows how to adjust for distance. Some people say you're lobbing bullets in doing it that way but I've seen some VERY impressive shooting with larger bullets including the 30.06 which will fire a much heavier bullet than even a .308.

It would probably be easier to learn to shoot acurately with a smaller cartridge though. Learning to adjust for distance is another thing you have to master where a flat shooting round isn't nearly as bad until you get much further down range. I'm just saying I've seen very impressive 600 yard shots with 30.06 ammo. It can be done. I've also seen .22's be accurate at 400 yards too. If you get a really dead calm day and allow for a whole lot of dropping you can hit a target at 400 yard with a really good .22. I myself missed a target by one foot at 400 yards with a .22. My brother hit that same target at the same distance.
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Old September 26, 2008, 10:07 AM   #13
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It has more to do then bullet weight. There is the bllistic coefficient, rifle twist, etc etc. Some 155 grn 308 bullets shoot at 1000 yards where the 168 tumbles. Look at the 5.56/223, in the service rifle its beating the records of the 7.62/308s.

I'm a M1A shooter but its hard for the 308s to compete with the 223s in high power.

Anyway I thought he was talking about a enexpesive LR rifle, the pre chambered 308s I mentioned have a 1 in 10 twist. That matches the 175 SMK bullets thats is the Go To bullet for 308s.

In building target guns, I pick the bullet, then the barrel to match the bullet. This has pretty much been taken care of with the 1 in 10 with the SMK 168s-175s.
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Old September 26, 2008, 10:15 AM   #14
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Quote:
In building target guns, I pick the bullet, then the barrel to match the bullet. This has pretty much been taken care of with the 1 in 10 with the SMK 168s-175s.
+1. You've gotta know the bullet weight you're shooting when you order your rifle, so you can get a fast enough (or slow enough) twist rate to stabilize properly.

Most bolt action .223, .22-250 and other varmint calibers are going to come with slow twist rates around 1:10 or even slower. That's because they fling 40-55 grain bullets with the intent of popping gophers.

If you want 500 yards on paper, cheaply, then you want an AR with a flat-top for a scope and a heavy barrel, 20" or longer. 1:7 twist would be good.
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Old September 26, 2008, 10:33 AM   #15
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223 or an old favorite 22-250. I think I'm the first to tell you that. If I was you, and maybe I don't give a flip about reloading. Well than go with the .223. I don't know what your target is. When I was a kid I carried one deer hunting one year. Then if you do reload look into the 22-250 Its just a bit of a wild cat when side by side against the 223. Hornady A-max bullet in 22-250 will get you a long ways. Enjoy!! Also we love to see pictures, so whatever you get, show it off little.
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Old September 26, 2008, 11:18 AM   #16
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Find a Savage in 223, with a 1-7 twist barrel. Then you can buy Black Hills ammo with the 77g SMKs, and you're good to 600 yards. If you want to go farther, I'd find a modern rifle in 6.5X55 that you can load to modern pressures and velocities.
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Old September 26, 2008, 11:35 AM   #17
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Target grade accurate , long range rifles are not inexpensive. Custom made target grade rifles will set one back $ 2000-4000 . You could look at the bolt action Savage target rifles that run about $ 1000 but if one shops around they can be had for less... The lower cost Bolt Action varmint rifles can be gotten for around $ 500 but you may have to adjust the trigger pull, glass bed the action, free float the barrel , lapp the bolt locking lugs, and recrown the barrel. If one wonts to get the best groups possible from a rifle one has to reload ammo.--- The target shooting game is not cheep.....
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Old September 26, 2008, 07:42 PM   #18
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It has more to do then bullet weight.
I certainly never meant to imply otherwise. I was just commenting on the direction of the thread. And yes I know that the .223's have become incredibly accurate at long distances but for the ultra distances bullet weight has gone up it seems. The world record for a sniper kill is held by a .50 caliber rifle fired at over 2600 yards. There are many things that influence a rifle when fired at great distances. I guess it depends on just how far you can afford to go because getting past 500-600 yards consistently is not going to be cheap. But it also takes knowledge, practice and talent. And the bad part is you don't really know if you have the talent until you've done the practice for a really long time.

A lot of rifles are capable of doing 500 yards or even 600. But 1000 yards is a whole other ball game. I've never even shot a rifle at something that far away because I live in hill country and the only way I could find a spot where I could see that far is to shoot around the Ohio River somewhere and that's really not a good idea. But I have seen 600 yard shots with 30.06's. And I do know something about the nature of shooting 1000 yards. But I certainly haven't done the practice. I really don't know a lot about the knowledge aspect of shooting that far because it just doesn't come up here.
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Old September 26, 2008, 08:06 PM   #19
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I think .308! I'm also a 30-06 advocate, but the snipers pick the .308 for a reason. You can purcase a TC Encore, Savage bolt rifle, M1A, or a AR-type rifle and they will all be accurate. All the homework was done for you a long time ago. The 308 is an excellent choice because you can load up or down.

If you really like to shoot, you should get into reloading asap. Just buy a Lee Classic loader and a good mallet, you'll be in business for around $20.00 plus the bullets, primers, and powder (about $80.00 to get started, give or take, for your first 100 cartridges - downhill from there). It's easy to do, just follow the directions - you won't blow anything up.
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Old September 26, 2008, 08:16 PM   #20
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Of course, since I'm a black powder buff, I have to pipe in that if you're willing to spend the $$ for a rifle, a nice 45-70 loaded with real Black Powder will shoot consistently WAY out to 1000 yards, even outperforming some of the "modern" cartridges. Just a bit of a mess to clean up afterwards.
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Old September 26, 2008, 08:36 PM   #21
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1+ .223

Cheap ammo means militatry. The .223 is the cheapest of the bunch.
You can also learn tons about reloading with any caliber. and it can be plenty accurate. Its the first caliber I thought of when I read your post.
For target shooting I reccommend the remingtons due to quick locktimes.
Synthetic stocks eliminate shift in point of impact.
A good trigger is a must have item.
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Old September 26, 2008, 08:55 PM   #22
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Dezynco, I've also shot my 45-70 trapdoor out to 1000 yds. It's a bit awkward holding a rifle at that trajectory and it's a lot like shooting a .22LR at range in that you really have to 'wait for it'. The first time I thought that I'd missed when I really just didn't wait long enough.

Back on topic, my vote would be 5.65, .308 and .243 in that order. All are available stock rifles and the ammo is relatively cheap. I would consider the 5.65 marginal @ 500 yds. The other two will get you there comfortably.
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Old September 26, 2008, 09:08 PM   #23
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Wow, don't tell the thousands of guys shooting and winning NRA Highpower at 600 yards that the 5.56 isn't good to 500.
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Old September 26, 2008, 09:38 PM   #24
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This has been a very interesting thread so far. Lots of info here. Thanks guys.
(Plus posting insures my subscription.)
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Old September 26, 2008, 09:48 PM   #25
George Hill
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A .22-250 has a lot more grunt behind it than a .223. But both have pros as cons.
.22-250 - Pro: More Power and Range.
.223 - Pro: Cheap to shoot.
.22-250 - Con: More money to shoot, but not as bad as other bigger calibers.
.223 - Con: Weak... and if you want cheap ammo you are looking at 55 grain bulk stuff which isn't the most accurate.
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