What is the most accurate bolt-action caliber you'd recommend me for target shooting?


SA Town
June 5, 2009, 07:57 AM
I'll get specific:

- Target shooting will be anywhere from 100 to 300 yards.

- Must be for a big bore centerfire rifle. Please no ridiculously expensive cartridges like the .50BMG or otherwise. I'd prefer to spend around $1 per round.

- I'd prefer your opinions on popular calibers such as the .308, 30-06, 6.5 Swede, .243, .270, .300 WM, and .22-250 if any of these listed happen to be your recommended caliber as well.

I'm sorry if this is asking for too much, but everywhere I search I keep getting the kind of indifferent "they're all great, just choose one" answers. I'm sure most of you bolt-action vets would disagree with that statement.

Thank you again THRoaders. :cool:

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Bart B.
June 5, 2009, 08:02 AM
Either the 6XC (.22-.250 shortened and necked up) or the .260 Rem (6.5mm x .308) are winning lots of high power rifle matches these days. The 6PPC is also another good choice as proved by benchresters.

June 5, 2009, 08:07 AM
Well, you didn't mention the most important factor which is price. Because a good .303 Lee-Enfield can be had for entry level prices and you can spend as much as you want going the other way.

SA Town
June 5, 2009, 08:09 AM
Good point, edited.

June 5, 2009, 08:16 AM
Whatever you eventually decide on, you'll be best off handloading to find what works best in your rifle of choice. I enjoy the 6.5 Swedish. It's old but plenty good.

June 5, 2009, 08:19 AM
Most accurate gun/caliber I have ever owned. Remington 40XB in 6mm.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
June 5, 2009, 08:52 AM
It ain't the caliber; it's the barrel, leade, crown, bedding, action, bolt, bullet, seating, brass, primer, powder, bench accessories, trigger, optics, & shooter.

But having said that, for *practical* accuracy, something that gets there pretty fast is helpful, with decent BCs, which is why 6mms are the most popular out to 300, with 6.5s also being popular. 6mm PPC, 6mmBR, 6XC, .243 Win, 6mm Rem, 260 rem. Personally, for an "out to 300 or 400" rifle, the .243 winchester is my pick. .22 centerfires are not out of the question either - .223 rem, .222 rem, .22-250 rem, .220 swift, etc. The 6mmBR has been extremely popular for a long time for accurate benchrest competitions, and has won a lot of them. The 6mm PPC is considered to be the most accurate cartridge ever developed, though some would disagree. The 6mm XC is gaining in popularity now.


June 5, 2009, 09:03 AM
It ain't the caliber; it's the barrel, leade, crown, bedding, action, bolt, bullet, seating, brass, primer, powder, bench accessories, trigger, optics, & shooter.

You absolutely need to handload if you want accuracy AND a reasonable price per round. Barrel life and recoil are other factors to figure into the equation. Out to 300, or even 600, you can clean a highpower target with rather economically priced components for handloaded 223.

June 5, 2009, 09:19 AM
I would recommend a .223. 1:8 or 1:7.7 twist.

The cartridge is very accurate. Out to 300 yards the ballistic advantage of the 6/6.5 mm's over the .223 is not that noticeable.

Lots of excellent match bullets. And they cost less than bigger match grade bullets.

I have shot many cleans with the 69 SMK out to 300 yards. It is an exceptionally accurate bullet.

Barrel life is something to consider. You can easily get 5,000 rounds through a .223 barrel. My friends shooting 6.5 and 6mm X barrels, well they start buying new barrel blanks around 1500 rounds. Somewhere between 1500 and 2000 rounds their barrels are shot out.

June 5, 2009, 09:38 AM
A cartridge that has a short wide case such as the 6PPC has been found to have a more precise propellant flame and gas expansion rate.

June 5, 2009, 09:41 AM
The calibers I've shot in your list are the .308, .243 and 30-06. Of those I enjoy the .308 the most.

Though the .243 at this time has shown the most accuracy (1965 winchester model 70), I expect the .308 will be able to out shoot that rifle (Modern Savage 10FP).

The pre 64 model 70 in 30-06 was never benched.

I would say if you are looking for accuracy at those ranges, look more to the rifle platform rather then the caliber. If you are just punching paper any of them will do more or less the same.

Jim Watson
June 5, 2009, 09:53 AM
What will the rifle be FOR?
You want a specific answer, you must provide specific conditions.
"Target shooting at 100 to 300 yards" could be National Match on a reduced range, it could be benchrest, it could be any of several disciplines, all of which call for different gear.

I'd prefer to spend around $1 per round.

Does this mean that you do not and will not handload?

If so, it considerably limits your choices. Factory match ammuntion is not available in all calibers and most is quite expensive. You might get lucky with a varmint load in some .22 or 6mm.

Do you have a budget on the rifle as well as the ammo?
No point telling you to get a $3000 match rifle if you have a Savage pocketbook.

SA Town
June 5, 2009, 10:05 AM
I would love to learn how to handload, but I have absolutely NO clue where to start. Imagine the most unintelligible reloader you know, multiply that by 10, and then you have me. I can't seem to get a step in the right direction as to where I might learn.

The rifle I'd like to get will be around $1,000 dollars, $1,300 tops (rifle only, not including the glass).

This will be for benchrest shooting only.

The reason I humbly ask you guys is because a friend of mine has a Remington 700 SPS Tactical in .308 - I'm trying to find something to compete with that.

I've been looking at CZ lately and they seem to offer bolt-actions in a wide variety of calibers that I have no experience with :confused: hence my reason for coming here and asking you all about them. If you guys want to skip the foreplay and instead tell me which rifle I should get, that would be acceptable too. :cool:

June 5, 2009, 10:27 AM
I love this post...

I'd suggest getting something in the common calibers. [223, 22-250, 243, or 308] Using a heavy bullet out of a 223 will give you good results, but requires a fast twist rate. Also, just in case you never get around to reloading, finding heavy ammo for the 223 can be a little difficult, but not impossible. You'll also have to deal more with elevation adjustments. The 22-250 is flatter shooting and fights the wind a little better than the 223 with similar bullet weights. The 243 is a good all around choice but is going to cost a little more to shoot, pretty much the same with the 308.

Many of the calibers listed in previous post are better ballistically but can be very difficult to find. If your committed to getting into reloading then your options are much greater. If your just looking for bragging rights then buy the same rifle and prove your the better shooter.

I'm a 22-250 guy myself. It's flat shooting with managable recoil.

Good luck...

Uncle Mike
June 5, 2009, 10:42 AM
Well depending on the 'distance' you will be shooting....

The 6BR(read 6mm bench rest)-
6.5x284- The long range dude of the bunch.

Reloading for bench rest, in which I will refer to as BR, is both exciting and satisfying, it can however merge into the proverbial nightmare.

I was once told by an elder in the BR community that had several long range trophies on his mantle that this sport was ment to be fun, however in his everlonging quest to loose that extra tenth of a inch at the boards he said that he managed to turn the funnest, yea, I said funnest.. most refreshing sport into a headache!

I quess what I'm saying is don't weigh too much into the range hype concerning this lovely sport, roll yo' own and enjoy it.

Your going to hear much concerning resizing, trimming, primers, COL, yea... how's that... cartridge overall length, fireforming you name it, and it may seem overwhelming at first...

Suggestion... http://http://www.6mmbr.com/index.html take a look ... lots o' info for you.

Good Shootin'- :D

June 5, 2009, 11:03 AM
Well if you are spending $1000+ on the rifle for a 100-300 bench rest rifle I would go with a Savage 12F class in 6BR. The 6BR is a darn good 100 yard round and an excellent 300 yard round. This requires handloading but it should be about the best factory setup for that money you can buy and it is as good of a 100-300 round as exists in a factory rifle. If you want to avoid handloading, or at least have the option for factory ammo I would look at a .308 in your flavor of rifle. The .308 is overkill for 100 and 300 yards but Federal Gold Medal Match ammo is as good as factory stuff gets and .308 seems to be their popular load. There are many better 100-300 yard calibers but very few with better factory ammo. A .223 would work well also and Black Hills makes some darn good ammo in a bunch of bullet weights and types. .243 would probably be my favorite round for 100-300 yard shooting if you plan to both handload and use factory ammo. At 300 yards the high BC of the .243 is going to help a bunch with the wind drift and it still is a pretty mild round, especially if you are shooting a heavy barreled rifle.

Cartridge design only makes up for the very last few drops of performance that only the very best can achieve. A factory $500 Remington in .308 is going to shoot well but it isn't a match rifle. As such an decent rifle with good ammo should hold about what that 700 will regardless of caliber. Its really only when you are using top end rifles with top end glass and top end handloads being a top end shooter will the chambering make the difference. Up to that point if even one factor isn't perfect it won't matter what round you go for. Pick what you think you can find fairly inexpensively. .223 is still under $1 a round and 300 yards is certainly not too far to punch paper.

Jim Watson
June 5, 2009, 11:08 AM
OK, just to pick something out of a catalog, the Savage Model 12 Long Range Precison Varminter will likely do well for you. Available from Bud's for $992.
A few thousand rounds down the road, barrel replacement on a Savage is a DIY job and you could choose from a wide range of barrels and calibers.

Or you could get a Remington of whichever heavy barrel target, varmint, or poleece model you chose, something similar to your friend's. This would give you the advantage of having the factory action most commonly used in high end target rifles, when you got ready to upgrade. It could be trued and blueprinted, rebarrelled and restocked into a whole new gun when you got ready to spend the money.

Tikka and CZ have good reputations as well made accurate rifles, but I do not see them on the firing line at the Long Range matches I attend. It is mostly Remington or full custom, with some older Winchesters. Savage is making gains because they are offering purpose built rifles to the F class and Palma match shooters for a fast start in those games.

I recommend a .223 of whatever brand. Yes there are cartridges considered more inherently accurate, that have flatter trajectories for unknown ranges, less wind deflection at long range, etc., etc. Friend of mine is in a state of indecision between the 6.4x284 for less windage and the 6 BR for smaller groups and longer barrel life. But he is a Master class shooter and is starting from a basis of long experience.

But everybody makes a decent .223. You can get pretty good .223 ammo (NOT the cheap stuff at Walmart, I mean like Black Hills Match for your dollar a pop) until you get organized to handload.

Handload. Get the ABCs of Handloading and a bullet company manual. Maybe Sierra, they make the factory bullets most used by target shooters and know a thing or two about making them work. Then you can talk knowledgeably about presses, dies, components, and accessories.

Uncle Mike
June 5, 2009, 11:15 AM
+1 Jim-

Smokey Joe
June 5, 2009, 11:15 AM
SA Town--If you are serious about target shooting, and aren't filthy rich, you MUST handload. To be good enough to be competitive, you must practice, practice, practice. That means burning ammo, ammo, ammo. (Correct practice, not just expending ammo, of course, but you do use a lot of rounds.)

Now, I would love to learn how to handload, but I have absolutely NO clue where to start. Imagine the most unintelligible reloader you know, multiply that by 10, and then you have me. I can't seem to get a step in the right direction as to where I might learn.Recognizing a problem is the first step toward the solution of that problem. What you want is knowledge. The "standard textbook" on reloading is called--no surprise--The ABC's of Reloading. It is published by Krause Publishing, www.krause.com You can get it @ a gun sho, yr local sptg gds sto, the I'net, or order from the publisher direct. They must be doing something right; the book is now in its 8th edition.

The ABC's covers ALL the basics of reloading, and goes 'way beyond the basics as well. There is something in there to learn for reloaders @ every level. BTW, I have no connection with Krause other than satisfied customer.

Anyhow, for learning reloading, that is where to start. Wish it had been around back when I was learning the game.

Good luck in your search. Remember, the journey is part of the destination.

June 5, 2009, 11:27 AM
You're right it doesn't matter what cartridge you choose. There is no such thing as an accurate cartridge. The receiver, bolt, barrel, stock, mounts, and scope matter. Krochus built a 7.62x39 that was every bit as accurate at 100 and 300 meters as my 6.5x47. The guns were nearly identical except for caliber (mine is a single shot action his has mag).

June 5, 2009, 11:38 AM
Interestingly enough the world record at 1000yrds was set with a common commercial hunting cartridge, the 300 Weatherby Mag.


Gives you plenty of room to shoot further if you want and plenty of bullet/powder options that will easily hand loaded for a dollar a round.

June 5, 2009, 11:39 AM
Will you be using a benchrest? If not, maybe just get an affordable caliber so you can shoot more, and an accurate gun.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
June 5, 2009, 11:46 AM
Well if you're not going to reload, then you REALLY need to go with .308 win or .223 rem**; possibly .260 rem; possibly .243 win. If you're really going to shoot at 300 yards, the .308 win has a slight to moderate edge in wind-bucking ability at that longish range, and the barrel will last longer, not to mention more match ammo than any other caliber available; however, the tradeoff is more recoil and more ammo cost.

If you're going to reload (which is a better idea for cost savings and maximum accuracy), then you might look at a boutique caliber like 6PPC, 6BR, 6XC, etc.; really, the door is wide-open if you are willing to learn to reload & buy the gear for that, to whatever caliber tickles your fancy.

**Reason being off-the-shelf match loads of various brands being available.

June 5, 2009, 11:50 AM
Under 300 yards you won't need a 30 cal or larger.

If you look at most manufacturers of stock guns, you'll notice they use the same external dimensions on their .308 barrels as on their .243 barrels. What this means? You get light-weight sporter barrels that are THICKER because you're shooting a smaller caliber.

Personally, I shoot .270win.

135gr SMK (.496 G1 / .253 G7 BC) on 59.8gr of Reloader22 @ 3100 FPS out of my 22" Savage 111FCNS (Accustock/Accutrigger).

As long as you keep the barrel cool, the thing is a tack driver. I put a Nikon Buckmaster 6-18x40 Mildot on it, and a Harris Bipod. $600 gun, $300 scope, $30 Bases, $40 Rings, $60 bipod. Under $1050 invested in the entire setup. AND it's under 9lbs w/ammo.

It is an AWESOME gun.

But like they said above, get a 6.5mm gun (.260 rem would be good, .308 necked down to 6.5) of course, you're gonna want to reload to get the most out of your gun.

June 5, 2009, 11:51 AM
6.5-284 it is now being loaded by Lapua and if you handload for it, then you will o0ny be greatly rewarded. but if you want a factory rifle look for something in the 6.5X55 swedish cartridge.

June 5, 2009, 11:59 AM
+1 for the 6mmppc

Thats plenty for your purposes-

June 7, 2009, 11:07 AM
I almost bought a 700 SPS but if you just want to 1-up your friend then I would say a Remington 700 XCR in .223 would compete exceptionally well at the ranges your speaking of.

June 7, 2009, 11:27 AM
savage 22-250 cheap and accurate

June 7, 2009, 11:32 AM
Another good reloading book is "Modern Reloading" by some Lee guy (Richard I think, but I can't be sure). His name is also attached to many reloading components out there. He has a clue on how to reload.

Don't start with a gun.. start with a group size you want to obtain. I can go out and spend 20k on a full custom gun, but it won't mean jack but I have more money than sense. If you friend is shooting 1" groups at 100y, you need to get a gun that can do .5 inch groups and you need to shoot it. Until you get to where you can do .5 inch groups out of that gun.. any more gun would be a waste, so to speak.

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