Our 10 Favorite Cartridges for Long Range Hunting
The majority of medium and big game hunters will never take a shot at more than 200 yards. Most will probably ever stray out beyond 100 yards. There’s nothing wrong with this, if for no other reason than because most hunting situations in North America can be accomplished within that range.
However, there are situations where long-range hunting is the only way to go. It could be because of the terrain, the wily nature of the animal being hunted, or simply because the hunter wants to try something different.
Whatever the reason, there are certain cartridges that are better suited to long range applications than others.
Long Range Hunting Cartridges
As is often the case, there’s no one right or wrong choice for a long range hunting cartridge. Some are better suited to certain applications than others.
There’s also different definitions of “long range.” The cartridges on this list can perform at a minimum of 500 yards, and most out beyond 1,000 yards. That means your personal definition of long range is probably covered by the cartridges on this list.
So, this is our list of our ten favorite long range hunting cartridges.
The .26 Nosler cartridge is basically a super-beefed-up 6.5 Creedmoor with a cartridge that’s the same size as the .30-06 Springfield. It’s a flat-shooting round that retains its velocity at long distances. With the highest ballistic coefficient bullets, the .26 Nosler remains its supersonic speed out beyond 1,750 yards.
.280 Ackley Improved
The .280 Ackley Improved is a lot like the 6.5 Creedmoor in the fact that it has a very dedicated base of shooters. it. A wildcat cartridge for a long time, the .280 AI is finally SAAMI-approved and has performance stats that are on par with the 7mm Remington Magnum. Like the 6.5 Creedmoor, the .280 Ackley Improved can remain supersonic out to 1,400 yards with the right bullet and load.
For hunters who want the utmost precision in their long range shot, it’s hard to beat the 6.5 Creedmoor. Since it was designed for competition shooting, it’s beyond capable of delivering an exacting hit to the vitals of any animal so long as the shooter behind the rifle is capable of making the shot. Another advantage for the 6.5 Creedmoor is its availability in a wide variety of firearms, including semi-auto, lever-action, bolt-action, single-shot, and more.
.300 Winchester Magnum
The .300 Winchester Magnum is something of a Goldilocks cartridge. Whether you choose from one of the many factory loads available or you handload your own, the .300 Win Mag has proven itself time and time again as a more-than-capable cartridge, even at long distances, with felt recoil that, while certainly noticeable, is more than manageable for most shooters.
6.5 Precision Rifle Cartridge
6.5 cartridges are all the rage right now, and the 6.5 PRC is the perfect long range cartridge in that caliber. It combines a lot of the benefits found in other cartridges on this list – such as fast speed, great terminal velocity, and low recoil – and puts it all together in a short-action cartridge that has phenomenal range and very little recoil.
The .270 Winchester meets the three A’s: accurate, affordable, and available. Hunters have been using the well-rounded .270 Winchester to bring down all sorts of wild game for decades at a wide variety of distances both short and long. A .270 is right at home on most any hunt: elk, deer, hogs, sheep, and more.
The AR platform is often referred to as a “modern sporting rifle,” and that’s because they make good sporting (i.e. hunting) rifles. Unfortunately, cartridges here are a bit more limited than with a bolt-action rifle. It will push a 90-grain bullet out to 500 yards, which is a far cry from some of the others on this list, but still far enough to be considered long-range for most hunters.
Basically just a necked down 6.5 Creedmoor, the 6mm Creedmoor performs similarly to the popular .243 Winchester cartridge with one big exception – the 6mm Creedmoor was designed for long-range hunting situations in which the .243 Winchester simply cannot compete. It also works well in AR-10 rifles if you prefer semi-auto to bolt-action.
The .308 Winchester cartridge may seem like an odd choice here at first glance, but a closer look reveals a cartridge that remains supersonic out to 1,200 yards but with less recoil than a .30-06 Government cartridge. There’s a reason this is the round of choice for snipers the world over. If it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for a traditional long-range hunter.
.338 Winchester Magnum
The .338 Win Mag cartridge was made for big challenges and long distances. With the right heavy-grain bullet, you can be confident that your projectile is travelling faster than most comparable loads on the market and will deliver the devastating punch needed for a quick and ethical harvest.
How to Choose Your Cartridge
There are a lot of different things to consider when choosing a long-range hunting cartridge, but let’s take a look at three of the most important ones.
You can do all the research in the world and settle on a specific cartridge, but if you can’t find the ammo that you need, then it’s all been for nothing. That becomes even more important if you fail to bring enough ammo with you on your hunt. The area where you’re hunting may be remote and the likelihood of finding some calibers may be slim if you need to restock.
Perhaps the most important part of choosing a hunting caliber is evaluating its performance. You’ve got to be sure that the load you choose is going to be capable of taking down the type of game you’re hunting in a quick and ethical manner, especially at long range distances.
That ammo prices have risen exponentially in recent years is an unpleasant yet cold, hard fact. Similar to our point on availability, you’ve got to be able to afford the ammo when you find it. Some calibers are less expensive than others, but if all other things are equal, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be any less effective at bringing down an animal at long range.
Near or Far – Shoot Suppressed!
Whether you’re shooting near or far, the fact remains that shooting suppressed is best. If you’re ready to reach out and really touch something at long range distances and you want to do it quietly, then you’re going to need a suppressor.
We’re the nation’s largest silencer dealer, licensed to sell in all 42 states where silencers are legal. Our staff have helped thousands of new customers pick out the right suppressor for an upcoming hunt, and we’d love the opportunity to do the same for you.
The buying process couldn’t be more simple when you buy from Silencer Central. We’ll walk you through the entire process and then mail your suppressor right to your front door upon approval. It doesn’t get any better or easier than that!
Be sure to contact us here at Silencer Central to get your order started today.