As you may know, I recently started a project to build a 6.5mm Creedmoor based hunting rifle and discussed my rationale for selecting the 6.5mm CM cartridge. What you may not know (unless you follow me on twitter), is that I ordered several different types of factory hunting loads from Lucky Gunner with the intent of putting them to the test against each other to see which ones group better.
Here are the hunting loads I picked up:
- Sellier & Bellot – 140 Grain SP
- Federal Power Shok – 140 Grain SP
- Federal Fusion – 140 Grain SP
- Remington Core-Lokt – 140 Grain PSP
- Hornady Precision Hunter – 143 Grain ELD-X
Establishing a Baseline
My methods aren’t always scientific, but I to try to be methodical. Before pitting these different loads against each other in a battle for the best group. I needed to establish a baseline. For this, I took a box of Hornady Match ammunition with 147 Grain ELD Match projectiles to zero my scope and get an initial group (which reminds me I haven’t shared the details on the optics I installed on the rifle, but I’ll leave that for another post).
The initial baseline group was a 3-shot 100-yard group measuring in 1.043″.
A couple of things to keep in mind. I shot four (4) shot groups at 100 yards for each of the hunting loads. The shots were taken at Red’s Indoor Range. All shots were taken standing behind the bench while the rifle was supported by the an attached bipod and supported by a small rear bag. So, I’m the biggest variable.
The following results are presented in the order shot.
Remington Core-Lokt – 140 Grain SP
The Remington group was the worst of all of them. I know for sure that I pulled one of the shots (the one that hit low). But the results are what they are, a group measuring 2.0075″.
For what it’s worth, a twenty (20) count box of this ammo cost me $21.00 which is fairly modest for a factory hunting load. I also trust the load because I used it to take my first deer, but that is the only field experience I’ve had with it.
Sellier & Bellot – 140 Grain SP
This ammunition really surprised me as I expected it to be the one that yielded the widest group. This was probably due to this ammunition being to the lowest cost option at $18.00 for a box of 20. However, it yielded a 0.5505″ group!
Another little interesting bit was that this low cost option had a very similar point of impact to the Hornady Match baseline.
Federal Power Shok – 140 Grain SP
This ammunition was priced at $19.00 for a box of 20 and yielded a 1.668″ group.
The only thing that really stood out with this ammo was the color of the brass case which gave it a really old look. Perhaps this box of ammo sat in inventory for a really long time or maybe the cases all look the same. I don’t know. It was the first time I bought a box from this particular product line.
Federal Fusion – 140 Grain SP
In terms of price, this ammo was the middle of the road at $22.00 for a box of 20. In terms of group size, it yielded 0.934″ group. It’s important to know that around the second or third shot, I started to get a heat mirage from the barrel or muzzle break which was making it harder for me to shoot consistently.
Hornady Precision Hunter – 143 Grain ELD-X
I was rooting for this ammo to yield the best group – for a number of reasons. First, it was the most expensive at $34.50 for a box of 20. It’s also the best looking round with pristine brass and the super sleek red tip. On paper it did remarkably well yielding a 0.901″ group.
Now, I know I said it did well and it came in second place but there was huge difference in group size between the best and this one. And that is all true. However, all four shots were taken while dealing with the mirage the scope was picking up. I think it would have faired better had it been shot earlier in the experiment.
It’s obvious that in this “experiment” the clear winner was the Sellier & Bellot ammo. Hands down. But, there isn’t enough here to claim that the battle is settled. I wasn’t really expecting or prepared to shoot while dealing with a heat mirage. Had I had more time (I performed the experiment near the range’s closing time), I would have allowed the barrel or muzzle break to cool down to ensure all shots were taken without a mirage. Furthermore, I only shot one group with each factory load.
I plan on doing this experiment again several times. I’ll probably change the venue to an outdoor range (as it’s more cost effective than the indoor range) where I can take seated shots from the bench and allow for more time between shooting strings to avoid the mirage. Granted I may introduce a wind variable, but it will still be interesting to see if the results are similar.
I would also like to do an expansion or terminal performance test of sorts. Maybe with a meat target or something similar so I can see the actual potential wound damage, expansion, and weight retention characteristics of these loads. I’m much less concerned about this since shot placement trumps just about everything else, but it would still be interesting to test (assuming I can set it up and get it done).
Lastly, remember that these are the results I got shooting these loads from my rifle. I expect different rifles will yield different results given difference in manufacturing tolerances/processes, materials, barrel lengths, twist rates, ad nauseam. Then there is the shooter, me, who is an amateur at best. I’d encourage you to try your own experiment rather than taking these results as gospel.