Gun Digest

Match Bullets, Accuracy in a Box

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Sure, the right rifle has a lot to do with tearing the heart out of the 10 ring, but just as important ammunition. Loading match bullets helps get the most out of your precision equipment. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

For those of us who hunt paper, accuracy takes on a whole new definition. While for hunting, a rifle that produces one or even two minute of angle three-shot groups may be more than sufficient, the target shooter would be cursing loudly!

Good groups for the paper-puncher is usually measured in tenths of an inch for the 100 yard range, anything less is simply unacceptable. To get this level of accuracy, their rifles are often outfitted with high power riflescopes, bull barrels and triggers that will break if a squirrel farts.

The ammunition has as much to do with it, and most of the shooters in this group are handloaders. The bullet of choice, far and away is the match grade hollowpoint boat tail. The first of these types of bullets that comes to mind has become the benchmark of match bullets: the Sierra MatchKing.

Designed for accuracy, they use a very thin jacket to hold tight tolerances down to the 0.0003”, and weight should be consistent within 0.3 grains. They are not made with hunting in mind; stiff construction for penetration is not the concern here. Consistency is the issue, as consistent weight and concentricity are vital keys in the accuracy game.

MatchKing bullets are used by target shooters across the globe, for a reason: they work very well.

Many of the match grade bullets available today will give very satisfactory results. In addition to the Sierra MatchKings, I use Hornady Match bullets, Nosler Custom Competition and Berger VLD bullets quite often.

These bullets have a carefully calculated ogive (the curved nose section of the bullet), based upon tangent or secant curves. This design leads to a very high ballistic coefficient, necessary for long range targets.

Berger's J4 jackets have become the industrial standard of match bullets. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

Sounds a bit like gibberish, unless you’re a mathematician. The simple explanation is that these bullets are designed to have the least amount air drag so as to reduce the effects of crosswind drift and keep trajectories as flat as possible.

The Berger J4 jacket, the pride of Berger line has also become an industry standard. Many custom bullet makers purchase the J4 jacket for their own custom bullet designs, as it ranks among the best jackets available to produce very precise projectiles.

All of these secant ogives, fancy boat tails, high ballistic coefficients and the like don’t amount to a hill of beans if the bullets aren’t loaded in a very meticulous manner. This is a situation where all the stops are pulled out.

You should be weighing your cases (into lots of similar weight), and trimming them to very exact dimensions. Flash holes should be centered, with all burrs removed. Powder charges definitely need to be weighed. I even weigh out the bullets, separating them into lots that weigh within 0.2 grains of each other. Although I’ve never really noticed a significant difference, maybe match grade primers would be a good idea – to appease the gods of accuracy.

Seating depth, especially with the longest of the match grade bullets, can make a huge difference in accuracy. In the past Berger Bullets has recommended that their very long VLD bullets be seated so that they touch the lands of the rifling. I don’t like this idea, as pressures can rise to a dangerous level.

In the target rifles, the Cartridge Overall Length (COL) can be longer than that specified by SAAMI, because the cartridges will be fed singly and the magazine limitations are off the table. I highly recommend that you seat your bullets at the very least 0.015” off of the lands and grooves, to allow for proper pressures.

Loading precision ammunition comes down to one thing – being meticulous. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

You will need to experiment with seating depths, varying by 0.020”, until you find what your rifle likes the best. Once you find it, adhere to this dimension, checking COL with your micrometer, and test your mettle against those distant targets. I’ll warn you though, the pursuit of accuracy can be an addiction!

It has been a pleasure discussing handloading with all of you, and I’d like to thank you for all the positive feedback I’ve received from you, the readers. I hope you’ve gotten something worthwhile from this series, and I look forward to hearing about your reloading successes.



Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to Reloading

Enjoy the improved accuracy of hand-tuned ammunition, and gather the necessary information needed to get started with the reloading process. You’ll benefit from this reloading guide if:

Also checkout the companion book to this blog, How to Reload Ammo with Philip Massaro.

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