Match Rifle like its sister discipline Target Rifle uses the 7.62mm cartridge (.308 Winchester) and indeed there are various similarities in the rifle and ammunition used in each discipline. However, Target Rifle is only shot over shorter ranges than Match Rifle where the ultimate ballistic performance to combat the extended range and increased impact of the wind at that range is not required. As such, many Target Rifle competitions use issued ammunition but instead most Match Rifle shooters use “hand loaded” ammunition, as opposed to the more common factory produced ammunition.
With no two rifles being identical, there is a benefit to be gained by tailoring the ammunition to the rifle it will be fired from. This tailoring can include:
- Choice of bullet (manufacturer, design and weight)
- Amount of powder
- Overall dimensions of the assembled round.
With the 308W/7.62mm calibre being so common, there is a wide range of bullets available that could be used in Match Rifle, although in practice there are probably only half a dozen that are commonly used. Generally speaking a heavier bullet will maintain its accuracy better at longer range so as new bullets have become available there has been a gradual trend in this direction. Twenty years ago, almost everyone was using a 190gr bullet whereas today most shooters use bullets between 200 and 215gr with a few venturing even heavier. This is typically 30-40% heavier than the ammunition that can be bought off the shelf for other fullbore disciplines.
A grain, abbreviated gr, is an old measurement of mass initially based on the weight of a single grain of barley. It has been more exactly defined as 7000 grains to a pound. Due to the small masses used in the measurements of bullets and powder, the grain is still a common unit of measure in shooting. For those accustomed to the metric system, a grain is roughly 67.8 miligrams.
The amount of powder and the dimensions of the loaded round are an important aspect for accuracy at long range but the exact values are specific to each rifle for both safety and accuracy. The limitation on using the 308 Winchester case puts a limit of their values and stops there being an “arms race” to have the latest and greatest ballistic performance across multiple calibres, which helps to keep the competition close.
As with all aspects of shooting, safety comes first. Therefore these pages will not tell you an exact formula to use as what could be safe in one rifle, might not be in another. However many members of GB Team and the Match Rifle community in general would be willing to help a fellow Match Rifle shooter safely find a load for their rifle.