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Ammo Testing for Benchrest in Particular

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I have read, and practiced to the extent I am able, all of the recommendations on finding the right ammo for your rifle. Testing different brands, different loads, paying attention to lot numbers, etc., etc. I understand all of the suggestions to go for the high end stuff if you want the best consistent performance. But it seems like an almost insurmountable objective...finding the best in your rifle. It also seems like a very, very expensive objective. Eley has 10 different loads that I am aware of just beginning with their mid priced Target. Lapua, SK, RWS and others get the number of choices way up there. Then dealing with lot number variances gets you into astronomical territory. Then throw in the complication of inconsistent availability.

How do you go about finding what is best for you and your rifle? Do you establish a performance goal and when you find something that achieves that do you stop there? I have managed to acquire a sampling of about ten different 50 round boxes of Eley, Lapua and SK. I intend to test them when ready to see which seems to perform best for me. But even if I find something that shoots exceptionally well there is a good chance I won't be able to acquire more.

Then there is the cost. The better ammo is up in the $15-$20 a box range. Doing the math puts the cost of a brick and subsequently a case way up there. Do you reserve that good stuff only for matches and practice with some reasonable performing inexpensive stuff? If so how do you evaluate your practice in a discipline where a group size over a quarter inch is considered inadequate.

I know that virtually any shooting discipline is not an inexpensive hobby. But how do those of you with a modest income deal with all of the above? Or should I switch to bird watching where all I absolutely have to have is some fairly decent binoculars?
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I know that virtually any shooting discipline is not an inexpensive hobby. But how do those of you with a modest income deal with all of the above? Or should I switch to bird watching where all I absolutely have to have is some fairly decent binoculars?
The pursuit of the best performance is indeed not inexpensive.

Finding the best performing ammo is never about finding the "brand" of ammo a rifle allegedly "likes". The major match ammo makers all make batches of ammo that will perform well in a given rifle. These batches are called "lots" and every variety of match ammo -- eg. for Lapua, from most expensive to least, X-Act, Midas +, and Center X, and for Eley, the most expensive is Tenex, followed by Match and Team -- is produced in these batches or lots.

Performance isn't based on the price of the ammo. Some less expensive lots shoot better in a given rifle than more expensive one.

Perhaps the most effective way to find the best performing lots of ammo available is to send your rifle (or go with it) to an ammo testing facility such as Lapua's in Ohio or in Arizona. There's a wait to get an appointment, but they will be able to test a number of lots of ammo in an attempt to find one that performs well. There's the caveat that this doesn't guarantee you that you'll be able to get a lot that performs exceptionally because they can test only what they have available.
 

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I have read, and practiced to the extent I am able, all of the recommendations on finding the right ammo for your rifle. Testing different brands, different loads, paying attention to lot numbers, etc., etc. I understand all of the suggestions to go for the high end stuff if you want the best consistent performance. But it seems like an almost insurmountable objective...finding the best in your rifle. It also seems like a very, very expensive objective. Eley has 10 different loads that I am aware of just beginning with their mid priced Target. Lapua, SK, RWS and others get the number of choices way up there. Then dealing with lot number variances gets you into astronomical territory. Then throw in the complication of inconsistent availability.

How do you go about finding what is best for you and your rifle? Do you establish a performance goal and when you find something that achieves that do you stop there? I have managed to acquire a sampling of about ten different 50 round boxes of Eley, Lapua and SK. I intend to test them when ready to see which seems to perform best for me. But even if I find something that shoots exceptionally well there is a good chance I won't be able to acquire more.

Then there is the cost. The better ammo is up in the $15-$20 a box range. Doing the math puts the cost of a brick and subsequently a case way up there. Do you reserve that good stuff only for matches and practice with some reasonable performing inexpensive stuff? If so how do you evaluate your practice in a discipline where a group size over a quarter inch is considered inadequate.

I know that virtually any shooting discipline is not an inexpensive hobby. But how do those of you with a modest income deal with all of the above? Or should I switch to bird watching where all I absolutely have to have is some fairly decent binoculars?
It is a never-ending quest. And if you are not willing to accept this, then buy the binocular. There will always be something that will shoot better tomorrow. Secondly, I could never understand saving the "good stuff" for matches and practicing with something lesser. How do you measure improvement if you are not at 100% every time. If through practice all that you are looking for is the sound and the recoil, then the 2 cents a shot stuff will do.
 

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The plain, unfortunate truth is that sourcing great ammo has gotten far tougher and no less expensive.
If you have a high performance gun the top two levels of both Lapua and ELEY are your best bet but most expensive, those are facts.
Currently, match shooters favor Lapua making test centers your best practical option. There is a ton of BS opinion on ammo and realize ELEY is still both quite good and easier to source. I shoot Lapua but have plenty of solid ELEY and you have to ask yourself will your shooting suffer, if you shoot 250 14X's vs 250 19 X's or 2300 vs 2400 in great condition ?The difference is likely a practical factor for maybe 10% of match shooters, possibly less but you're still dropping $15-$16 a box with volume buys understanding that many have to go 1-2 bricks at a time making everything more frustrating.
Lastly practicing with sub par ammo is IMHO a waste, doesn't shoot the same....gives you lots of false data.
Boils down to what's best vs what's possible
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I understood what you folks are saying at the outset. I recognize the points you are making. All make perfect sense. Let me clarify my perspective. I am an old (76) retired guy who has come to really enjoy rimfire bench rest. I look at it as a way to stay active shooting as I get older. My rifles would be laughed at by most of you I suspect. That's alright I have a thick skin.

I feel that there must be folks out there in a similar situation with modest resources also trying to deal with the ammo situation. I want to do as good as I can but I believe I am not likely to be in the 250-14x category any more.

I have to agree that ideally one should practice with what they intend to use for score. But there is also something to be said for trigger time to get intimately familiar with your equipment. You just need to recognize that if you're shooting less expensive ammo to keep your expectations appropriate.

I fear that perhaps many who might respond to this thread will probably have a more elite expectation from their shooting. By that I do not mean elitist. I just feel they might want and expect the highest level of participation. It is not that I just want to make noise with the cheap stuff. I do want to do MY best.
 

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I say shoot what works for you. Not everyone needs to shoot with the best equipment to enjoy themselves. Where I live there are no 22 matches and even if there were getting top grade ammo is darn near impossible. I like to hit what I aim at but I also understand my stuff has limits and as long as I am doing my best I am happy with the results.
 

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I fear that perhaps many who might respond to this thread will probably have a more elite expectation from their shooting. By that I do not mean elitist. I just feel they might want and expect the highest level of participation. It is not that I just want to make noise with the cheap stuff. I do want to do MY best.
Bill, I think your perspective is why the correct answer to almost any shooting related question is, "how long is a piece of string?"

It always depends on each person's exact situation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Center x. Its the best price to performance. If you will concentrate on testing available center x lots you will be fine. We try to buy center x over all others if we can find lots that will shoot.
Todd
Todd,

I have heard good things about Center X from a number of sources. The problem is the statement "if we can find lots that will shoot". At the price of Center X finding those lots can cost a guy. Of course the cost of finding lots of any upper end ammo is expensive. I don't know about anyone else but for me buying 2 to 4 bricks at a time is a significant expense. I tend to build my stash a brick or two at a time. Which is not conducive to inventorying a good amount of a good lot of ammo..
 

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I understand completely. My wife, son and I all shoot matches. We are definitely on a budget. Its a difficult time for shooting rimfire benchrest. It doesn't look like things will return to 2019 as much as I would like for it to. I do believe center x will be the best you could do for cost to performance though.
Todd
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I understand completely. My wife, son and I all shoot matches. We are definitely on a budget. Its a difficult time for shooting rimfire benchrest. It doesn't look like things will return to 2019 as much as I would like for it to. I do believe center x will be the best you could do for cost to performance though.
Todd
Thanks for the opinion and insight. I have one 50 round box of Center X to try just to see how it does. But if it turns out to be good I won't be able to get more of that lot anyway. The store it came from hasn't had Center X in a while and I haven't seen any elsewhere either.
 

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We have a couple dozen shooters that come out and shoot in our weekly league in the summer. Most are retired, but we have a few young people too which is gratifying to see. The value in buying the ammo for shooting in the league isn't reflected in just the scores. The friendships that are made and maintained are worth a lot more to most of our members. I am lucky enough to shoot with people I grew up with - and guys a generation older that I shot with when I was 12 years old. Hopefully you will find a club or group of like minded shooters to share your range time with.

Regarding the quantity of ammo to buy and how much to spend. It seems like the consensus among a lot of our shooters is that 3 bricks is a minimum to have enough to test the ammo, shoot a practice card or two each week, and still have enough to get through one of our seasons (10 cards). We shoot one card per week and allow two "mulligans" for the season. We have a few classes so some shooters shoot more than one class - and they need more ammo.

The winners of our respective classes were shooting SK Rifle match from a Brno Model 2 in our Sporter class, Center X from a Vudoo in ARA Unlimited, Wolf match from a CZ 457 Varmint (old Lapua mfg lot) in ARA Factory, and SK Rifle Match from a CZ 457 MTR in our 100 yard Outlaw class.

Honorable mention goes to one of our shooters - a 13 year old girl that was a first time shooter this season - shooting Eley Semi-Auto Benchrest Precision ammo. She tied for first for the season but had two fewer X's on the tie breaker dropping her to second. A couple weeks ago she was on an elk hunt with her dad near Cody Wyoming. The outfitter requires his hunters to shoot on his range prior to hunting. He was shocked when she put three rounds into the bullseye at 700 yards - two were touching each other. She harvested a cow with one shot at 420 yards.
 

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I'm in the same age group (75), retired, modest income,etc, and just came back into shooting after many years away.
Took up indoor, rimfire benchrest. Previously shot prone for years but too old for that down on the floor stuff now.
Read all about ammo testing, etc, etc. Thought "Eek" ammo has gone up in price since 40 years ago.
Couldn't afford the best so bought a CZ457, stuck it in an Oryx chassis, bunged on a decent scope, and went shooting.
Happily my CZ bangs cheap ammo into tiny wee groups.
I don't worry about what I'm missing by not using Tenex, etc.
SK Rifle Match, RWS Rifle Match, Geco 'bolt action' (cheap as chips...and made by RWS anyway), and even Hornady Varmint Express (the plain lead, round nose version). Just bought a brick of Eley Club (not top level stuff, and yet to shoot it).
I can shoot 'tens' with the odd trip into 10.1's if I do my bit right.
So I'm not shooting a ten round card and getting the maximum (10.10)...but I'm having fun...and have managed a 100.6 once!
Don't buy those bino's yet. Try some cheaper ammo and be happy.
Or...as I'm seriously thinking about...get into air rifle benchrest (or air pistol?)
A PCP air rifle and good scope plus the serious target type pellets are cheap enough.
You can shoot all day for little cost once you have bought the equipment.
Sell the .22, keep the scope and other gear (front rest, etc?). Put the scope on a good air rifle and you really may not need those bino's.
We shoot this style of target usually (in case you are wondering about the scoring of 10's and 10.1's). Not my target...I just pinched the image online. Middle is for sighting (2 compulsory and 1 more optional).

Font Rim Circle Electric blue Gas
 

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Seen lots of mention of Eley, Lapua and SK. Do you not get RWS in the states?
When chatting with other competitors at a recent national competition it seemed like RWS R50 was the most preferred fodder, it certainly is in my rifles, at the moment.
However when I run out of the current batch who knows, it’ll be back to square 1.
 

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Seen lots of mention of Eley, Lapua and SK. Do you not get RWS in the states?
When chatting with other competitors at a recent national competition it seemed like RWS R50 was the most preferred fodder, it certainly is in my rifles, at the moment.
However when I run out of the current batch who knows, it’ll be back to square 1.
It’s harder to get and costs more.
 

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Center x. Its the best price to performance. If you will concentrate on testing available center x lots you will be fine. We try to buy center x over all others if we can find lots that will shoot.
Todd
I've been shooting Center X all summer & this weekend at the IR50 Indoor Nationals. The 3 shots I lost I'm pretty certain wasn't due to ammo. Won a target & finished 15th which is a personal best in the chicken barn shooting UL. Its not that I search for it, it was what was available. I have a little Midas+ too but its not as good as this lot of CX. Unfortunately, I ran out Sunday.
My problem with Eley is I have to test so darn much of it usually. Got tired of it.
 

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The one TRUTH here is that you will never find great ammo if you don't look.

Another TRUTH. In national sanctioned competition you will be competing against shooters who have both unlimited funds and time. They may buy their test lots by the case and have new barrels done 10 at a time. If you measure your personal performance and satisfaction by how you do against those guys you may be in for some tough sledding.
 
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