Ed. note: Aaron looks at .308 Sniper Ammo in this head-to-head ammunition comparison.
If you are a part of the law enforcement sniper community then any discussion on sniper rifle ammunition selection will almost exclusively focus on the .308 caliber, 168-grain Match King boat tail hollow point (BTHP) cartridge. The 2007 American Sniper Association Annual Report cited the .308 caliber, 168-grain Match King BTHP as being the “preferred ammunition” for police snipers “based primarily on its accuracy and consistency”. The Federal Gold Medal cartridge has, for many, been the preferred police marksman cartridge. This cartridge produces consistent match grade quality with the convenience of mass production from a factory.
Editor’s Note (06/07/2017): The American Sniper Association (ASA) is a well-respected and leading law enforcement sniper resource. Recently, Derrick Bartlett – President of ASA, reached out to us to clarify the quotes we used from their 2007 Annual Report. Bartlett’s concern focused on how the quotes were used could make it appear ASA endorses the 168-grain BTHP cartridge. This is not the case at all, and in fact quite the opposite is true. We are happy to clarify those quotations and apologize if someone misread them to mean ASA endorses the use of the Federal 168-grain BTHP cartridge for police sniper utilizations.
The ASA 2007 Annual Report was merely reporting a fact that most police snipers at the time used the Federal Match King 168-grain BTHP. However, ASA has been advocating for many years to move law enforcement agencies and snipers away from that very cartridge due to its poor terminal performance. The Match King bullet is phenomenally accurate, but it was and is designed for match shooting – not sniper engagements on human targets. This reality is clearly supported by the bullet’s manufacturer, Sierra Bullets.
The Sierra Match King 168-grain BTHP (used by both Federal and Remington) does not expand well at all upon impact with soft targets. The 168-grain BTHP act like FMJ ball ammunition with a very high risk of complete blow through. This situation creates an unnecessary risk to innocent persons behind the target, and therefore greatly limits their safe and appropriate use in police sniper utilizations. In addition, this lack of expansion may not even result in an immediately incapacitating effect on a threat using the 168-grain BTHP. This is unacceptable for the high risk situations police snipers will be called upon to resolve.
BlueSheepdog is very supportive of the American Sniper Association and their contribution to the law enforcement community. We completely agree with the ASA’s recommendation to move away from the 168-grain BTHP for police sniper utilizations. Thankfully, there are several high-expanding rounds on the market today that provide both high accuracy and the critical bullet expansion needed in a police sniper event.
This page was written in 2012, when the author’s department briefly moved from the Federal Match King 168-grain BTHP to the Remington Match King 168-grain BTHP. Efforts to convince his agency to follow ASA recommendations and move to better sniper ammunition were not heeded at that time. As such, this article was simply intended to account for the accuracy performance between the Federal and Remington Match King 168-grain BTHP, and not their terminal performance.
If you are interested in American Sniper Association recommendations and research on sniper ammunition, please visit their website at www.americansniper.org.
However, with the current state of the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the uncertainty felt by many Americans about the Administration’s views on the 2nd Amendment, a shortage of ammunition of all calibers and types has occurred. This drain on the available ammunition supply has caught many police departments and individuals off guard and has required them to reevaluate ammunition selection and training requirements to accommodate the circumstances faced by all.
Although Remington has a great reputation of making quality ammunition, police marksmen and professional shooters tend to take their ammunition selection more seriously than the casual hobby shooter or hunter. When a fraction of an inch, in less than desirable shooting circumstances means the difference between a threat eliminated and an innocent life endangered, the demand for consistent accuracy to the most strenuous of measures must win out to the budgetary concerns of the bean counters. That’s my humble opinion anyway. To that end many who have allegiance to the Federal Gold Medal cartridge would be very wary to consider a replacement.
Remington’s counter to the Federal Gold Medal cartridge is their Premier Match 168-grain Match King BTHP. The Premier Match cartridge uses the same Sierra Match King bullet as the Federal Gold Medal cartridge. The Sierra brand bullets are considered by many law enforcement and military shooters to be the best match grade bullets anywhere in the world. To some (even among police officers), if the bullet is the same, the cartridge is the same. However, to the police marksman and professional shooter what goes around and behind the bullet has just as much to do with its accuracy and performance as the bullet itself. Remington and Federal both use their own high quality new brass casings made with stringent manufacturing controls to ensure proper fit and consistent tolerance during firing. Remington and Federal use their own primers and powder, but the exact formula and amount of powder is not made public. If there are going to be any differences in ballistics or performance, this is where they will be found.
I searched for information on each cartridge from the web site of the prospective manufacturer. The differences between these two very similar cartridges at 100 yards are almost non-existent on paper. The printed information actually shows the Remington cartridge out-performs the Federal cartridge just slightly. The Remington bullet is capable of traveling at 2680 ft/sec with 2678 lb/ft of energy at 100 yards, whereas the Federal bullet is traveling a little slower at 2460 ft/sec with 2257 lb/ft of energy. Either round still packs a powerful punch at 100 yards. What is the effect on trajectory? Using a zero-point of 100 yards the difference is very minimal between the two cartridges. At 200 yards the Remington bullet drops -4.1 inches to the Federal bullet’s -4.3 inches. At 300 yards the difference broadens ever so slightly as the Remington bullet has dropped -14.7 inches and the Federal bullet has dropped -15.3 inches, or approximately a half inch difference.
Having faced a mandatory change in ammunition from Federal to Remington our marksmen put the Remington Premier Match cartridge to the test. What we found was that the Remington cartridge was between one and three MOA off target at 100 yards from the zero-point established for each rifle using the Federal Gold Medal cartridge. In other words, from point of aim our marksmen’s shots were one to three inches off target. Each marksman was fairly consistently off to the left and slightly high of point of aim. This was verified on several cold bore shots to eliminate the possibility of operator error. Once this was established each shooter adjusted their scope to reflect the new zero point and a new cold bore shot was taken. Having adjusted to the slight differences between the Remington cartridge and the Federal cartridge our shooters were able to maintain consistent cold bore shots within one half MOA at 100 yards. Further testing at ranges of up to 300 yards has produced consistent sub-MOA shots using the Remington cartridge.
In conclusion, if you find yourself faced with the prospect of changing precision cartridges from the Federal Gold Medal to the Remington Premier Match, you can rest assured that the Remington brand will live up to the traditions of quality that they have become known for. Using proper shooting techniques, along with a slightly adjusted zero point, the Remington 700 fired its name sake’s ammunition with no problems, and produced the type of accuracy that is demanded by police marksmen and professional shooter’s alike. The difference in velocity, energy, and trajectory begins to broaden between the two cartridges the further the distance of the shot. However, the American Sniper Association 2007 report on nearly 20 years of police-involved shootings shows an average distance of the police sniper shot at 54 yards. At that distance either cartridge is going to have a very precise impact with devastating results.
Ed. Note: Aaron is a police sergeant with a mid-sized agency in a major US metro-area. Aaron has a diverse set of skills in patrol, traffic enforcement, drug recognition, undercover narcotics, supervision and SWAT. .308 sniper ammo