.308 Sniper Ammo: One Sniper’s View of Federal v. Remington

Ed. note: Aaron looks at .308 Sniper Ammo in this head-to-head ammunition comparison.

If you are a part of the law enforcement marksman (sniper) community then any discussion on 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 marksmen “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 being factory made.

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.

.308 sniper ammo

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 that 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.

federal .308 sniper ammo

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 sustain consistent cold bore shots within one half MOA at 100 yards. Further testing at ranges of up to 300 yards has produced consistent 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 marksman 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

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Aaron is a sergeant with a midwestern police department, where he serves as a trainer, supervisor and SWAT sniper. In addition to his broad tactical knowledge, Aaron has experience in DUI, DRE and undercover narcotics investigations.

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  • RyanA

    Any agency using a BTHP bullet with accuracy as their primary criterion for selecting a sniper round is seriously behind the times. The American Sniper Association and most modern police SWAT teams know that the 168 grain Match king bullet has the terminal ballistics of military ball ammo and is prone to over-pnetration, which is generaly thought of as a bad thing in the police environment.
    There are bullets which provide sufficient accuracy while yielding superior terminal ballistics and limited penetration which make for far better sniper rounds. The Hornady A-Max is a prime example. Out of our rifles, it still yields sub-MOA accuracy and penetrates slightly less then the 5.56 ammo our entry team uses in their M-4’s and Commandos.

    • Aaron E


      I 100% agree with you. This article is now nearly 8 years old. My snipers and I have been examining the better options over the last 2-3 years, with the field narrowed down to RUAG, and Hornady. We also looked at Black Hills, DRT, and a few others.

      My snipers are ASA certified snipers, and we routinely incorporate the physical, and time restrictions of real-life call-outs into every bit of our training. We use the ASA qualification as our own, and very rarely take prone shots that are un-timed (usually only for a semi-annual zero confirmation grouping in the different hot/cold temperatures we face).

      However, to be fair, the prices of the ballistic tip ammunition that is recommended by ASA, is significantly higher than Federal Gold Medal (or Remington Premier Match for that matter). For a team to switch requires a LOT of gears to get into motion, and no Commander/Chief is going to be eager to select a less-known round, against what the F.B.I. still uses and considers the standard for law enforcement rounds (Federal 168gr. Gold Medal BTHP).

      I fully understand that the price of one through-and-through accidental hit, will require a lot more payout than the double-priced new ammunition, but police work is a game of odds. I cannot think of a recent scenario where a police sniper hit their intended target and the bullet passed through and hit an innocent. That’s a lot of odds still in favor of the Federal round, despite its well known over-penetration concern.

      We are VERY grateful for the work the ASA has been doing to educate American law enforcement snipers, and to move the community to a better suited sniper round. We are absolutely behind the movement, support the movement, and are in the process of making changes locally for our team.

      Another consideration is the ability of the ballistic tip rounds to penetrate barriers. During our studies, only RUAG had a round that remained consistent in soft gel and after penetrating barriers. Too often there just isn’t a “one bullet solution” to every situation a police sniper may face. The RUAG stuff was amazing – we shot through glass at a 45-degree angle and had almost NO deviation. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it myself. (We have pictures!).

      Finally, the A-Max, and other ballistic tipped .308 bullets still have an over-pentration problem. Clearly not as bad as the FMJ-style Federal Gold Medal Match, but any .30 caliber bullet is going to push through a human body or head. The new bullets do better in their terminal ballistics, and leave with a much reduced amount of energy/speed than the Federal stuff, but the over-penetration problem is not completely solved. Hence, another reason that Commanders may simply choose to stay with the cheaper (and F.B.I. endorsed) Federal.

      I use Hornady SST ballistic tip ammunition to hunt deer, and still have punch through issues. The holes are gaping, but the only time I haven’t had the bullet over-penetrate was when I was able to send it through both front shoulders. Even then the bullet was found between the muscle and hide on the other side – almost all the way through.

      Great thoughts brother, and you’re right on the mark! I’m a believer and supporter, but having been in the tactical game for almost 15 years I understand the practical barriers.

    • chris wilson

      Ryan is right, Match King is a great round for getting to the target with sub MOA accuracy, however, we Police Snipers need bullets that have an effect after impact. match kings job is done once it reaches the target. 155 Hornday Tap Amax has great effects on target once it gets there, it continues to perform terminally which is what we need

      • http://www.BlueSheepdog.com Aaron

        Agreed Chris, and thanks for posting. Our snipers are currently evaluating Hornady, and RUAG ammunition. The one benefit of RUAG is that they offer a steel penetrator round and boast same point of impact despite different round type. So far we’ve fired expandable, training, and penetrator and confirmed that claim.

        We were shocked at the almost imperceivable lack of deviation with RUAG rounds being fired through glass, even at angles up to 45 degrees. Definitely something to look into. I’m working on an article from our testing.

  • Randall Hurd

    The Ammo that I’m using now, I just received my Sniper Rifle Back fro the Gum smith. Whom the TXARNG Shooting Team Visited when the OMS SHOP was in Terrell. The Gun smith there specializes in Remington, and he just complete my Threading on the LT TACTICAL 308 COMPACT. I’ll be using Hornady .308 165gr Match Grade with M/V 2840 fps Coef .451. Using these I hope to get a Good 300 Yd Zero. Has anyone Used the 165 gr. I researched them and compared to 118 Special Ball I have no comparison. The Remington 700 that I’m using. will by Next Month have a Head Space adj with the New PTG Chrome spun fluted Solid Bolt and the 10 rd ADL SA Mag installed. Currently it has the Stock Bolt, Holland Muzzle Break, and Plasters Stock. Which is filled with #7 Shot for the Extra Weight. The Barrel is of Course floated all the way back to the Breech. The Scope is a Standard Leupold with Assassin Mounts. That’s what some folks call the Leupold Quick Lock mounts, VX2 4X12 40. Which the Night Force I have Is currently on loan which uses the MIRC’s Rail.
    Any Ideas on the Hornady .308 165gr 2840 coef 451? in contrast to 118 Spec Ball.

    • http://www.BlueSheepdog.com Aaron

      Thanks for posting. I do not have any specific comparison information on the two cartridges you mentioned. However, I use Hornady 168-grain SST .30-06 ammo for deer hunting. I have found the ammo to be very accurate and have more than enough stopping power for white tail deer.

      In addition, the SWAT team I am on is currently evaluating several cartridges to replace the venerable Federal 168-grain match in .308 caliber. The American Sniper Association has done extensive research on the Federal round, and although incredibly accurate, the round has a very poor terminal ballistic characteristic. In the police world a bullet going through its target is a bad thing due to the liability of what it hits afterward. The Federal bullet punches through like a hot knife on butter.

      We are currently looking at Hornady A-Max 165-grain and 150-grain. These are recommended by ASA. We are also looking at a similar round by Black Hills. We had considered DRT ammo because it is a hard cased, frangible round. In essence the jacket allows the bullet to punch through clothing and some barriers, but then rips away. The condensed powder metal cartridge below literally explodes inside the target, and does not exit. Unfortunately, we have found some inconsistencies in accuracy with those rounds. Finally, we are looking at ammunition by Swiss maker RUAG. They have a target round that has identical ballistics as their hollow-point duty round and is cheaper. RUAG has been very accurate but we await the gelatin tests to determine over penetration.